Tag Archives: weeknight cooking

Office Lunch/Tiny Pride

Changes are afoot. Rather than working 9-5, we now work 8-6, which may not seem as vast a difference as it is. Oh, but it is vast! Such a radical shift in my schedule will undoubtedly impact — has already begun to impact — every aspect of my life: the social aspect, most notably, but also how I consider food.Will I begin to eat frozen entrees with greater regularity? (God, I hope not.) Will I eat out more? Will I make a big-ass batch of soup (or chili, or hearty grain salad) on Sunday and eat that for an entire week until I become so tired of that week’s dish that I enter an Involuntary Fast Mode? These questions remain to be answered.

What I can say is this: I’m damn proud that I cooked for myself last night. Got home at 7:08, had to be out the door not long after that, but I made one of my Quik & Ez Stir Frys. This particular stir fry was ultra-simple: trimmed asparagus, cubed tempeh, three cloves of garlic (minced). Seasoned this dish with Bragg’s, chili paste, sesame seeds, s&p, and ground ginger. Served it over udon. DONE!

Simple though it was, it was decidedly good — for once, I used the right amount of chili paste. More than that, though, it reminded me to remind myself of what’s important. Yeah, I was dog tired when I got home (not as tired as I am today, which, oof). Yes, I was craving The Simplest Carbs. For a glint, I convinced myself that a potato-chip dinner would be a more efficient option, but then I un-convinced myself.

Preparing and eating nourishing food is part of adulthood, and I’m an adult. I’ll intone this statement the next time I want to dive nose-first into a Sharing Size bag of Cheetos.

Oh! Finally, the second picture in this post is from Saturday’s dinner. I included it because the Instagram filter makes the halved heirloom tomato (top-right sector of the plate) look a bit like a snail(!) Didn’t taste like snail, however.

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Savory Bread Pudding: Weeknight Save

I got home late after the longest day at the office, and I was inches away from getting takeout. Yes: Kate getting takeout, one of the rarest naturally occurring phenomena. Papalote beckoned me; Serrano’s suddenly seemed like the tastiest slice in the world. I was about to duck into a bodega for a sleeve of Pop Tarts, but at the last second, I withdrew. I had big plans for a loaf of stale bread.

You see, I’d been saving this bread for bread pudding. I was thinking sweet, initially, but then recalled a Bittman recipe I’d seen for savory. It would be perfect for dinner — the day had been cool, and I envisioned myself all wrapped up in a blanket, listening to Cat Power, eating a bowl of the pudding: Max Coziness. The power of this image was able to destabilize my momentary laziness, and I got to work.

My pudding was a modification of Mark Bittman’s Savory Bread Pudding, the recipe for which can be found here. Curious about the tweaks I made? Read on:

  • I reduced the amount of milk from 2 cups to 1.5 cups. BUT, to prevent the pudding from becoming too dry, I added two beaten eggs to the milk mixture.
  • I only used parmesan cheese (maybe 3 ounces? I didn’t measure) because I was too lazy to grate any mozzarella. Ooops.
  • In addition to sautéed shiitakes, I added garlic powder, minced green onions, and golden raisins to the bread mixture — worked like a charm!

How was the end result? See for yourself:

 My first bite was a timid one: I had small doubts about my willy-nilly inclusion of raisins. My second bite was much larger: the sweet raisins tasted perfect alongside the earthy mushrooms. Bittman, those mushrooms were a good call — without them, this dish would have tasted like, uh, bread soaked in milk and then baked for a bit. With them, the pudding was a real meal.

Next time around, I’m going to add some toasted nuts (toasted pistachios, or maybe pecans) and some additional sautéed veggies, just for healthiness’ sake. I might also bake the pudding for 3 – 5 minutes longer. (Note: The range is 35 – 40 minutes; my pudding baked for 37 and could have been a tetch crisper.)

As I set about my dinner prep last night, my roommate Scott asked if I’m “always in a cooking mood.” The short answer is no, I’m not. Last night, I was especially not in a cooking mood, but overcoming that initial stubbornness made my dinner all the more enjoyable: not only did I sidestep takeout temptation, but I felt good about having achieved something tangible at the end of a crazy day. I felt good about using that stale bread, and I felt good eating a warm meal. So many good things — I’ll remember these things the next time I feel like a cereal dinner.

Guess What Time It Is?

If you guessed Roast Chicken O’Clock, you win an imaginary Internet prize!

Yes, it’s that time again: the time when all ladymagz run articles about mitigating holiday weight gain, shitty Xmas tunes dominate the airwaves, and we dream about roast chicken for dinner.

Funny story about this chicken: it was intended for Thanksgiving — we were worried we wouldn’t have enough turkey — but we saved it until now. Right now. (Note 1: Don’t worry, the bird was in the freezer. I don’t want you thinking we keep leftovers for weeks & weeks, Hoarders-style. Not that you have any reason to believe I’m a hoarder or anything. I’M NOT!) (Note 2: I realize now that the story isn’t that funny, but it seemed consequential to me; the chicken is a meta-leftover, or a not-yet-formed but somehow leftover leftover. GOD! There’s a reason I wasn’t a philosophy major.)

Enough pseudophilosophizing; here’s the breakdown of our dinner.

First, we cleaned and dried the chicken, and then we quartered an onion and a lemon and stuffed the cavity. We also added some bacon lardons and chopped mushrooms to the roasting pan (mmmmm, lardons!). We cooked the chicken using Mark Bittman’s method: 20 minutes at 500 and a longer time (45 minutes) at 375. This method browns the chicken skin andallows the bird to remain juicy = best of both worlds. Thanks, Mark!

