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February 2009 Archives

Good Morning. Or Afternoon. Or Evening.

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 28, 2009 at 7:51am

Here’s a quick, perhaps lighter version of an all-time favorite, described (and photographed) deliciously in this New York Times articlepolenta with eggs and greens.  The article outlines a naughty version with lots of butter and cheese (in my world known as polentaaaah), which would of course completely rock.  But my version is actually quite light and nutritious (for me, the richness of an egg yolk is plenty with this simple dish).

First, start the polenta.  Since no one else in the house likes it, ’round here I prepare a one-serving portion, roughly 3 Tbsp. polenta to 1 cup of water.  I’ll be honest – when I’m doing a quickie meal like this, I don’t bother to boil the water first and slowly stir in the polenta.  I put both water and grain in a pan, bring it to a boil, turn it down to a simmer, stir it several times as it cooks and thickens (about 15 minutes) and call it done (season with additional salt and pepper to taste).  No, it’s not as fabulously creamy and decadent as the much longer-cooked version of polentaaah, but that’s OK, it’s still delicious, especially with what follows…

While the polenta cooks, mince a clove of garlic and roughly chop a handful or two greensspinach or chard (kale would be delicious, but needs longer cooking).  After the polenta is done, spoon it into a flat (pasta) bowl and set it aside while you cook the greens and egg.  Start by sauteeing the minced garlic with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for a couple of minutes.  Toss greens into the pan.  Stir them around until nicely wilted, then push them off to the side of the pan.  Crack an egg into the pan.  Season and fry it to your liking (I prefer mine over-medium; you want some yolk to add the richness of a “sauce”).  Spoon greens and egg on top of polenta, top with a grating of Parm if you like, and enjoy thoroughly.  One of the best breakfast/lunch/dinners I can imagine.  Delicious with a glass of medium-bodied (even spicy) red wine (or a cup of coffee – not even I drink red wine for breakfast…).

Fast Food

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:20am

While I love to mine through cookbooks and spend a whole day cooking, in reality, that doesn’t happen very often.  More likely I make dishes like the one above – in my mind a warm salad, a way to incorporate as many vegetables as possible into a 10-minute lunch.  I start with some olive oil, a minced clove of garlic, a few slices of red onion, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a tablespoon or so of pine nuts (if this start sounds familiar, well, it is).  Quick saute, while chopping some fresh spinach and a roasted red pepper from a jar (I’m a big fan – great on sandwiches, or chopped into scrambled eggs, or sliced into a salad).  A continued quick saute to warm the spinach through, while briefly boiling a few frozen cheese tortellinis (Whole Foods packages a great version).  I toss (drained) tortellinis into vegetables, drizzle with a teaspoon of red wine vinegar, plate it, photograph it, generously grind black pepper over it, enjoy.  Quick and delicious and filling and healthy.  All good.

Endless Coolness

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 18, 2009 at 1:16pm

Photo of Eggs in Purgatory, from Tiny Kitchen, Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

I could spend a month continuously mining just today’s version of the New York Times website and still not make a dent in it.  It’s a faux-productive time-waster’s dream!  There’s of course “all the news that’s fit to print,” but when you scratch more than the surface, and start messing around with all the interactive videos and slideshows and blogs…wow, endless coolness.  Here are a few highlights, these just pertaining to food, see what you think:

The NYTimes Magazine blog, called The Moment, focuses on women’s and men’s fashion, design, travel, and of course…food.  Short, quirky entries.  Great fun.

All NYTimes videos can be found here, but it’s the food videos (surprise!) that I’ve been enjoying the most, particularly The Minimalist and Tiny Kitchen (links to featured recipes are under the videos).  Like the blog entries above, they’re short (a couple of minutes) yet thoroughly entertaining.  The Parmesan Cream Crackers post I did below is one example.  Here’s another, The Minimalist on Savory Breakfasts, yum.  So much more interesting to me than watching a whole cooking show (I know, it’s weird, I’m not a fan of cooking shows…).

And check out the fantastic visual blog Abstract City, not specifically pertaining to food but musings on NYC which of course include food, by illustrator Christoph Niemann.  My sister Etta sent around the link under the title “for anyone who loves New York.”

OK, this one has nothing to do with food at all, but I think photographer Bill Cunningham’s On the Street fashion photos (Sunday Styles section) are really neat.  Here you can peruse them all, as audio slideshows.

