Sunday, September 26, 2010

Box o' produce

I was talking with my dad about the delivery items we're getting these days: milk and produce. They both come on Tuesday and it is simultaneously marvelous and terrible to see a cornucopia on your doorstep. Marvelous for obvious reasons, I think; those being that, huzzah!, someone else did your shopping. Terrible because you have to unpack, clean, wrap in plastic or paper towels, or whatever, while rangling your toddler and fighting back tears because, Christ!, you have so much stinking work to do and you are still a fulltime wife and mother, and tell me again why I shouldn't eat pasta with sauce from a jar every night?

No jars. I made, instead, lentils with beet greens, and a side of roasted beets.

Then there were the chard cakes with a side of pasta with sausage and tomatoes from our garden! Tomatoes from the garden, that is. Maybe pigs in the future. Ha. I have shared the chard cake recipe before and I must say - you think you can eat 20 when you start out, but cheese is so rich. Huh. And I never remember this. Each time I make these I look at the paltry plate of 6 patties and think: I can eat all of them! Then I push back after one and a half.

So Dad was saying that when he was a boy they got the milk delivery, in glass jars. I don't know why this image is part of my understanding of his childhood - where did I get this mental picture of a milkman and those jars? TV, probably. What I didn't know was that the produce guy would come down Dad's block once a week too! What? A farmers market come to your door? Surely you jest. I'm sure there was no arugula or squash blossoms, but still! Oh yes, the ice man too. I have that image as well: big calipers grasping ice. No, that can't be right. I need to replace the calipers with a medieval hook of sorts. Yes, that works.
My dear blogger-friend wanted my meatloaf recipe. Ah, Charlene, you honor me with your request.

Meatloaf with brown sugar-ketchup glaze:
Glaze: 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3T cider vinegar. Mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan and set aside.
Meatloaf: 2tsp. veg oil; 1 medium onion, chopped; 2 medium garlic cloves, minced; 2 large eggs, lightly beaten; 1/2 tsp. dried thyme; 1 tsp. salt; 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper; 2 tsp. Dijon mustard; 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce; 1/4 tsp (or more) hot sauce; 1/2 cup plain yogurt; 2 lbs. meatloaf mix (1lb. ground beef; 1/2lb. ground pork; 1/2lb. ground veal - I usually don't get veal, I just use more beef or lamb); 2/3 cup oats OR 1 1/3 cups fresh bread crumbs; 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1. Heat the oven to 350 (medium). Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and sweat until translucent, not browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Mix the next eight ingredients in a medium bowl. Add this mixture to the meat in a large bowl. Then add then crackers, parsley, and onion mixture. Mix to blend with a fork or hands. I like hands because if I gently squeeze the ingredients while mixing, they get incorporated well. The mixture will be slightly sticky, but shouldn't stick like glue to the bowl. If it does, add milk, a couple tablespoons at a time until you get a good, cohesive, not-too-sticky mass.
3. Turn the mixture onto a sheet pan lined with heavy duty foil (easy cleanup), and shape it into loaf form, 9x5 inches.
4. Remove about 1/3 -1/2 cup glaze from the saucepan and brush it over the meatloaf. (Some people add bacon to the top of this!)
5. Bake the loaf until it is 160 degrees, about 1 hour 20 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, simmer the remaining glaze over medium heat until it thickens slightly. Serve alongside.
-America's Test Kitchen recipe

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

You grow up eating certain things. Often, these dishes become your Comfort Food when you are older. I don't know if every culture has a phrase that equates to Comfort Food, or at least share some sort of archetypal understanding of it. It does seem like something that only Western cultures would think of. Food is so much a part of the luxurious lifestyle in the West that we can afford to have even the idea of comfort, let alone associate it with something as basic as food.

For my second week at school, I made a meatloaf to last Josh and I for several days, and I made vegatables to accompany it. The peas portion is a joke, really. We had large salads with peas in it, but I thought I could conjure some Americana by putting a tiny bit of green on the plate with the huge servings of meat and potatoes. Meatloaf is definitely comfort - my mother made it and it was good, I recall. I have my own version, which I like very much, especially with a little extra sauce americaine, i.e. ketchup with sugar, vinegar, and hot sauce, thickened a bit in a saucepan. And white potatoes are pure vice - done up with onion powder, garlic powder, sliced gralic, and thyme. It's nice to come home to something meaty and sweet - something you don't have to spend a lot of time making, but rather just heat up.
The week before meatloaf week, I got my first organics home delivery. The produce is gorgeous and seems to always include greens. I sauteed some kale for my mom, who was here watching Sam. I may have shared the recipe with you before - it's my simple saute that I usually do with spinach in garlic, olive oil, pepper flakes, and golden raisins. You finish it with slivered almonds and sherry vinegar. It's good with spinach and fabulous with kale, I think.

