Down to basics – the omelet

March 25, 2013 § 23 Comments

basic omelet 1

After I posted about my method for making creamy scrambled eggs, I received several requests asking whether I could write a similar post on making the perfect omelet.

The answer:  most certainly! … Well, sort of.

The perfect omelet is a fitful, finnicky, tricky thing.  It is said that you can judge the caliber of a chef by his or her plain roast chicken and his or her omelet.  So, I knew that if I was to post about how to cook an omelet, I could not do so lightly.

So, I decided to put in a whole bunch of practice first.

eggs for two omelets

On the whole, I’m relatively unpracticed at making omelets.  Certainly if you compare with my practice in fried or scrambled eggs.  I like eggs in nearly any preparation, but omelets are not at the very top of my list, so I don’t make them as frequently as some other eggy delights.  Actually, if I were to order how frequently I made different types of eggs, the list would be something like this:

  1. Fried eggs
  2. Baked eggs (most often baked plainly with just a drizzle of cream and maybe some herbs)
  3. Scrambled eggs (with or without lots of mix-ins)
  4. Poached eggs – Frittatas – this one’s a tie
  5. Omelets
  6. Soft or hard boiled eggs (though, actually, I do absolutely love a soft boiled egg, if someone else prepares it for me)
  7. Other egg-based things like savory custards, stratas, souffles, etc.

So there you go.  And I have now started the most boring conversation ever, listing egg preparation preferences. Or maybe it’s actually one of the most interesting potential conversations ever.  Your egg preferences may be like a personality barometer.  Maybe it’s an edible Myer’s-Briggs!  Do all other INFJs have the same egg preferences as me?  Do ENTPs prefer scrambled eggs above all while ISTJs are omelet people?  Feel free to discuss. « Read the rest of this entry »

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Spinach and pine nut soup

March 19, 2013 § 20 Comments

spinach pine nut soup 1

I wasn’t kidding about the soups (I even made another one today for lunch.  This one, in fact, but with kale instead of cabbage).  And, as you can see, I definitely wasn’t kidding about the spinach and pine nut soup.  Actually, I used the soup and my desire to make it as an excuse to have an impromptu St. Patrick’s/St. Urho‘s day dinner for a few friends.  Clearly there is nothing very Irish (or Finnish for that matter) about spinach and pine nuts, but check out how green that soup is!  I decided that with a side of soda bread and some good Irish butter and cheddar it would suit us just fine.

And it did.  It’s actually quite a wonderful soup.  No wonder I used to make it as a starter for dinner parties all the time!  Come to think of it, I think I first served this soup (or a version of it) at the first serious dinner party I ever hosted.  That was back in the day, back during my sophomore year of college, if I remember correctly.

toasted pine nuts

Courtesy of my first year of college, I developed such an aversion to the food at the school’s dining hall, I convinced the school to let me not be on a meal plan at all, and I started cooking for myself in the tiny – and usually disgusting with other students’ crusty leftover midnight macaroni and cheese pots and half eaten bags of microwave popcorn – dorm kitchen down at the end of the hallway.

That was pretty much my start of cooking seriously for myself, though in this context “serious” meant a lot of chicken breasts with steamed broccoli interspersed with granola or Special K bars for dinner.  (The Special K bar dinner was the saddest.)  I also discovered how very lonely it can be to sit and eat dinner in silence by yourself every single night.  I suppose that must have contributed to my passion for sharing meals, and I started devising ways to coax others to dine with me. « Read the rest of this entry »

Panade of leeks, greens, and gruyere

March 14, 2013 § 24 Comments

panade of leeks and greens above

I’ve been going through a spate of soup-mania lately.  Vast quantities of soup have been making their way from the kitchen to my lips.  It’s practically all I want to eat.

I mean, I always like soup, but right now something about the world, the liminality of so many things – not the least of which being the season – is making soup particularly appealing.  When you’re in between winter and spring as well as all sorts of projects, just waiting (and waiting (and waiting)) for people to get back to you about pesky little things like edits and comments, what better to do than a little slurping?  Soup is there to oblige all slurping needs.   Also, I have a private theory that I’ve been dehydrated because of the dryness in the air, and my body is trying to make up for the fact that 10 or so cups of water a day just isn’t quite enough by steering me towards eating liquid food as well.  Is that even possible?  Not sure.

leeks for panade 1leeks for panade 2

Anyhow, I’ve had avocado soup for lunch for about 5 days in a row.  We’ve had sourdough tomato soup, and Norwegian fiskesuppe (with some extra parsnip and tiny arctic shrimp added), and creamy squash soup, and pho.  To name just a few.  I also just had the sudden flicker of a memory of a spinach and pine nut soup that I used to make for dinner parties in college (because I hosted dinner parties in college.  With no kegs or even drinking games.  Because I was that cool.).  I’ll have to make that some time soon because doesn’t that sound good?

