Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Food for new parents

Tonight I'm cooking dinner times two. My neighbors just had a baby girl, and they're home from the hospital. When my second child was born, my friends hooked me up with a food chain, bringing meals to my house every other day for about a month. It was the best gift, in so many ways. Each friend stayed about an hour, appropriately oohing and aahing over the baby, often bringing her own small children to play with the big sister, and nourishing our family's bodies with delicious home cooking. I can still taste Shannon's scones, Kristy's hummus, and Kaki's muffins, more than eight years later.

So it's time to repay some of that karmic debt. And I'm repaying it with roast chicken, cassoulet, and roasted potatoes with rosemary.

I've pretty much stolen Anthony Bourdain's technique for roasting chicken. I can't claim any part of it. It turns out perfect every time.


My friend gave me a huge steamer in the spring, and the directions say you can steam a whole chicken. Which means my neighbors will get Anthony Bourdain's roast chicken (tried and true) while I'll get the steamed chicken. I'm very curious about this. The chicken at Bouchon is roasted in a very special oven that mists water (steam) frequently, resulting in a very tender, juicy, and amazingly good product.

The cassoulet: a can of white beans, drained, some chopped onion, a few handfuls of spinach leaves, sliced carrots, portabella mushrooms, some vegetable broth, and my favorite, fresh herbs from the garden. Thyme, rosemary, a little sage, oregano. In a large pan, saute the onion in a little olive oil (or broth, if you're watching fat grams), until soft. Then add some broth and the herbs, carrots and mushrooms, cook a few minutes. Add more broth, then the beans and spinach. Cook until the spinach wilts.

Prep pictures:

The cleaned chicken, ready for seasoning

Pushing a few tablespoons of butter under the skin makes it extra-tasty.

Salt and pepper everywhere.

Half an onion, plus rosemary, thyme, and sage go inside the cavity (giblets removed, of course)

About this much of the herbs.

And chuck it in the oven.

Or the steamer. (Hindsight being 20/20? I'd not repeat this. I had to stick that chicken in the oven after it was cooked because it was albino-looking. Would have been great, however, for chicken salad. Tender and delicious, but no color at all.

After. Note my fabulous trussing methods (not!).

This is the steamed, then oven-browned chicken. Not quite as colorful, but definitely tasty.

The Cassoulet

The Potatoes

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More fun with tomatoes

Our tomato plants in the back yard haven't given us quite the bounty they did last year. June was quite hot; that's the only reason I can think of.

But we finally have a few that are ripe enough to eat (we had more, but some creature took bites out of them a few hours before we planned to pick them, which was heartbreaking).

Since I've got a movie date tonight, I'm going to make a simple dinner.

Goat cheese, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil. If the kids were around, I'd throw it with some pasta, but my husband is not a big fan of pasta. So I think I'll get some crusty bread to eat with it.

Instead of slicing or chunking the tomatoes, I'm going to stuff them with a mixture of goat cheese and basil, drizzle them with olive oil, and broil them for a few minutes.

And maybe a side of bacon, for me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Adventures with Produce

As promised, we hit the produce market yesterday, and scored a couple of Arkansas tomatoes so firm, heavy, and juicy that they were nearly obscene. Since neither of us really felt like a big meal last night, we bought some good whole wheat bread, some bacon (for me), some vegetarian salami (for him), and red onion and I made BLTs (or a vegetarian variation).

Years ago, when I worked across town in a posh area, I would often eat lunch at a local health food store that's since been bought out by Wild Oats. Their vegetarian BLT rocked my world, and I still love it (despite my rather unnatural love for bacon). The substitute for B? Toasted sesame seeds. They toasted them in a skillet, and as soon as the seeds began to brown, they poured them over the already-spread-with-mayonnaise slice of bread. Truly, it has the essence and aroma of bacon, without the pesky animal products. And sesame seeds are really good for you - rich in vitamin E. They used a pretty generous amount, maybe a tablespoon or two per sandwich.

Add to the haul a gorgeous, glossy eggplant, a red bell pepper, and some petite homegrown zucchini, and I have a dinner in mind for tonight. Maybe it's inspired by that new movie, the one that I might see without the kids.


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 eggplant, cubed
1 red bell pepper
4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
3 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves (chopped)
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

*with the fresh herbs, I usually just leave the thyme and oregano on the stems, then remove the stems after it's cooked.

I'll heat the olive oil over medium heat in my chef's pan, then add the garlic and onions.

I'll cook those until they're soft. Then I'll add the eggplant and stir, and repeat with the pepper. And cover that and let it cook for ten minutes, with an occasional poke with a spoon.

Finally I'll add the other ingredients and cook until the eggplant is soft but not mushy.

I might make some brown rice to go with it, but maybe not. Maybe a side of bacon instead.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Last night I told my husband that I wanted to go to Easy-Way and buy a lot of vegetables today.

He eyed me suspiciously and asked why. (He's a vegetarian, so this is not a problem for him, but it's not what he expected me to say.)

See, the thing is, traveling? Especially by car? Does not mean eating well.

I suppose I had some control over that...I could have brought healthy snacks or stopped at healthier places, but I didn't. And now I need to do better.

So once I get back with the store's bounty, I'll figure out what to make and post some food porn. (Ew, not that! Get your mind out of the gutter.)

Since I have little to offer, I'll share a blog post that someone else wrote. It's worth the effort of clicking here.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

July 4 Success

With Pictures!

The secret to eggplant is letting it sweat. I've heard and read different methods for doing this, but what works for me is slicing the eggplant, layering it on tea towels, salting it, then pressing it. Ignore for a few hours, then the bitter juices are soaked into the tea towels. It cooks much more nicely (and tastes better) when this step is not omitted.

Gorgeous eggplants from the Memphis Farmer's Market.

Note my classy weighting technique.

Inside this crock-pot's viscous brew is the pork. It was very tasty.

The potatoes with horseradish are so much prettier with rosemary garnish.

Susie made the trifle, with me acting as sous chef.

And the cole slaw, with bleu cheese being blue.

The second to the bottom row of tomatoes were from our garden. And they definitely tasted better than the rest.

Chef Dan approved of the food. A lovely way to spend the Fourth.