How’s your burger?

Pesto chicken burger

Sigh.  Too bad the tomato falling off of it looks like a tongue.  :(

Sigh. Too bad the tomato falling off of it looks like a tongue. ūüė¶

This is yet another recipe where several liberties were taken, but it all ended up for the best.¬† First of all, ground chicken?¬† No.¬† Ground turkey was at Aldi so that is that.¬† Second, foccacia bread?¬† Anything I found was kinda skimpy and flat and didn’t seem like it would make much of a burger bun.¬† So I bought pretzel buns.¬† No regrets.¬† From there, I just followed the recipe.

I love that this recipe mixes in some spinach with the basil in the pesto and uses walnuts instead of pine nuts.  Anything to make things cheaper, but still taste good, is a good idea by me.

And this is just a tasty burger option.  The fresh mozzarella and the grilled tomato were all so squishy and wonderful.  The pesto gave it just enough bite.  The burger itself was earthy and pleasant.  D and I ate it out on our back porch and had a wonderful summer evening.

…Yes, that title is a Dumb and Dumber reference.¬† Once again, G dates herself almost to the second.

Balsamic vinegar: two truths and a lie

Have you tried? Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic-glazed pork chops

Pork chop with special appearance by my mom's dishes

Pork chop with special appearance by my mom’s dishes

Spinach salad with salmon

mmmm...goat cheese and pecans

mmmm…goat cheese and pecans

The first two are a very nifty make-ahead combo. ¬†You make a balsamic (side note: am I the only one who thought there was another “L” in that word? ¬†As in “balsalmic?” ¬†I’m pretty sure I’ve heard people pronouncing it that way. ¬†Have I been embarrassing myself? ¬†…let’s move on) rosemary vinaigrette and use 2/3 of it to marinate and baste some pork chops and the other 1/3 as a dressing for a salad. ¬†I loved the pork chops. ¬†My mom is pretty much the master of pork chops, so I let her follow her own lead on how to cook these. ¬†I believe she did use the broiler, but all of the times were out the window. ¬†You don’t actually taste the vinegar so much as you just taste a nice richness. ¬†It’s a good one.

The salad is so good. It has goat cheese AND pecans. ¬†Come on. ¬†I think you could easily swap something out for the salmon or leave it out entirely. The spinach and tomatoes are very good with the dressing. ¬†This is definitely a good “look at me. ¬†I’m so fancy” recipe. ¬†And it takes 10 minutes. ¬†We all need a couple of those recipes.

Balsamic-roasted pearl onions

With some kind of mushy beet and blue cheese risotto.

With some kind of mushy beet and blue cheese risotto.

And the onions? ¬†Yeah, about that…They tasted ok. ¬†It’s just that they burned so badly that they set off the smoke detector while the baby was sleeping. ¬†I don’t know whether I’m relieved or deeply disturbed that he slept through it. ¬†I will say that I immediately burst into action. ¬†By action I mean swearing like a sailor, flapping a towel at the smoke detector and screeching something to D about opening a window. ¬†What do the rest of you do when the smoke detector goes off? ¬†And that was at about 15 minutes. ¬†These things were allegedly going to roast for 25-30 minutes.

the scene of the crime

the scene of the crime

Maybe I had too few onions, which left a ton of open space on the sheet for vinegar to pool and start burning. ¬†I’ve been through this with Everyday Food before though. ¬†There was an infamous incident with some chicken thighs that were basted with marmalade and broiled. ¬†Something about sugar and fire. ¬†It just wants to burn. ¬†D suspects that they have a super intense hood on the range that they use to test all of these recipes. ¬†The hood on our range appears to just be a white noise machine. ¬†Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe. ¬†Maybe it’s a good one for a foil-lined grill basket outside? ¬†The smoke won’t bother you there.

Parchment Aplenty

Issue 69 had a feature on using parchment as a cooking method.  It had full meals, main dishes, sides, and even breakfast in a parchment.  So, here we go.

The first recipe I made was for a dinner party with the lovely neighbor.  I made the Chicken with Mango and Ginger.

