We’re off to New Orleans later this week.  There shall be muffulettas, and mint juleps, and beignets, and a visit to Galatoire’s.  And there shall surely be heartbreak.  But, first things first: we must empty the fridge to get it ready for our absence, and for the holiday food orgy that will kick in shortly after our return.

So, what have we got?  For starters: a butternut squash, some onions, a few carrots, and a couple of sad pepper halves.  And speaking of sad! you should see the remnants of that kale bunch I raided last week.  Then there are also some potatoes, a single stem of broccoli (where did its siblings go?), and two striped eggplants for which I once had some fancy plans.

It’s a challenge, then: nothing will go to waste, and it will all be delicious.  So, let’s start with this cheesy butternut squash+kale casserole:

  • innards of 1 butternut squash
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1 8oz can of tomato sauce (or 1/2 of a larger one)
  • 2 tbsp cottage cheese
  • a fistful of shredded cheese (smoked gouda in our case)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinches of a couple of herbs (e.g., oregano, tarragon)
  1. Microwave the butternut squash; let it cool.  Scoop out its innards and place them into a shallow greased dish.  (You can add seasonings some at this point; just smoosh them in.)
  2. Saute the onion for ~5 minutes.  Add a splash of water, salt+pepper+seasonings, and kale leaves torn into bite-sized pieces.  Cover and let steam on low for ~3 minutes.
  3. Pile the kale and onion mixture on the butternut squash.  Cover with tomato sauce and cottage cheese.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese across the top.
  4. Bake for ~35 minutes on 375F.
  5. Eat with that buttermilk bread that you were originally going to take to your sister.

Buttermilk boule

November 17, 2009

Mr. Onepot considers buttermilk unspeakably vile.  You should see how he gags when he walks into the kitchen to see me chugging it straight from the bottle in front of the open fridge!

…Ok, perhaps I should apologize for imprinting that image onto your visual cortex.  Let’s start over.   Obviously, buttermilk is delicious.  But, even if you’re of the school of thought that considers it to be a no-good, very-bad dairy abomination when consumed in its unadulterated form, surely you’ve tried baking with it?  Something like this, perhaps:

  • 1/2 cup warm water (30 seconds in the microwave will do the trick)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 2 cups white flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  1. Combine the honey, water, and yeast; let them get all warm and bubbly for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and knead until it’s all combined.
  3. Let your dough rest for ~45 minutes in a warm place.  Punch it down and return it to its resting spot for another 30 minutes or so.
  4. Shape your loaf into a jolly boule.  Don’t forget to oil/butter the top.
  5. Bake for ~50 minutes on 400F, on wax paper or in a greased baking pan.
  6. Meet pure happiness:

Oh, and you probably shouldn’t tell your sister that you’ll bring her half a loaf of bread the next day… because if she doesn’t know about it, how is she going to miss it?  Just sayin’.

Apple crisp

November 15, 2009

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The following were my sources of inspiration for this scrumptious bit of fall in a bowl:

  1. Last Saturday, mid-morningish, my husband staggered into the kitchen– squinting and yawning and scratching his chest–to ask, “What are you cooking?”  “Nothing,” I said; the extent of my culinary prowess up to that point had involved starting a pot of coffee.  And then I got it.  Our home did smell mindbogglingly of apples and vanilla! …but only because I had just plugged in a Method air freshener.  While I was pretty darn pleased that cheating made my home smell like I had just made something delicious, I did feel a little twinge of guilt for shattering Mr. Onepot’s morning enthusiasm, that most fragile of things.
  2. This Saturday morning, this motley crew stared at me woefully as I sipped my coffee, as if to say, “We know you’re going out of town later in the week and there’s no way we’re all going to get eaten by then.”  They know me so well.IMG_4425
  3. Our dustbunnies had morphed into dustbears, and the most solid excuse I could come up with for ignoring them involved apples and oatmeal and cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. Smitten Kitchen offered this idea some weeks back, and I was instantly onboard.  But then, you know, I don’t plan.  While our kitchen is well-stocked, it’s well stocked according to moi (capers! fillo dough! chutney!); that means that there’s no shredded coconut, for instance, at any given point in time.  Almonds?  Ditto.  This also gives you some insight into the main reason why I can’t follow recipes: I typically decide to make something at the very last minute, once it’s dark out and I’ve had a glass of wine and no one is about to go out again.  Or, it’s Saturday morning and I’m squinting and yawning and scratching my chest in my jammies.  So, you know, I wing it.  A lot.

