August 19, 2012
I stood in this kitchen this morning knowing that I wanted a traditional Sunday dinner. I was in the mood to let something cook, take a bit more time preparing something. I pulled out one of my favorite books that I hadn’t looked at in a while: Heart of the Artichoke, by the wonderful David Tanis. In it, the summer menus tugged at me and I decided to roast a spatchcocked chicken and make up a rice salad with some of the beautiful Carolina Gold rice some dear friends brought back from a summer vacation in South Carolina.
And, as luck would have it, none of this was actually time intensive. I love it when I have the time to give to something and the fates tell me not to worry about it.
In addition to being a really nice guy, Mr. Tanis is such a clever chef and cook, in the book he offers numerous variations on many of his recipes, adding or omitting an ingredient or two and giving you a whole new way to enjoy a dish, transitioning from side dish to satisfying lunch in a short jump. Really good stuff. It’s a way to start thinking about what you have in the pantry and the fridge to re-purpose yesterday’s dinner into a wholly new meal. It’s leftovers, elevated.
So tonight, after devouring half a lemony roast chicken and having just the teeny-ist bit of the herb rice salad leftover, I eyed the golden fond in the chicken roasting pan and remembered my favorite soup from Tasi: a lovely lemon chicken soup.
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June 4, 2012
This past weekend the most recent Top Chef winner Paul Qui was in town at Market District to do a demo and answer questions. Honestly, I don’t think there has been a nicer, more unassuming winner of that crazy show. He’s just such a humble, talented guy. His dishes were lovely light versions of chicken rice (his with lots and lots of a lemony ponzu) and a summer miso soup. Things, he says, are his comfort foods. I can completely see why.
His cooking got me thinking about dishes I had made in the past but could bring together for the perfect, almost no effort summer dinner. Granted, you’ll have Asian food a couple of days in a row, but I don’t think that ever hurt anyone. Plus, this is the time of year that you can gather just about everything locally, aside from the kombu, katsuobushi and a couple of pantry items.
But perhaps the thing that makes me happiest about this kind of dinner is that since everybody gets to choose what to include in their bowls, it’s lots of fun for Cherub. She amazed even me tonight by her choice of tofu, zucchini, carrots, green onion, bean sprouts and snap peas. But she passed on the fresh sweet corn. (What kid does that?) And she even had seconds.
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November 3, 2011
There is a vast expanse of Europe between the Black and Baltic Seas commonly known as “Eastern Europe.” Millions of Americans can trace their ancestry from this region, but many of them don’t know exactly where. They came through both the front and back doors of the East Coast in search of something more. They came to mine coal, bend steel, crunch numbers, and maybe raise hell. Many of them saw the horrors of the 20th century up close, and came here to escape. They might not have brought much, but they brought their culture, their spirit, and their food.
At the center of this culinary tradition are Pierogi. It’s the unofficial national dish of Poland, and they are eaten, with different names, from Ukraine to Latvia. They are traditionally filled with potato, cheese, sauerkraut, or fruit preserves.
But most importantly to me, it’s Hades’s favorite food and the in-laws’ official celebratory dish. Needless to say,
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October 21, 2011
I told you I’d have leftovers. And on a Friday night, because that’s how we roll.
So after last night’s highly vegetarian dinner, I did feel like I needed a kick of iron. A good piece of red meat. Enter tonight’s steak, served with caramelized shallots and that fabulous leftover cauliflower. I know. Many of you are skeptical. But trust me. A very talented chef came up with that combo of white chocolate and cauliflower first. Trust him.
PK’s Caramelized Shallots, Serves 2 (none for little Cherub, we meanies didn’t want to share tonight)
3 very large shallots, trimmed and thickly sliced
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October 5, 2011
Sometimes dinner is completely off the grid. Tonight’s rabbit was an example of that. Not purchased at a store or farmer’s market, simply gifted to me from generous friends who have local farmer friends. The dinners, over two nights, could not have embodied the essence of local more than that.
Spot the backyard bunny. No, this was not dinner.
For the squeamish, let me tell you that a beautifully raised, local rabbit might strike you as tasting a whole lot like turkey. For the more adventurous, it is light, meaty and absolutely delicious. It is a protein entirely worth hunting down (albeit grocery shopping or the actual in-the-woods kind) to find responsibly-raised meat.
I wasn’t home last night and Hades took it upon himself to braise our rabbit with leeks and carrots and some decidedly non-local French vermouth. He served it with warm red cabbage, beet and apple salad and a butternut puree.
I cannot begin to express my bitter disappointment at not being home for this meal.
Freakishly, there were leftovers.
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October 3, 2011
Local pumpkins are now prolific at farmer’s markets and my Whole Foods. They are tasty, vitamin-packed treasures that are as versatile as you care to make them. Add in some of the last of my backyard chilies and yellow cherry tomatoes, and you’ve got a dish that’s downright good for you.
Tonight I yearned for some Indian food and so I spiced up a leftover half of roasted pumpkin to accompany the fish I baked. With the new addition of mustard oil to my pantry and now this dish, I even felt like I might be breaking some sort of law. And after dinner there was a very distinctive warmth (not spicy heat) in my mouth that couldn’t be attributed to anything but that mustard oil. Who says cooking is boring?
Curried Pumpkin, serves two hungry people, originally inspired by a dish by Aktar Islam of Lasan
2 t mustard oil (or grapeseed oil, or other oil with a fairly high smoking point)
1 t whole fennel seeds
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March 16, 2011
It’s a marvelous, make ahead kind of a lunch.
Poach a bit of salmon the night before, bring along a slice of leftover pint bread, a tiny cup of homemade crème fraîche and add a few thin slices of onion, some fresh dill if you have it, a caper or two if you want. It is perhaps one of the healthiest things you could take for lunch, plus it’s simple, and tastes luxurious.
PK tip: this assembles in moments. Pack the salmon along with the dill and onion, but pack separately the crème fraîche and the bread. Yet another thought: wouldn’t this also make fabulous little quick appetizers?
Your cube mates will be jealous.