Surprising baby food

Spinach frittata with green salad

Yes, we are definitely in the "healthy issue."

Yes, we are definitely in the “healthy issue.”

Braised collards with tomatoes

It's a good thing, y'all!

It’s a good thing, y’all!

Black-bean and brown-rice cakes

Surely if I add enough bread and sauce, this will taste like something....

Surely if I add enough bread and sauce, this will taste like something….

No one needs to tell me how lucky I am that my son is a great eater.  It is a huge relief and a blessing.  He doesn’t always eat a ton of what’s put in front of him, and it sometimes takes him three tries to really get to like something, but he is a pretty adventurous eater for a toddler.  I’ve been told many times by doctors and other professional types that this will ratchet back and he will go through a picky stage where he’ll only want mac and cheese.  But I’m enjoying this adventurous baby while I’ve got him.  Which brings me to the point of this post, these were three recipes that I served my little guy and didn’t think he’d really like them.  Spinach, collard greens, and black bean burgers with cilantro sauce don’t typically show up on the kids’ menu.  D and I liked one of these recipes very much, one pretty much, and one we were super pumped that the baby could eat it for us.  🙂

The braised collards were out-G.D.-standing.  They take a legitimate three hours plus, but that’s mostly just time on the stove.  I was lucky enough to buy pre-washed and pre-chopped collard greens, so this was just a matter of cutting up an onion and smashing some garlic cloves for me.  And the taste is wonderful.  I’m not really one for soul food.  I’m just not.  I lived in Georgia for a year when I was a kid, but I never developed a taste for it.  I don’t cook southern style stuff (which D actually really likes…sorry sweetie) and my affinity for Everyday Food plays right into that.  With the exception of the occasional BBQ summertime menu, Everyday Food keeps well above the Mason-Dixon line.  D was actually very surprised to see this one.  I believe the exact quote was “This is Everyday Food?  Ham hock, black eyed peas, and collards?!”  Well, to quote the great Scarlett O’Hara, “Fiddle dee dee!”  This is a delicious meal.  The slow cooking melds the flavors together beautifully to make a mild dish.  This is wonderful comfort food.  I will definitely make this one again.

Now the one we pretty much all three agreed on: the frittata and green salad.  The green salad was what it said it was.  Let’s leave it at that.  The frittata was nice.  It uses more egg whites than egg yolks, which leaves you in the difficult position of either doing something with all of those extra egg yolks or just throwing them out.  B suggested I make mayonnaise or orange curd.  These were fine ideas.  ….  I threw the yolks out a week later.  If you can think of something to do with the yolks or if you don’t mind pitching them, this is a fine recipe.  Or you could be a little less health-conscious and just leave them in.  I won’t tell.

All three members of my little clan loved the frittata on the first day.  J ate it up with minimal ketchup.  D and I both enjoyed it.  We had an extra one for dinner for J the next day, and I was dismayed to hear that he didn’t like it until D told me that the texture got really rubbery when he reheated it.  Maybe that’s because it’s mostly egg whites?  I don’t usually have a problem reheating egg dishes like quiche.  I’ll blame the egg whites.  Yet another reason to sneak those suckers back in there…

Last and least (depending on who you ask), the recipe that J loved and the adults haaaaated: the black bean and brown rice burgers.  Wow.  It’s not that they’re bad.  They’re not.  They’re just so bland.  Yes, even with all that jalapeno and cumin and the yogurt-cilantro sauce.  They tasted like refried beans.  We put them on rolls, added a bunch of the sauce, more cilantro, some red onion.  It tasted like…refried beans on a roll with a bunch of sauce, cilantro, and red onion.  J could not disagree more with this.  He ate all of our leftovers.  I want to say he ate these something like three or four days in a row.  He even ate one of the ones with jalapenos in it (we made separate burgers for the grownups) when my mom mistakenly fed him one.  He liked that one, too.  More power to you, J.

Broccoli and salmon, in that order

Glazed Salmon with Spicy Broccoli

"This is my daughter, Dottie.  This is my other daughter, Dottie's sister."

“This is my daughter, Dottie. This is my other daughter, Dottie’s sister.”

