Permalink

3

Colcannon

colcannonI slipped up last Friday, pausing my month-long gluten-free diet for slices of soda bread at my office. We held a bake-off, and as one of three participants, it would have been rude for me not to try my competitors’ bread. Right? That’s how I rationalized it. I was just getting in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit, but I haven’t had gluten since.

When St. Patrick’s Day arrived on Sunday, I couldn’t celebrate with green beer or whiskey, so I chose red wine, beef stew, and colcannon instead. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made with mashed potatoes, milk or cream, kale or cabbage, salt, and pepper. I love the flavor and vibrant green of kale leaves, so I used them instead of cabbage, along with thinly sliced leeks.

kaleAnd did I mention butter? There’s a lot of butter in this dish. If you look at the photo at the top of this post, that’s a whole tablespoon melted in the middle just for serving. It’s all part of the tradition and immortalized in this Irish folk song: Continue Reading →

Permalink

1

Thyme and Parmesan Popcorn

parmpopcornI’m going on day fourteen of my gluten-free experiment. I wish I could say that I don’t feel any different, that cutting cookies and bread and pasta out of my diet has done nothing for my body, but alas. I feel better and lost two pounds. The weight loss is probably tied to just eating less, but my body isn’t as fatigued and my ongoing battle with acid reflux has reached a truce. It could all be psychosomatic, but we’ll see how the rest of the month goes…if I can make it that long without a cookie.

I’m turning to different kinds of snacks in place of sweets that call for wheat flour. Popcorn is my new favorite with different toppings like dried herbs, cheese, cinnamon and sugar, or a handful of peanuts. Tonight I popped a bag of plain, unsalted, unbuttered popcorn and tossed it with Parmesan cheese, thyme, salt, and melted butter.

parmpopcorningredientsI used a bag of Newman’s Own, but did you know you can pop any amount you want in a plain brown lunch bag? Just pour a few tablespoons of popcorn kernels into the bag, fold the top over a few times, and cook it in the microwave for about two minutes. At 50 cents per pound vs. $3.53 for the pre-bagged and buttered kernels, it’s cheaper and healthier. Continue Reading →

Permalink

15

Parmesan Polenta with Tomatoes and Spinach

polentaplatecloseGluten-free March is off to a good start, but I’m already craving wheat. I went to a bar with friends on Saturday, and while everyone ordered grilled cheese sandwiches or burgers with beer, I got an arugula salad and hard cider. Now, I love a salad and cider, but when you’re craving a burger on a brioche bun with a cold, hoppy beer, they just don’t satisfy. I hope the wheat cravings diminish as the month goes on.

To help quash my craving for something warm and wheat-like, I made polenta squares for lunch the next day. It was my first time trying them at home, and I was amazed at how easy they are to make: boil, whisk, pour, cool, cut, broil. And good goodness are they cheap at just $1.75 for a two pound bag of cornmeal. Throw in a can of diced tomatoes, garlic, spices, and a handful of spinach, and you have a meal.

cornmealCornmeal has the color and consistency of a fine sand when it’s dry. Once you add it to boiling liquid and start whisking, it plumps and thickens. Continue Reading →

Permalink

0

Roasted Vegetables with Caper Vinaigrette

roastedvegetables3I’m still working my way through a bag of lemons in the fridge. Lemon curd seemed like an obvious way to use all of them at once, but I’m trying to keep sweets out of the house. A cup of lemon curd would be gone in about 48 hours, spread on scones and spoons for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Using just one lemon for a pan of roasted vegetables was a better option, especially when it was for a recipe adapted (slightly) from Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbook, Plenty.

roastedvegetablesThe recipe roasts root vegetables and tomatoes in stages and then tops them all with a lemon caper vinaigrette.  Continue Reading →

Permalink

1

Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan

arugulasaladSimplify. That’s my mantra right now. After a busy weekend and big projects looming, I’m trying to maintain my calm with quiet nights at home filled with novels and Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports on repeat. The album was designed to bring calm to the chaos of an airport terminal, so imagine the wonders it does for my one-bedroom apartment.

I’m also trying to simplify meals. I want them fast, healthy, and full of bright flavors, so an arugula salad with Parmesan cheese and a lemon vinaigrette was a perfect dinner last night.

lemondressingIt takes about ten minutes to throw all of the ingredients together, giving you the rest of the evening to focus on more pressing things. Like ambient music. Or listening to spider plant leaves rustle by a drafty window. Continue Reading →

Permalink

1

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

butternutsweetpotatosoup6I was gluttonous this weekend. Like the many other people in the US, I spent Sunday night watching TV and eating classic Super Bowl foods. I had a chicken finger sub, nachos with sour cream and guacamole, potato chips, and tall silver cans of Sixpoint Sweet Action. This would have been a fine exception to my usual diet, but on Friday, I had a meal at Do or Dine that involved deep-fried deviled eggs and a foie gras doughnut (a classic sugar doughnut from Dough filled with fruit preserves and foie gras).

