January 10, 2012 § 26 Comments
I am always on the lookout for things to do with ground beef. I’ve expounded before on how much we love our meat farm share, how cool farmer Kim is, how wonderful it is to know where your meat comes from. Because, seriously, it really is. And overall, I don’t mind not being able to choose specific cuts of meat, for we generally receive a remarkable variety. We do wind up with a lot of ground beef, though. Not as much as my parents, who buy a substantial portion of a cow every year, but a lot nonetheless.
So, we have a regular rotation of spaghetti bolognese, chili, beef tacos, and back to spaghetti, like a song on repeat. At least it’s a pretty good song (I used to dread spaghetti when I was little because I felt like we had it so often. Now I understand why, and I welcome it almost weekly as a satisfying respite from thinking about the age old question of what’s for dinner).
Then there’s the occasional meatball or hamburger thrown in, depending on the season. Meatloaf has shown up a couple of times too. I welcome it in and try to give it something like a homemade apple barbecue sauce to make it feel at home. It makes awfully good leftover sandwiches, however awkward I feel about meat in a loaf form.
October 18, 2011 § 13 Comments
We’re ensconced back in Boston now, back amidst the crowded three-home Victorian buildings, the fall leaves grown burnished golden and sparse, and a distinct lack of cappuccinos everywhere you turn. All it took was a 30 hour day, the heavily-accented services of AirFrance (who, by the way, offer Champagne as an aperitif, for free, in coach. I think I need to fly with them more often, though Charles DeGaule is a catastrophe of an airport), and a wonderful and generous friend to pick us up at the airport. Air travel still amazes me.
We slept hard and woke up early yesterday morning with piles of work and places to be already tapping us persistently on the shoulders. But, it’s nice to be home.
However, I feel as if I would be remiss in my duty of being that random person who overshares about her life, and what she eats, if I didn’t at least tell you a little bit about our visit to Florence. Florence, is a wondrous and inspiring place to visit because it has the best gelato in all of Italy. Oh, and a little thing called the Renaissance started there.
Like many of the great old cities, Florence has an energetic, and slightly incongruous feeling, way of weaving together ancient history with hustley bustley, cell phone pervaded modern living. People don’t necessarily live differently there because there are still buildings that are from the middle ages or statues and paintings that were the first to, oh say, rediscover perspective (I’m in awe every time I think about that. Have been since European history with Mr. Jensen in the 11th grade).
And yet, having some of the very deepest foundations of the way we live now visible to you on every street corner must make some difference.
June 28, 2011 § 7 Comments
Having lots of pots of herbs growing on our little balcony has allowed me to develop another brand new obsession. Salsa verde. I’m telling you people, this stuff is magical.
Imagine someone walking out to a lushly growing herb garden and snipping a bountiful spray of fresh herbs from each patch. Then, grinding them all together into an emerald green paste, with some garlic, capers, and anchovies because, you know, why not?!
The result is a massive wave that breaks over your taste buds in a spray of woodsy, grassy, briny, garlicky flavor. I’ve been racking my brain, and I don’t think I can think of anything else I’ve had in quite a while that packs so much beautifully blended and balanced flavor into even a tiny bite.
I discovered salsa verde when making a riff off of the summer squash gratin from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin. My mother and I cooked it up while I was at home, with a few tweaks and the addition of a hefty amount of extremely good Italian sausage. It was seriously delicious (though it had too much bread-crumb action sprinkled throughout for my taste).
February 16, 2011 § 6 Comments
I told you I was going to make a “Stromboli absolutely packed with lots and lots of meat” didn’t I? I am a woman of my word! Not only did I make a meaty Stromboli – an Italian meatball Stromboli, if you are looking for precision – I made it in such quantities that we proceeded to eat said Stromboli for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next 3 days straight. And loved it! Even though it was originally my craving, I actually wouldn’t have served it quite so often (at least, probably not for breakfast – oh wait breakfast was my idea, well anyway) except that before each meal Joel would ask excitedly, “can we have Stromboli again?!” And I wasn’t going to argue. I’m actually a little sad now that it’s gone. I think Stromboli and I bonded over that time – I mean, think about it, you share 9 meals with some
onething and how can you not bond by the end of it?