This broccoli will haunt my dreams.  D and I were both very angry that there wasn’t more.  The glaze was nice on the salmon, but the broccoli was the real star of the show.  It’s just soy sauce, vegetable oil, rice vinegar, garlic, and some hot pepper flakes, but the combination is magic.  You’ve never been more excited to eat broccoli, trust me.  Oh, D did bump up the amount of garlic by half.  That couldn’t have hurt.  The best way I can try to explain how this broccoli tastes is that it tastes like really good Chinese food.  It is sweet, sour, and salty, but not greasy.

It’s an easy and quick recipe too.  D felt that the big problem with this recipe was that it calls for cooked brown rice in the ingredients list rather than giving you instructions on when to start the rice, how to cook it, and so on.  I’m of two minds about this one.  On one hand, we don’t need to be told how to cook rice, do we?  On the other hand, Everyday Food recipes are always giving the instructions on how to cook pasta.  Boiling pasta is arguably easier and more intuitive than cooking rice.  It is helpful to know if maybe you should start the rice first or take care of some other prep first.  All this is moot, however, because we used the instant brown rice from Aldi.  No recipe is going to include instructions on how to make instant rice.

Back to the real issue here: why am I not eating that broccoli right now?  This cup of tea, could it be filled with broccoli instead?  I think D and I will keep this recipe in mind, but probably just for the broccoli.

(over)spiced pork chop with couscous

Spiced pork chop with couscous

easy there, hard charger...

easy there, hard charger…

Another meal in the magazine without a recipe online.  You’ll see an abridged version after the jump.  Gee…I wonder why B and G saved these ones for last?  🙂

The most important thing to say is that the spice mixture is nice, but a little much.  It calls for 1 t paprika and 1/2 t cinnamon…on one pork chop.  That’s way too much paprika and cinnamon for one human to eat on pork.  I very much enjoyed it for about 1/2 of the chop before I got tired of it.  I think you can get away with spicing two or more chops with as much as it calls for for one chop. That’s how I rewrote the recipe.  Also, if you’re someone who hates cinnamon on savory foods, cut way back or cut it out.  Somehow, the cinnamon flavor roars through all that paprika, pork, and everything else on the plate.  You’d better love savory cinnamon recipes.

The couscous didn’t get fully cooked, and I should have remembered that from the zucchini fish dish.  I very much loved the golden raisins in there, although I think you could get away with normal raisins.  The lemon zest and juice really pulled it all together.  It’s a great side with a flawed main dish.

I will say that it’s a quick recipe.  Plus, it only messed up two pans and one cutting board.

Continue reading

Iceland is expensive

Lamb chops with garlic parsley crust*

Issue 45 September 2007 p. 66-68 (no link found online)

Rice pilaf with vermicelli

p. 130

getting all artsy with the angles

getting all artsy with the angles

Shopping at Whole Foods makes me lose all sense of the value of money.  Everything is so expensive, and you’ve already committed yourself to shopping at Whole Foods, so you might as well just go nuts.  I can’t seem to make it out of there without panicking and buying a bottle of wine from a display just because it said something vague like “yummy with beef.”  Yummy with beef?  I’d be stupid not to buy it!  $100 later, I trundle out to the car a broke(n) woman.

This trip was no different.  You see, this recipe calls for a lamb chop.  Does lamb have a season?  It should be spring, right?  Because that’s when baby animals are born?  Something about Easter?  Anyway, my goofy grocery store has entire sides of lamb around Easter.  I don’t want to talk about what a side of lamb looks like sitting in a meat case.  It looks sad.  Anyway, when I went shopping neither the sides of lamb nor any other pieces of the lamb were available.  I should have tried a couple local butchers in the neighborhood.  I really should have.  But my grocery store was also all out of yellow squash.  What magical place would have out-of-season meat and out-of-season vegetables?  Probably Whole Foods.  Sigh.  Whole Foods also sells bulk bacon, which is nice for when you just need it for a recipe and don’t want to buy a whole pound.

*panicked breathing*

*panicked breathing*

I’ll cut to the chase.  I purchased $17.99 per pound Icelandic lamb chops. Here’s the actual text message exchange between B and me in response to these chops:

G: This lamb had better be spectacular.  $17.99/lb at whole foods.  Meep!

B: Gah!  That’s ridiculous!!!  [Did] the sheep graze in pristine alpine meadows and drink nothing but glacial spring water?!

