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Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

Casual weeknights around the table: spaghetti, chicken, pizza or takeout Chinese. The kids (and Chloe the cat) drift in and out. We watch videos, laugh, and I’m part of a family. 

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kitchen wall art curtains british flag

Two corn tortillas, fried in a small sauté pan. Two eggs, fried one after the other in the same pan. Black beans, laced with salsa roja and a few shakes of cumin. Grated cheese. Jarred salsa verde (or Amanda’s fresh salsa, if we’ve got it). Tortilla chips. And a tall glass of water.

For months now, this has been my dinner on Monday nights. After a long, full day at the office and Erin’s yoga class, it’s the only thing I want to eat. (Especially after adding in a boot camp workout before yoga, for the last six weeks.) The meal itself – spicy, nourishing and so easy – and the ritual of preparing it are both saving my life these days.

Mondays are usually a full day at the office: catching up on the weekend’s headlines, gearing up for the week with its projects and meetings. There’s always at least one curveball and usually a lot of email. By the time I leave the office, I’m physically weary and mentally wiped out.

It’s no secret that I love a lifesaving routine. While I reserve – and relish – the right to change things up sometimes, the truth is that my daily and weekly rituals keep me grounded, fed, rested and sane (for the most part). When I realized, several months ago, that I was craving huevos every Monday night, I thought: why not make it official? So now huevos is on the menu every Monday.

We make sure to restock the necessary ingredients during the weekend grocery shop, and we pull out the pans and the egg carton as soon as we walk in the door. My husband usually works late on Mondays, so we ride home together, catching up on our days. Once we’re home, we tag-team the prep: setting the table, pouring the water, flipping the tortillas, frying the eggs.

As with all routines, I’m betting this one won’t last forever: eventually we’ll get sick of it, or I’ll switch my workout night, or we’ll just decide to try something new. But for now, at least, on Mondays we make huevos. And they are delicious.

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carrot ginger soup bowl strawberries table

We eat a lot of soup around here, especially during the colder months: tomato, black bean, Tuscan sausage, creamy jalapeño. I could seriously live on soup all winter, though the hubs might protest eventually.

These days, we’re mixing a few spring recipes into our menu rotation: a side of sautéed asparagus, a meal of bruschetta on a recent open-window evening. But the nights are still cool enough that I’m making soup frequently. And there’s a spicy carrot-ginger soup – filling but still light and savory – that I’m reaching for on a regular basis.

In case you need a break from your winter soups, but still want something to take the edge off these brisk spring evenings, I thought I’d share it with you.

Curried Carrot Ginger Soup (adapted from Epicurious)
(Major changes: I adjusted the spices, skipped the onions, and swapped in olive oil for peanut oil because my husband is allergic to peanuts. My version is below.)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp curry powder (or more/less to taste)

1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds

5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Greek yogurt (for garnish)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add coriander, ginger and curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add carrots; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté about 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.

Working in batches (or using an immersion blender), puree soup until smooth. Return soup to pot; season with salt and pepper if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with Greek yogurt and serve. (The cool, creamy tang of the yogurt really brings out the warm, spicy flavors here.)

Enjoy!

What are your favorite soups (or other dishes) to make in the spring?

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bright bowls mugs anthro

I don’t know anyone who loves chicken as much as my husband.

We eat it more than any other meat around here: wrapped in flour tortillas or warm naan bread; stirred into spicy curries with rice and vegetables; baked in the oven with Jenny Rosenstrach’s mustard-herb butter. Sometimes (don’t tell J) I get a little tired of it.

We also eat a lot of soup at our house: tomato, butternut squash, jalapeño, black bean. Chicken enchilada, Tuscan sausage, carrot-ginger, my grandfather’s chili. I love nothing more on a cold night than stirring a warm, spicy pot of something delicious on the stove. I can eat the leftovers for days. The hubs loves soup too, but he gets tired of it faster.

Recently, we discovered a recipe (again via Jenny) that combines my love of soup with my husband’s yen for chicken. And we have made it three times in the last month.

