Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Obviously We're Adults, We Have a Grill

Rachel here.

This post was planned to mark our very first grill purchase. Strapped for cash these days while I transition from school to work, we waited out our local Target and victoriously snagged a grill the other day for half-price. YUP--HALF. We waited them out and the arrival of our new grill onto our little back patio was all the sweeter for it. Of course, we were itching to get cooking.

I didn't purchase briquettes when I picked up the grill, fantasizing that John would be that spectacular combination of persnickety and salt of the earth that he sometimes offers up. He didn't have strong feelings about the charcoal, though, so today I stopped and picked up some standard stuff while running errands. He promised to develop feelings about what he's grilling over as the summer progresses. Obviously, we'll keep you posted. In the meantime, any suggestions?

Tonight was supposed to be the christening of our grill. Chicken kabobs with apricots, onion and zucchini (and chicken marinated in jerk seasoning, olive oil and lime juice) were on the menu, as was grilled asparagus. To say I was excited is probably an understatement. I was more like a kid who'd just found out Christmas just might pop up at the end of June this year. One of my absolute favorite things about being alive is grilling and sitting outside. For the first time in my adult life we have both the space and the equipment. We've got the grill (did I mention that already?), and Adirondack chairs, and strung white lights through the trees. We've got a little table and a patio and a nice stretch of grass with a little garden doing its darndest to grow. We've got it going on this summer, as far as I'm concerned. And tonight was supposed to be the moment it all finally came together.

Except it rained. From ten o'clock this morning on, the entire day has been relentlessly drenched. If you don't live in California you probably figure this is standard summer weather. But not us, not here. We're only supposed to get rain 6 months of the year. The other 6 are supposed to be gloriously and reliably dry. Summer falls in the dry 6, in case you were at all uncertain.

And so the chicken will stew in its juices a little bit longer, until tomorrow night. If it's raining then, I'm handing John a raincoat and umbrella and telling him I can't wait for dinner.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hmmm, Strawberries

Sometimes pictures really are worth a thousand words and while our photography can leave something to be desired, this photo of a bowl of fresh, local, perfectly ripe strawberries says summer in a way that nothing except perhaps corn or tomatoes does. Who needs sugar or shortcake when the strawberry looks like this?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pesto Besto

Janet here: I'm in serious salad mode with the summer having arrived and at least semi-hot weather here in the Northeast. Grilling some veggies, fish or chicken outside and adding a little salad is the perfect easy dinner in the summer.

For most of my adult life, potato salad was one version and one version only: the potato salad I grew up eating and recreated once I was cooking on my own. (You can get the recipe here.)

As I've become a more accomplished cook over the years, I've realized that there are actually about a gazillion potato salad recipes out there. Here's a variation on potato salad I created this past weekend that only requires a few ingredients. It takes advantage of another summer wonder: fresh basil.

Pesto Potato Salad

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
1 medium red pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium yellow pepper, seeded and diced
1/3ish cup pesto (I used some made at a local farm but if you want to make your own, try Rachel's recipe here)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes for about 20 minutes in boiling water. Don't overcook because mushy potato salad is just gross. Drain the potatoes and cool until ready to handle. Cut into quarters and put in a large bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients and toss gently. Put in the fridge to cool for at least two hours. Serve and enjoy...

What's your go-to potato salad?

Friday, June 24, 2011

teach me to eat

John here:
Eating has always been easy for me. I have never had an eating disorder and i have never been overweight. I'm not trying to brag, i just mean that i have never had to consider why i eat, i just eat.

Rachel and i took M to her one year check-up with the doctor. The doctor informed us that M is not gaining enough weight. Rachel and i have been struggling with dinners for M for a month or so now. What we make her for dinner she won't eat, just a few nibbles. We have recently switched her to real food from jarred baby food and at first she was game, but now not so much.

Any advice? I feel lost regarding this issue, how do i let her be herself while eating but insure that she is eating enough? How do i not give her my tension during dinner? I want her to be free to be herself without me shoving my concerns down her throat, literally.

