When I grow up…

I want to write a cookbook.

I’ve always wanted to write one. This blog was started 18 months ago because I wanted to create a platform for myself where I could be start to collect and test recipes. Since I’m at the very beginning of this project—no recipes written down, just lots of scribbles in a notebook beginning– I’ve decided to fill the next two weeks with research. I’m revisiting some of my favorite cookbooks.

One of my new favorite books is One Part Plant.

The more I read about vegetarian and vegan cooking, the more compelling I find it. Jessica Murnane embraced a vegan diet after being diagnosed with endometriosis. Transitioning to a plant-based diet helped her manager her symptoms. Her journey is deeply personal, and it inspired me to reassess the way I think about the food on my table.

As an avid and enthusiastic snacker, the first recipe I tested came from the snack section. The pistachio-coconut bars are winners.  They didn’t take very much time or energy, and they were the perfect lunchbox snack all week.

Jessica now helms a movement—she’s inspiring people to eat one entirely plant-based meal everyday day. I picked up Jessica’s book because I’m vegan-curious. I don’t think my household could handle a switch to a vegan diet. I would have to pry the half and half from Jacob’s cold, dead hands. But I realize that I pick up chicken thighs or pork chops more out of habit than out of craving. Jessica’s book was the latest book to interrupt that. In the last year, writers like Jessica have encouraged me to rearrange my dinner table, putting vegetables at in the center of my dinner table.

So, readers, what are you favorite vegetarian dinners?

 

 

Recipes I cooked this weekend

Jacob had a busy weekend of sermon writing, so I spent my weekend in the kitchen tackling some of the recipes I collected over the week.

Frangipane-Prune Tart, Tejal Rao of NYTimes Cooking

I love frangipane tarts. I’ve made them with strawberry jam, roasted cherries, poached pears or apples, but never dried fruit. The tea-infused prunes have a jammy texture and a savory, raisiny (technical term) flavor. Next time I might sweeten the prunes with a little brown sugar, but overall it was a very successful dessert.

Swedish Meatballs, also from NYTimes Cooking

Perfect for a 50 degree Saturday evening, served over silky mashed potatoes and roasted veg. I did not have allspice, so I swapped all the spices for garam masala. The results were delicious, if nontraditional. I froze half for a quick weeknight dinner later on. They’ll be delicious wrapped in pita or na’an with raita.

Smitten Kitchen’s Pizza Dough

Encouraged by Deb Perelman’s insistence that it is easy enough for a weeknight, I decided to make own pizza dough. This came together in a few minutes late Sunday evening and spent the day raising in the fridge. After an hour on the kitchen counter, it was ready to turn to pizza Monday night! I topped it with lots of veggies and a little salami so Jacob didn’t rebel against me. Also, I doubled this recipe so it filled an entire sheet pan because leftover homemade pizza is the opposite of a sad desk lunch.

cooking for yourself is really hard

I’m the first to admit it.

My favorite part of cooking is the part where you get to share what you cooked with other people.

Jacob was out of town today and Hamlet doesn’t eat people food.

I did not cook dinner today, but I had a twelve course dinner.

The menu:

  1. a fist full of crispy chickpeas from Trader Joe’s
  2. a few Goldfish
  3. an apple
  4. a martini
  5. a scoop of Ciao Bello Blood Orange Sorbetto (my latest obsession)
  6. Leftover pinto beans on toast (which I suppose could be considered the main course)
  7. a handful of radishes
  8. a few slices of pepperoni
  9. another scoop of the Sorbetto
  10. another scoop of the Sorbetto
  11. more goldfish
  12. another martini

You know that feeling where you didn’t eat dinner but some how you still feel like you ate a lot? Yeah…

dinner parties are important

So, I was doing this national blog post month challenge where I was posting something everyday in November.  And I was doing really well until Donald Trump was elected to the presidency and that really gutted me.

But we have to pick ourselves up and start taking care of ourselves and our friends.

I’ve learned in the last week that most of the people I know were profoundly unprepared for the results of Tuesday’s election.  They are shocked, amazed, scrambling to make sense of it.  And we need support in trying to decide what we need to do next.

So I’m advocating for dinner parties.