This particular version of winging it goes something like this:

  • 5-6 apples (see picture above to get a rough idea of just how much room for experimentation you have here)
  • juice of a 1/2 small lemon
  • dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 1 + 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup flour
  1. Cut up the apples into any kind of slices; coat them with lemon juice, brown sugar, spices.
  2. In a small pan, heat the butter and honey until combined.  (Thanks, Smitten Kitchen!  Turns out it’s honey that my crisps have been missing all this time.)  Add flour and oats; stir to combine.
  3. Spread the apples in a baking dish and cover with the crisp mixture.  Bake on 400F for ~45 minutes; check the crisp around that time to see if the apples are blissfully gooey or need another 5-10 minutes.

Ta-da!  Edible air freshener.

Alinea, one year ago today

November 14, 2009

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Dear Slightly Creepy Alinea Waitstaff,

Yes, you: the ones who seemed to know before I did precisely when I would need to pee, and materialized instantly to pull out the table for me.  (?)  The ones who made sure a fresh napkin was waiting for me when I returned.  (What had I done to the other one? Was it that bad?)  You who presented me with smoking pillows, and leaves on fire, and specific instructions regarding the order in which the chef would like me to consume a specific plateful.  You who brought me things like this, over six and a half deliciously exhausting hours:

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Thanks, all.  I haven’t forgotten, despite the heavy traffic of scrumptiousness that I’ve been lucky to experience since then.  I will be back as soon as I’m done recovering.

Onepot, who also sometimes sets things on fire

Note to self: have yet to make that burning leaf recipe; seems like the right season.

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I gave the herbs on our deck a buzz cut following that first wave of mid-October frost.  The party was over, I assumed, as I set an armful of oregano and thyme and sage to dry while muttering unladylike things about being cheated out of my favorite season.

Turns out, however, that the herbs interpreted that haircut , along with the current spell of intoxicatingly delicious weather, as an invitation to sprout dozens and dozens of new leaves:

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Silly herbs!  This can only end in heartbreak.  But, I figured: as long as they are here, they should come in and hop into some breakfast:

  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons plain fat-free yogurt
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • oregano, thyme, sage (or, really, whichever herbs you have/like… but I recommend not skipping the sage, since it adds a touch of je ne sais quoi to the eggs)
  1. Saute the onion with a dash of salt and pepper, until it’s all soft and jolly.
  2. While that’s going on, whisk 2 eggs.  (I don’t know why I just said “whisk,” since my whisk hasn’t seen the light of day in ages.  A fork will do just fine.)  Add the yogurt and herbs and stir to combine.
  3. Pour the egg+yogurt mixture onto the onions.  Cook on low for ~4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The outcome will make you quite happy, especially if followed by some apple crisp…  But more about that later, as Mr. Onepot and I are off to catch the remaining hours of sunshine along Lake Shore Drive.

Spinach salad with sunchokes

November 13, 2009

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Really, Internet?  You say sunchokes cause grueling episodes of gastrointestinal distress and volcanic gas eruptions?  But look how charmingly quirky and innocent-looking they are!

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Ok, I admit: it is a little bizarre that the water in which a sunchoke is steamed ends up looking like this:

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But we’re courageous folks, so we soldier on.  We’re going to have a spinach-&-sunchoke salad, toxic-looking liquid and gas rumors be damned!

  • 1 sunchoke (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichoke)
  • 3 fistfuls of spinach leaves
  • 1/4 small red onion
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • glugs of olive oil and balsamic vinegar

And we will toss it all together, and we will eat it, and it will be lovely.

And then we will wait.

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To put together a classic jury duty day you will need:

  • 1 jury summons, clutched in a sweaty palm as you make your way downtown at an obscenely early hour
  • 2 trips through the metal detector and 1 intimate session with the lady with the hand-held device
  • 1 riveting piece of cinematography titled “You, the Juror”
  • dangerously low levels of caffeine, lest you should need to pee while being questioned by the judge
  • 1 person with a juicy cough, seated right next to you
  • 6 hours of mind-numbing boredom, butt-numbing seats, and low-grade anxiety
  • 1 check for $17.20, at the end of it all

Oh wait–you’re here for that squash pasta sauce I promised in the title?  Right!  Let me start over.

Here’s how to assemble a luscious pasta dish with a touch of autumn:

  • 1/2 large onion
  • innards of 1 roasted  (or microwaved) acorn squash
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 box of whole wheat pasta (something chunky, like farfalle, will hold the sauce well)
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • dashes of turmeric, cinnamon, chipotle pepper, salt, oregano
  1. Saute the onion and squash for a couple of minutes.  Add the tomatoes and seasonings and let it all simmer, covered, while you prepare the pasta and kale. Look how happy you’re going to be every time you peek under the lid:IMG_4342
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Throw in the chopped kale and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the pasta and cook for another 10 minutes.
  3. Drain.  Serve.  Eat.  Be glad you don’t have jury duty any time soon.