Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's All Worth It!

Had another of those moments.  You know the ones, where up until it happens, all the years where I've been slaving away with no recognition, and a dwindling hope of ever seeing any returns to the hours and hours I've spent on a project seem wasted.  And then suddenly, the light breaks through.  Your son spontaneously asks if he can help with dinner.  And the help he gives actually makes dinner prep shorter, instead of longer.

If I'd known it was coming I would have arranged a party.  Instead we got to sit down to dinner at least 15 minutes sooner than I had thought, and got to enjoy a nice leisurely dinner.

Sure, now, it doesn't sound like much.  But I have spent the last 7 years or so cooking around and with my son.  Up until now, involving him has always made things take longer.  He has either needed my help all the way through a process, or needed help completing each step, and guidance on to the next.

The colander was in the sink before I needed it, the Parmesan cheese made it on to the table with out me having to do it, he poured his own milk, and the lettuce was washed and torn into the salad for me.

I have high but realistic hopes.  This won't be a regular feature.  That would make it a job, not an adventure.  But when I need him, he can pitch in, and make the impossible more likely.  And when it is his turn to venture out into the big bad world, he'll already have some practice in the care and feeding of himself.

Good One Kiddo.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cooking for People with Allergies

Once again... faced with the start of school, and kids (and parents) who can't eat A, B or C.  My solution - switch cultures.  No meat makes no sense when eating middle American Cuisine.  Vegetarians and Texa BBQ just aren't friends.  But cooking non-meat substances over smoke and infusing it with a tangy sauce... Sure just check things out a few time zones over - the Japanese have their own version.  Or Viet Nam, or Thailand.... and then when you get to India the choices are so vast as to be overwhelming!

One of the most surprising best things I ever had was an onion bhaji where the onion had been smoked 1st.  The tamarind based dipping sauce with lots of cumin was the perfect compliment.
(Onion Bhaji is for lack of a better description Indian Tempura.  This is often made with a besan (chick pea) flour batter, along with a few spices in the batter, so works for all sorts of "can't haves.")

Anyway - I always see it as a personal challenge - and start working my way around the globe.  Whatever you can't eat... there is a cuisine that never had it in the first place.  Just strap on you shoes and start walking.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quinoa, Arugula and Veggie Salad... The Recipe

The basics for this off the cuff keeper:


2 C cooked quinoa
2 handfuls arugula or other bitter/spicy green - rinsed & torn
1 large handful cherry type tomatoes
1 small cucumber
1/4 C chopped onion (any kind)
2 cloves garlic
Tasty vinegar (sherry, rice, champagne etc... just not white and not too harsh)
salt, pepper
a few slices bread (tortillas work too)
1/4 broth or water
Oil for cooking (I suggest bacon drippings - or use a little sesame oil with regular cooking oil)
Parmesan or other hard grating cheese


Cutting Board
Sauce pan w/lid
Garlic press (optional)
Cheese Grater
Medium bowl + utensils for tossing/serving the salad


Brown the onion in the oil over high heat, then add the greens to wilt.
Turn down the heat to medium, crush the garlic into the greens and stir to combine.

Add in the quinoa.  If it is too dry, add about 1/4C broth or water, and cover over low/very low heat.
Slice the tomatoes in half (this is where they got scooped out with the melon baller).
Slice the cucumbers into bite sized pieces (more or less) sprinkle them with 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1 tsp of vinegar.  Taste and adjust.  Set aside.

Check the quinoa, and if the liquid has been absorbed, turn off the heat, and stir in the tomatoes.
Taste and check for flavor.  Add pepper and vinegar to taste.  Grate in some parmesan and taste again before adding any salt.  That may do the trick.  (It did for us between the salt in the bacon and the broth).

Fry the bread/tortillas in a little more oil (or just toast them).

Serve the salad with the cumbers on the side or mixed in.
Grate on some more parmesan, and use the bread to help you eat it all.

Sliced nectarines & plums make a fabulous finish!  We actually had some honey yogurt with these - but got so excited, we forgot to take pictures of that...

The CSA bag Arrived!

...and no zuchinni, and YES tomatoes!

Sure yellow tomatoes, and peaches and plums and lettuce and....

Anyway, when it was time to make dinner, this was inspiring, but not dinner.

A quick peek in the fridge revealed a hodgepodge:

Pre-cooked quinoa I had vacu-bagged and frozen (and thawed),
left over onion,
bacon drippings
and some left over hot-dog buns (bakery kind),

along with the arugula, cucumbers and tomatoes from the bag

- and throw in some garlic.

So far so good - except my son doesn't like the "smoosh"
of the seedy part of the tomato.  This melon baller to the rescue.

(Before I had a kid... suck it up kiddo.  Now that I'm doing the mom thing, if it'll get you to eat something I really like, I'll meet you half way.)

So instead of just throwing in the little yellow tomatoes whole, I sliced 'em in half, and scooped out the "smoosh."  It helped that the boy helped.

 (Trivia alert:  At one point chef's were trying to pass off this stuff as "tomato caviar"  And yet the French have a specific process for removing this as an undesirable part - along with the skin - concasse. Huh)

Back to dinner:

Saute the onion in a bit of the bacon drippings. Brown edges on the onions says I'm ready for...
About half of that arugula torn up and thrown in the pan, wilt it.

Shrapnel from the smashed bag of frozen broth.
The boy likes to bang them on the counter.

Turn down the heat and pour in the quinoa.
It was pretty dry, so I broke up a ziploc bag of frozen broth and tossed in a few pieces of broth-ice-shrapnel.
Cover with a lid, and let the liquid soak into the grains.

Now all it needs is a fork!
While that is warming away, chop  chop up the cumber into wedges, sprinkle with a little salt and sherry vinegar.

Toss the tomatoes into the warm quinoa & friends, move it to another bowl, because I ended up having to fry the bread in a little more of the bacon drippings.

The salad needed a little vinegar too, along with some pepper.  It needed a little salt, but we went with some parmesan instead because that was more fun.

A useable recipe follows in the next post...