The reason I bring this up is because my mother said that she liked it (thank goodness), and that she believed it was her first experince with kale! It is true that we never really ate greens other than salad growing up. And now I think Dad (the chef in the family) uses collards and chard sometimes, but certainly did not when I was a kid. Then I started thinking about all the things that I now consider part of my diet, like beets and greens and winter squashes, that I didn't grow up with. Mom asked me how I even found out that I liked kale. I didn't know. What makes us want to experiment? It might have been the TV!

Next on my experimentation list is kohlrabi. What in the world do you do with that thing?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Breads of the veggie variety

I combined the idea of Sam eating vegetables with Sam eating a variety of cold lunches at school, and I came up with carrot cake and zucchini bread! Although the recipes call for white flour, I went ahead and substituted half the amount for whole wheat flour, thinking that that makes the breads even healthier! I don't know how the cups of sugar figure into the health equation, but I have a feeling there is a direct and negative effect. Hm.
That's a photo of banana bread because I forgot to photograph the zuke bread. Does it look weird? Trader Joe's is now on my shit list! (I know, this is the first curse word on this blog. I hope I have not driven you away. It won't happen again. Well, no promises.) The reason I am mildly annoyed with my beloved TJs is that they packaged baking soda (that's bicarbonate for my British readers) in the same sort of container as baking powder! What? Everyone knows that soda comes in the box and you use the flap to level off your scoop. The powder comes in a can with a 1/3 cover-like thing that you use to level your scoop. Well, TJs used the can for the soda! When I grabbed my supply of baking powder out of the cabinet I discovered - yikes - that it was baking soda. Curses! Meaning I had to bake bread with no powder. I know that they have different functions and was fairly certain that my bread would rise anyway because we do have Irish soda bread which, of course, uses baking soda as the leavener. But, knowing that one often uses both white powdery substances in baked goods, I did worry a tad. The bread rose, but not normally. It was good, so hey.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cramp in My Style

I have gone back to work. This puts a serious cramp in my blogging schedule, not to mention my cooking schedule.

I did a trial run during Sam's first week of daycare. The trial being: Can I cook dinner, prepare lunches, get myself and Sam ready in the morning, and so on. I only went to work a couple of those days, and cleaned the house during the others. The trial was me waking up at 5am, trying to exercise and ready myself, and make Sam's lunch and get him up and eating breakfast. Turns out that is too much to do in the morning.
The trial also included me hanging out in the kitchen all day Sunday. I prepared a couple soups and a few items for lunch. I even made Sam empanadas which - surprise - he didn't like.
I made bread for breakfast and lunches, too. It was a recipe I found on the back of my whole wheat bread package that called for "cracked wheat" and "cracked rye," neither of which can be found. I substituted wheat berries, thinking I would crack them myself with a rolling pin. That didn't work. So we had incredibly chewy bits in the bread. So chewy that it prompted Josh to ask about their identity, which is his way of saying that he doesn't like something. "Hm, what is this?" He manages to wipe all curiosity out of his tone so that you get the message. It was good bread, the wheat berries just needed more soaking so that you could chew them ... at all.
I made a soup that I have featured here already: Lydia Bastianich's vegetable soup. I got to include more potatoes from our garden. Yippee.
The second soup was a Jacques Pepin recipe: Corn Soup. You use hominy and tomatoes, thyme and cumin, then add fresh corn and cilantro. It was delicious.

I think I will continue with this plan of making a couple big things over the weekend. But I don't want to spend all day in the kitchen. I know I will get used to my new schedule, but it is so different and my body is so tired. I was exhausted when I got home every day. I just wanted silence - something not easily had with a two-year-old.

Speaking of which, I have to pack his lunch every morning. This is a major drag because (a) he is picky, and (b) it has to be cold. The parents are advised from the outset to pack a variety of lunches. Okay. Sure. The real curve ball is that the daycare is peanut free! What the hell is wrong with Western culture that we have created all of these allergy mutants! Who in the world is allergic to all nuts? I had a kid tell me he is allergic to stone fruit! What? These were domesticated thousands of years ago in the Orient and you are allergic to them? Egg whites? What?!!