This is Zuni's chicken, but guess what? Ours looked basically identical, right down to the sprigs of rosemary. Oh, yeah: we're that good.

[Image source]

The chicken (spoiler alert) was killer, but do you know what may have been more killer? Our roasted potatoes. Baked at the same time as the bird, these potatoes developed a crisp exterior and maintained their pillowy soft centers. If you’d care to replicate this Dinner of Wonder, you can probably find Bittman’s chicken instructions online (or in, you know, one of his cookbooks), and you can find our potato recipe right freaking here.

Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary, Bacon, and Smoked Paprika (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • Six small potatoes, scrubbed and dried
  • A healthy dose of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Maldon salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • Fresh rosemary, chopped to your liking
  • Lardons made from approximately three strips of bacon
  • Three cloves garlic, minced
  • Approximately 3 teaspoons smoked paprika

Method

  1. Chop your potatoes into roughly equal-sized chunks. I say chunks because I like bigger potatoes, but if you prefer doll-sized bites, chop accordingly. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl.
  2. Mince your garlic and chop your rosemary (as much or as little as you please) and bacon. Leave them on your cutting board, for the time being.
  3. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to the potatoes, coating evenly. Then add your garlic, rosemary, and bacon. Incorporate these ingredients well.
  4. Transfer potatoes to a baking dish and sprinkle with smoked paprika. (Sadly, I didn’t witness the actual sprinkling, so I’m not sure how much paprika Alex used, but my guess is 3 tsp.)
  5. Bake potatoes using the same method you use to bake your chicken: 20 minutes at 500, reduce heat to 375, and cook potatoes until they seem done. We let the taters cook for as long as the chicken cooked, and (miraculously) they didn’t burn. But, if you’re worried about such things (burned potatoes), feel free to remove them earlier.

    The secret ingredient.

[Image source]

If you do nothing else this weekend, try these potatoes. I’m a recovering potato hater, and I went back for seconds of this side. As mentioned previously, these spuds have a far better texture than their cousins. In addition, the bacon and paprika gave the dish a smoky flavor that supported the chicken (and the sesame chard: the third element of our dinner trifecta). I’d go so far as to say these were restaurant-grade potatoes — or better. Bold words, for sure, but deservedly bold words. Trust me on this.

***

NOTE: Sadly (and foolishly), I didn’t take any photos of this meal. My reasons are threefold: First, my phone was in the other room and I was just too damn lazy to get it. Second, we didn’t eat until 9:30, at which point the living room was DARK and the photos would have been mighty blurry. Finally, by the time we ate, I was so hungry that Instagram was the last thing on my mind. Sorry, dudes: you’ll have to sate yourself with the Internet Food Porn I’ve scavenged.

& Cream

Years ago, I dated a guy who called me “Peach Pit.” Seemingly cute, the nickname is (upon further consideration) less-than-flattering. The pit, after all, is the gnarled, shrunken, crusty-colored nucleus of the fragrant fruit. Why didn’t duder call me “peach,” instead? Hard to say — well, not that hard: this guy was, in many regards, a doucher — but I choose to believe that the name hinted at my necessity to the rest of the being — my regenerative qualities, perhaps?

No matter: Peach Pit’s alliteration is cute, and peaches aren’t anything without the pit, amirite?

I’ve been thinking about peaches lately — not in an abstract sense, but in a very practical, “Hmmm, I’ve got two peaches on my table that are soon-to-spoil” sense. Last week, intending to make a cobbler, I bought a bunch of peaches — five or six. Then — doi! — I realized that making a cobbler just for myself wasn’t the wisest idea*. I rationalized that I could make a series of individual cobblers: single-serve desserts made for me, by me, to order! But you know what? That seemed like a pain in the ass; also, I don’t have any tiny, ovenproof dishes.** Long story short, I bought too many peaches, and the two I had left were a wee bit overripe.

What did I do? Throw those peaches out? NO! To do that would be to incur the long-distance wrath of my mom, a longtime crusader against food waste. Naw, people: I made a randomass baked dessert, pictured here:

Before being baked.

Ready to be eaten.

It’s quite simple to make. Here’s the method:

  1. Take a peach (or nectarine) that’s too soft for normal, everyday eating.
  2. After washing said peach, slice it in half and remove the pit.
  3. Fill the pit cavity with brown sugar — amount to be determined by you!
  4. Top the peach with shredded coconut. Again, use as much or as little as you like.
  5. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 – 12 minutes, or until the peach looks soft and the coconut is gently browned.
  6. Enjoy with a glass of wine. Or not, but I opt for wine.

The benefits of this dessert, pêche a la Gark, are manifold:

  • The dessert helps you use up about-to-spoil fruit
  • The dessert is a dessert
  • The dessert is healthier than peanut M&Ms, donuts, Pop Tarts, and many other things
  • The dessert may trick people into thinking you know how to prepare innovative stuff, when really you just topped a peach with a bunch of stuff and popped it in the oven

What are you waiting for? Aren’t those peaches (or nectarines) ripe enough? Until they are, you could sate your sweet tooth with cobbler. Incidentally, if you made cobbler, save me a slice.

***

*It’s not the worst idea, either — I wouldn’t have minded eating cobbler for every meal, but the Rational Adult in me thought better of it.

**Hey you! If you’d like to get me some tiny, ovenproof dishes as a housewarming gift, I wouldn’t be averse. Just saying. Failing that, I’ll probably schlep to Sur la Table in the next week or two, because I’m sold on the idea of personal cobblers.