Avgolemono is a Greek soup, which involves not only chicken but chicken broth and also eggs. (There’s a chicken-and-egg joke in there somewhere, but I can’t quite find it.) It is lemony and light, so it tastes springlike to me, and it involves enough chicken to satisfy even my husband. And – hallelujah – it’s almost criminally easy to make. The only downside is that we have never had leftovers, because we lap up the whole pot every time.

Here, in case you’re in need of a new, simple, delicious recipe, are the instructions. (Bonus: the name is fun to say.)

Avgolemono (via Dinner: A Love Story)

4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup uncooked orzo
salt and pepper
3 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice
shredded chicken (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.

Add the orzo and cook until tender but still al dente, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. Let simmer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, whisking to combine.

Add the mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and chicken if you have it, and serve.

Jenny’s version calls for dill, but I almost never have it on hand, so we tend to make it with just salt and pepper. (Though I bet rosemary would also be good.)

What are your favorite chicken recipes – or your favorite dishes to make in the spring?

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strawberry rhubarb crisp

I saw a recent post on Dinner: A Love Story in which Jenny and Andy, the writers of that blog, thanked the folks who have taught them important lessons in the kitchen.

Naturally, it got me thinking about my own kitchen teachers, and I thought I’d write a few thank-you notes of my own.

  • Thank you, Ryan and Amy, for teaching me about the joys of rhubarb in the summertime – and for sending me home with armloads of rhubarb from your backyard.
  • Thank you, Cockney fruit sellers at the Oxford farmers’ market, for hawking your (delicious) wares in rhyme and making me smile when you call me “luv.”
  • Thank you, Jacque and Jamie, for teaching me to whip up a meal out of whatever’s in the cupboards, often topped with a fried egg.
  • Thank you, Elizabeth, for teaching me about the versatile deliciousness of stir-fry.
  • Thank you, Marcela, for teaching me how to tell if a mango is ripe, and how to eat them savory (with salt and lime juice) and sweet (in desserts, or simply cut into juicy chunks).
  • Thank you, Janine and Jacque, for teaching me how to brew real English tea.
  • Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to add a little vanilla to pancake batter.
  • Thank you, Julie, for teaching me to use real butter.
  • Thank you, Amanda Hesser, for teaching me that the key to great scrambled eggs is low heat, real butter and patience.
  • Thank you, Pop, for teaching me to make chocolate chip cookies (and the importance of quality control).
  • Thank you, Neno, for teaching me how to snap green beans, how to cook fresh peas from the garden, and for applying calamine lotion to the chigger bites I got picking raspberries on your farm.
  • Thank you, Molly Wizenberg and Ron Morgan, for two very different but equally perfect scone recipes.
  • Thank you, Mimi, for teaching me to laugh about kitchen mistakes.
  • Thank you to the dungeon guys for eating everything I ever baked for you, with relish – even the less-than-perfect cookies and fruit crumbles.
  • Thank you, Lizzie, for introducing me to the restorative powers of apple crumble with fresh custard (either homemade or from Tesco).
  • Thank you, Bethany, for sharing your love of creative sauces and dressings, and your mom’s homemade peppermint fudge.
  • Thank you, Happy, for teaching me to love goat cheese.
  • Thank you, Mom, for teaching me how to boil water, make guacamole, plan meals, grocery shop, and bake and cook a hundred dishes. And thank you for teaching me that dinner is at the center of family life.

Who are your kitchen teachers? And what important lessons (or great tips!) would you thank them for?

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Family dinner

table summer dinner

Family dinner is one of the strongest memories from my childhood. It exists in blurred, indelible layers, the result of hundreds of nights when the four of us sat around the old wooden table in my parents’ kitchen. We used place mats (changed out with the seasons) and sturdy white plates rimmed in blue or green. We ate burritos and spaghetti and baked chicken, brown-sugar-glazed ham with green beans and buttery mashed potatoes. In the winter, Mom made hearty chili or chicken-cheese soup. When it was Dad’s turn to cook, sometimes we had breakfast for dinner.

Those dinners were our chance to come back together, to catch up on each other’s days. We told funny stories or complained about homework; we teased or argued, and always, we laughed. We always sat in the same seats (we still do, when I’m home); we always joined hands, bowed heads and gave thanks. And no matter how late my band rehearsal or my sister’s golf practice went, we waited to eat together.