When I determined I was going to make Stromboli, I went about it as I normally would make pizza. After all, I figured, what is Stromboli but a pizza that’s been kind of folded over and wrapped up. (Versus a calzone, which seems to be a smallish pizza folded in half. One of my friends from Japan likes to say “Japan is a folding culture” (though frequently and endearingly it comes out as “fording cultule”), but if you look at Italy’s various treatments of dough and filling, they seem to be right on Japan’s heels. But, that’s neither here nor there.) I made my standard slow-rise pizza dough, which (foreshadowing!) makes enough for two not insubstantial pizzas. I had a butcher shop’s worth of assorted locally raised ground meats, so I decided that I would make a batch of little walnut sized Italian meatballs to fulfill my “packed with lots and lots of meats” requirement, as opposed to tracking down any cured meats that would have been thematically appropriate. However, if you have some good Italian cured meats, you could certainly use those instead. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 21, 2011 § 10 Comments
I think that one of the nicest things about having a parent from another country is all the funny turns of phrase or sayings you pick up as you grow up. Things translated directly from another language or phrases that were misheard but adopted nonetheless, which seem quite natural to you at home, but then as you head out into the wide world you discover that pretty much no one else says them. I suppose I could find this embarrassing, but instead it’s somehow incredibly endearing. And, I’m guessing that nearly every family has some idiomatic phrases belonging only to them. My mother has bestowed some particularly lovely sayings, mispronunciations, and the like upon her children.
In Norwegian, instead of saying “speak of the devil,” if you’re talking about someone and they suddenly show up, you say “speak of the sun and it shines!” Which probably has something to do with the national obsession with the weather, but which I also think is a much nicer way of referring to someone. No one wants to walk onto the scene only to be called the devil! My favorite saying, however is “necessity teaches the naked woman how to spin,” which is so much more colorful than “necessity is the mother of invention”…and will also earn you some strange looks if you use it offhandedly in conversation.
November 17, 2010 § 2 Comments
Sooner or later, all of us have to grapple with the great question of “what shall I do with this pound of ground beef and pound of ground pork I have left from my last month’s meat CSA delivery.” Right? What? You’ve never asked yourself that? Well, shoot. And here I thought that that was one of those universal things that connected us all across national and ethnic boundaries. Well anyway, I at least found myself asking that very question on Monday night. That’s a lot of meat to deal with, and something had possessed me and prompted me to defrost it all! I had formed a plan to make Norwegian meatballs, but when faced with the actual prospect of cooking dinner after a looong day, suddenly even something as simple as shaping little spheres of meat with my hands seemed like more detail work than I could handle. That’s how I wound up making meatloaf.
Overall, I’m really suspicious of most anything that’s a loaf if it isn’t bread. Something about it just seems wrong, somehow. (And it completely defies my imagination to think about why the rock artist Meat Loaf ever chose that as his stage name. I mean, seriously??) But, at the end of that particular day, mixing the meats up with some spices and just shoving them into a bread pan was about all the dedication to the culinary arts I could muster. So, meatloaf it was. Let’s just say I was being retro-chic. And, besides, something doesn’t become a classic piece of Americana for absolutely no reason. When it comes down to it, meatloaf is incredibly easy, and there is no law on the books saying it has to be a bland, heavy lump of meat. You can go ahead and make it as flavorful as you please! And I discovered that if you start with good quality meat it really doesn’t take much to make a scrumptious and satisfying supper. I took the spices I would have used if I had made the meatballs and blended them into the meatloaf instead. I added in some ketchup and mustard – if they’re good on a burger, they should be good in a meatloaf, right? And then I threw some bay leaves on top to perfume the loaf as it baked. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 14, 2010 § 2 Comments
Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Except, I wound up stuffing collards instead. I was tempted to just remake the incredibly delicious stuffed grape leaves that I made this summer, but it wouldn’t be terribly daring to make something you had already made before – no matter how delicious – now would it?! And, I didn’t have anymore grape leaves. The challenge was open to stuffing all sorts of tougher greens, and the filling was also open to us. So, it was the perfect opportunity to try to use creatively whatever I had, which was collard greens.