The weekend was worth every bite, but my body is sluggish and swollen. I need to clean up my diet with home-cooked meals that cut down on dairy and bread, and I’m starting with a butternut squash and sweet potato soup that’s full of pureed vegetables. (Trust me, it tastes better than it sounds.) I made a big pot of it Sunday afternoon before Super Bowl festivities began for quick, healthy dinners this week.

butternutsweetpotatosoup1The squash and potatoes are naturally sweet, and once they combined with carrots, celery, onion, and a quart of low-sodium vegetable broth, they simmered into a rich, dairy-free soup. Continue Reading →

Permalink

3

Winter Quiche

I know the normal response to cold weather is loading up on carbs, but my body craves greens. It could be a reaction to the lack of sunshine or seasonal produce in the Northeast, but either way, I tore into an arugula salad with lemon juice and Parmesan cheese at Westville this past weekend and it was the best meal I’d had in days. If Ramsey is out for the night and I’m cooking for one, I’ll saute dark green kale leaves and shallots in olive oil while steaming cubes of sweet potato. I top it all with a poached egg and it’s a perfect winter meal.

Winter greens can also follow a less healthy path—a dark, delicious path lined with cream, egg yolks, cheese, and salted pork that leads to just one destination: quiche. Continue Reading →

Permalink

1

Chestnut Stuffing

I don’t want to alarm you, but I have a piece of chestnut shell lodged under the nail of my right middle finger. It’s just an annoyance now, but the fact that it’s there speaks to my devotion to chestnut stuffing. I made it this past weekend for a Friendgiving celebration and have enjoyed it as a side dish for every lunch and dinner since. Does a chestnut stuffing with a side of Caesar salad make a well-balanced meal?

I love chestnuts in all forms—roasted, candied, pureed in soup —but my favorite is covered in herbs among cubes of bread. It’s one of my mother’s signature dishes, and if you want to serve up something a little different for Thanksgiving, it’s worth the potential nail trauma.

It’s an easy recipe that calls for a little manual labor. To prepare the chestnuts, you need to cut Xs all the way through one side of the shells. Roast them on a baking sheet for thirty minutes at 400°F, then let them cool a bit. Peel them while their still warm and make sure to remove the hard outer shell and furry inner skin called the pellicle. Continue Reading →

Permalink

1

Fall Vegetable Soup

In an effort to save money, I’ve made a bold commitment: I’m cutting out restaurants for the rest of 2012. Exceptions will be made for social engagements, cheap lunch salads, and a standing Takeout Thursday tradition, but gone are the days of dining out. I can’t justify spending $70 on dinner for two at a local Mexican place (although margaritas may constitute half the bill) while produce rots in the fridge.

It’s easy to bring myself to cook on weeknights when I’m still in work mode, but weekends are tough. Saturdays and Sundays used to be a series of takeout lunches and restaurant dinners, but now I’m making soup. One large pot of soup on Friday night will last Ramsey and I through lunch on Sunday with supplements of bread, crackers, or grated cheese along the way. We don’t need to worry about cooking again until Sunday night.

I made a Fall Vegetable Soup this past weekend with butternut squash, parsnips, zucchini, carrots, spinach, and onions with a few sprigs of thyme. It only cost $23 for supplies (including two boxes of store-bought vegetable broth), so if you estimate $10 per person for lunch and $25 per person for dinner throughout the weekend, that’s a savings of $117.

It was cheap and it taste pretty damn good. Continue Reading →

Permalink

0

Moroccan Squash Stew

Winter won’t commit to Brooklyn this year. There have been a few passing flirtations—a small snow storm, a day of freezing rain and wintery mix—but I’m pretty sure we’ve surpassed 50° every week since November. As a result, I haven’t been in the mood to make many of the dishes I enjoy when temperatures are below freezing, the ones that slow cook for hours and involve lots of beef, wine, and carbs. I want something warm, but with brighter flavors than typical winter fare.

The answer: a Moroccan-inspired stew, complete with preserved lemons, cumin, cinnamon, and saffron. Saffron always looks pretty…

…but preserved lemons kind of freak me out. They look like an ingredient for a witch’s brew. Continue Reading →