Since I got married, I have begun to understand why my mother, in particular, fought so hard for family dinner during all those years. I work in a different town than my husband does; we rarely see one another during the workday, though we always make time for a quick phone call to catch up. He works several evenings a week, because marriage and family therapy is not a nine-to-five gig. In these days of mismatched schedules, I have become nearly fanatical about family dinner.

We plan out a rough menu for the week on Saturday or Sunday, based on how late he’s expecting to work each night. We go to the grocery store together, pushing the cart up and down the familiar aisles, grabbing an extra jar of salsa or box of pasta. We cook the simple, tasty meals we both love: pasta with veggies and goat cheese, my regular rotation of soups, chicken-mango curry, store-bought pizza crust topped with varying ingredients. And burritos (always burritos).

Sometimes he does dinner prep before leaving for work, turning on the Crock-Pot or chopping veggies or chicken and leaving them in the fridge for me. If he’s working really late, I cook and eat alone, making enough for two and sitting at the table with him when he comes home, hungry and tired. My favorite nights are the ones when we cook together, sliding past each other in the kitchen, the movements of this dance practiced and fluid after nearly six years.

I often wish we could have dinner together every night, that our schedules were as steady and consistent as my family’s was for much of my childhood. We live in a larger city, our lives swayed by unpredictable urban rhythms, so that family dinner is not always the constant I would like it to be. But no matter how crazy the weeks get, after a few frazzled nights or a few solo meals of leftover pasta or “single cuisine” eggs, we come back to the table, together.

Inspired in part by Lindsey’s recent post about family dinner.

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pride and prejudice soup lunch

During my (brief) post-college single period, I ate a lot of solo meals: reheated leftovers, tomato soup out of a carton, Mexican fast-food takeout. When it was the norm, I found cooking for one a bit depressing: too many dirty dishes, not enough companionship. (Then as now, I did a lot of cooking for and with the man who would become my husband, but we didn’t eat together every night.)

After five years of marriage, though, I treasure my occasional solo nights in. And I have a new favorite dish to make when I’m home alone: Amanda Hesser’s “single cuisine” eggs.

Last month, I read a witty, delicious collection of food essays, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. It contains Hesser’s essay (an excerpt from her memoir Cooking for Mr. Latte, which I loved) about her last night home alone as a single woman, when her fiance was off on a guys’ trip. After an unproductive writing day and an embarrassing encounter with a neighbor, Hesser escapes into a familiar ritual:

I did the only thing I knew would relax me: I went grocery shopping. […]

As I shopped, it occurred to me that the menu I was dreaming up was nothing I would ever cook for Tad or for friends. It was less structured and more self-soothing – separate entities tied together by nothing more than the fact that I liked each part. […]

I dropped a nugget of butter into a sauté pan the size of a saucer. I whisked a few eggs with a little crème fraîche and poured it into the pan. Then I began stirring it over low heat, stirring in circles and zig-zags and figure eights. The eggs warmed and turned a lemon yellow on the edges.

Hesser toasts a piece of bread in the oven, then piles the eggs onto it and drizzles them with truffle oil, elevating the dish into something far fancier than its name would suggest. She also makes a salad, and finishes her meal with a small but decadent dessert. (I heartily approve of this strategy.)

My scrambled eggs do not involve truffle oil, but I sometimes chop up a tomato and sauté it gently in the same pan as the eggs. If I have fresh basil leaves handy, I’ll scatter them over the top, and finish the whole thing with grated cheese and a few grinds of black pepper. It’s a poor woman’s omelet, or fancy scrambled eggs. It’s warm and buttery and nourishing, and a snap to clean up. It fits neatly into one pan, and it is a small, delicious way to take care of myself, especially if I’m tired from a long day at work and it’s been dark for hours and my feet are cold.

Hesser points out, elsewhere in her essay, that good single cuisine is “about taking the pains to treat yourself well.” I don’t always remember that when I eat alone (though I believe a bowl of cereal can sometimes be a form of self-care). But when I cobble together (or even reheat) a meal with the goal of caring for myself, I feel refreshed, re-energized. There’s a kind of alchemy that happens during those few solo moments in a warm kitchen, transforming a few humble ingredients into a meal of both nourishment and joy.