I’ll stop there, days of content with just the little I’ve pointed out.  Have FUN!

Beef Pot Pies

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 16, 2009 at 1:01pm

I was looking for something to do with my son yesterday and after getting the thumbs down on 1) a museum, 2) a walk, and 3) a game of Scrabble, he bit at making something together for dinner.  When I asked him what he’s had a craving for lately (other than pizza), he said chicken pot pies.

Given the generous amount of leftover tenderloin roast in our fridge, I suggested beef pot pies, which he thought sounded great (me too!) and we were off and running.  He peeled and chopped. I diced and minced.  We both simmered and stirred and rolled and trimmed et voila…

Tender beef, onions, potatoes, and carrots napped in rich gravy under a buttery, flaky crustbeef pot pies.  Delicious.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 14, 2009 at 8:01pm

Whew, I made a big V-Day dnner for John and Nathan tonight, I’m slightly wiped.  And full.  But it was great fun to prep and they both enjoyed the din thoroughly, so totally worth the effort.  (The mess I made of the kitchen?  Um, I’m hoping my gift is that someone else cleans it up…?  UPDATE: John and Nathan did, thank you boys!)

I decided to make a real guy’s dinner, a total steakhouse spread – roasted beef tenderloin, sauteed mushrooms, creamed spinach, hashbrowns, and chocolate cake for dessert.  There’s nothing like a tenderloin roast, easy and impressive, the perfect combination.  I’ll confess, tenderloin doesn’t do much for me (especially given the insane price) – NY strip is my steak, beefy and toothsome, the king of steaks.  But, the fam (and pretty much everyone but me) loves tenderloin, so I splurge for special occasions.  To boost its flavor, I give it a good rub with minced-to-a-paste garlic (forget garlic presses, they waste 1/2 of each clove, and it’s easy to make a quick paste with a sharp knife and a generous sprinkle of coarse salt), mixed with a bit of olive oil and some dried herbs.  You can see in the pic that I cut a whole roast in half.  I usually roast the larger piece a bit longer, but if you’re serving a group with a variety of doneness preferences, well there you go – the large side is still quite rare when the narrow has achieved medium.

If not for the cold, I would have thrown the roast on the grill, my favorite, simple method for achieving a good crust with a rosy interior.  But when it’s less than 30 degrees outside – yes, it was cold in Minnesota today, strange, I know – my (gas) grill is too unpredictable. Fine if I’m griling say hot dogs or chicken breasts, but a tenderloin roast?  Uh, no.  So I instead popped the roast into a 450 degree oven (for 15 minutes), then turned it down to 375 degrees (for another 20-30 minutes, depending on desired doneness), then let it set up for 15 minutes while I made the hashbrowns and spinach.  Worked nicely.

Creamed spinach is a breeze to make, and not nearly as decadent as it sounds.  Saute a minced clove of garlic in a bit of butter, stir in the spinach, drizzle with a small amount of cream, and when the lot is wilted add a generous grating of Parmesan and fresh nutmegSalt and pepper to finish.  Delicious.

And hashbrowns, also simple, especially if you’ve got a food processor (but a box grater does the trick as well, albeit a bit more slowly – watch your knuckles!).  I love a combination of russets and red potatoes (about 5-6 potatoes peeled, grated, with 1/2 tsp. of salt stirred in).  To get the classic steakhouse “cake” of hashbrown, press the potatoes into a bit of hot peanut oil, fry on one side until quite crisp, flip onto a plate, add a bit more oil to the pan, then slide the potatoes back into the pan until the other side is crisp.  My kids would be very happy if I made these every single day of the year.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Caldo Verde (at least my soup is green)

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 13, 2009 at 3:43pm

I’m back with another soup and more kalePortuguese Caldo Verde (green soup), thick with smoky sausage, kale, and potatoes, oh so good.  I can’t believe I haven’t posted this recipe (a Cook’s Illustrated gem) before – it’s one of my faves, a true meal-in-a-pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two suggestions.  First, to quickly trim away the thick center rib from the kale leaves, fold the leaf in half lengthwise, then slice along the rib (cutting through both halves of the leaves) until the rib is released (discard).  Second, do not skip the drizzle of best-quality olive oil just before serving.  The fruity-pepperiness adds a wonderful flavor and texture.  A grind of fresh black pepper finishes it all off perfectly.

Recipe here.

