Playing with my food

Meal planning has led to great productivity in my kitchen and less eating out. Huzzah! I used to think that meal planning was for people with no creativity or spontaneity, and I never thought I'd sit down to plan out a whole week of meals at once, but it turns out to be pretty fun, and it helps me feel more efficient at the grocery store. Anilia got me a cute little notebook for my birthday that has become my meal planning notebook, and my plan is to flip back through it every time I feel like we're in a food rut. This week's inspiration came from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook, a James Beard Award winner that's full of great vegetarian dishes. I don't use a cookbook for every meal; sometimes all I need to see is an interesting ingredient that reminds me of something else, and it sort of spins out from there. It's a stream-of-consciousness thing, though I try to craft a shopping list at the same time and think of dishes that will reuse the same components in different ways from one day to the next.

This was an exciting weekend of cooking and baking. I started by making bagels on Saturday, following Jeannette's helpful recipe. I enlisted Kent's "help" during several steps of the process, from mixing and kneading to poking holes in the balls of dough to putting stuff on top (or, in his case, deciding that he wanted all of his to be plain). It was a lot of fun for both of us. He doesn't quite have an appreciation yet for how long it takes to make certain things like bread, so I'm trying to teach him about delayed gratification through direct experience. He thought kneading was great, and he kept picking up flour and bits of dough off the counter and smooshing them into the ball of dough. I remember when I was a kid, watching and sort of helping my grandmother bake bread, and my grandfather bake pretzels, and I never felt like my hands were nearly strong enough to knead the dough. So maybe Kent will feel that way too, but I still like seeing him get flour all over his hands. The bagels were great, and they've been eaten in various manifestations over the weekend.

To celebrate the start of blueberry season, we got our first farmer's market blueberries on Saturday, and we made scones yesterday morning. (I'm still grateful to Joanna for leading me to this recipe — it's amazing!) Kent can't really say words that start with "s" and another consonant, so he was saying "scone" the same way he says "stone" and seemed to think they were roughly the same thing. He kept yabbering on about The Sword in the Stone. Even if he had understood what they were, he doesn't like things with blueberries in them, so he didn't really partake and just wanted another bagel for breakfast that day. That kid loves his bagels. He even wanted to try one with sesame seeds on it.

The really exciting cooking endeavor this weekend was the inaugural use of my mandoline that Jack got me for my birthday. It's been sitting in its box for two weeks, waiting patiently for me to pull it out and use it, and yesterday it finally got its big chance. First, I have to remark on how impressed I am with German engineering. This thing is so well-designed. Even the little manual is cool. After reading the directions, I set about slicing some vegetables to make a strata, sort of like lasagna but with veggies for the layers instead of noodles. I sliced eggplant with the thicker of the two settings, then roasted it, and I used the thinner setting for zucchini and tomatoes, which I just added raw. I was just falling over myself with excitement about my little zucchini ribbons and paper-thin tomato slices. I mixed up a ricotta sauce on the stove, then started layering everything, with a layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom to help hold everything together, then tomato sauce, ricotta, vegetables, and mozzarella in random order. It was amazingly good. I didn't miss the noodles at all. And now I'm really eager to use my mandoline to julienne something... probably carrots to go in tonight's buckwheat soba noodles (Japanese noodles roughly the thickness of spaghetti). It's like using a fabulous new toy. A sharp, dangerous toy that could cut off part of my finger. That's the best kind, right?

After dinner, I realized that I had been meaning to make granola all weekend but hadn't gotten around to it. I've never been 100% happy with any granola I've made, so I wanted to look online for a new recipe, and I found Elie Krieger's simple granola recipe with great reviews and decided to give it a shot. She calls for using several different kinds of nuts, but since we live in Louisiana, I wanted to use only pecans. I also left out the raisins, since I'm not a big fan of raisins in stuff. And I realized that I had bought quick oats at the store instead of old-fashioned oats, but I used them anyway and they seem alright. The granola is seriously addictive. I wanted to eat all of it last night after I pulled it out of the oven.

It feels weird to be making a long cooking post without any photos, but that's pretty much my life right now. Not quite enough time or brainpower to remember to pull out the camera in the midst of the cooking process. I did consider photographing our half-eaten strata last night, but that would just have been silly. You'll have to use your imaginations.




Post a Comment

<< Home



what I read

where I go