Vegetarian


Yesterday was our wedding anniversary, and like many other special occasions we have shared in the past, we celebrated in our traditional manner: I drove him to the airport.

The husband travels often… this has been a norm since the day I met him, so we are both comfortable with the comings and goings and the time apart. It has helped us to foster independence from each other and keeps us from taking each other for granted.

In the beginning, one of my biggest challenges when he was gone was cooking dinner for just lil ol’ me.  I love to cook. I find so much comfort in cooking for my friends and loved ones, but it just seemed sad and pointless to cook for myself. I’d end up eating toast with peanut butter or a bowl of cereal or canned soup… some pathetic excuse for a meal that would leave me feeling even more lonely and unsatisfied than a night without my husband.

Recently, I’ve found joy in these dinners for one. So much of my normal meal planning centers around pleasing my husband… not because I feel like I have to please, but just that I want to please, to delight, to nourish. Cooking is an act of love. So I finally realized that on these solo nights, I should show myself the same care, love, and joy that I would show my husband or my friends.

Last night I came home and my best friend called. We talked for a good hour and a half, and it was almost 8 p.m. by the time we said our goodbyes… and I hadn’t even thought about dinner. I was hell bent on watching a movie too, and since I like to be in bed well before 11, time was quickly slipping through my fingertips.

I didn’t make it to the farmer’s market this weekend, so my veggie selection was sparse (to say the least). A few small zucchini and some sad looking green onions were all that remained in the crisper from last week’s trip.

I rummaged around the pantry cupboard and pulled out a can of black beans and a can of fire roasted tomatoes. I started some water boiling on the stove for a quick polenta (though any grain would work with this), and got to work on a very quick dinner for one. From start to finish, this took me about 15 minutes to prepare. To make things even easier, you could use those microwaveable brown rice packets from Trader Joe’s frozen food section. As I mentioned above, I was limited in my vegetable selection, but any fresh vegetables you have on hand could work well in this.

  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped 
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 can black beans, loosely drained
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes, diced with juice

 

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and stir for 1 minute, add the zucchini and the spices. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the black beans and tomatoes, simmer until heated through.

 

Serve over prepared polenta, brown rice, couscous, quinoa, or cornbread.

Our cellar master made lunch today at the winery to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. “Happy Cuatro de Mayo,” we teased him.

Potato tacos are the ultimate Mexican comfort food. Lightly spiced mashed potatoes spooned into homemade corn tortillas, closed with toothpicks, and deep fried to a golden crisp. Add homemade salsa, shredded cabbage, queso cotija, and a squeeze of lime. The initial crunch of the taco gives way to the warm, softness of the potato within. It’s just one more way to make mashed potatoes even better.

I lost count of how many I ate. But what the hell… Cuatro de Mayo only comes once a year.

Happy 2007!

Ready to break your New Year’s Resolutions? Yeah, I thought so.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to take more pictures of my food. Obviously, I’ve already slipped. Sorry folks.

Our New Year’s Eve feast consisted of grilled steak, dungeoness crab, and potato-fennel gratin (oh, and LOTS of champagne, tinted pink with a splash of homemade, pomegranate-infused vodka), so last night I complained to the husband that I just wanted something “light” for dinner when he suggested tri-tip sandwiches and fries at Firestone Grill.

Then I went into the kitchen and threw this together. Decidedly not light. But tasty and comforting, just the same. The nutmeg adds that little “Hmmm…. what is that flavor?” effect. I didn’t even miss the bacon. Okay, maybe I did. Just a little.

No-Bacon Carbonara

(adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist Cooks at Home)

 

  •  1/2 lb. spaghetti (I used whole wheat because I’m a hippy, and I only used 1/2 lb. because I cook for two. This gave us one generous serving for leftovers)
  • 1 large head broccoli, florets and stems trimmed and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated high quality cheese, Parmagiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (I used the Romano)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped herb, your choice: mint, basil, or parsley (I used parsley)
  • Heavy Cream (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Blanch the broccoli for 1 minute, using a colander or steamer basket, then pull the broccoli from the water, rinse and drain. Add the spaghetti to the still-boiling water, and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, stirring until fragrant. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges caramelize.