25 Things…

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 12, 2009 at 3:47pm

OK, if you’re on Facebook (FB), you know all about the 25 Random Things About Me lists that everyone is circulating.  If you’re not on FB, it’s basically a semi-viral exercise where people write 25 things about themselves and send it around to their friends, encouraging them to do the same.  There are those turning their noses up at it, but I think it’s the most fabulous thing.  I’m learning oh-so-interesting (scandalous, woo hoo!) things about my friends, family, and high school classmates, and have had many much-needed laughs over the last couple of weeks.  (I also realized I had precious few unknown things about myself to include in my list.  Ahem.)

Many people include favorite foods and drinks in the list, not surprising.  One friend included a recipe for her beloved Bloody Mary’s: “Absolut Peppar, Zing Zang mix, a little pickle juice, and a big old pickle make the perfect bloody!”

Which inspired me to milk the concept to death and devise a 25 Foodie Things About Me list, yeah!  So here it is.

1. I enjoy eating meat, and cook it for my family, but I could just as easily be a vegetarian.  As an adult (see #4), I’m all about the veggies.

2. I used to crave cake batter when I was a kid.

3. Even though I’m annoyingly strict about eating healthy, whole foods (sorry fam, you’ll thank me someday), I still love Pringles, which are in reality a non-food item.

4. I hated – and I mean HATED – cheese, eggs, cream sauces, steak, baked potatoes, and all vegetables until I was at least 12 years old.  (No surprise here, I love them all now.)

5. The first recipe I ever wrote (age 8) was for a chocolate marshmallow cake.  I never made it.

6. Speaking of cake…there’s a theme emerging here…it is my favorite dessert.

7. I despise cilantro – it tastes like rotting flesh to me.  Bummer.

8. I learned how to cook – and entertain – from my mom, stepmom, and Grandma Meyer.  As a child I would only comfortably eat food that they cooked.

9. My stepmom let me do pretty much whatever I wanted in her kitchen and that was such a gift.

10. When I was 12 years old I once ate 20 pancakes, with butter and syrup, for breakfast (4-inch growth spurt followed shortly thereafter).

11. I took an aptitude test in 8th grade that revealed I should be…a chef.  I was embarrassed and only told Stephanie Sanford about it.

12. In that vein, I tried to pretend like I didn’t already know how to fry eggs, bake cookies, and easily make everything we learned in junior high home ec class.  Thinking back on it, I’m not sure why, other than for some reason it was embarrassing to know how to cook – ?

13. My sister Stacey has eaten a lot of my bad experimental food – toast spread with tomato paste and baked (6th grade), chocolate cupcakes I forgot to put eggs in (7th grade), hamburger I-don’t-know (hamburger browned with cream of mushroom soup stirred in, over Minute Rice, egads, sorry man).  Luckily I get to make her better food these days.

14. I went on a one-day high school health kick and decided I needed to stop eating McDonald’s for lunch every day (ya think?) and made myself a salad.  I didn’t eat the salad but instead stashed it in Stephanie Sanford’s car’s glove compartment, ate McDonald’s for lunch, and didn’t find the salad until the end of the school year, thank goodness in a very airtight container that went straight into the garbage…gross.

15. The only thing I love more than making dinner is having someone else make dinner for me.

16. I once baked a birthday cake for a boyfriend who after he ate a slice, threw it up.

17. I made John beet soup when we were first dating and when he told me he didn’t like beets and wasn’t going to eat the soup, I told him he was rude for not eating something I had prepared for him.  You decide who was right. (Hint: the cook)

18. I love, love, love it when I get my kids to try – and like – new things.

19. I credit Bon Apetit magazine and The Silver Palate cookbook (mid-90s, young wifehood) for molding the way I entertain.

20. I pretty much hated Thanksgiving dinner until I went away to college and was stuck with disgusting, revolting dorm food – that first Thanksgiving home was one of the most memorably fabulous meals of my life.  Thank you Mom.  That experience changed my life.

21. When I first met John’s parents and bro, I couldn’t believe how awesome it was that they would eat pretty much anything.  With gusto.  Still rocks.

22. Stu the Wine Genius has completely changed the way I think about wine.

23. Even though I’m long past high school and college, I still LOVE a cold beer.  LOVE.  Especially in the company of friends from high school and college. Ahhh…

24. The first thing I do when John and I check into a hotel (vaca!) is raid the mini-bar for a beer and Pringles. (See #3.)