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Not being a huge fan of spicy foods, I went easy on the jalape√Īo on my packet. ¬†Somehow it managed to impart a small amount flavor without much heat so it worked well for me. ¬†The ginger infused the chicken breast and the mango kept it nice and juicy. ¬†(Warning: the mango also made the entire packet pretty juicy so be sure to serve it with something that can absorb a lot of liquid — I went with coconut rice. ¬†It was a good decision.) ¬†This was a delicious recipe and I will most likely make it again in the future, especially when I need a tropical escape! ¬†I also think I might start pairing chicken and mango more often, grilled for example, or in a sandwich. ¬†Yeah, it’s a good match.

Next, I made the Eggs with Mushroom and Spinach.

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I’m not going to lie to you. ¬†I didn’t think this one was worth the effort of cutting the parchment (let alone any of the actual packaging of the ingredients into said parchment. ¬†To be fair, I did make this recipe on a day when I had chills and aches set in by mid afternoon (yep, the flu) so I may not have been a totally unbiased opinion on that day. ¬†I definitely didn’t feel any desire to finish eating my packet. ¬†I maybe made it through half. ¬†It was really plain and more or less boring. ¬†And when considering the effort put into fixing it, it just wasn’t worth it. ¬†I think I’d skip the parchment next time and just make a scramble. ¬†So much easier and the separate parts would work a bit better together that way.

Needless to say, after coming down with the flu, I didn’t do much cooking for a while. ¬†I ate soup. ¬†Soup from a can. ¬†Because I didn’t have the energy to eat anything else. ¬†And after the flop that was the eggs with mushrooms and spinach I wasn’t particularly tempted to make another parchment recipe. ¬†But I did. ¬†I made the Potatoes, Leeks and Carrots in Parchment.¬†

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It may not look that thrilling, but it tasted pretty decent.  This was another instance where I would normally have just roasted these vegetables together, because vegetables are more delicious when roasted.  But! This is the light issue (hence all the parchment) and by using steam trapped in the parchment to cook these veggies, they stayed pretty flavorful and required much less fat than when roasted.  In fact, the fat was optional in this method of cooking, so it has its perks.

Finally, I made the Broccoli, Asparagus, and Snap Peas in Parchment.  And as a bonus, I also made the Herbed Orzo.

Image 

This is probably the one parchment recipe that I think really benefits from this cooking method. ¬†Each of these vegetables is still super flavorful when steamed and don’t necessarily require anything added to make them awesome. ¬†We liked it so much that we made it two days in a row. ¬†Try it. ¬†Trust me. ¬†

The Herbed Orzo was slightly less exciting, but still an alternative to rice or potatoes so it might be a good thing to add to the mix. ¬†The main issue with this recipe is that I found out after I made it that the bear doesn’t like dill. ¬†And of course, I had decided that the main herb flavor would be dill‚Ķ I ate a lot of orzo that week.

And now, G will fill you in on the final parchment recipe! Go G!!!

Thanks, B!¬† I’m winding this one up with the Salmon with Green Beans and Lemon Zest

There's fish under there somewhere...

There’s fish under there somewhere…

This was definitely good and certainly easy enough.¬† I like cooking things en papillote (that’s French for “No, G, not papillon.¬† You’re thinking of the dog…or the Steve McQueen movie.”), but I will admit it makes me slightly nervous.¬† I don’t think I’d be able to make B’s chicken dish without ruining it by busting open the packet and checking it.¬† But I grew to love the method by making a very similar dish from a Rachael Ray recipe.¬† She inelegantly calls it Spanish Fish in a Sack.¬† You’ll see that recipe is much more involved than the one in EF here.¬† I think this recipe is a good, simple option.¬† The wide pieces of peel are a nice touch.¬† But…if I’m bothering to make parchment packets, I’m probably going to go with the Rachael Ray fish sack.¬† It’s just too good.¬†

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. ¬†ūüôā

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.

Put This One on Your SuperBowl Party Menu!!!

Spinach Pizza Rolls

The spinach makes this healthy, right?

The spinach makes this healthy, right?

So first, think of the texture of garlic knots.  Then think of the perfect level of salty -garlic-parmesan-mixed with herbs.  And you have the spinach pizza rolls.  Sure, the filling it pretty good too.  But the best part is the texture and the awesome flavor infused into the crust.

Is that a perfect golden brown or what?!

Is that a perfect golden brown or what?!

