Let’s start with this: I’m not at all above feeding my kids a box of mac and cheese, or declaring that it’s leftover night and wishing everyone good luck, or piling us all into the car to go out for ramen. But I do try to make dinner for my family with some frequency.
Do you know this nice blog called “Dinner: A Love Story“? I was just introduced to it recently. It’s all about feeding your family dinner every night and of course they have a new cookbook (who doesn’t these days?), apparently full of recipes and strategies for feeding a family of picky eaters without going crazy. I should probably get that cookbook.
But in the meantime I thought I’d share a tip of my own. One of the ways in which I manage to get dinner on the table on a regular basis is by using the term “dinner” fairly loosely. Some examples: breakfast for dinner? Sure. Sandwiches? If necessary. Tonight’s dinner? These pretzels. The girls gleefully chose their own dips (peanut butter, rhubarb jam, and applesauce), and the grown-ups had theirs with a sweet grainy mustard. I made a pot of that great turnip soup soup as well, but it was certainly the accompaniment to the pretzels and not the other way around.It’s a little time-consuming to make pretzels (you boil these in a baking-soda bath in addition to letting them rise twice), but it was a fun project to do with the girls and the resulting pretzels were very good. They have just the right combination of crispy bottom and chewy center, with a little tang that I assumed was from the rye flour, but Kim Boyce tells me is from the baking soda instead. This recipe is adapted from Boyce’s Good to the Grain cookbook, which I want to cook from front to back after having started with those Rhubarb-Strawberry Cornmeal Tarts recently.
I usually joke that mine is the ability to cook when it’s messy (it’s always messy), but in truth I think it’s that I like to eat. So as I cook, I ask myself, does this taste good? What would make it better? Do I want a finely chopped vegetable here, or big chunks? This description makes my cooking sound more planned-out than it usually is, but I just mean that these are the things that go through my head on the fly. I believe that constantly thinking about the end product and tasting occasionally as I go increase my chances of producing something delicious. (There are plenty of failures too, of course–I’ve been thinking lately that I should start taking pictures of those as well for an Emmy Cooks bloopers reel.)
But this ability to envision the eventual dish fails me when it comes to cuisines that I am less comfortable cooking. Indian food falls into this category, which is why I appreciate starting with a good recipe that will rely less on my intuition and more on my ability to follow directions. So mostly I stick to recipes from Vij’s At Home. But dazzled by the success of that saag paneer I keep making (thank you, Kolpona Cuisine!), I decided to branch out to this aloo gobi recipe from the gorgeous vegan blog v:gourmet. I followed the recipe exactly, except for the splash of cream I added at the end. What can I say? My super power told me to.
Eggs are the original fast food, as far as I’m concerned. I have been reasonably successful in cooking other things too lately, but that doesn’t mean that eggs don’t continue to make a regular appearance on our table (often shortly after they make their appearance in our backyard chicken coop). Here’s the glorious thing about an egg: treated properly, it elevates any hodgepodge of leftover vegetables into a meal. Think of those chard stems!
So odds and ends often end up in little single-serving frittatas around here. To anyone who thinks they don’t have time to cook, I say, get an 8″ cast iron skillet. Two eggs, a few generous handfuls of vegetables, a pinch of salt and your meal is ready in ten minutes. And you know as well as I do that eggs aren’t just for breakfast. Fancy them up like this and you can serve them for any meal of the day.
The usual rule applies: use what you have. I was working with leftovers from that arugula salad I kept making, but you might have other tidbits in your fridge. The eggs cook quickly, so you’ll want to briefly cook most of the other ingredients first, then add the eggs. I usually cook the veggies, add the eggs for a few minutes, sprinkle a bit of cheese on top, and then broil the pan for minute or two to set the eggs. Fresh herbs are nice sprinkled on top after cooking (basil would have been perfect here if I had it). Usually I’d say to avoid wet ingredients like tomatoes on top of a frittata, but this little one cooks so fast that they don’t have time to melt into a juicy mess.
So keep this little preparation in mind. Next time you find yourself considering a fast food order, see if you have an egg handy first.
