What We’re Eating: Tomato Cobbler

Moving to a tiny apartment requires some compromise, even for people who own as few things as we do, and for us that really meant in the kitchen.  I can deal with having all our paintings, picture frames, books (well, almost all), and DVDs in storage, but I figured we would feel the culinary loss.  Still, determined not to let it bother me too badly, I planned a weekly menu that would be normal for us:

  1. Broccoli Stew (Hazel’s request for the week, and it was delicious if I do say so)
  2. Mushroom Polenta
  3. Tuna Steak with sauteed asparagus
  4. Cauliflower and Broccoli with a cheesy bechamel sauce
  5. Tomato Cobbler
  6. Tuna Noodle Casserole (no cans! and another Hazel request)
  7. Onion Anchovy Pasta
It’s an ambitious menu for a woman whose kitchen currently looks like this.  I mean, seriously – each section of countertop is too small to fit my favorite cutting board.  INCHES, people.  I need space for my boards.  BUT I have devised a system in which I put the board across the burners and prep everything beforehand, trying not to slam the butcher’s knife down too hard because it makes a rattly noise like a robot dying and wakes up Julia, and I cannot deal with Julia while I’m mise en placing all over the place.
But we love food, people, so I can’t just toss all our fun out of the window!  Ever ambitious, I saw this gorgeous recipe for Tomato Cobbler from the talented pair at Lottie & Doof and just had to try it.  I was a bit nervous about the biscuit topping; I mean, you should read those instructions.  They’re so nonchalant, and nonchalant is NOT what I feel when I think of making biscuits.  I think of sloppy hands, tough chewy flour-tasting balls of nasty.  I’ve been so unsuccessful in the past that ducks refused my biscuits.  Those park ducks will follow you around and eat anything, but they hated my biscuits.  The biscuits here, though, turned out beautifully.  I was so delighted that I had successfully replicated their recipe!  I made a couple of very small changes:  I used Wisconsin cheddar instead of Gruyere, buttermilk instead of cream, and next time I make it I’m going to add white wine to the onions while they caramelize.  White wine + onions + tomatoes > onions + tomatoes.  It’s simple math, people.

Recipe: Pesto Orecchiette with Clams

Monday nights are like the battlegrounds of motherhood for me; I have Julia all day, then I have both girls from 4 PM or so until 10:30 PM when Amos comes home from teaching his late class.  I don’t know if it’s my anticipatory stress level or Murphy’s Law, but it always seems like my normally sweet, easy-going daughters have some major issues on Monday night.  Tonight was no different; Hazel, having not napped at all today, was also sporting a big bruise from being (accidentally) stepped on by one of the younger kids, while Julia was in full-on screamo mode, needing to nurse while I needed to make Hazel dinner and then needing to be held while I needed to clean Hazel up, eat my dinner, and play/or something with Hazel.  Julia almost NEVER needs that kind of attention, and when she does it usually doesn’t last very long before she falls asleep.  Except on Mondays, where she needs to be held for a back-breaking 2 hours.

But this post is supposed to be about a recipe, right?  Well it is!  It’s about this easy, elegant meal you can make while you’re nursing a baby & holding her in midair with one arm and continually reassuring a toddler that yes, you are making dinner and no, you will not eat hers.  So here’s the rub:

Pesto Orecchiette

1 lb. bag of orecchiette (aka hats)

1 lb. asparagus, ends broken off & chopped into about 1″ sections, nothing precise

1 jar of pesto

1 can of diced tomatoes (we like the fire-roasted variety)

1 can of chopped clams, although I think I’ll double up next time

a bit of chevre, if you’re feeling decadent

s&p to taste

1.  Start your pasta water boiling (don’t forget to salt the water!).  Whenever it boils add in your pasta and cook al dente; that is happening on the side while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.

2.  Saute your asparagus in some butter, with a little salt and pepper.

3.  Once they look nice and shiny, but are still a bit undercooked, add in the clams, (drained) tomatoes, and just a bit of the clam liquid.  You could also add in a splash or two of some nice chardonnay, if you have it lying around (which I did, yay for us).

4.  Let that asparagus simmer in the lovely liquid the clam juice, tomatoes, & butter have made.  Just cook it until you like the texture.

5.  Drain your pasta when it’s finished, add in the asparagus mixture, and stir in at least half the jar of pesto.  You could go more or less, just depending on how you feel.

6.  Pour yourself a glass of that chardonnay, dish up a bowl of pasta, and top it with a few crumbles of chevre.  Enjoy!

Lovely Weekend

We just had the most amazing meal.  Seriously – it was fantastic.  Amos and I invited our friend Katrina and her fun kids over for dinner, and we all had such a great time tonight!  Even before the meal actually happened, though, Amos and I had the best weekend getting ready for it.  What can I say – we go to grocery stores for fun.  On the menu tonight was an antipasto platter as a first course, which had salted almonds, water crackers, roasted red peppers, anchovies, chevre, a tomato and lupini bean salad, a drunken (merlot) goat cheese, and a porter cheddar.  As a main course we had Amos’s signature bacon anchovy sauce over spaghetti rigatti with shaved pecorino romano and a caponata with Amos’s homemade bread.  Served with all this loveliness was my favorite sauvignon blanc and a new chianti, which was awesome and velvety and just wonderful with this dish.  It was massive amounts of fun, and I can’t wait until we get to do this again.