How do i teach her to eat?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Simple Summer Salad

Janet here: One of the many wonders of summer is the variety of salad options. Sure, you can cobble together something more than lettuce and carrots in the winter, but it's trickier and the options are more limiting. In the summer, though, the veggies are fresh and plentiful and eating a huge salad for dinner is more appealing than winter when you're often craving something hot and gut-gripping to help you make it through another cold cold day. Salad is as light as a summer's day itself.

Here's a pasta salad I made recently for a crowd of relatives. I can't wait to try it in the height of tomato season. What's your go-to summer salad?

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad
serves 6-8

1/2 pound fusilli or some curly pasta
1 pound ripe tomatoes, medium diced
3/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and diced
1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
6 sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped into bite-size pieces

for the dressing
5 sun-dried tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup julienned fresh basil

Cook the pasta on the stove. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

Cut up the olives, 6 sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and add to the bowl when the pasta is cool.

To make the dressing, mix all the dressing ingredients in a food processor until well mixed. Add to the large bowl and mix well. Season to taste.

When ready to serve, add the Parmesan and basil.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday, M.

Rachel here.

A year ago, John and I scheduled a dinner party for the evening of June 17th. Good and pregnant, I figured one last hoorah as non-parental types was in order. I also secretly thought it might inspire M to make an early appearance. It was hot and I was sick of my stomach sticking to my thighs when I sat, creaking as it detached itself when I stood.

Anyway, I went into labor on the morning of June 17th. We'd bought all the food for our little soiree, though, and so John spent the day distracting himself by preparing all of the food anyway. He made pesto chicken salad, ice cream and blueberry pie. After M was born on June 18th, we were itching to get home and eat all of this delicious food. Immediately we began planning the blueberry pie we'd make for her this year to celebrate her one year birthday.

The best laid plans never work, right? We had the camera and the video camera set up to capture that classic first birthday shot where the kid is positively covered in their treat. She was wearing nothing but a diaper. M wasn't having it, though, not even a taste. More for her parents, we figure.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fathers and Food

Rachel and I are going to share a post today, a little celebration/tip-off to our respective dads as we enter the weekend that honors fathers. I'll kick it off.

If you added up the number of meals served in my house growing up, my mother certainly made most of them. But it is my father who most influenced my taste buds. My dad was a large man for most of his life. He was tall and big chested and he was also always at least somewhat over the ideal weight. The reason for that was simple: He loved to eat. And he loved to eat well.

This is a man who lived the Mad Men life of two-martini lunches at swank restaurants in New York, followed by card games in the bar car on the way home from New York to New Jersey, followed by a substantive dinner. On weekends, he loved nothing better than piling the whole family in the car and driving somewhere — one of his and my mother's favorite restaurants was at least an hour's drive from our home — for a full-on meal, complete with appetizers and dessert. It was during these regular forays that I learned how to sit still at the dinner table, which fork to use and the wonders of parfaits (a dessert I also loved because I felt quite smart being able to spell it).

On weekends when we didn't eat out, my dad loved nothing better than cooking steak sandwiches on the grill, often with fresh vegetables from our garden. And at the holidays, he was the creator of many of our most special dishes. (His pies, as regular readers know, were out of this world.)

When my father became diabetic later in life (no surprise there, given his eating patterns and his family history), he still ate well, just differently. Okay, so he couldn't eat the same kinds of desserts. But that didn't mean he couldn't have dessert; it just meant more fresh fruit and less sweetener.

My father, who died four days after my 32nd birthday and three days before Rachel's third birthday, stands at my side now as I cook and as I eat. He reminds me, a woman who has struggled with loving her body and nurturing/nourishing it, to enjoy the food, savor the moment. My dad was a no-nonsense kind of guy, a man who grew up in an era when hugs were forms of intimacy left only for rare moments. But in his gusto for food — the sharing of it, the joy of eating it, the cooking of it for people he cared about — he showered me with love day in and day out.

Rachel here.