What do you eat when you’re home alone?

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apples massachusetts farmers market

The farmers’ market is still open – but not for long. The sweet stone fruits and berries of summer have given way to piles of squashes and mounds of crisp, tart apples. The nights are drawing in, and we gave in and turned on the furnace this week. So, too, our routines in the kitchen are shifting.

apples cutting board kitchen fall

We adapt a few year-round staples to fit the season. Instead of buying tomatoes or zucchini to add to pasta or risotto, we buy halves of golden butternut squash, or crisp bell peppers. (I love tomatoes, but the fresh ones from the farmers’ market in the summer have nearly spoiled me for their grocery-store counterparts.)

We stir a spoonful of ricotta into the pasta, or sprinkle grated Parmesan on top, or crumble in some creamy goat cheese. We also make burritos regularly, as we do year-round: we are transplanted Texans, and we need our guacamole and our salsa and our spicy chicken.

But I also start turning on the oven to make baked pasta dishes: manicotti stuffed with a mix of cheeses, butternut squash and spinach lasagna, eggplant Parmesan. We love our carbs in this house, but we might love our leftovers even more.

Homemade pizza likewise gets a seasonal makeover. Our recent re-creation of a pizza we tried at Otto (butternut squash, dried cranberries, dollops of ricotta, topped with freshly ground black pepper) was a huge hit. My basil plant is done for the season, but I don’t mind dried basil or rosemary on pizza.

The soup pot is nearly always in use these days. We have already made tomato soup, jalapeno soup and butternut squash and apple soup. (Clearly I am slightly obsessed with butternut squash, which we have taken to calling “squtternut bosh,” á la Ross Geller.) We scoop it up, smooth and steaming, into the colorful bowls I bought at Whittard in Oxford, and eat it at our dining room table with slices of buttered baguette.

I have made fewer apple crisps this year than usual, but the cranberry-orange bread and the ginger molasses cookies are in constant rotation. The former is perfect for breakfast, with a cup of strong, hot tea, and the latter make a perfect denouement to dinner, or a snack when we’re hanging out in the living room, reading or watching TV. (Go Sox!)

My Crock-Pot gathers dust during the summer, but I’ll soon be pulling it out again, to make my grandfather’s chili and a spicy chicken-enchilada-soup concoction. I’m always looking for new recipes to simmer in there all day long, and I find it deeply satisfying to plan out our menu for the week, then write it out on the dry-erase board in our kitchen.

Cooking dinner sometimes feels like a pain or an obligation, but it can also feel like comfort, like pleasure, like providing for my family and friends. My rotation of fall recipes is all about that comfort and warmth. (And the leftovers.)

What are you cooking this fall?

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I mentioned recently that the dinner table is central to our liturgy of marriage – so central, in fact, that it has its own liturgy. Inspired by Kari’s thoughts on the liturgy of parenting.

table summer dinner

The Call to the Stove
Hi, love. I’m on my way home.
Great. I’ll start the water boiling, turn on the oven, begin chopping vegetables, and/or assemble the ingredients for a soup, pizza or enchiladas. See you soon.

The Kitchen Dance
Can you hand me that knife? Pass the cutting board.
Is there any more chili powder? We’re out of garlic again.
That looks/smells delicious. Stir the soup, will you? Hand me the spatula.

The Setting of the Table
Do we need forks? Knives? Are there any clean cloth napkins?
There should be. Look in the other drawer.

The Breaking of the Bread
Mmmm. This looks delicious. Lemonade or water?

The Communion
How was your day? Tell me about your clients, your co-workers, your sessions.
I did some writing. Ate lunch in the Public Garden. I’m reading this great book.

The Holy Embrace
Thanks for making dinner. It was delicious.
I’m glad you like it.
I’m glad you made it.

The Clearing
Did you get all the dishes from the table?
I’ll wash, if you dry.

The Amen
Want some ice cream?
Yes. Absolutely.

 

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