Its been quiet around here lately, huh? Some days you probably thought this little project was going the tragic way of the blogs and projects of my past. Perhaps you whispered ‘failure to launch’ to yourself, or told a joke at the expense of my attention span and then wondered what it was that was keeping me from sharing my kitchen fixes with the world. Don’t be embarrassed, I told myself those same jokes.
Simply put, the end of the year swallowed me whole. In between a couple of quiet holidays in Atlanta I did a bit of much needed traveling, and then battled a brutal case of jet-lag. We closed out 2012 with a frigid family trip to NYC. There was the sharing of a stomach bug and punishing cold temperatures, but it didn’t make me love New York any less. In fact, it left me wondering if anything could make me love the city less. Seeing the way it is punishing my dearest friends, admittedly puts a little dent in those feelings, but then I think they’ll sort it out and somehow become more amazing in the process (even weeks later when I read this). In any event, the visit was a great way to start up the new year. I came home feeling recharged, clinging to moments of occasional contentment, ready to meet 2013 with resolve. And then, before I could pull myself together I started to feel myself unravel. The rhythmic ups and downs made no notice of the new year. The last six weeks have followed a pattern of good followed by bad and ugly, and now I’m exhausted. Leaving me feeling a wee bit fragile and frazzled, a sense of desperation always present, just beneath the surface.
While I’m doing my best to keep it together, I’m also wanting this year to be better. I want to be better. And while I wouldn’t say I’ve been doing anything with much success (other than checking up on obscure dinosaur facts for the inquisitive among us); I would say that I’m getting better about managing my kitchen, freezing things, repurposing leftovers, managing pantry stocks, and using food before it goes bad. Did you by chance catch this report about food waste? I’m certainly a guilty party on this front. I blame my attention span, but again, I want to be better. I have a slew of recipes to test and eventually share, but I’m trying to go about it in a leaner, more streamlined fashioned. If I can pull it off I think it’ll be better for everyone involved.
One of my favorite resources in this quest is Recipes for Health from the Well Section of the NYTimes. Just about every day Martha Rose Schulman comes up with clean and easy veggie-centric recipes. Like many, she started the year with a cleanse, only hers was a kitchen cleanse. Cook for a week without buying anything, she challenged (other than the bananas and milk that your toddler requires, thank goodness for exceptions!) I took her up on the challenge, and it was a perfect undertaking. I made lots of soups, rice and lentil salads, baked some bread (forgot the salt) even tried my hand at making yogurt. While not much is ready for primetime, the process has been an incredibly valuable exercise. (You should try it!)
I’ve taken my love of lists and applied it to what I plan to make with what I buy. I know this is not revolutionary, except that it sort of is for me. It provides some focus to my whimsical, totally unfocused approach to food. Sometime soon I hope to take it to the next level by building cohesive meals, balanced for flavors and nutrition. I get dizzy at the prospect of being that competent in the kitchen.
In the midst of a quiet fridge cleanse, I offer you this recipe for a bright, clean soup. Loaded with greens and short on fat, it’s good on the resolutions front. While my thoughts continue to do such a stellar job of weighing me down, I dare say this soup feels optimistic- beaming with Meyer lemon juice. In fact it pairs well with the unseasonably warm days we’ve had in Atlanta this week. And with that, Happy belated New Year folks!
Lemon and Chard Soup
adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi on Bon Appetit
- 1 bunch of Swiss Chard, center stalks removed (spinach would also be nice)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup chopped mint (or any 1 cup assortment of herbs you have on hand)
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 large cloves of garlic, smashed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 4 cups of stock
- 2-3 tbsp on fresh lemon juice (meyers are my favorite) plus more for garnish
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt
Fresh herbs, yogurt, olive oil, lemon oil, toasted nuts (walnuts!) cooked rice, feta crumbles, slices of lemon.
In a medium stock pan heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add nutmeg, season with salt and then add all the greens and cover with stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes or so (until the greens are cooked through).
Working in batches puree until smooth and return to the pot. Stir in lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time. Be sure to taste it! I love a really lemony soup, so I used the full 3 tablespoons, but the initial recipe only called for one.
In a separate bowl combine yogurt and 1 cup of soup in 1/3 cup increments (so three increments). Stir to combine and then add the yogurt mixture to the soup pot and stir to uniformity.
Serve with the garnishes of your choice. I first enjoyed it topped with tabbouleh, then simply lemon slices and crumbled feta. The next day I liked it very much with leftover brown rice.
There was recently an intervention in my kitchen. Though its not as dramatic as I make it sound, it was much needed. It wasn’t over the half dozen disks of pastry and cookie dough in the fridge, or the fact that other than milk, eggs, olives and cheese all we have in the fridge is pastry and cookie dough. Or that we have a solid dozen types of cheese and a half dozen containers of Parmesan alone. I know that I just sent chills down the spines of the cheese connoisseurs among us. I’m not proud of the way I treat cheese, and I promise to work on it. But no, the aforementioned intervention was over what I was calling dinner three to four nights a week.Read More
“What IS that?” Asks oliver, pointing to my dark green stalks of celery. I can already see the little wheels in his head working on a plot to escape with a stalk or two to transform into a D-I-N-O. “That’s celery, it’s a very tasty vegetable,” I say.
“Is it FOOD?” he follows up. “It is,” I say. “Who eats that?” he continues, “Well, I like to eat it,” I say. “And who else?” he persists. “I think your Dad eats celery.” “And who else?” he persists. The answer he’s looking for is The Wonder Pets. The Wonder Pets eat celery. I could name a hundred people that eat celery, but all Oliver cares to know about celery is that it can be pet food. And I know he’s not alone in his under-appreciation of celery. It’s generally treated with indifference, used for stocks and a nice mirepoix, rarely is it set out on a pedestal and loved in its own right.
I know what your thinking. Two salads in a row, it looks suspiciously like a trend. Lest you fear I’m getting boring, or this space is in danger of becoming a venue for raw green things only, I feel I must assure you that I’ve got a half dozen sweet treats in the works, pies and tarts and cookies. It is fall afterall! That means baking. And all this baking means one thing – salads for lunch.Read More
The vocabulary of 26 month old is a curious thing. In many ways it’s a clear reflection of what you say all day long. With a mimic underfoot we’ve had to be on guard against four letter words, or else we hear them bouncing back at us in a slightly higher pitch. But somehow in his two short years Oliver has begun dabbling with the power of suggestion. Every third sentence from this kid is a recommendation to improve his condition, ‘you should find my dinosaur’ ‘mommy you should give me more juice’ or ‘I should watch the iPad.” While his intentions are pretty obvious, I can imagine a day in the near future where he learns to hold his cards a bit closer.
Of course there’s lots of things I should be doing. I should be making use of our apartment pool, I should give our floor a good scrub, do more yoga, get the emissions done on the Jeep. For pete’s sake I should at least make something new for dinner.
Its been an odd couple of days here, unseasonably cool, and rainy, and dare I say pleasant. Although most things remain in a constant flux, there’s at least one constant- I don’t know that I’ll ever come to enjoy the heat. So when the first of June brought a cool front with it, I instantly felt a little less surly. Of course, the moment I found myself sans sweat, I logically decided the best thing to do was to jump head first into a bowl of soup, and savor every bite.Read More