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appetite

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So somehow in the middle of my recent spate of 50-hour work weeks, I managed to get pregnant again. No burying the lede this time, I’m just putting it right out here, and letting you all know that baby number two is set to join us in October, a month after Julian’s second birthday. We’re thrilled of course, though my tiredness has reached a whole new level, and my appetite, to my chagrin, is all but gone these days.

I had no such trouble eating throughout my first pregnancy. My first trimester nausea was just mildly bothersome, and I had no real morning sickness to speak of. I ate well and often: lots of fruit and fish, big salads and eggs and nuts by the handful. Indian food, Mexican food, any kind of spicy food – bring it on. Just about everything tasted great, and physically, I felt better than I had in years.

But things are different this time around – not drastically so, just enough to throw me for a loop. I feel a little bit queasier, a little more fatigued than I remember being last time, and I just don’t have much of an appetite. For anything. Frustrating for many, but downright maddening for a typically food-fixated sort like myself.

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It doesn’t help that I feel guilty about not eating. I’m building a baby, after all.

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I’m in a lull between trials right now, and my schedule has cleared up a bit. Mike has taken on the lion’s share of dinner prep in recent weeks, between my work commitments and lack of interest in eating, but I was eager to get back in the kitchen over the weekend, even though I had no clue what to make for us. Inspiration came, as it often does these days, via Pinterest, and a beautiful panade from Emily of Five and Spice. Since I’ve been able to reliably keep down bread and cheese, and we had a fresh batch of rich chicken stock in the fridge, it seemed like a good bet.

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So I headed into the kitchen yesterday afternoon while Julian napped and Mike took care of some things around the apartment, and I sliced onions and trimmed chard, grated cheese and massaged stale bread. I sauteed the greens and alliums in batches, built some layers and moistened them with stock, then I set my covered pan in a low oven to bake for a good long while.

And then I put my feet up.

The three of us sat down to eat together as the sun set, something I have missed more than anything else over the last few months, and as I watched the boys tucking into their respective portions, I was happy that at least they were enjoying their meal. I still wasn’t sure if I would. But I took a spoonful from my own bowl, satiny greens and wobbly bread, the aroma of stock and cheese and onions set aloft on a pocket of steam, and I closed my eyes as I took it into my mouth. I took another bite, and another, and another, and soon, my belly was as full as my heart felt.

No-sweat Cooking, Day 11

Cornbread Panzanella

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!

Full disclosure: This was a do-over. My first attempt at Cornbread Panzanella was last weekend, and I don’t know what I did wrong, but it was pretty disastrous. I was so disappointed, because it seemed like such a great combination of things I love – cornbread, balsamic, great summer tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, capers – but what I ended up with was a grey, grainy, sodden mess.

I had picked up a gorgeous loaf of cornbread from Hi-Rise Bakery at the Boston Public Market, which I cubed and let stale overnight. I had chopped up some gorgeous Arcadian Fields heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella from our friends at Narragansett Creamery, and when I added the cornbread and gave everything a toss, the bread began to crumble. Things got worse when I added my balsamic vinaigrette: as soon as the dressing hit the bread and cheese, they both turned the most unappetizing shade of beige-y grey. There might have been shouting.

I spent the better part of the week stewing over my failed dish, and trying to figure out how to redeem it. What I came up with worked perfectly. First, the cornbread needs to be REALLY stale. Like, use-it-as-a-door-stop stale. To provide an extra level of insurance, I toasted my cubes in a bit of olive oil until they were golden. After they cooled, I tossed them with my remaining ingredients: a ripe and juicy field tomato from Wishing Stone Farm, which I had chopped and let sit briefly in a dressing of great olive oil and white balsamic (to retain that lovely balsamic flavor but keep the colors of the salad bright), tiny capers, diced fresh mozzarella, and fresh marjoram in place of oregano. Problem solved – the texture was perfect, the colors bright, and the salad was delicious.

