DSC_0638

green thoughts

DSC_0638

Finally.

We’ve finally made it through what felt like the longest winter ever. I spent the better part of it housebound with a newborn and a very cooped-up 2-year old, cursing the weeks upon weeks of blustery weather, most days too dangerously cold to venture out with the little ones.

DSC_0641

Despite being stuck at home so many hours and days in a row, I found little time or energy to cook anything of note, or to write much at all.

DSC_0644

This past winter was a particularly hard one. I feel blessed to have had my mom here with us for a few big chunks of time, and she and some dear neighbors took great care of us, feeding us well in the weeks and months after Mira’s birth, but even with that help I have struggled. I bounced back so quickly after Julian was born, and expected the same this time around, but things could not have been more different between my first pregnancy and my last. I’m battling nerve pain and other physical issues, still, at 6 months postpartum. And the depression that I was so afraid of, and that I managed to avoid the first time around, has reared its ugly head again. I’m trying hard to drive it off, to keep the worst at bay, but it’s not been easy. I wake up, and I am working at it, every single day.

Writing helps, and planning meals, and cooking, and I’m trying to do all of those things more often.

DSC_0645

It was a long winter, but we made it through. And each day is a little longer, a little lighter, a little better.

DSC_0656

Green is all around now, from trees in bloom in our Brooklyn neighborhood, to the first spring vegetables at our farmers markets. It feels like a celebration, and I have never been so grateful, so eager to partake. I’m ready to send our trusty friend the potato on a long hiatus, to get back in the kitchen and cook something a little fresher, a little lighter, a little better.

DSC_0691

Winter is finally behind us. Here’s to a new season, and to embracing the green.

DSC_0682

Green Rice

I’ve been working on a “green” rice for a few years, as a simple and kid-friendly vehicle for lots of tender spring vegetables. You can add whatever young green vegetables and herbs you like, but the below includes our favorites.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion, spring onion, or scallions (green and white parts)
kosher or sea salt
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 1/4 cups water (you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock)
1 lb. fresh fava beans, shelled and peeled
1/2 lb. blanched, shelled peas (or an equal amount frozen/thawed)
1/2 bunch asparagus, tips and stalks separated, stalks sliced into very thin rounds
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup very finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon, or a combination)
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano

Heat the oil in a wide sauté pan until shimmering, then add the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook just until soft. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the water and cover, reducing the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and gently fold in the favas, peas, asparagus, and artichoke hearts. Add another pinch of salt and re-cover, continuing to cook until the rice is cooked and the vegetables are tender, another 10-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the herbs and grated cheese. Use a fork to gently fluff the rice and stir the herbs and cheese through.

Peas, Pearls and Pesto

the things you'll find

It’s funny what you find when going through boxes in the time around a move. If you’re a bit of a pack rat, like we are, there will be loads of paper – receipts, ticket stubs, take out menus from old haunts, greeting cards from birthdays long-past, and magazines. Like this issue of Food and Wine from April 2004 (interestingly, the very month I moved to NYC).

Food and Wine, April 2004

I took a break from my culling and purging to take a cursory glance at the contents, and this photo caught my eye, a dish of peas and pearl couscous, lovely little orbs dancing together in a sauce of butter and fresh mint, just the kind of simple summer side I love. I set the magazine aside to recycle, but filed the recipe away in my mind, and when I spotted fresh peas from Simmons Farm at our farmers’ market over the weekend, I knew just how I’d prepare them.

worth waiting for

First, the shelling.

my assistant

(Kirby helped.)

peas, pearls, and pesto

I took my two cups of shelled fresh peas, blanched them briefly and shocked them in an ice bath, then tossed them with my cooked couscous (1 cup dry plus 1 1/4 cups water and a good pinch of sea salt). I diverted from the butter-and-mint sauce in the original dish, instead using about a quarter cup of my lemony basil-pistachio pesto.

Dinner: June 29, 2011

The whole thing got a good toss, then I spooned some onto our plates alongside simply seared salmon filets, a perfect early-summer meal in just minutes.

Rethinking Weeknight Dinners

Anita’s Dinner on a deadline post is still percolating in my brain, and it has been interesting to follow the responses her post has received so far. This last week has been a bit of an anomaly for us in the kitchen, with Mike fine-tuning his pizza recipes for food52’s Week 47 challenge, and me working on some cooking and recipe-testing projects of my own, but we’ve still had to get dinner on the table, and when it hasn’t been pizza or one of my works-in-progress, it has most often been something as simple as pasta. And as much as I’ve griped in the past about how I can’t bear to post another darned pasta dish, I’ve decided that I’m really okay with pasta being something we eat as often as we do, whether it makes it to the blog or not.

