Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tartines: My New Dinner Philosophy

I give up on dinner. As a concept and construct.

"Dining" rarely happened to my satisfaction during this past year when Josh and I were both working. Now that I am at home with Teddy (add Sam to that in December), it still doesn't seem to happen. It's that horrendous evening timing - that perfect storm of S needs dinner, bath, and bedtime; T needs to nurse; and I need to get started chopping, etc. after cleaning up whatever is on the one counter we have for a prep area and dirty dishes dump site.

Dinner just does not happen.
The definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and thinking you are going to get a different outcome. I am insane. I keep thinking that if I only want it more or try harder or schedule adroitly, I will make dinner happen, dammit. We will all sit down to eat at 6:30 as a happy family. Josh will tell me about his day, I will nod and "hmm, mmm" appropriately, and Sam will eat all that is put in front of him. But it is not happening.

Meet the new dinner philosophy: Embrace your inner Spaniard. This means I make dinner for lunch, i.e. the big meal of the day happens in the afternoon, and lunch for dinner, i.e. a sandwich or soup or quiche (or tapas!) at night. This way I can manage that storm a little better ... and simultaneously stop being so insane.
I think my new routine is better for digestion and will probably help Josh and I with portion control, not to mention cleanup and the inevitable quibbling and hurt feelings that happen (sometimes only in my insane head). J and I have a pretty arrangement where I cook and he cleans, but there is often something that jams it up. Perhaps we eat so late that cleanup is just stupid, thus leaving the mess for me in the morning (insert hurt feelings here). Or the mess to clean up before dinner prep (remember the only counter space) is so large that cooking doesn't start until 8pm (insert a squabble here). Or Sam manages to postpone bedtime so J and I eat in shifts (insert both here). With the new plan there should be less of it all.
So I made tartines the other night. They are French-style, open-face sandwiches. Two were from the French Women Don't Get Fat cookbook, and the salmon was my own design. Our favorite was the anchovies.

Anchovy tartines
Toast four pieces of bread to your liking, keeping in mind that you will be eating them like a sandwich, so you don't want them to crumble or mush in your hand. In the mean time, rinse off as many anchovies as you want - I would say eight or ten for four pieces of bread. Pat them dry, them soak in 1T sherry vinegar for 1-3 minutes. Separately, add salt and pepper to about 1/2 cup of ricotta. Spread ricotta on toasts. Dump the vinegar off the anchovies and add 1T olive oil to anchovies. Place two anchovies per toast and drizzle over the olive oil.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fat doesn't make you fat OR Musings over a cup of chai

How did we discover chai in urban America? I assume that it is not as popular in rural America, but perhaps I do my country compatriots a disservice. I think the gestalt of chai probably owes itself to the confluence of the popularity of Indian cuisine and that of coffee drinks. I had Indian food for the first time in Portland, OR, over 10 years ago and chai for the first time ... I do not recall. But it has been a love story. There are a couple of varieties that are quite good in cafes: Morning Glory and the mix at my local place, Javasti, which makes its own. Oregon Chai is not good - I find it cloying. A delicious chai should be assertive, not saccharine and submissive.

I try to make chai at home. I have a decent recipe, but I really need to tinker to make it better. It has the right amount of ginger - about 1in.x1in., but needs more pepper, cinnamon, and probably an adjustment to the tea itself.
I use whole milk in my chai because that's what you have in your house when you have a toddler. It feels decadent and strange, that first glass of whole milk after years of skim. I remember when we switched to nonfat as a kid - how disgusting, thin, and tasteless it was. I've since changed my philosophy of fat and don't know that I will go back to skim. Maybe I will dial it down to 2% milk, but the full fat Greek yogurt definitely stays!

Funny that 80s obsession with fat free. The carry-over is that no one eats full fat dairy much anymore, and kids are switched to low fat pretty early. I realized this when my 6th graders read a book that referenced the skin that forms on the top of hot chocolate. The character in the book spoke of taking a sip such that he could remove the skin without having it stick to the lip, then chin, leaving you screaming in pain as you try to get the sticky hot mass off. My students asked what the "skin" was. I looked at their incredulous faces as I explained that full fat milk will form a skin when heated - haven't they seen this? No? Really?

I said to a co-worker once, "Fat doesn't make you fat." He thought I was being ironic. I've been doing so much reading about food in the past several years, though, that that seems to be true. It's simple sugars that make you fat, unhealthy, diabetic, and so on. Back in the 80s, the nonfat crazy logic said that I could eat a box of fat free cookies while you drank a glass of whole milk and I would be skinnier. That hasn't played out, however. The opposite seems to be true because not all calories are created equal. So I will stick to full fat dairy products and work at getting off the cookie addiction instead.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Banana Waffles

Genius combination: banana waffles and blueberries with a touch of syrup.

I was just musing over the banana. If one is truly committed to eating locally in the US, that person would never eat another banana. That means no banana bread and no banana waffles.