I would tell you I plan to make this again, but I’ve already done it. ¬†Yeah. ¬†I’ve made this twice in approximately two weeks. ¬†The frozen spinach and the store bought pizza dough makes it so easy. ¬†Next time you are craving garlic knots, skip them and make this instead!

Boxing Day bake

Emeril’s Christmas morning breakfast bake

Happy Boxing Day!

Happy Boxing Day!

My most-excellent husband made this one for me, so I’m pretty much just reporting on the results and noting a few things for other awesome people out there who want to make this for their loved ones. ¬†First, this is a great way to use up leftovers from a Christmas dinner. ¬†Hence, this is a Boxing Day bake. ¬†D used leftover ham in place of the Canadian bacon. ¬†Leftover ham? ¬†Who has leftover ham?! ¬†We had to leave later that day for D’s parents’ house, so we needed to use things up. ¬†Plus, the seasoning on the ham gave the casserole some extra flavor. ¬†D also substituted two 10 ounce packages of spinach (thawed, drained, etc) for the fresh baby spinach. ¬†I think we could have gotten away with just one package. ¬†This was a lot of spinach.

We can agree that looks like a lot of spinach, right?

We can agree that looks like a lot of spinach, right?

It was good, but it still would have been good with less spinach. ¬†As for other substitutions, instead of the 6 ounces of Gruyere, D used some leftover cheese from the charcuterie plate my brother and his girlfriend brought as an appetizer. ¬†Had we not already bought bread for this recipe, we could have used the leftover toast from that appetizer as well! ¬†This was very tasty and easy. ¬†I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to get out of town and use up some leftovers. ¬†In fact, we made a similar breakfast bake the day we left the vacation house this summer. ¬†I used up some random veggies, eggs, milk, and deli cheese that way. ¬†Funny how you can remember things without knowing that you’ve remembered them.

Remember how I mentioned that we had to leave that day? ¬†Well, we took this on the road with us. ¬†No, we didn’t sit in the car and eat casserole. ¬†We took in down to D’s parents’ house where it was well-received also. ¬†However, I must say that this dish isn’t very good after about a day or so. ¬†The ham gets dry and tough. ¬†On day three, I threw out most of a slice and discouraged his brother’s girlfriend from eating it. ¬†I wouldn’t have done that on day one, that’s for sure. ¬†Make this for a crowd, but don’t expect the crowd to eat it for days on end.

Vermonts-giving

A Very New England Thanksgiving starring B and G

not pictured (or discussed): nightmare radicchio slaw

not pictured (or discussed): nightmare radicchio slaw

We’ve got a holiday treat for you, dear readers.¬† A joint post about a joint meal!¬† B and I cooked this one when I visited her in Vermont.¬† I did sort of demand a ham for my visit.¬† B, being awesome, was happy to oblige.

Ham, spinach and cheese puff, and herbed mashed potatoes

Ham, spinach and cheese puff, and herbed mashed potatoes

Mmmm….ham…¬† I wish ham was a Thanksgiving thing for my family.¬† sigh.¬† I’ll let B describe how to make the ham.¬† I will have to add that we almost didn’t make the ham at all because the pilot went out in B and the bear’s oven, and we couldn’t figure out how to get it lit.¬† D figured it out via text message.¬† Good thing, too.¬† I googled how to cook ham in a slow cooker, but I wasn’t very optimistic…¬† Oh, B!¬† How do you make that ham of yours?

B here! ¬†D is a handy guy! ¬†G didn’t mention this, but in addition to not being thrilled about the crockpot ham options, our ham also did not fit into ¬†the crockpot so we could have had to do some pre-cooked carving. ¬†Let’s just say, disaster averted. ¬†Thanks for the help, D!