25. I know that I’m the luckiest person in the whole entire world that I get to cook food, take pictures of it, write about it, and eat it.

The Spice of Life

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 11, 2009 at 5:13pm

I hit a monster pothole at high speed this morning and after I gratefully realized that I had escaped a flat, I started chuckling.  I’m now figuratively and (almost) literally stuck in a February rut – how perfect.  Man, it is time to switch things up a bit, bust out of the house, this cozy winter hibernating routine is starting to suck. It doesn’t help that I’ve been nursing a knee injury for the last several weeks.  Or that our slightly warmer weather is accompanied by the darkest, grayest sky we’ve seen since November.  Or that I’m sick to death of everything I’ve been cooking.  Since I can’t make my knee heal faster, or change the weather (although Lord knows I’ve tried with my complaining – sorry), I can dig around for some new twists on old favorites.  So I did.

I often make steak on Wednesday nights, with a side of broccoli and rice, blah, blah, blah.  Tonight I decided to stir-fry it, inspired by Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s recipe for Stir-Fry of Hoisin Lamb with Cashews and Snow Peas (from her new cookbook, The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper).  I used beef instead of lamb, and peanuts instead of cashews, and added some broccoli along with the snow peas…LOVED the dish.  It’s packed with flavor from Chinese five-spice powder and garlicky hoisin sauce and once you’re done with some simple chopping, comes together in a flash.  I actually seasoned the beef, chopped the vegetables, and whisked together the sauce this afternoon.  Then while I cooked rice, I stir-fried the beef, followed by the veggies, and had it all ready to go in 20 minutes.

It wasn’t as signficant as pain relief or sunshine, but the fragrance lifted all our spirits and mixing flavors up a bit was most definitely a day brightener.  That “variety is the spice of life” saying?  Along with Chinese five spice powder, totally true.

Recipe here.

Parmesan Cream Crackers

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 8, 2009 at 9:16am

Parmesan Cream Crackers

These homemade crackers look so delicious – with a glass of red wine, by the fire, good Sunday to you…  (And while you’re there – click on the link above to see video – check out all the other addictive NYTimes Magazine food videos, great fun.)

Then, if you need something more substantial to get you through the evening, the Sassy Radish’s simple pasta with chanterelles and ricotta (especially if you get the real-deal, killericious hand-dipped Whole Foods version of ricotta, heavenly stuff) should do the trick.

I do love sunny, warm(ish) Sundays.

And oh, for some ideas on tasty eats around town, I scored on two fronts this week.  One, good ol’ LaCucaracha (Dale & Grand, St. Paul, with Chris Follett), serving the kind of Mexican food I grew up on (as in, Americanized, but in a delicious way).  Their ingredients are fresh, local, and organic and the dishes completely tasty.  I had simple bean enchiladasbeans, homemade corn tortillas, homemade enchilada sauce, sprinkle of cheese.  With a huge side of guaaaahcamole.  Simply heavenly.  And yesterday, Mom, Stacey, and I did a lunch-n-movie date, chowing down at Tea House before heading over to see Slumdog Millionaire (in retrospect, not a movie to eat before, but so it goes).  We shared what have become some of my Tea House faves – pickled vegetables (addictive, fiery little mothers), five-spice shrimp, chong king spicy chicken (truly, honestly spicy and so good), and crispy pork with pea pods. (I also love the garlic eggplant and kung pao tofu – for another trip.)

And oh, thank you Susie and Cory for hosting us Friday night for tasties and cocktails!  Yummy food, great company (Kim and Brian were there too), damn nice way to head into the weekend.

Love New York

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 2, 2009 at 8:50am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whew.  John and I are back from a whirlwind trip to NYC, boy did we have a great time.  There’s always way too much to do, of course, to the degree that I go a bit blank trying to decide.  Do I want to shop?  Go to a museum?  Walk in the park?  Am I hungry for pizzaBagelChineseLobster salad?  Luckily the traveling part is pretty easy from Minneapolis.  It’s only a 2 1/2-hour flight, the Northwest terminal at LaGuardia is small and manageable, and once on the ground, it’s a 15-minute cab ride to John’s parents’ apartment.  Given that, we were unpacked and ready to hit the streets by 3:00 pm on Thursday.  So we went…nowhere!  What can I say?  We were tired, and it’s comfy-lovely at my in-laws’, and we knew were out the door at 5:30 pm anyhow…