This soup, though, I consider the culmination of sorts (though not the sort of culmination that signals the end.  No way.  More soups to come, so if you’re a soup person you should come on over…).  The soup to rule all soups, you might say.  A soup so filled with wonderful things that it is a considerable stretch to call it a soup.  It should be eaten with a fork.  Indeed, it should be so thick a fork should stand right up in it. « Read the rest of this entry »

Bouchon Bakery chocolate chip cookies

March 10, 2013 § 17 Comments

Bouchon_cc_cookies_milk_1

I never was much of a chocolate chip cookie person.  In our house growing up, a chocolate chip cookie never emerged from the oven.  Not a single time.  We were given fresh baked bread or rye flatbreads with cheese after school, not cookies.  And, while I know I whined about it, I secretly thought it was kind of awesome (and on the whole, I’ll still take fresh baked bread over a cookie, or very nearly anything else, any day).

My friends had chocolate chip cookies that they would sometimes share with me, of course, or as we got older we would go to their houses and bake them (we did try to bake cookies at my house one time, and they turned out terribly, a melted puddle of disaster instead of cookies.  Thus it was that our oven truly never made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, at least not successfully).  And I’d eat them.  I was a kid, they were sweet, it was cool.  But, I never really got to like them.

Bouchon_cc_cookies_milk_above

In college, my sophomore year roommate was a champion cookie baker.  She baked cookies whenever she wanted to avoid anything, which meant a heck of a lot of cookie baking.  From her, I learned that age-old teenage rite of eating half the cookie dough as we baked (it’s a wonder we never got salmonella, given she wasn’t exactly using the highest quality eggs), resulting in batches of only about a dozen cookies that would actually get baked.  And the baked cookies, again, were fine and whatever, but I never started to crave the cookies.

Nor did the signature chocolate chip cookies made by the boy I started dating that year change that.  Of course, these ones were odd cookies that didn’t taste particularly good unbaked, or warm, or at room temperature, but were at their best refrigerated and then soaked in milk.  Maybe he had accidentally switched to copying a biscotti recipe halfway through writing the cookie recipe down, or something.  Either way, I never saw what others seemed to see in chocolate chip cookies.  I know so many people who will get excited about a chocolate chip cookie of any quality.  But, I never found any cookie good enough to write home about.

Until, that is, my 5th year living in Boston when we moved to an apartment in Jamaica Plain near a hole in the wall little bakery named Canto 6.  A bakery with which we promptly fell in love.  They make excellent sandwiches with fresh bread and homemade ingredients as well as soups and vegetable quiches and the occasional thin slice of pizza with chevre and olives.  They make croissants that would hold their own in Paris, as well as meltingly tender scones, buttery Brioche topped with cheeses and honeys and fruits and other goodies, yogurt cakes, and olive rolls, and berry galettes, and sour cherry crumble pies.  All of which are ridiculously high quality and delicious. « Read the rest of this entry »

Broccoli salad with bacon and pecans

March 5, 2013 § 13 Comments

broccoli salad dressed

It is decidedly not spring here yet.  In fact, it’s blowing ferociously and snowing several inches outside right now (just a stone’s throw further south they’re getting close to 10 inches, but we’re getting only brushed by the storm).

I remember the day in March in 2nd grade when our teacher taught us the saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”  She even had a paper cut out lion and lamb thumb tacked up on the cork board to drive the point home.

We were all mystified.  No, no, no.  The saying was all wrong, we pointed out (after the metaphor had been explained).  March comes in like a lion and it goes out like a lion too.  Maybe an ever so slightly more docile lion, but a lion nonetheless.

blanched broccoligreen onions for slicing

That’s Minnesota for you.

So, no, no spring yet.  It makes me miss the other places I’ve lived, the places where crocuses and daffodils start intrepidly strutting about in March.  However, the yearning for spring isn’t desperate yet.  Not desperate, but on the other hand, I’m definitely not as into root vegetables as I was a couple months ago.