Have you ever heard of black garlic? I hadn’t until last week, when I happened across a small new bin tucked in with the mushrooms at my local co-op. The sign said “fermented black garlic.” What? The employees in the produce section were enthusiastic in recommending it but vague about exactly what it was. It looked like garlic, but was slightly collapsed and shrunken, and smelled like a sweet, lightly garlic-flavored soy sauce. It smelled good. Into my basket it went. Later I found that wikipedia link above and determined that I had purchased either a traditional Asian ingredient or a new-fangled food entrepreneur’s invention from California, or maybe some combination (see here for the California producer’s description of how the “magic” fermentation process occurs “behind the closed doors of our patented machine”). Apparently this stuff is all umami and antioxidants and a darling of the food cognoscenti, of which group I am not a member, so that explains why I had never heard of it.
Finding a new vegetable is a big deal for a serious eater. A new taste experience on the horizon! I started researching how to make the most of my intriguing head of garlic. In the end, I didn’t find a recipe that called to me, so I adapted a potato and rosemary focaccia recipe from Food and Wine, which had in turn adapted it from a Daniel Boulud recipe.
I made two medium-sized focaccias, and I used half a head of black garlic to flavor one of them. I roasted thinly-sliced potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, and a couple of minced cloves of black garlic, then I layered more sliced cloves of black garlic onto the potato-topped bread before baking it. I was a little worried that I might have overdone it with all that garlic. (The other focaccia was topped only with rosemary-roasted potato slices as a delicious control group.)So hey, it’s good bread. But the garlic flavor is quite mild, and in my opinion the black garlic’s flavor, at least as I prepared it, doesn’t live up to the bold promise of its alluring scent and striking appearance. But I like strong flavors, and the unexpectedly delicate garlic flavor may be a plus in your book rather than a disappointment. In any case, the midnight-black cloves certainly lend dramatic flair.
Here’s the important question: what should I do with the remaining cloves of black garlic? Have you used it in a preparation that you liked? Do you have some off-the-wall inspiration to share? I’ll give it another go.
I spent a very nice year in Denmark once upon a time. (Yes, I can still remember how to say about two things in Danish.) The country has many charming aspects, one of which is the fine tradition of making a meal out of good things piled on top of bread.
Recently, a similar movement seems to be gaining steam here in the U.S. as well, except that we toast our bread first. I think of the evolution this way: bruschetta (1980’s), crostini (1990’s), toasts (aughts), tartines (isn’t that what we call them now?). Or maybe there’s some other difference, I don’t know. Anyway, here’s a nice way to get away with eating melty cheese on toast for dinner. My friend Daisy at Coolcookstyle made it up by substituting radish greens for nettles in a Nigel Slater rarebit recipe, and I say it was a wise decision. You can swap the greens, swap the cheese, or vary the mustard, of course: the only two essential ingredients are bread and something delicious to put on top of it. Continue reading Green Tartine, or, Radish Top Toast (click for recipe)
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Finally, before we get to the good stuff, there’s something that’s been bothering me. Since you are discerning readers, I imagine that it’s been bothering you as well. It’s this “emmycooks” business. See, when I started this blog I wasn’t really thinking about giving it a name, I just popped that in as the URL and copied it as the blog’s title. But oh! The improper capitalization. And the unnecessary runningtogether of two words. I apologize if this has been grating on you each time you visit this site, and I hereby unveil this blog’s dramatic new name: Emmy Cooks. Phew. Don’t we all feel better now?
It’s been a delicious month! Thank you for reading and cooking along with me. I love all the great ideas and thoughts you share in the comments. I can’t always keep up with them, but I’ll do my best to at least answer questions as I see them come in. Here’s to another delicious month together!
As promised, we are using up leftover lentils today. No leftover lentils? Go start a pot of the little French ones now. Cover a cup of them with water, toss in a bay leaf, they’ll be ready before your remaining ingredients are chopped. Which brings us to the next point: this is a more time-consuming recipe than most that I post on this site. You may not want to start cooking these at 6 p.m. on a weekday–but then again, you might. Who am I to insist that you eat before 7?
If you’re looking for a “center of the plate” vegetarian main course, look no further. One or two of these golden cakes, anointed with a dollop of herby yogurt sauce, makes an elegant entree. At the same time, nobody could blame you for popping one of these into a hamburger bun and piling it with crunchy lettuce and tomatoes. The perfect vegetarian burger is an elusive thing, but these fit the bill: flavorful, moist, and sturdy enough to pick up in your hand.
This recipe is adapted from the blog Coconut and Quinoa, so all the credit goes to Amy for the little touches that make this recipe work: mashed chickpeas and oat flour to bind the patties without egg, a sauteed grated zucchini for moisture, and piles of herbs, capers, and a spash of balsamic vinegar to brighten and enhance the flavor of the earthy lentils.