I planned out what I was going to write today in my head over the past day or so without any knowledge of what my mom was going to write. There are interesting parallels, I think, between the lessons she learned about food from her father and the lessons I learned from mine. Perhaps we observed them more because they weren't usually the ones standing at the stove...

My dad is a measured man. An avid runner, he--like me--appreciates routine. Growing up, I watched him eat a bowl of cereal every morning for breakfast (ok, as a teenager I noticed the bowl upside down in the dishwasher...), washed down with a glass of juice. For lunch during the week he'd pack himself a half of a sandwich and two pieces of fruit each day (on weekends he dutifully consumed the leftovers in the fridge). Home from work, he'd pop open a can of peanuts and enjoy a few nibbles before sitting down and vocally enjoying the entirety of whatever meal my mom had prepared.

Here is what I learned:

I learned about moderation. I learned to invest in the good stuff so the indulgent food would not only taste luxurious but feel good, too. I learned about food as fuel, as stamina for the bodily machine. I learned about portions and balance. Without ever talking about it, my dad showed me how to eat. It is a model I have turned to often when I feel lost in the vast sphere of food. Make half a sandwich, grab two pieces of fruit. Your body will thank you.

There is something else, though, that I learned from my dad as I witnessed his eating patterns growing up. A blue and white speckled bowl held court in the middle of our kitchen table, brimming with fruit. My dad never picked the prettiest pieces out, though. Instead, he'd reach into the bottom and pull out the leopard-spotted banana or bruised apple--even a peach that was starting to mold in a spot--to eat. I always avoided those fruits, figuring a speck of rot was the same as a pile of mush, favoring the unmarred fruit and letting its mottled counterparts continue their deterioration. While there's the sort of obvious lesson to eat the food that's turning before you consume that which remains hearty, there is an undercurrent to this little tableau that courses through my dad's character.

My dad is a man for the underdog, a shirker of the easy answer and a celebrator of the enigmatic and idiosyncratic. I asked him once about why he chose the fruit that was turning and he said that it tasted so, so sweet. From where he stood there was nothing wrong at all and, instead, he set his eyes and pallet on the marvelous and deep flavors that come from truly ripe fruit. While seeking and sustaining routine, he keeps his eyes open. From the middle of the road, he takes in the periphery, marveling at its unruliness and appreciating the balance of it all. He sees spectacular fungus formations on trees deep off the trail when we hike. He notices M's tiniest flickers of observation as they flash across her face. And when the day is done, he sits down and appreciates this momentary arrival, enjoying his good dinner and the occasional ice cream cone, too.

If you had/have a dad, what did/do you learn from him about food? What are your favorite food memories?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chickpeas With Chard and Pan-Roasted Tomatoes

Rachel here.

Summer has finally graced the west coast, sending the rain that nagged us through May packing. Fresh fruit and veggies abound and we've been gobbling down stir-fries and salads in our house, delighting at M's appreciation for berries and bok choy and all sorts of other simple yumminess.

The shelves at the grocery store are overflowing with chard and the first local tomatoes have made an appearance.

Have I mentioned that I absolutely adore tomatoes? Because I do. I've been known to stand over the kitchen sink with a salt shaker in hand and tomato juice streaming down my chin, beaming. Tart and sweet and juicy...what more could you want?

Anyway, today I offer this simple recipe for Chickpeas With Chard and Pan-Roasted Tomatoes. I found it in an old copy of Real Simple magazine. It is, you know, a really simple recipe. And really delicious. And super nutritious to boot. I highly recommend you give it a whirl.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Food and Friends

Janet here: My friend, Susan, and I have had many adventures, including a memorable book club meeting in a snow storm involving a tree limb and a car caught in a snow drift, a story that I and the others involved have promised to bring up at Susan's funeral, assuming one of us is left to tell the tale. Trust me; it's a good one.