I’ll leave you with one more picture of Julia.  Our baby girl is growing so quickly and beautifully that I can hardly believe it.  But that’s the way with babies, isn’t it?

Fish & Chips

Delicious, eh?

Do I need to say anything, or does the picture alone make your mouth water?  This was SUCH a great meal, made even better by how it came about.  Amos and I have been watching Oliver’s Twist recently, which is a show Jamie Oliver did in the early part of the century, in which he cooks things at his flat for his friends.  In the first episode he made fish and chips, a quintessential English dish, for some American friends who had recently moved to London.  Hazel just happened to be watching this with us (she really likes this cooking show) and said, “We could have that at our house!”  So take THAT, Jamie Oliver!  We let her have a say in the weekly menu as often as she’s interested in giving her opinion, so of course we wrote it down for this week.  Those mushy peas are killer, dudes.  That is going to be a staple in this household.

What We’re Eating

A couple of weeks ago, some new friends invited us over for dinner and served this awesome lamb, cooked long and slow on the grill.  Amos talked to the wife, who’s Australian, about the food from that area (I guess lamb is a bit more common there, and not the dried out variety served with mint jelly), and he was inspired to make lamb himself.  Today he spent hours in the kitchen making this lovely dinner:  braised lamb shank, stewed carrots and tomatoes, and an Israeli couscous and black rice salad with pumpkin seeds.  That sweetheart even made a dessert on the fly; using canned pears and peaches from my grandma, he made a kind of cobbler with a cinnamon and oat bran crust.  The dinner was amazing, and his doing all the washing up was just beyond awesome.

Hazel was pretty excited about our dinner, too!  That is her normal face for pictures now, apparently.  In real life she’s saying, “cheeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssse” until you take the picture.  Seriously, she will not break character until you turn the camera around and show her the picture.  One day, when she asks why we only kept the weird pictures of her during this time period, we will delight in telling her that this is all on her!

Another “First”

Sometime during the teenage years people start to be fixated on the firsts in their lives.  Our culture places a lot of value on the firsts, especially for women – your first prom, kiss, day at college, whatever.  The big two are your wedding day and the first baby.  Then, when the wedding is over and the baby is actually here, in all its drooly glory, it becomes all about the many firsts of the baby – diaper change, bath, tooth, laugh, smile, solid food.  They go really fast and are super exciting when the baby is young, but it slows down quite a bit after the first year; those firsts just seem more like evolution instead of baby book memories.  So while I’m anticipating these firsts with Julia, I don’t really look for them with Hazel anymore.  Tonight one actually came about, though, one that I can’t believe we have overlooked until this point!

See, a lot of the food I love the best is verboten in pregnancy:  moldy cheeses, raw oysters, caffeine (yeah, that’s a whole food GROUP), rare steaks & burgers, wine, raw bean sprouts.  It doesn’t seem like a lot, but in my two pregnancies I have had to find myself being hyper vigilant because I apparently eat this stuff kind of a lot.  Anyway, so while I’m pregnant I mourn for the foods I love and get a little depressed about the foods I crave.  Now, at the very end of my pregnancy, Amos decided that I should at least have something good, and we decided on a burger.  I refuse to order these out because if they are cooked to the temp that I need to nuke the creepy, fetus-killing bacteria, the burger turns into a little hockey puck of what we have named “meat gum.”  It’s grosser than it sounds.  Amos took pity & made a delicious, pink-free burger for me tonight.  We were setting up for dinner when I realized that Hazel has never had a burger!  This would be her first one, even if it had to be deconstructed for her tiny hands to handle.  She, of course, LOVED it, just like Amos and I both did.  My husband can seriously cook, you guys.  We had burgers with sharp cheddar, a little wilted asparagus, and fresh strawberries and Greek yogurt for dessert.  I think it was the best meal of 2011 (so far – just wait until I’m not gestating!).

Hazel's First Burger

I think she likes it.

Pizza Night

The best pizza comes directly from my husband, not from any pizza joint!  I love it when Amos makes pizza, and so I was super psyched that Hazel chose pizza as her meal this week.  See, we’ve started this thing where we ask Hazel what she would like for dinner when we are making out our weekly menu and grocery list.  I think it’s really fun, and it fits in with her personality and character since she loves food and helping us cook.

Anyway, this was the first week that we let her choose a family dinner item, and so pizza it is!  She helped Amos make a broccoli, onion, mushroom, and green pepper pizza on whole wheat crust.  In the interest of time we didn’t make the sauce (Amos’s sauce takes a couple of hours).  I love this picture; she was showing me the pizza and saying, “Cheese” while trying to also smile, and so we end up with a picture of a very intense Vanna White clone.  Love it.


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