I usually cook in a more improvisational style, but with Julian starting preschool and the resulting change in our schedules, I’ve been relying more and more on recipes from trusted sources. While I sometimes miss getting creative in the kitchen, I have to admit that it’s nice to have a small rotation of meals that either Mike or I can start or finish, and it’s so nice to know that we can all eat the same dinner, even if we do so in shifts.
Last night’s dinner came to us from Bon Appétit – and while I don’t know if I’d agree that it’s “the Greatest Recipe of All Time,” this one-pot dish of meatballs and string beans was pretty darned inspired, and a great use of the green beans and heirloom sauce tomatoes we got in this week’s CSA box. Mike and I ate ours with the suggested crusty bread, while the kids enjoyed theirs with a little lightly sauced pasta. We all loved it.
On Wednesday night, Mike headed into the city for a swanky booze event, but dinner for me and the kids was ready when I got home from work, thanks to our trusty crock pot. We’ve been collecting slow cooker recipes on Pinterest, and this Slow-Cooker Curried Lentils With Chicken and Potatoes from Real Simple did not disappoint. It was so good, in fact, that the kids ate two bowls apiece.
I’ll be back in the kitchen this weekend, and flexing my long-neglected baking muscles for a certain little guy who is turning THREE this Sunday. I can hardly believe how quickly the time has gone.
The last few weeks have been… something. We’ve got the excitement of Julian’s entry into preschool, plus the countdown to the arrival of our newest “baby”, but also the stress of health concerns and a really difficult sleep regression. There’s a lot on our plates right now, and we are trying to manage it all by creating new schedules and building even more structure into our daily routines. I’ve always been a list-maker and meal planner, but now that I’m packing lunches for Julian, Mike, and myself as well as coming up with our weekly dinners, it’s critical.
Despite the heat, I find that I’ve been turning more and more to comfort food, to old, reliable dishes that I know I can get together with a minimum of fuss or mess, in a short amount of time on work/school nights. One-pot/one-pan meals are also key, and that’s where this savory bread pudding comes in. While there were multiple steps in the assembly (cooking the sausage, sauteing the chard), I cooked everything in the same iron skillet, which simplified cleanup. Here’s what I did:
I took about a pound of sweet Italian sausage out of its casing, and browned the crumbled sausage in the iron skillet with a pinch of red chile flakes. While that cooked, I mixed up a custard of half a dozen eggs, a cup each of whole milk and buttermilk, salt, pepper, and a pinch of Colman’s mustard powder. I added about 4 cups of cubed semolina bread to the custard and let it sit. When my sausage was done, I removed it with a slotted spoon and added it to the bowl with the soaking bread. My stemmed and torn chard leaves went into the iron skillet with a pinch of salt, and I cooked them in the rendered sausage fat until soft and wilted. While they cooked, I grated cheese – about a cup each of cheddar and a random hunk of an Alpine-style wheel that had been lurking in the cheese drawer. When the chard was ready, I squeezed out as much of the liquid as possible before transferring the leaves to the bread/sausage/custard bowl. I discarded the liquid left in the pan. I mixed the grated cheeses into the bread mixture, then tipped everything back into the iron skillet, grating a little extra cheese on top. It baked in a 400 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes. And it was so good.
We had a box of wonderful spinach and cheese ravioli (from United Meat Market) in our freezer, and I thought they would work well with a sauce of barely cooked market vegetables.
I tipped some olive oil into a pan, added a bunch of sliced scallions, some sweet corn stripped off the cob, and some thin half-moons of zucchini. That all got a pinch of salt, and once the zucchini and scallions had softened a bit, a hit of Sherry vinegar. I wanted to add just a tiny bit of richness to the sauce, so I swirled in a spoonful of Marcella’s Sauce. Off the heat, I added some halved Sungolds and chunked Black Krims, stirring them gently through, then tossed in a big handful of small whole basil leaves.
I drained the ravioli and tossed it into the sauce, stirring it gently, then finished it with a generous amount of grated Pecorino Romano. A little red chile flake, or thinly sliced fresh chile, would have been a nice addition, too.
Long before LND was a blog, it was a photo chronology of what Mike and I were cooking and eating in the earliest days of our relationship. My photography skills were even worse than they are now, but I didn’t care – I wasn’t taking pictures to share them, just to catalog our meals. It was casual and fun, totally low-pressure. I’ve missed those days.
In the years since I started taking pictures of my food, Mike and I shacked up, got married, moved from Brooklyn to Providence and back again, said goodbye to two beloved kitties, got published, ate high-end truck food on camera, welcomed two beloved children into the world, and worked on a book that is going to be out in a little over a month. That’s a whole lot of living, and a whole lot of meals that may or may not have made their way to these pages.
There have been plenty of fallow periods here as we went through various life adjustments, and I’ve often wondered if I should just let this space fade away. It has felt like too much of a burden, a drain on my (increasingly limited) time, and frankly, the blogging world is very different now than it was when I started. I don’t know squat about SEO (nor do I care), I don’t have the time or money to go to conferences, and so many of my favorite food bloggers stopped posting ages ago… but something has kept me from walking away.
I was reminded last week, amid all of the ugly news in our country and the world, of this essay. Amanda Hesser begins with these words:
We eat for many reasons other than hunger. But there is only one reason we gather at the table. To be with one another.
This virtual table is important to me. The sense of community and connection I have felt with the people I’ve interacted with via this space has sustained me through so many ups and downs over the last seven years, and I’m not ready to give that up. So instead of feeling some totally internal pressure to post more frequently, or to keep up with what others are doing, or to conform to someone else’s idea about the “right way” to write a food blog, I’m just gonna do me. There may be a recipe from time to time, if I’ve got the time and the space to create one, but mostly I want to go back to my roots, to post a crappy photo of a meal that we cooked in our tiny Brooklyn kitchen, and shared at our table.
Speaking of gathering together, in the coming months we’ll be traveling to Boston and Providence, to Central PA, and more to promote SHRUBS. We’d love to get a chance to meet some of you. We’ll be posting updates and tour information over on the SHRUBS Facebook page.
When life hands you leftover brioche, make French Toast.
The life of a drinks writer often requires tasting your way through a lot of bottles. And sometimes, there are more bottles than the writer and his wife can taste through on their own. So we invited some friends over yesterday for an early-afternoon tasting, and while Julian entertained their twins and Mira (mostly) napped, we grown-ups sipped and sampled and shared our observations with Mike on a range of tequilas for an upcoming Serious Eats piece.
Though more booze was dumped than swallowed, I made sure we had plenty of food to fortify us. I laid out chips and my usual homemade salsa and guacamole, as well as David Tanis’ Crudités à la Mexicaine to start, then followed up with heartier fare.
Next came a platter of sweet and smoky chicken wings (and tenders for the kids), which I marinated overnight in buttermilk and spices and a pinch of turbinado sugar, then roasted and tossed with a little melted butter and scallions.
Finally, my riff on this winning Flank Steak sandwich recipe from food52: I seared chili-marinated hanger steak and sliced it thin, serving it on bite-sized slabs of Texas Toast with a smear of cilantro mayo and a pile of pickled red onions on top.
We wound down around 3, as the kiddos were clearly getting tired after their big day of play. We got Julian and Mira down for their afternoon naps after sending our friends on their way with hugs and thanks and promises to get together again soon. It’s been a long time since we entertained at home, and I’ve missed it. I wasn’t sure we could pull it off with two little ones at home, but yesterday’s gathering went so well, I’m eager to try again, soon.