But one of the ways we have shared life together is through food: wonderful meals in each other's homes, a fateful night involving a microwave and a can of beefaroni, and the unexpected meal dropped off in various times of duress. When Susan's mother was in the hospital, I dropped off a dinner; when I was larger than any pregnant woman should ever be with our last child who was also two weeks overdue, ie I was insane (he came out 11 pounds, 3 ounces and 23.5 inches long, completely vindicating my bitchiness the entire last trimester), she stopped by with a wonderful crabmeat casserole; and most recently this past week, when she and her family were in the throes of the kind of stuff that happens to every family from time to time.

Providing an instant dinner for someone who is struggling is one of life's great gifts. There is something so wonderful about coming home from wherever — hospital, funeral, fill-in-the-blank — and realizing all you have to do to put a meal on the table is heat up whatever wonderful thing arrived in your absence. Life may suck, but someone cared enough to make it suck just a teeny bit less.

I dropped off a casserole and cookies — who doesn't feel better after a homemade cookie? — and this wonderful summer fruit bread pudding inspired by the Barefoot Contessa. Fresh fruit, sugar and bread — what could be easier?

Summer Fruit Bread Pudding

serves 8

1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 pints fresh raspberries
1 pint fresh blueberries
1 loaf brioche or egg bread or challah bread

Combine the strawberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water in a pot. Cook uncovered over medium low heat for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of the raspberries and all the blueberries and cook, stirring occasionally, until simmering. Simmer for about one minute. Remove from heat and add the remaining raspberries.

Slice the bread into 1/2-inch thick slices. Remove the crust. In the bottom of a circular dish that is about 7 inches in diameter and about 3 inches high (or you could probably improvise in a square dish that's about 8 inches square), ladle about 1/3 third of the berry mixture. Then arrange the slices of bread to fill out the square. Pour more berry mixture over this row. Add another row of bread. (You can cut the bread into whatever size to better have it fit the pan you're using.) Add more berry mixture, the last row of bread and the rest of the berry mixture.

Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top. Find a plate about the size of the dish. Place on top. Place a can on top to weight it down and refrigerate. Remove the weight after 6 to 8 hours. Keep covered in the fridge overnight.

Just before serving, run a knife around the edge of the pudding. Put a plate on top and turn the whole thing upside down so the pudding lands on the plate. Serve with homemade whipped cream.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Simple Sides

Rachel here.

As my mom mentioned on Monday, illness has descended upon our household. And despite our best efforts, over a week later we're still kicking this uninvited visitor around. John was all ready to sit down and write a post for today (it is his Friday after all), but then I made puppy eyes and asked him to make dinner instead. So, I'm sitting in bed with a heap of tissues and he is off scrounging together leftovers from a most excellent visit we just had with family.

Oh man--mentioning a heap of tissues on a food blog is probably something you're not supposed to do unless they accumulated from patting something fried down. Oh well. My nose, throat and brain are proverbially fried

One of the things that I've really been enjoying about generating concoctions for M in the kitchen is that so many of these dishes are simple and make excellent sides for those of us with bigger appetites and more teeth than an almost one year old. It's been a cool minute since I spent any time rethinking side dishes, usually whipping up something from a rotation of standards that are yummy but, you know, maybe appearing a little too often on our dinner plates. Anyway, in the past few weeks I've come up with two meals for M that are absolutely fabulous. They're simple, interesting and healthy, too. Give 'em a try and let us know what you think!

Apple-Ginger Carrots
ingredients (for 4)
1 large carrot
a knob of ginger
6-8 T. applesauce (homemade, right? right)
olive oil+salt

Halve carrot lengthwise and then slice. Put into pan over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil (to prevent sticking) and a dash of salt (to help the carrot cook and to open up flavors). Thinly slice ginger and then mince (do this to taste...we can eat a lot of ginger in this family, but I know not everyone can so start with about a tablespoon and build from there) before adding to skillet. Once carrots have begun to soften (around 10 minutes), add applesauce by the heaping tablespoon, stirring well. If using store-bought applesauce, I'd suggest adding cinnamon to taste, too. Saute until carrots are cooked and serve.