…for a pre-theater dinner at Esca, followed by an off-Broadway play called Becky Shaw (which was great, enjoyed it thoroughly).  Our dinner was so lovely – Esca (which means ‘bait’) is an elegant Itaiian trattoria specializing in the freshest of fish.  We kicked things off with prosecco and a split of linguine with briny clams - salty, chewy, spicy, fabulous.  We followed with a whole-roasted branzino for two.  The fish was baked and presented in a salt crust, then whisked off to a sideboard where the server cracked open the crust, gently removed the bones and skin, and plated the pure-white, silky fillets in a little pool of the best olive oil I’ve ever had.  Bright green and bursting with fruity-spicy flavor, it was the perfect, simple foil for the fresh, sweet fish.  We ordered spicy cauliflower and tiny little roasted new potatoes as sides, both fantastic.   Needless to say, quite a meal.  So not-Minnesota.  And as such, just what the doctor ordered.  After the play, we took a long (surprisingly cold!) stroll home, through Times Square, along 5th Avenue, and straight into bed.  Great start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday we got up slowly, read about the Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the NY Times, and walked out the door to check it out.  Love New York.  Exhibit was fabulous, and tiring in that special way that only museums are (what IS that?), so we blew out the door (literally; it was quite cold and windy) and grabbed a quick lunch at E.A.T. The lunch was tasty, but the people-watching was better – a fine display of plastic surgery, over-the-top furs, and the biggest damn diamonds you have ever seen.  Love New York.  Fortified by hot soup, we braved the chill for a walk in Central Park, because that’s what we love to do (who doesn’t?) and we couldn’t not walk in the park just because of the cold.  It was lovely, very quiet, blanketed in snow.  Bits of greenery peeked through and warmed my color-starved heart.  Love New York.

We eventually made our way back home to rest a bit before our dinner group gathered – my brother and sister David and Etta; my friend Michelle; David and Etta’s cousin Marett and her boyfriend Ian; and John’s brother Tom, wife Valerie, and son Cameron – and headed over to Il Riccio (79th & Lexington) for a raucous meal.  Man did we laugh.  And eat good food.  And drink good wine.  The evening flew by, without nearly enough time to really catch up with everyone, but it was great anyhow.  Tom, Marett, and Ian walked away, while David, Etta, and Michelle piled into cabs.  And then poof, everyone was gone, and John and I walked home and slept like rocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday we lazed around a bit more (nice!), then motivated to grab a fantastic slice of pizza (Zorba’s, 93rd & Lexington) before we borrowed John’s parents’ car and drove out to Pound Ridge, in Westchester County, to spend the day and night with our friends Bartley and Maud and their daughters Catherine and Natalie.  We arrived around 3ish to find Natalie with an apron on and the house smelling fantastic (chili bubbling away on the stove).  We chatted around the fire until the Kimmel family arrived, then chatted around the fire some more (for proof, see Maud’s blog, pretty funny) while Bartley and Maud put the finishing touches on a beautiful meal.  Chili, barbecued ribs, corn bread, roasted sweet potatoes, green salad, and a decadent chocolate cake that Barbara baked, topped with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.  Incredible.

Needless to say, we again slept like rocks, this time in Maud’s airy, cozy studio.  We woke to such beautiful light – Westchester County is stunning.  The trees and rocks and hills, the twisty-turny roads, all just one hour out of the city.  Pretty perfect.  We had just enough time for a cup of coffee, and a thick slice of Natalie’s banana bread (yum), and then we had to say good-bye to the Bryts (thank you, thank you!), drive back into the city, grab a (quick, still-warm) lunch bagel at H&H, return the car, grab the rest of our luggage, and cab it to the airport.  After all that, we actually made it home in time to pick up Chinese take-out (Tea House) and watch the Super Bowl with Nathan.  (Or, in my case, post trip pics on Facebook while pretending to watch the game, ha.)

And so here I am, already reminiscing.  We are so lucky to be able to sneak away like that, not to mention to have a lovely place to stay and so many cool family members and friends to visit.  Fantastic weekend.

Love New York.

central park bench

john

michelle, ian, etta

john (eating), natalie & maud (prepping) cheese tray

barbara and levi, ready to sit down (maud’s paintings in background)

lovely table

the feast

chocolate cake

maud’s tidy, airy, pretty studio

our cozy bed

h&h bagels

the levy’s apartment building