Friday, July 16, 2010

Why does it always have to be so complicated?

Don't worry, it's not as emo as it sounds. I'm just referring to the fact that I could have gone ahead and spent less than half an hour on dinner, but something made me complicate it with a longer-term side dish.

The centerpiece was pasta with bitter greens, tossed in a light lemon and goat cheese sauce. I didn't cook the greens (mustard, I believe they were), just chopped them and put them in the colander before I poured the pasta into it, then stirred them in with the hot pasta so they got tender. To make the sauce, I mixed goat cheese, pepper, lemon juice, and a little pasta water. It's like a slightly more adult version of the meal my mom always made when we were younger and clamoring for dinner RIGHT NOW: noodles 'n' cheese, which consisted of mini shells tossed with cottage cheese.

Once again, this was a meal that could have taken 20 minutes to make, but I had to make a semi-pickled carrot slaw with a lagniappe*: cayenne pistachio brittle, to be crushed and sprinkled on top. I sliced the carrots very thin, sort of a rustic julienne, if you will, and marinated them for about two hours in a blend of rice and red wine vinegars, a little olive oil, a chopped jalapeno, a few chopped cloves of garlic, and some caper juice, pepper, and cayenne. These were pretty damn good, but also pretty damn spicy. I love spicy foods and chowed down, but for the less gustatorily masochistic, the pickles might be better on a sandwich. Banh mi or something southwestern come to mind. The brittle offset the spiciness a bit, since it obviously had some sweetness to it, and less spice than the carrots themselves.

Now, a conundrum. I've got less than a month here in Cambridge before it's off to a much bigger city for much bigger things than food blogging. Among the items I'd like to cook before I go (and no longer have time to be so intricate about my meals) are:

homemade seitan
Persian fruit and chickpea stew
fava and fennel salad with fresh mint
honey- and harissa-glazed eggplant
stuffed poblanos
homemade ginger ale
strawberry lemonade bars
pesto rolls (instead of cinnamon rolls)
basil lime sorbet
sweet onion sorbet
vegetable biryani
butterscotch pudding
Mark Bittman's vegetable torte
cream of corn soup without the cream
blueberry salsa

Thoughts? Other dishes you'd recommend?

Oh, I made up a cookie recipe! This usually isn't something that happens. Here it is:

6 tbsp browned butter
scant (not packed) 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp honey (orange blossom would be good if you're not using zest or citrus juice; for sweeter, more honied cookies, use up to three tablespoons)
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup cornmeal (yellow or white, doesn't matter)
1/4 cup white flour
2 tsp vanilla
Optional: 2 tbsp flax meal or wheat germ
Optional: finely grated zest of one orange
EITHER 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar OR 1/2 tbsp citrus juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

Put the sugar in the (slightly cooled) browned butter and whisk furiously. Whisk in egg for 30 seconds, then let rest for 3 minutes; repeat that process twice. Whisk in honey, vanilla, and vinegar/citrus juice. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients and zest, if you're using it. Drop heaping tablespoons on parchment paper, 2 inches apart, and bake at 350 for 10-13 minutes.

*Cajun term for "a little something extra." Also, the name of a restaurant that some family friends (or perhaps relatives; I've never been quite clear on this) own in New Iberia, Louisiana.

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