So ham. Not being a beef eater, I have a thing for ham. ¬†A big thing for ham. ¬†It is one of the reasons I ended my days as a vegetarian. ¬†The other reason was bacon‚Ķ so same thing in the end. ¬†The bear’s mother makes an awesome ham. ¬†She uses an old school recipe from an old school cookbook called¬†Yankee Magazine’s Favorite New England Recipes. ¬†

Basically, you put the ham, cut side down, ¬†in a pan lined with foil, making a little bowl around the base of the ham. ¬†Then you pour in a cup or so of apple cider, or Coke, or ginger ale. ¬†Then you cover it with another bit of foil and seal it together with the other piece of foil so the ham sort of steams in the sweet liquid. ¬†I can usually fit the ham in my dutch oven and still fit the lid on so I often do that instead of the foil. Then you let it bake at 325 for hours, 20 minutes per lb of ham. ¬†At the very end, you crank the heat up to 400 0r 450 and you glaze it. ¬†To glaze you have to take the ham out and¬†carefully score the skin in a diamond pattern so that glaze can stick. ¬†Then mix up about a cup of brown sugar, a couple table spoons of dijon mustard and just a little splash of apple cider. ¬†The glaze should be really thick, just wet to the point where the sugar is starting to dissolve a bit and stick together. ¬†It’s really just a splash or two, maybe 2 -3 tablespoons tops. ¬†Then drizzle it on and put the ham back in the oven to get awesome.

G also mentioned a gravy‚Ķ Once the ham is out of the oven there will be a ton of liquid. ¬†Some drippings that have come out of the ham and a lot of the cider left from cooking. ¬†Additionally, some of the brown sugar and mustard from the glaze has gotten into it so the flavor gets pretty awesome. ¬†I usually start the gravy in a brand new pan and just get the drippings into it however you know how. ¬†I usually use a turkey baster. ¬†Get some heat going underneath it, not too high. ¬†And slowly whisk in several tablespoons of flour or corn starch. ¬†It varies depending on how much drippings you have. ¬†If you don’t whisk and slowly add the flour in you are going to get lumps. ¬†You can also make a slurry if needed of your flour in some more cider instead, which should help with your lumping. ¬†And there you have it. ¬†Ham. ¬†Ham gravy. ¬†Good stuff.

On to the sides!

Spinach-and-Cheese puff

puff in B's lovely Le Cruset

puff in B’s lovely Le Cruset

G here.¬† The spinach puff was basically a way to make creamed spinach for a crowd.¬† It has nutmeg in it, which reminded us of how Rachael Ray always says that’s the secret to all of her spinach recipes.¬† Is it, Rach?¬† You tell us constantly.¬† The secret is out.¬† At this point, the secret would be to omit nutmeg.¬† Oh, and I have to recommend assigning a towel in your kitchen to be your “spinach towel.”¬† Otherwise, you can wind up with a random green-stained towel.¬† The first time I saw anyone on TV wring out spinach with a towel, it was a green towel.¬† That could not have been a coincidence.¬† Anything to add, Ms. B?

B here! I enjoyed the spinach puff, although I did sort of expect it to be a little bit more puff‚Ķ ¬†As in more souffl√© like. ¬†But it was a nice texture as is. ¬†And it’s nice being able to eat spinach without a giant puddle of spinach liquid pooling on the plate around it.

Herbed mashed potatoes

maybe not the greatest picture.

maybe not the greatest picture.

G’s back.¬† The mashed potatoes were pretty much B’s gig.¬† I really liked the herbs.¬† I thought it made for brighter mashed potatoes.¬† The challenge with Thanksgiving foods is to cut through all the richness.¬† At some point gravy tastes like turkey tastes like stuffing tastes like potatoes.¬† If you don’t mix it up a little, it’s so rich it’s bland.¬† The herbs play that role here.¬† I loved these potatoes.¬† How was it to cook them, B?

B again. ¬†It was like cooking‚Ķ mashed potatoes. ¬†Since we had the spinach puff on our table we opted to go with milk rather than half and half to cut the richness of the meal just a little bit. ¬†Don’t worry, I still used the butter! ¬†Also, since we had the scallions for the radicchio slaw‚Ķ we used those instead of chives. ¬†These taters were good! ¬†Even better when smothered in gravy!

G again. ¬†Well, we don’t need to belabor the point about how nasty the radicchio slaw was.¬† That’s been handled elsewhere.¬† Suffice it to say that that cider gravy will cover all manner of sins.

Oh, and the wine was a 2011 Cakebreads Chardonnay.  Cakebreads is hard to find in the Midwest.  This was not only available, it was only $40!  I think D and I paid double that the last time we bought a bottle.  Ah, Vermont.