In my need for a change of pace, I found myself craving broccoli salad a few days ago, something that does not happen often at all, except for the odd day midsummer when it sounds good, or when I’m several time zones out of my element, running late for a wedding rehearsal, and my stomach is growling audibly, and I’m standing in front of a deli counter.  It happens sometimes then too. « Read the rest of this entry »

Some thoughts on diets and eating

March 2, 2013 § 41 Comments

shower feast

Shuffle shuffle shuffle, shplop, clump, clump, clump…(that’s the sound of me hauling in and climbing up on my soap box, actually no, let’s go with it being me setting up my 2 cents booth, and special for you, today only, there’s no charge!…)

So a study came out and suddenly everyone’s all abuzz with the Mediterranean Diet all over again.  Perhaps you’ve heard?

Which I suppose must be nice for the Mediterranean Diet and all, given it was probably feeling a little dusty and lonely and ignored from several years of being quite out of the spotlight.  And maybe, if things go well, it’ll get some people to eat a little extra olive oil and seafood.

But, here’s what I worry.  I worry that this is just going to add back one more way we measure ourselves and judge ourselves when it comes to what we eat.  It provides one more set of potential boxes to constantly fret about ticking off so that we can feel good about ourselves because we “were good” that day, and to feel bad about ourselves if we deviate from because we “were bad” that day.

This is actually my problem with all the diets I hear about these days be they “paleo,” “vegan,” “raw,” “4-hour body,” “bullet proof,” or what have you.  It’s not a problem with the diets themselves, actually, but a problem with how we – or, well, let’s personalize this, how I – respond to them emotionally.  They make me judge myself.  And if there’s one thing I don’t need extra help with, it’s judging myself.  I’m super good at that all on my own, thanks.

When I’m trying to adhere to one of these carefully delineated ways of eating it becomes a constant rating game, just like so much of the rest of life can feel.  When I’m getting praise at work or I’m on a run of eating no grains at all or something, inside I start jabbering, “I get a star for this, ooh that means I’m a good person. Must try to maintain stars at all costs”… and then I get worn out and feel bad about myself because I’m just trying to maintain my internal idea of how many stars I have, and then I do something “wrong,” like eat a scone or get a negative comment back from a journal I’ve submitted a paper to.  “I get a big black X for that, oh no! disaster!! despair!!!!!!  I must be a bad person.  I am a horrible person…”  And then I feel bad about myself.

Either way, it turns out, I feel bad about myself because I tie myself to my rating system of the moment (and I have a feeling I can’t possibly be the only one who does this, including with regards to food).  And with diets, this winds up making me feel frightened of my food.  And I’m quite certain that when you’re frightened of your food, it can’t really nourish you, no matter how many micronutrients it might contain. « Read the rest of this entry »

Polenta hiding mozzarella and lemony greens

February 26, 2013 § 17 Comments

polenta hiding greens 1

This past weekend Joel and I were in Wisconsin for the American Birkebeiner.  The Birkie, as it’s called, is the largest Nordic ski race in North America and the third largest in the world.  Every February, thousands and thousands of skiers descend on the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin to subject themselves to over 50 kilometers of hilly, sometimes icy, always beautiful, and invariably intense cross-country ski racing.

From those not used to it, I’ve heard it’s really a cultural experience.

My family has been going to the Birkie for as long as I can remember.  There’s a children’s race, called the Barnebirkie (which is Norwegian for “child Birkie”) the Thursday before the big race, and my brothers and I started skiing it when we were still so little that my mom had to walk beside us the entire length of the 1 km toddler course.  My parents would then do the grown up race on the weekend.

mozzarella slices

I started skiing the half Birkie in high school, and I did the full a couple of times while I was in college.  But then I up and moved to the East Coast and was never able to make it back in February (much less train for it, anyway), and so the glorious Birkie weekend full of the excitement of a giant challenge and the fun of meeting up with and staying with friends, comfortably sharing tons of good food and wine and swapping war stories after the race is over, became something I just heard about over the phone each year.

But now we’re back in the upper middle of the country!  And one of the first things I did upon arriving at our new home in Northern Minnesota was to register both Joel and myself for the Birkie.

So then we had to start training like mad.  Trail runs and hikes followed by skiing and skiing and skiing as soon as there was snow.  Sadly, fate conspired against me and last week I found myself feeling substantially under the weather and completely exhausted.  Things didn’t get any better going into the weekend, so I had to bow out of skiing the race (small strangled sobbing noise).  I still went with and did part time cheering duty and full-time relaxing duty at the cabin where we stay, listening happily to everyone’s excited stories of how terrible it was this year (tough conditions make for even more satisfying suffering). Next year, though.  Next year I plan on being fully well enough to ski. « Read the rest of this entry »