Turkey tacos and a soup-off

TurkeyTacos_SoupOff_IMG_2265We had dinner at our friends the Blanco’s place tonight. They had a lovely spread, as always, with turkey tacos (clever!) and a butternut squash soup-off. A good time was had by all, even still-pregnant me.

Let’s go back to the turkey tacos. What a great idea for Thanksgiving leftovers! When you take tortillas, cheese, seemingly any leftover thanksgiving dishes and top it with mole sauce, it’s delicious. The kids can skip the mole if they want.

James’ quick mole sauce really pulled everything together. He pointed out that you can make the kind of mole that takes days, or you can do a quick version in the blender. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a quick blender version, but it was really good!

James and Fiona each made a batch of butternut squash soup, and we did a blind taste test. The results were—and have been, when tested on others—pretty much even. Which means to me that they both make a really good butternut squash soup. Fiona’s was classic, subtle and butternutty, and James’ was spicy and appley.

For dessert I made Martha Stewart’s Banana Bread with coconut, toasted pecans and chocolate chips. the recipe doesn’t actually call for chocolate chips, but I think they’re a great addition. Recipe after the photo.
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• Banana Bread with Coconut, Pecans and Chocolate Chips •
from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook 

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups canola oil
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups ripe mashed bananas (about 3 medium)
1 cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut
1 cup walnuts or 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped (I prefer pecans)
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup chocolate chips
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat pans with cooking spray; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and oil on medium-low speed until combined.
4. Beat in the flour mixture. Add the vanilla, banana, coconut, nuts, chocolate chips and buttermilk and beat just to combine.
5. Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth with an offset spatula.
6. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers come out clean, 60-65 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove laves from pans and let cool completely.
7. Bread can be kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.

 

Back in the kitchen

Risotto_Eggplant_Sausages_IMG_2259When Shane handed me a printout of this recipe and said “I was thinking I’d make this for dinner tonight,” my first response was “eh, I’m not much for roasted garlic.” And then I thought to myself: you freaking moron, your husband wants to cook for you… say yes!

I quickly said yes. But not before reading the disclaimer at the beginning of the recipe that says not to be put off by the roasted garlic, it’s not overpowering.

Having Shane back in the kitchen is a delight, and well timed to boot. I feel like it’s been 6 months—and maybe it has—since he’s been able to take on dinner. He donned his back brace and got to work, while Rose and I did some Rainbow Looming.

The recipe he made was Jamie Oliver’s Roasted Sweet Garlic and Thyme Risotto with Toasted Almonds and Breadcrumbs (recipe also below). As promised, the garlic is subtle, and not overpowering. The recipe’s got all kinds of interesting and unexpected touches like a lot of celery and a crunchy, toasted breadcrumb and almond topping. Really delicious.

Shane grilled up some Italian sausages to go along with the risotto. I made a spicy roasted eggplant salad, because my friend Britta brought over labor-inducing foods (eggplant, pineapple, hot peppers, spicy hummus) and comforting foods (chocolate pretzels, pita bread, spinach dip) today.

I had one contraction before the eggplant, and am hoping it will bring on more as the evening progresses. And if not, well, I can comfort myself with the chocolate dipped pretzels, and the fact that Shane is back in the kitchen.
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• Roasted Sweet Garlic and Thyme Risotto with Toasted Almonds and Breadcrumbs •
from this Jamie Oliver recipe from via the Food Network
total time about 1 hour 10 minutes to 1.5 hours

2 large heads garlic, whole and unpeeled
Approximately 1 quart (1.1 litres) chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots or 2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 head celery, finely chopped
14 ounces (400 grams) risotto rice
2 wine glasses dry white vermouth or dry white wine
Sea salt
1 good handful fresh thyme, leaves picked
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 ounces (70 grams) butter
4 ounces (115 grams) freshly grated Parmesan
51/2 ounces (155 grams) shelled and peeled almonds, lightly crushed, cracked or chopped
2 handfuls coarse fresh bread crumbs
Olive oil

 For the basic risotto: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Roast the whole garlic heads on a dish in the oven until soft, about 30 minutes.

Stage 1: Heat the stock. In a separate pan heat the olive oil, add the shallots or onions, garlic, and celery, and fry slowly for about 4 minutes. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

Stage 2: The rice will now begin to fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the vermouth or wine and keep stirring, it will smell fantastic. Any harsh alcohol flavors will evaporate and leave the rice with a tasty essence.