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Roasted oysters

I went to a great one on Saturday.  Our church hosts an annual oyster roast.  Someone drives out to Mount Pleasant, SC and comes back with a truck full of oysters, builds a small inferno in the church parking lot, and roasts them.  They hire a band.  Everybody brings a cooler full of beer and wine.  It was a good reminder that investing in community and relationships during difficult times is profoundly important.  These are the people who will hold me up.

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Oyster roasting inferno

So throw a dinner party with the people who will hold you up.

And when you do, make this cocktail for them:

Cuban Mule

2 oz. white rum, such as Bacardí Superior

4 oz. ginger beer, such as Fever Tree or Maine Root (something really spicy)

1/2 a lime

crushed ice

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Cocktail Selfie, photobombed by the dog

This is an obvious variation on the Moscow Mule.

Pack a 20 oz. copper mug or a 16 oz. highball glass with ice.  Add the rum, lime juice, and ginger beer and give it a good stir.

I pick rum instead of the traditional vodka for a mule because I like it better.  I love the sweetness of the rum in contrast to the spicy ginger.

I Dropped the Ball

If I had a big back yard, a fire pit, and a big flat screen TV, tomorrow night I would be throwing a killer election night party. I had a brilliant idea on my way home.

The menu theme would be “Thanks, Obama.” Chicago style hot dogs and deep dish pizza.  In honor of Michelle’s garden and health initiative, a salad of seasonal roasted vegetables.  There would craft beers from Chicago.  Martinis, just because. There would be rice krispie treats with red, white, and blue M&Ms on top.

I would have invited everyone end encouraged them to save all of the political mailers they had received since the beginning of the season.

And we would have burned them in a magnificent bonfire.

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Collard Greens

This is one of the recipes I taught myself when I started dating a man from Appalachia and was determined to keep him.

Most recipes are about 25% ham hock. The cook boils ham hocks for a few hours, shreds the meat from the bone, and layers the meat and greens together in the pot along with vinegar and hot peppers. The results are luscious, but for my city boy palate a little too porky and not enough vegetable-y.

So I set out to make a pot of greens that would make a city boy like me and a country boy like him happy. This recipe is a hybrid of some of the best ideas I read. Beer. Cider Vinegar. Hot peppers. Garlic. Plus, I was pretty sure none of his family members cooked them in beer. I figured they wouldn’t taste like imitation Appalachian greens.

When I served them to him, he told me, “I know a lot of people who make greens who would be mad about how good these are”

 

Collard Greens

  • 3 oz bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 or 2 hot red pepper such as Fresno chile, a pinch of dry red pepper flakes, or a couple of jalapeños depending on how hot you like it and of course how hot the pepper
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced finely.
  • 1 12oz beer
  • ½ c. cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½- 2 pounds collard greens, shredded

In pot large enough to hold your greens, cook the bacon over medium high heat until it fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. It is important to fully cook the bacon at this stage or the bacon will stay chewy in the final dish. Once the bacon has cooked, turn down the heat add the onion and peppers, and cook until the onion is brown and tender. Allow this to take its time, usually 7-10 minutes. The more browned and caramelized the onions and peppers get, the more delicious the final dish will be.

Once the onions have caramelized add the beer, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce, and bring to a rolling boil. Add the greens a few handfuls, stirring as necessary. Season with a generous pinch of salt and bring the pot down to a simmer. Cook for another 45 minutes to an hour, until the greens are tender. Season the finished greens with salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste.

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Tips:

There’s no reason to exclusively use collards. A combination of any dark greens you like would be delicious! If you’re dark greens like kale or collards aren’t your thing, try replacing half of the collards with green or savoy cabbage for a sweeter flavor.

Don’t pick an a swanky craft IPA with too much personality for this dish.  Stick with an ale or lager.  I like Bell’s Brown Ale or Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s  Mecktoberfest. Beer with bitter notes will only get more bitter as it cooks down.

Serving suggestions:

I always enjoy this with a roast chicken and some biscuits.

The next day, I like to toast the leftover biscuits, pile some leftover greens on top, fry an egg and pile that onto of the greens for a sort of “Eggs Appalachian” or “Appalachian Benedict.” Let me know which name you prefer!

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