Garlic-Parmesan Zucchini
ingredients (for 4)
1 medium zucchini
2 large coves of garlic
freshly shaved aged parmesan
olive oil+salt
fresh cracked pepper

Peel zucchini. Halve lengthwise and then slice. Place in pan over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt (wait--this sounds really familiar, right? See--I told you these were simple sides). Mince your garlic and add, sauteing until zucchini is cooked. Remove from pan and toss with fresh cracked pepper and parmesan to taste. Serve and watch everyone smile.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's Hot (Finally!). Salad Time

Janet here: I don't know about you but one way in which I've become wiser over the years is discovering that salad is actually a lot more than just some iceberg lettuce with a tomato or cucumber thrown in for good measure. It's been a happy revelation, especially in the summer months when turning on the oven or cooking over the hot stove loses some of its appeal. With salad you can toss a few ingredients together, add a dressing and voila! instant dinner. Want to add a little something from the grill, go for it.

The other appeal of salads is their easy transportability for picnics and other outdoor outings. We had relatives visiting from England over the weekend and an outdoor concert with a picnic was part of the plan. I made these two salads ahead of time and we were good to go. Add some beverages, paper plates and these killer cookies I made (more on these another time) and we were ready to dance to Broadway show tunes under the tent.

The first salad I made was this fabulous Chinese chicken salad from the Barefoot Contessa. If you haven't made this yet, I don't know what you are waiting for. I have never made it to anything but rave reviews.

I also made a roasted veggie salad. I'll provide the basic recipe below but really this is a recipe that screams for some improvisation. Use whatever veggies you like best. Add some additional seasoning — soy sauce? chili powder? — to the dressing. Be brave. It's really almost impossible to ruin. :)

Happy outdoor eating!

Roasted Veggie Salad

serves 6

veggies of your choice, sliced for roasting. I used a red pepper and yellow pepper, and a large red onion
1/2 pound or so of orzo
about 2 tablespoons olive oil for roasting the veggies; about 1/4 cup or so for the dressing
4 scallions, diced
juice of two lemons
salt and pepper to taste
about 1/4 cup of pine nuts
about 3/4 cup of feta cut in small 1/2-inch blocks rather than crumbled

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut up the veggies and place in a large roasting pan. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil, salt and pepper. Toss until well coated. Place in the oven and roast for about 40 minutes. I turn them a bit at 20 minutes to make sure they're getting fairly evenly browned. Take out of oven and let cool.

Cook the orzo according to directions on the box. Rinse with cool water, drain and put in a large bowl.

Whisk together the 1/4 cup of olive oil, lemon juice and additional salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the orzo.
Once the veggies are cool, add them to the orzo. Toss and then add the feta and pine nuts and toss more gently.
Serve cold or room temperature (my preference).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Risotto, Beer and a Brain Fart

First our apologies. Mike the Gay Beer Guy did his part: He got his post about beer and risotto in plenty of time for his monthly post ... and then we blew it. We meant to post it on Friday, we really did, but then M got sick and Rachel forgot and Janet didn't check in because she was too busy and, well, here we are on Monday putting up Friday's post.

But we know you know how that is so we're hopeful to have your forgiveness.

At any rate, here are Mike's pearls of wisdom. Enjoy!

Hi Janet, Hi Rachel. As both of you know, moving is a pain. I moved a few weeks ago, and my new kitchen is simply a chaotic mess ... pots and pans everywhere, random ingredients strewn about, AND, in the middle of all this confusion, someone ordered the wrong stove and fridge, so we were stuck with only a microwave for a few days! Although the process of moving is a pain, a benefit is finding all of your kitchen items at the old place that were stuck behind things (I know I know, “things” is a very ambiguous word, but seriously ... it’s all just THINGS). On cleaning, I stumbled upon Arborio rice that I had once bought to make risotto. PERFECT COMFORT FOOD. Here is my quick and easy risotto recipe, with chicken stock almost from scratch (I fudged a few things since I don’t have my kitchen completely set up yet.)

Making chicken stock (or beef or whatever) from scratch is something people shy away from. There aren’t any huge secrets, so it’s seriously no big deal! You can make it as simple or as complex as you want or have the time for. In this example, I’ve cut a few corners.