Stage 3: Once the vermouth or wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Separate the roasted garlic cloves and squeeze out the sweet insides into the risotto. Add the thyme and black pepper to the risotto. Turn down the heat to a highish simmer, so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladles of stock.

Stage 4: Remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan. Stir gently. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 to 3 minutes. This is the most important part of making the risotto, as this is when it becomes outrageously creamy and oozy like it should be. Eat as soon as possible while the risotto retains its perfect texture. In a frying pan toast the almonds and bread crumbs in a little olive oil until crisp and golden. Season with a little salt. Set to one side. Serve the risotto with the toasted almonds and bread crumbs sprinkled over the top. Lovely.

Thanksgiving

My aunt and uncle host Thanksgiving every year. Usually we go up to their place in the country, but with my due date a mere 9 days away, they had it at home. This made things very easy for us, since we only live a few blocks away from them. It was just our speed, thanks guys.

Among my favorite dishes tonight were: My Grandma Lillian’s Company Carrots, I think her recipe was similar to this one. Kirst’s (actually, Melissa Clark’s) kale salad, which we had last year too. The chestnut stuffing. And my sister’s pea and mint crostini appetizer.

The plan for tonight was for me to displace the baby with food, but sadly, I forgot that when you’re this pregnant you can’t eat very much at one time. So no turkey baby for us, and I hobble on.

Our camera fell this week, so photos are few this year, and are going to be a bit sparse and/or blurry until I manage to get it fixed. Recommendations on where to service a Cannon Digital Rebel in NYC, anyone?

 

Shane’s homemade pizza

Homemade_Pizza_IMG_9996On the days that Rose has gymnastics from 4:30 – 7:30, I usually get dinner all prepped in the afternoon, before I take her to the gym (aka my remote office). That just didn’t happen today.

I sent Shane a text telling him he could get takeout, or cook, or we could meet him at the Coffee Shop for sandwiches, his choice. I didn’t expect to come home to delicious homemade pizza, but that’s what we came home to.

Shane’s pizza is the best. Tonight was no exception. Rose was so hungry and excited that she took off her leotard (“I don’t want to get my pizza all chalky”) and couldn’t be bothered to get dressed before digging in.
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Chocolate pudding

ChocolatePudding_IMG_9981It’s no secret that this pregnancy has been largely an uncomfortable one. The beauty and magic of pregnancy—which has mostly eluded me this time around—has dissipated. I’m ready, I’m done, I want this baby out now. But I’m just a little too much of a nature-knows-best type to request an induction or schedule a c-section.

“There’s not much going on down there.” That’s what my doctor told me today, at my 38 week prenatal visit. Labor is not imminent. It’s possible I’ve got 4 more weeks of this godawful unpleasantness ahead of me. I won’t go into detail, but trust me, it’s seriously unpleasant.

So what does this have to do with dinner? After my appointment, feeling glum, I paged through a magazine and noticed a picture of a very tasty looking chocolate pudding. Chocolate pudding! That was exactly what I wanted, and we had all of the ingredients on hand.

Tonight, rather than dipping into the dregs of the Halloween bucket, we would have a proper dessert. It was sure to make me feel better, or at least distract me momentarily from my discomfort.

When she got home from school, Rose and I whipped up a batch from this Smitten Kitchen recipe (also below). Cooking with Rose is always a spirit-lifter, and fingers dipped in chocolate never hurts either.

It’s a super-easy pudding recipe. Quick to prepare and no special equipment or fancy skills required. It’s delicious, but don’t fill your bowls too much, it’s very rich, and we couldn’t finish ours. Not even Shane.

For dinner, we had ravioli with some of Marcella’s Famous Sauce (from the freezer). And lightly steamed broccoli with lemon-butter.
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• Chocolate Pudding •
from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6 to 7 (I’d say more like 8-10)

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk (2% works fine)
6 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or 1 cup good chocolate chips)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan, Slowly whisk in the milk, in a thin steam at first so that lumps don’t form, then more quickly once the cornstarch mixture is smoothly incorporated. Place over medium-low heat and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 10 minutes or so (slower over lower heat is better, to give the cornstarch time to cook), before it starts to simmer, the mixture should begin to thicken, enough that it will coat the back of a spoon. Add the chocolate, and continue stirring for another 2 to 4 minutes, until chocolate is fully incorporated and mixture is quite thick. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

If you’re concerned about lumps: Run mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Distribute among individual pudding cups or one large serving bowl, and chill until it is cool and set, about 2 to 3 hours. If you dislike pudding skin: Put plastic on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating. Pudding is good for 3 days in the fridge.ChocolatePuding_ByRose_IMG_9984Rose’s “pudding setup,” by Rose.

