I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it. We’re not yet done with January and we’ve had more than our yearly average snowfall. My commute has been awful – if the trains aren’t delayed by snow and ice, then switches are breaking, signals malfunctioning, rail cars creeping ever so slowly from station to station. I’ve missed my bus home from the train station every night this week, and tonight looks to be no exception, with more snow expected to begin this afternoon, continuing overnight.

Dinner: January 25, 2011

We’ve been on a steady diet of comfort food – a hearty pot roast Sunday night, an almost-meatless soup on Monday, loaded with creamy beans, pasta, and bits of pancetta (not yet our own, but we’re oh-so-close). Last night, I threw together this simple pasta dish, a combination of grated beets cooked down in butter with a healthy splash of white balsamic, the pasta par-cooked then added to the beets with some pasta water to finish, becoming infused with beet flavor and that lovely rich hue. There are similar pastas out there that include poppy seeds and mint, but Mike and I both wanted goat cheese, so I crumbled a bit of Vermont Butter & Cheese chevre on our plates, along with some chopped pistachios for a visual and textural pop. The vibrant colors and bright flavors chased my winter blues away, at least for a little while.

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere, you’ve probably already seen me proudly cheering on my cool friends Cathy and Kim, who are featured in the Washington Post today. If you haven’t, check it out. I’m there, too, on page two, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

On the Radio

asparagus and spring onion

Before we flew off to Detroit to visit my family, I was delighted to appear as a guest on WNRI’s Jen’s Dish, hosted by my friend and Farm Fresh RI’s Buy Local Coordinator, Jen Huntley-Corbin.

If you missed it, Jen was kind enough to provide me with the audio from the show, which you can download here, or listen to embedded here:

I brought along a little breakfast to start our day off right, with ingredients sourced from the Springtime Farmers’ Market: a savory bread pudding made with breads from both Olga’s and Seven Stars Bakery, Four Town Farm scallions, asparagus from Cooks Valley Farm, Zephyr Farm eggs, milk and cream from Christiansen’s Dairy (plus homemade butter made from that cream), and finally, a creamy Gouda cheese from Narragansett Creamery.

bread pudding

Though I don’t often post recipes here, I promised Jen I’d let her know how I made this so she can duplicate it at home. As I’ve said before, what I love about bread pudding is that it is incredibly versatile, a great way to feed a crowd or to use up heels of bread or little odds and ends you might have lingering around the fridge. You can, as I did here, assemble everything the night before and bake it in the morning just before serving, and you can even bake individual portions in a muffin tin rather than a baking dish for an easy portable breakfast. We even like it for dinner, with a salad of mixed greens and a simple vinaigrette.

Savory Bread Pudding

3 farm eggs (ours are usually in the large to extra-large size range)
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons good, sharp Dijon mustard
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper, if desired
4-5 cups of cubed bread (Note: I like the textural effect of leaving the crusts on, but you can certainly remove them if you like. Also, I prefer using a rustic country-style bread, but almost any bread will do – even croissants are good if that’s what you’ve got on hand. Finally, slightly stale or dry bread tends to soak up the custard better.)
2-3 cups fresh seasonal vegetables (I used about 2 cups of diced asparagus and 1 cup of thinly sliced scallions, but again, use what’s fresh and in season in your neck of the woods. If you like, a little bit of thinly sliced prosciutto, cooked crumbled bacon or sausage is good, too, as are fresh herbs.)
1-2 cups flavorful artisan cheese, shredded or crumbled (the amount will vary according to your taste and how mild or strongly flavored the cheese is)
butter for the baking dish or muffin tins

Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then stir in the milk, cream, mustard, salt and pepper if using, until the mixture is well-combined. Add the bread cubes and press down so that they are completely submerged in the egg mixture (clean hands are best for this, so you can really put some muscle behind it). Let this sit for a few minutes, then toss and press again so that all of the cubes are thoroughly soaked. Add the vegetables a little at a time, stirring through so they are fairly evenly distributed.

Butter your baking dish or muffin tins. Spoon the bread mixture in until it comes about halfway up the sides, then sprinkle a layer of cheese on top. Repeat with the remaining bread and cheese, then cover tightly with foil. (If you are preparing this ahead of time, you can stop at this point and store it in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.)

Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or so, until the top is golden and bubbly. Serve hot or at room temperature.