Dinner:  May 3, 2010

I am a home cook. I’m not a writer or a culinary professional, I’m just a girl who works long days, comes home exhausted, and looks forward to sharing a meal with her husband. And whether he’s cooking dinner, or I am, or it’s a joint effort, by and large I want what we eat at home to be good, honest, real food, even if it’s just a simple bowl of pasta and vegetables. I have to be okay with that, because ultimately, the point isn’t posting stuff to this blog – it’s about feeding ourselves well. Being able to do that in the time it takes to boil a pot of water and cook some orecchiette is something I shouldn’t take for granted.

Awesome Blossoms

Dinner: April 20, 2010

I like pretty food.

What can I say, I’m drawn to colors that pop, to produce that is as vibrantly colored as it is tasty. After months and months of cream-beige-brown food (with the occasional deep green or orange thrown into the mix), the reappearance of spring green at the farmers’ market, of tender shoots and tiny leaves, has me feeling hopeful. We’re far from September’s splashy abundance, but in some ways, I prefer this time of year – you choose one or two beautiful ingredients, treat them well, and you’re all but guaranteed a good meal.

microgreens

Which brings us to these microgreens, a lovely combination of baby leaves and blossoms, spicy, peppery, utterly bewitching. They make a lovely salad with a spritz of champagne vinegar, salt, pepper, and the barest drizzle of your very best olive oil. They also make a beautiful bed for deviled eggs.

chives

I’m a little in love with these willowy chives, too, with their gentle onion flavor and their crisp green hue.

Peas won’t come in around these parts until mid-June or so, but I had some in the freezer from last summer, so I decided to build a stuffed pasta dish. I thawed the peas and pureed them with a little crème fraiche, plenty of chives, some cream cheese and soft fresh goat cheese, then I piped the mixture onto sheets of freshly rolled pasta, folding and pinching and then cutting them into agnolotti. The agnolotti bathed ever-so-briefly in boiling salted water, then I carefully placed them into a pan of melted butter with a healthy hit of lemon juice added, plus a splash of the pasta water to bring it all togther.

I added a couple of handfuls of those beautiful microgreens to the pan off the heat, gently tossing them with the pasta and lemon-butter sauce, then I divided the agnolotti, greens, and sauce between our bowls. A few more fresh chives snipped on, a little lemon zest, a crumble or three of goat cheese, and our pretty plates were ready.

A simple Spring soup

Dinner:  May 12, 2009

I’m a big fan of soup any time of year, but there’s nothing like a light, brothy bowl of springtime veggies to take the chill off an early May evening. I tossed this together mostly from odds and ends: first, a lone leek which had been lingering in the crisper drawer, then some thinly sliced fennel stalks, both cooked with a sprinkling of salt and a knob of butter until soft. Next I added some cooked flageolet beans and their cooking liquid, plus a few additional cups of water, some sweet young carrots, and a half cup or so of carnaroli rice. While the broth bubbled and the rice plumped, I thawed some leftover cooked asparagus and peas from the freezer, adding them to the pot to just warm through. I tasted the soup for seasoning and added a few finishing touches, in the form of fresh spinach, chopped fresh tarragon, and shards of Pecorino Romano. A little toasted bread on the side (with more of that Pecorino), and we were good to go.

Presto Pesto

Dinner:  April 27, 2009

This meal was nothing fancy – honestly, the pasta was primarily a vehicle for another batch of bright and zingy sorrel pesto. I made the sorrel pesto without pine nuts this time, instead tossing a bunch of chopped hazelnuts into the pasta when I tossed it to provide a little crunch.

Also in the mix: thin stalks of fresh, local asparagus, which I chopped into short little bits and tossed, raw, into the hot pasta, some tiny peas from the freezer, and a light dusting of finely grated Divine Providence. This pasta was simple, satisfying, and full of the flavors of springtime.

A twofer

peas + lentils

Here’s another brief catch-up post at the end of a busy week. Wednesday night’s meal was not exactly what I had planned, as I realized yet again that an item I thought I still had was absent from my pantry. So rather than the black rice I had planned to combine with peas from the freezer and Allen Farms pea greens, I used lentils.

Dinner:  February 4, 2009

I cooked them with shallot and a healthy amount of coriander, and they were tasty but not quite what I was going for. Still, the combination made a nice bed for our sauteed Georges Bank cod filets, and the pea greens were fabulous. Kirby thought so, too.

Thursday’s dinner was another one built on leftovers: the remainder of last weekend’s roast beef from Simmons Farm, cut into chunks, slowly cooked in a bottle of ‘gansett then shredded apart with a couple of forks; plus the rest of my most recent batch of enchilada sauce, thawed and reheated.

I stuffed the meat into softened Piaxtla tortillas and rolled them, nestling them in a baking dish with enchilada sauce on the bottom, then pouring the rest of the sauce over the top, and finally adding slices of Narragansett Creamery mozzarella before chucking them in the oven to bake.

Dinner:  February 5, 2009

When they came out of the oven, I let them rest briefly before plating them, topping each serving with a bit of crumbled queso fresco (also from Narragansett Creamery), some chile-spiced toasted pepitas, and chunks of avocado, a cooling counterpoint to the spicy chile sauce.