I looked at a couple of recipes for stuffed collards, and most of them were similar to some of the traditional stuffed grape leaves recipes, using a mixture of rice, ground beef, and spices to stuff the greens, and then baking them in a tomato based sauce. But, once I was thinking in the middle eastern direction, suddenly all these visions of things like couscous, and feta, and exotic spice blends started popping into my head. Well, that, and I had just used up all the tomato sauce I had making a kind of Mediterranean spiced meat and tomato sauce, but I had lots leftover. So, I decided to experiment.
June 14, 2010 § 7 Comments
We were supposed to go strawberry picking this weekend. We had planned to wander out to Western Massachusetts and stumble upon some nice rambling, rolling biking roads en route to the fields of our farm (okay, it’s not really our farm, it’s just the farm from which our CSA vegetable share comes, but I like to think of it as partly mine) where, the word on the street is that strawberries are exuberantly bursting forth left and right screaming, “Pick me! Eat me!” It was going to be a perfect Saturday…and then it was rainy.
Over the course of a leisurely Saturday morning of getting the bikes ready and such and so (prefaced by a week of saying daily, “I can’t wait to go strawberry picking on Saturday!”) I had worked myself up into my standard state of childlike overexcitement. But then reality struck. The sky started clouding over with ominous looking clouds, and the radio warned of impending rain and potential thunderstorms. The omniscience of the Internet confirmed these unfortunate predictions. There was a large storm to the west, already hovering over the farm and rolling it’s way here.
Grrrr. I could feel my inner 5 year old reaching into its drawers to pull out and put on its cranky pants. This was disappointment of the worst kind – a combination of disappointed hopes of fun with, even worse, food disappointment. I had so looked forward to the ecstasy of plunking myself in a berry patch and filling both my belly and many, many baskets with juicy, red, sun warmed strawberry goodness. The alternative that awaited us if we decided to hang out at home – that being, trying once and for all to organize the disaster that is our study/studio/spare room/junk accumulating magnet – was completely unappealing. So, we decided that at the very least we would go biking anyway. The rain wasn’t here yet, and maybe it would hold off just long enough to go for a ride. We loaded up our bikes and headed over to our favorite bike route (through the gorgeous, pastoral, and ridiculously historic area around Concord, MA). The day was looking gloomier and gloomier, and by the time we were strapping on our helmets, the sky had started spritzing. And then it began to rain in earnest. Buckets. I looked over at Joel with the (now foolish seeming) statement I had made earlier echoing through my mind. “Let’s go for a ride, even if it’s raining.” He looked back at me. Neither of us really wanted to go, but neither of us really wanted to give up on the idea either. So, we plunged in. Like doing a big, splashy cannonball into a lake. At least, that’s about how wet we were within the first 5 minutes.
May 14, 2010 § 1 Comment
Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh…
Yeah, I joined an online group called the Daring Kitchen. It kind of makes me feel like I belong to some crazy underground cell of culinary superheroes with secret cooking powers. “Souffle Man!” “The Chiffonade-inator!” “Tagine Girl!” Unfortunately I have yet to meet any of these particular denizens of the Daring Kitchen. I also have not yet taken the step of wearing a spandex suit while cooking (or have I?…). But, I did think it would be fun to join because each month you get a challenge of something new to cook, and I thought it might be good for me to be intentional about slightly expanding my repertoire of cooking techniques, lest I find myself roasting absolutely everything I run into.
I was really excited that this month’s challenge was Tex-Mex because that’s something that I don’t do a lot of, but am always happy to eat, in particular because I think cilantro and avocados are so delicious I would be happy to merge with them and become a cilantracado and eat myself. (Wow, I totally sound like a crazy person! Er, sorry about that. I just really like avocados. Anyway, back to a pretense of normalcy…)