For the most robust flavor, I suggest roast chicken parts, or even a whole chicken, rather than just putting raw meat and bones into a pot of water. I didn’t have the time to roast a chicken, so I bought a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. Either way, prepare your chicken, eat the meat, and keep the bones. In addition, I saw a chef on a cooking show brown an onion in a dry pan until some parts were blackened so I added this to my stock. Add carrots, celery, leeks, bay leaves, thyme — whatever else you like (don’t forget to season!). Cover with water, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer; keep like this for a few hours, at least until the onion has cooked and the veggies have softened. I simmered for about 2 hours and had to leave to teach ... I just left the pot covered on the stove to cool until I came back. Strain out the bay leaves and the chicken carcass, keeping the little pieces of meat and all or none of the veggies, and put the stock in a container in the fridge to cool overnight. In the morning, skim off about 80 percent of the schmaltz (ok for you non-Jews, it’s the fat), and keep in the freezer for 3 months until you’re ready to use!

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 side portions

This is a VERY basic recipe... feel free to explore other possibilities, such as adding asparagus, lobster, grilled squash, or whatever else you like. The key here is to add the stock slowly, letting the rice completely absorb each addition before adding more. Making risotto isn’t difficult, but it does require careful attention to details and the love your Italian grandmother would give (everyone has an Italian grandmother, right?)

Chicken Stock, on a back burner of the stove heating to medium-low
1-2 T EVOO
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
a few splashes of white Wine (I’ll say what I used later on)
Peas, or other veggies (we’re using frozen)
1-2 tablespoon butter
Parmesan cheese (not from the can please!!)
Fresh rosemary

Start with “mise en place. For those not familiar, this little French saying means that everything is in place, i.e. all ingredients are prepared and ready to go before you begin to cook. In this case, warm your chicken stock (there is no specific amount, just a medium pot on the back burner will do ... it’s better to have more than you need rather than not enough); mince the shallot and garlic (keep separate such that you can add each individually), uncork the wine, pour a glass for yourself, prepare the peas (we’re using frozen, so we just have the bag open on the counter ready to go ... remember cutting corners?), and have your salt and pepper handy (we have a little stainless prep bowl with a lid for our salt and a pepper grinder). As some steps in the recipe will go quickly, it is necessary to have everything in order. When I make risotto, the timing from batch to batch is always different, so it’s also handy to have all of your ingredients within reach! Also, make sure you have a ladle for the stock and a wooden spoon to stir the risotto.

Heat a skillet or large pot with shallow sides over medium heat; add enough EVOO to cover the bottom of the pan if you were to swirl, but not enough so that it doesn’t create a big layer of oil (1-2 T feels like the right amount, but you may need more or less). I keep the skillet on medium heat; the last thing you want to do is burn the shallot or the garlic. Speaking of that, when the skillet is hot enough, add the shallot and cook until half-way cooked through. Add the garlic, saute until almost cooked through and season lightly with salt and pepper (keep in mind, the stock you are adding has seasoning in it). At this point, you want to add the rice when you have just over a minute of cooking time left for the shallot and garlic ... for me, the rice addition is shortly after I add the garlic.

When the shallots and garlic have cooked through and the rice is reasonably toasted, add the liquid additions. Add enough wine so that it almost fills up the pan but not too much that you make a soup. The alcohol will quickly burn off, and then adjust the heat if you need to. There shouldn’t be large simmering bubbled, but you need to have some heat activity going on; in addition, you need to watch that the rice doesn’t cook too quickly. When the wine is absorbed by the rice, add a similar amount of stock to your pan. This is also important: resist the urge to add more stock! Only add more stock when the previous addition has been absorbed by the rice. The whole process takes about a half hour, but has also been as long as 45 minutes for me.