Get the Recipe: Cornbread Panzanella

Bread Gone Wild

I’m a little obsessed with bread salads.

durum round

A summertime panzanella with ripe, juicy garden tomatoes is truly a thing of beauty, and I think I like the Zuni Café bread salad Mike makes even more than I like the accompanying chicken. Bread salads are so easy to make, so inexpensive, and so versatile that I’m a little surprised that they’re not a year-round, go-to meal.

interior

At least in this household, that’s going to change.

wild rocket

Last night’s version of bread salad was full of wild springtime edibles: some of the ramps Mike brought back from his recent trip to NYC, separated and sautéed in a little olive oil, cubes of Seven Stars durum round added to the oniony oil and toasted until crisp and golden, some fiddleheads from Saturday’s farmers’ market trip, also sautéed just until they turned bright green, and a generous amount of wild rocket, which also made the trip from New York, and which was tossed raw with the warm bread cubes and other veggies.

Dinner:  May 4, 2009

I dressed everything with my standard Sherry vinaigrette, and topped our plates with toasted pine nuts and shards of Rudie’s Romano, a raw goat milk cheese from Meadow Stone Farm. This was a great combination of flavors and textures, and a fun way to turn a salad into a substantial meal.

Old Reliable

Dinner:  April 13, 2009

So far, I’m having one of those weeks where things just aren’t going the way they should. I’ve had all sorts of minor mishaps, boo-boos and bouts of forgetfulness over the last couple of days, the biggest of which was my plan to make a risotto for Monday night’s dinner.

Except I forgot that we’re out of rice.

Of any kind.

And I didn’t have anything else that would work well in its place for the preparation I had in mind.

(Oops.)

So this was another fall-back-and-punt kind of meal: sauteed Simmons Farm kale, black-eyed peas (which I had previously cooked, portioned out, and frozen) reheated in a bit of leftover chile broth, a thin slice of toasted, garlic-rubbed Olga’s sourdough, and a pastured egg from Aquidneck Farms, cooked sunny-side up in olive oil, with Basque salt and freshly grated Pecorino Romano sprinkled over it all at the end. This dinner was not at all what I had originally planned, but sometimes these simple, impromptu meals are just what I need – the combination of beans or grains, greens and a farm egg is something I’ve come to love and rely on in a pinch.

Local Flavor

The latest incarnation of my mac and cheese had a decidedly local flavor, featuring:

+chunks of bacon from Pat’s Pastured, and a roux made with the rendered fat from same
+Rhody Fresh whole milk
+three delicious Narragansett Creamery cheeses – Obama Blue, Old Gold and Patty Parker
+Crystal Brook Farm goat cheese
+a topping of crumbled Seven Stars bread, countertop rosemary, and homemade butter
+and a Baby Greens salad on the side

Dinner:  December 11, 2008

Eating local never tasted so good.

Minor adjustments

pancetta + leeks

I’ve been tweaking a lot of my favorite standards lately; last Saturday’s mac & cheese, for instance, was made with more bechamel than I have traditionally used, making it extra creamy and luxurious, and I also used a different blend of cheeses, adding a blue and a creamy cheese to the mix. When planning our meals for the week, I decided to reserve the remnants of a Poilane loaf I brought home on Friday and use it for one of our other favorite comfort food dinners – a savory bread pudding – and I decided to play around with my usual recipe.

We had a couple of leeks in the fridge that I wanted to use up, so I chopped those and sautéed them with half a pound of chopped thickly sliced pancetta. That got tossed with my cubed bread, along with a handful of chopped fresh sage. I fiddled with the proportions in my custard, combining six eggs with two cups of whole milk, one cup of heavy cream, a little kosher salt and a couple of tablespoons of Colman’s dry mustard. I added my cheeses to this – about a cup each of grated Parmagiano Reggiano and Mecox Bay Dairy Sigit (a really delicious Alpine-style cheese), then poured the mixture over my bread cubes. After a bit of tossing and squishing, I transferred the mixture to a buttered baking dish, added a bit more grated cheese on top and placed it into the oven, baking it at 375 until it was puffy and browned.

Dinner:  February 12, 2008

Though parts of the bottom got a little over-browned, this was probably my favorite bread pudding yet, rich and creamy in the center, with crisp edges and a crusty, cheesy top. I will probably use this base going forward, but I need to remember to let the pudding rest a bit longer once it comes out of the oven – that added creaminess makes for a molten hot center and steam burns on the roof of the mouth are no fun.