Finally, there was dessert.¬† Having come all the way to the ancestral homeland of Ben and Jerry’s, I had to indulge.¬† So I tried many, many flavors.¬† My favorite flavor is Coffee Caramel Buzz (formerly known as Bonaroo Buzz), but my favorite combo is Phish Food and Peanut Brittle.¬† Since returning to Chicago, I’ve learned that you can only get one of those three, Phish Food, in town.¬† Sigh.¬† Guess I’d better go back to Vermont…¬† Will you have me, B?

B says‚Ķ Maybe‚Ķ I suppose I could pencil you in for 2014‚Ķ ūüôā

Pear Snacks!

Ok, I warned you there were a lot of pear recipes in this issue. ¬†Here is a rundown of the “snack” recipes. ¬†They are all so quick and simple they don’t really have recipes and therefore I have nothing to link to, but I’ll give you a good description. ¬†If you have October 2003, issue 6, you can find the details on page 30.

These pears are getting playful with some honey and toasted almonds.

These pears are getting playful with some honey and toasted almonds.

I have a bit of a thing for honey. ¬†I use it daily in my tea and like to include it in recipes whenever possible. ¬†I also want to keep bees someday (as soon as I have a yard really). ¬†Anyway, this recipe basically consists of slicing up some pear and drizzling it with some honey and toasted almonds. ¬†To toast the almonds just toss them in a dry pan over a medium to low heat and toss them around for a few minutes until you really start to smell the oils warming up. ¬†You can also do this in the oven but I like to be able to see/smell nuts as they are toasting to make sure they don’t burn. ¬†This was very simple and very tasty.

Pears and blue cheese should be besties...

Pears and blue cheese should be besties…

Here’s another super tasty and super easy “snack”. ¬†Slice up some pears, pile them on top of some mixed greens along with some blue cheese and some more almonds for good measure. ¬†We ate it with a nice light red wine vinaigrette. ¬†Super yummy and refreshing!

I had this snack waiting for the Bear when he got home from work one day.

I had this snack waiting for the Bear when he got home from work one day.

This “recipe” is even easier. ¬†Just wrap some prosciutto around pear quarters. ¬†It is really tasty although I was a bit disappointed by the deli prosciutto. ¬†It wasn’t sliced thinly enough for one. ¬†It also had some sort of curing salt/sugar mix still on the outside of it. ¬†(Wegman’s would never stand for this!)

There was one other pear snack that I failed to photograph. ¬†You take some store bought caramel sauce and drizzle or dip your pear slices into that. ¬†It’s an interesting alternative to the autumnal treat of apples in caramel sauce.

And there you have it. ¬†Try one, try all. ¬†I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

No, YOU make the lame pizzas!

Mini spinach and cheese pizzas

I'm no food critic, but I know what I hate.  And I don't hate this.

I’m no food critic, but I know what I hate. And I don’t hate this.

B¬†and I fought over this one and not in a good way. ¬†We both strongly believed that it was the least inspiring recipe in the entire issue. ¬†I thought it looked like the kind of junk meal that I come up with when I’m feeling lazy and I need to use up a bunch of ingredients. ¬†B theorized that it was in the issue because this is Lucinda Scala Quinn’s “feeling lazy” recipe. ¬†I fell on my sword and made it, reluctantly. ¬†It’s worse than that. ¬†D made it for me.

But. ¬†But! ¬†We were wrong about these pizzas. ¬†They aren’t mind-blowing, but they aren’t bad either. ¬†I think D came up with the secret. ¬†He added way more garlic. ¬†The recipe calls for 1 clove of garlic crushed through a press. ¬†That is combined with ricotta and oregano and spread on the split pitas before you top them with spinach and the mozzarella balls. ¬†D probably added 3 cloves of garlic. ¬†I knew I married that guy for a reason. ¬†It made all the difference. ¬†It took it from a bland pizza-like mass, to a garlicky pizza-like mass. ¬†Will I make it again? ¬†Probably not, but it wasn’t anything to dread.

This recipe, like pretty much all of the bocconcini recipes begs an important question, “Why do I need to buy these fussy little cheese balls?” ¬†They are more expensive than buying a ball of fresh mozzarella, and they taste the same. ¬†If you want to try one of these recipes, just buy a big ball of fresh mozzarella and cut it into cubes. ¬†It’s not as picturesque, but neither is this recipe, if we’re being honest.

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