G: Im sure they lived an infinitely better life than I have.  In Norway.  That’s right.  Norway.

B: Well I hear the Scandinavians have a great lifestyle

. . .

G: Oh and the lamb was from Iceland.  Even more absurd.  But oh was it good!!

B: Yum!  Maybe the lamb regularly immersed itself in hot springs to make it extra tender.  That might make it worth $17.99 /lb

Hot spring bath or no, this was very good lamb.  It was delicious and tender and lovely.  In fairness to the good people at MSLO, this is supposed to be a Cooking for One recipe.  I could have saved money by not feeding D.  The spinach was nice, but it was really just there as a foil for that lovely lamb.  If you make this, and I hope you do, please note that there is no reason (except for fussiness) not to get your lemon wedge from the same lemon that provided the zest.  It’s an ugly wedge, but it saves you from buying another lemon just for the wedge.  Also, be confident, but gentle, when placing these chops in the pan.  Press all you like, these suckers are going to shed some crust when you place them and when you flip them.  Speaking of which, take their advice and use tongs.  Finally, wipe out the skillet with a paper towel between the lamb and the spinach.  Because the lamb chops shed some of their topping, some of it gets burned sitting in the oil with no lamb to keep it in check.  There’s really no reason to cook the spinach in burned crumbs.

The rice pilaf was a rice pilaf.  It was buttery.  It was a little rich with the butter and broth, but not too much so.  It had pasta in it, which is always nice.  Here’s a question, dear readers, do you recognize this as Rice a Roni (the San Francisco treat)?  The MSLO website tries to be coy about this by calling it “our homemade rendition of a long-popular packaged side…”  Nudge. Wink.  Another question: D and I both grew up believing that the long pieces in Rice a Roni were long grains of rice.  Anyone else think this?  It’s ok to admit it.  This recipe reveals that those are, of course, pieces of pasta.

I did not, in fact, use vermicelli.  I used what Aldi calls whole wheat “thin spaghetti.”  What is vermicelli if not thin spaghetti?  Speaking of the pasta, the recipe has you cut the pasta into little pieces with kitchen shears and set it aside before you cook the rest.  This is dumb for a couple reasons.  First of all, you add the rice, pasta, and oil together before you cook them all for 3-5 minutes.  That gives you enough time to snip the little pasta pieces into the pan while the other ingredients get started.  All you sacrifice is a little extra cooking of the raw pasta strands.  Second, cutting the pasta over the pot contains the wildly ricocheting strands and keeps you from having to gather all that up again into a nice, neat pile until you’re ready for them.  Just cut the pasta over the pot when it’s time to add it.

It’s a nice side, and it complemented the lamb and spinach very nicely.  Oh, and in a little more blog synergy, we had the citrus spritzers as a before dinner drink.  Stay tuned for more about that.

*Recipe for the chops and spinach

prep time: 20 minutes; total time: 25 minutes.  This recipe is pretty much all prep and very brief periods of cooking

(NOTE: original recipe is a Cooking for One recipe.  I doubled it to feed me and D)

  • 2 T plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 t grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedge for serving (if you don’t care if it’s cute, you can get the wedge from the denuded lemon)
  • 4 t olive oil, divided
  • 4 loin lamb chops (3-5 oz each)
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, stems trimmed (I don’t think I actually doubled this part.  I thought a whole bunch of spinach per person seemed excessive, even if it is cooked down)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, zest, and 2 t of the oil; season with salt and pepper.  Dividing that breadcrumb goo equally between the four chops, press the mixture firmly on one side of the chop.  This works…ok.  Just press hard, set it to the side on a flat surface and resign yourself to a mess.
  2. In a non-stick skillet, heat the remaining 2 t oil over medium.  Working gently, but confidently and quickly (lest the crumbs fall off) place the chops, crumb side down; season with S & P again.  Cook until crust is browned, 3-4 minutes; using tongs, turn even more gently than you did before, and cook 4-6 minutes more for medium rare.  Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil just to keep the chops warm.  Wipe out the skillet because there are probably burned bits in it.
  3. Add spinach to skillet; season with S & P.  Cook, tossing, until wilted, 1-3 minutes.  Serve lamb with spinach and lemon wedges.

-adapted from Everyday Food Issue 45 (September 2007) p. 66-68