Combine the 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of the cheese and whisk to combine. Season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.

Once the pasta is done, drain and return to the pot, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Immediately add the egg mixture, and toss for several minutes, until egg appears cooked. Throw in the broccoli and  fresh herb, toss again to combine. Check for seasoning.

If you want a looser sauce, add either some of the reserved pasta water, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, or a splash of heavy cream (if you really want to ignore those resolutions!). I went for the cream.

Serve immediately.

Pass the remaining grated cheese at the table. Enjoy!

I’ve lost track of how many days it’s been since I blogged here. I’ve been better about keeping up with the other blog, but I’ll be honest. That one’s easy for me. I don’t have to worry about posting a recipe, or bemoan my lack of photos due to the missing digital camera, or justify the fact that I haven’t been to my farmer’s market for weeks… All I have to do is get to my mat every morning. A mat is much more portable than a kitchen, so I’ve been able to keep up with my yoga practice fairly well. My food practices…. well… I’ve done my best.

This week is the first that I’ve had trouble keeping up with my CSA. Today’s my next pick-up date, and I still have half a yellow watermelon, a large magda squash, two ears of corn, a head of butter leaf lettuce, a canteloupe, and a basket of small strawberries (untouched for good reason) in my fridge from last week. That, plus some tomatillos I found at my Co-Op and a few avocados from the winery. We’re scheduled to dine out both Thursday and Friday, so Saturday’s farmer’s market may be more of a spectator sport for yours truly this week.

Saturday’s farmer’s market! Oh, how I’ve missed it! I’ve been away almost every weekend. This week is a return to everything I’m familiar with: an 8 hour work day. Waking up next to my husband. Seeing the furry face of Kula (and the husband, although somewhat less furry most times). Weekends at home. Early Saturday mornings at the market, just as the fog begins to burn off. Lazy Sunday mornings in bed, reading. And finally, cooking. The cooking feels a bit rusty, I have to admit. My timing’s off. So I focus solely on one dish, then realize, “oh crap” the dish is done, but the accompanying side dishes have become a complete afterthought.

Oh, and the garden is a complete mess. My first summer squashes are beginning to come in, although I have no idea when I should pick them. How does one know? Also, I grew my plants from seed, then got them mixed up after the second replant. Now I don’t know which tomato plant is which. This wouldn’t be such a big problem except I planted some green, yellow, and orange heirlooms. Now I don’t know which tomatoes are ripe! I’m trying to go off of the squeeze test, but I’m just not 100% sure….

Speaking of tomatoes….

Since I’ve recognized my mistep in timing in the kitchen recently, I’ve taken to items that require either marinating or baking. Beyond this, it’s been way too hot to stand at a stove and sautee, so I prefer to throw something in the oven and escape onto the breezy patio for a glass of wine while we wait for our meal. This polenta dish requires a wee bit of stirring over heat, but I just solved that problem by putting the husband to work while I chopped tomatoes on the other side of the kitchen. He was, after all, already sweaty from his bike ride. So I didn’t feel bad at all. I love this dish served with a side of cuban black beans and a simple green salad with a citrus vinaigrette.
Summer Tomato Polenta Gratin

For the Polenta:

  • 1 3/4 cup milk (or soy milk for those lactarded like me)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • oil or butter

For the tomatoes:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion, white and green parts
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, grated (I used goat’s milk jack cheese)
  • 1/4 cup queso fresco, grated or crumbled (I used sheep’s milk feta)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

To make the polenta, combine the first three ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Gradually stir in the cornmeal, reduce heat to medium, and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until it is thick.

Grease an 8×8 glass pan with the oil or butter, and spread the polenta evenly along the bottom. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil and add the next 7 ingredients (through the garlic). Sautee for about 6 minutes until the tomatoes soften and begin releasing their juices. Remove from heat, and stir in the cilantro. Spoon the tomato mixture over the polenta, and add the cheeses.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.