To finish, use your judgement. Try tasting the risotto; the texture should be creamy, yet with some bite to the rice. Add your peas, or whatever you’re using, butter, and cheese off heat, and stir until incorporated (adjust your seasoning too if you haven't yet). Still off heat, place the lid on your pan and let the risotto rest for 2 minutes (this is necessary for flavors to meld and for the creamy texture to further develop). Finish with some more fresh cheese and garnish with some rosemary.

Serve as soon as you can!

Beer (and Wine) Pairing

Rather than give a beer recipe this month (seriously, who has had the time to brew!?!?!?!), I thought I’d share some pairings I’ve put together; this goes back to my very first posting with LTIR, when I staged my own beer tasting dinner! I think this risotto recipe would be a great first course to any dinner... it can be as light or heavy as you want, and can be paired with something equally as delicate or robust!

As I mentioned earlier, we used a nice white wine to not only cook with, but to sample while cooking. Today I used a bottle from Umberto Fiore, 2009 Muscato d’Asti (Asti is a sub-region in Italy). To describe it (keep in mind, I’m the gay BEER guy, not the gay WINE, guy ... personally, I think there are too many of the latter in the world!!!), I feel it is very aromatic, pretty dry (although there is some sweetness), and very light without being too acidic and tart. Another interesting aspect is that this wine has tiny, tiny bubbles ... not quite the carbonation of a true sparkling wine but certainly something interesting in the mouth-feel. AND, it’s just around $10 (we bought it at Costco). Use it to cook, use it to drink ... be happy, enjoy the comfort food love.
For beer, I suggest a nice Saison. Saison Dupont is the classic example, but many breweries foreign and domestic have something similar. Our local big brewery in Kansas City, Boulevard, make a Saison as part of its “Smokestack” series (small batch and limited release). Once or twice, they’ve released a batch of the Saison infected with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain popular in Belgian-style ales, and I’ve been cellaring a few bottles; this might be a dish to pair Boulevard’s “Saison Brett.” Speaking of Brett, you might also want to pair this with a well-cellared bottle Orval, one of the Trappist Breweries. The longer it ages, the more Brett character comes through. My light Belgian ale from my beer pairing dinner is based on a recipe designed to be similar to Orval, which would also work in this situation (for the recipe, check out LTIR December 23, 2010), as would Victory’s Wilddevil (I’m also cellaring a bottle of this ... I can’t get it here in the Midwest!!!). Cheers and enjoy!!

Mike the Gay Beer Guy

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Red Lentil Dhal, for All

Rachel here.

A while ago I posted about "Toddler Meals" and it's glorious effort to beat back the dinner blues. When I wrote about it, though, the idea of making a meal for M that involved much more than breast milk was just that--an idea--and nothing more. My first kid, I had no idea what was in store for us as the year progressed.

"Toddler Meals" has become our kitchen bff. Not only does it offer up tons and tons of simple combinations that are baby-kid friendly (because M is definitely a baby-kid right now...), but it also includes recipes for the whole stinking family to enjoy. Be still my beating heart. The recipes are definitely on the bland side (we are feeding an eleven month old after all...and the book is divided into age categories), but John and I are both more than capable of adding salt and whatnot to our plates once M has noticed that we are, in fact, all eating the same thing.

And so, last week I made the Red Lentil Dhal recipe. It's super easy, which is super wonderful and totally what I'm looking for come 6 o'clock. I doubled the recipe because I wasn't sure if the serving suggestion of 3 meant kids or adults. Doubling it made a ton and enough for leftovers (always welcome), but if you're interested in not stocking your fridge with dahl then just follow the recipe and enjoy a warm, hearty and healthy meal.

Red Lentil Dhal, for All

1/2 cup split red lentils
2 cups chicken stock (or water)
1/2 tspn. cumin
1/4 small onion, diced
1/4 mild green chili, diced
1/4 tspn. ginger
1/4 tspn. garlic

Peel garlic and ginger. Chop finely. Bring stock/water to a rapid boil in a medium sauce pan. Add lentils, onion, ginger, garlic, chili, and cumin, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are completely soft. Serve with couscous or, you know, in a pile on a place mat depending on the age of the eater.