Kale, cabbage and farro soup

Kale_Farro_Soup_IMG_9967This is a very tasty and hearty soup. Full of yummy, healthful things, it’s the perfect food to be eating a couple of days before the indulgence of Thanksgiving.

The soup is not vegetarian. It contains pancetta, chicken broth and anchovy paste. However, I think if you used a good vegetable broth or Better Than Bouillon, in place of the chicken broth, you could skip the pancetta and anchovy and still have a delicious soup. I added a large can of chick peas for protein.

• Cabbage & Kale Soup with Farro & Chick Peas •
original recipe from Food & Wine
30 min prep, 1 1/2 hours total

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
One 2-ounce piece pancetta, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ounce anchovy paste (4 teaspoons) or 4 anchovy fillets
1 1/4 cup farro
1/2 head Savoy cabbage—tough stems discarded, leaves torn into large pieces
1/2 bunch Tuscan (dinosaur, lacinato) kale, stems discarded
2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
6 thyme sprigs
1 small rosemary sprig
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano rind plus 3 tablespoons grated cheese
1 large can chick peas, drained & rinsed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the pancetta and cook over moderate heat until the fat is rendered, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Add the anchovy paste and cook for 30 seconds. Add the farro and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the cabbage and kale and cook, stirring, until just wilted.
Add the chicken stock, water, thyme and rosemary sprigs and cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Simmer the soup over moderate heat for 45 minutes, continue cooking until the farro and greens are tender, about another 15 minutes. You may need to add more water or broth at this point. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Transfer the soup to bowls, garnish the soup with the parsley and grated cheese and serve.

His & hers scallops

His&Hers_Scallops_IMG_2224Scallops with pasta and leeks was on the menu for tonight. But then Rose went out for pizza with a friend, and Shane admitted that he doesn’t really like scallops, unless they’re wrapped in bacon.

The contingency plan? His & hers scallops. His wrapped in bacon and mine simply broiled. Both served with spicy, cilantro mayo (from this recipe), rice pancakes, and ad hoc cilantro-lime slaw.

Do people still say “it’s all good?”
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Oops

We had takeout tonight from Ayada Thai and I forgot to take a picture. We recently heard that Ayada is as good as the famous Sripraphai, with the added advantage that it delivers to our neighborhood. I’m no Thai food connoisseur, but that sure was some delicious food.

Radicchio pasta

RadicchioPasta_IMG_9963I love Radicchio Pasta. So good, it can make a convert of someone who isn’t a radicchio fan. Case in point, my husband, who does not like anything bitter, but loves this dish.

The bitterness of the radicchio is mostly cooked out, and then sweetened with cippolini onions, cream and a touch of pork fat.  The dish calls for pancetta, which I eat around, but could easily be left out to make it vegetarian, you’d just want to add a little extra salt.

The roasted veggies we had probably weren’t the most complimentary choice of side for this dish, but that’s called making do with what’s in  your CSA box.

Happy weekend!

 

Shrimp Scampi with lots of help

ShrimpScampi_IMG_9955My parents came down yesterday to help me get ready for this baby. They also brought dinner!

My dad made Melissa Clark’s Shrimp Scampi, which is utterly delicious over crusty bread (or over anything, really). I could probably eat it every day.

He also brought roasted tomatoes, which he’d made the day before. They’re roasted at 300 degrees for 3 hours with some garlic, salt, olive oil and thyme, which makes them all soft, melty and really flavorful.

My mom made a salad from my CSA veggies, at my request. I really wanted raw vegetables but there wasn’t much in the way of lettuce-like material in the box. She made a delicious salad of cabbage, carrots, radicchio and a lemony-rice vinegar dressing. Yum!

I had a long list of very small jobs for my folks to tackle, which they accomplished in no time. When I learned they were staying for a whole 24 hours, I decided it was time to make room for baby. This morning, I sent them off to IKEA with my aunt Gail, while I did some serious purging and organizing.

They returned and were a total power trio. My mom and aunt cleaned the kitchen and moved furniture to and from the basement, while my dad assembled a particularly challenging IKEA side table.

The room will now fit two children. I really wasn’t sure how that was ever going to happen and am eternally grateful to my family for making it so. I guess I can have this baby now. Please.
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