I love Spanish/Mexican rice. It may be my favorite part of eating Mexican food. I have a hard time cooking any Mexican style meal at home without trying to find a way to cook fluffy, flavorful, orange-hue rice. However,I have never found a recipe or method that results in what I’m looking for, and I think after tonight, I may give up. Unlike my attempts at Spanish rice that end up with gummy, unbalance reddish goo, tonight I made Cilantro Lime Rice that was exactly what I hoped it would be. While not restaurant-style bliss, this rice made a perfect home replacement.
After my time in Colorado, I have gotten out of the habit of planning meals. I find that meal planning is fairly important to me because vegetables from the grocery stores tend to go bad more quickly than I expect them to. The best routine for me is to buy produce for no more than three days at a time- even then I occasionally find them on their way out before I need them. On my only trip to the store after returning to Switzerland, I had no meals planned and just grabbed a handful of vegetables- mostly ones I can feed to 8-month old J. Sure enough, when I reached into the refrigerator tonight to steam some vegetables for J, I found a head of orange cauliflower beginning to turn. I was planning on an easy tortellini dinner (Ian is out of town and I am focusing on simple while we recover from jet lag), but the cauliflower needed to be used immediately. My first thought was to just steam it all up and save it for later. However, I remembered a bag of arugula and decided to use it before it even came close to wilting. My body has been craving vegetables after heavy holiday eating so I decided to make a giant salad. I knew I wanted to roast the cauliflower and decided to toss chickpeas, onion and cumin into the roasting pan. I made a very simple balsamic and olive oil dressing for the arugula, tossed in the roasted ingredients while they were still warm (I love arugula that cooks slightly with warm additions), and sprinkled avocado slices, sunflower seeds and a bit of lemon juice on top. It was a filling, tasty single parent night meal. If I were to make it again, I would prefer pumpkin seeds to sunflower and might toss the roasted cauliflower with yogurt instead of putting a dressing on the arugula. The meal reminded me of the ease and simple deliciousness of roasted vegetables. Yum!
Somehow this week turned out to be one of those where I didn’t cook all the
meals I had planned. I’m not sure how it happened, but at the end of the weekend I had a surplus of vegetables as well as a package of smoked salmon that need to be used up. Craving sushi but at home alone with the kids onSunday afternoon, I decided to try Temari (ball) sushi. I imagined that forming the balls would take less time and effort than rolling. I imagined wrong. The Temari sushi took just as long as rolling, and it was quite tricky to figure out how to include some of the ingredients (thankfully both the salmon and nori worked well to “tie” the vegetables onto the ball). However, the balls had the major advantage of allowing D to help me create. We had a great time, and used up all our ingredients. D loved choosing which ingredients to use, and wasn’t too disappointed when I told her we couldn’t include sprinkles.
While not really a faster or easier way to make sushi, the Temari was fun for us to make and may be a repeat.
Check out the following links for the process:
How to make Temari sushi
Both Ian and I remember exactly what we ate on the night he proposed to me. Vegetarian sloppy joes.The oddity of this meal is significant in the memory of that night. He proposed in a place, my house in Thoreau, NM, that we had spent very little time in and that I would move out of just a few weeks later. We don’t have that location to bring our daughters to and fondly say “this is the spot,” but we do have that simple meal to joke about. Thanks to a bit of internet searching, I can now repeat that meal all around the world.
The original sloppy joes came from a white Fantastic Foods box. Ian had stopped at the local co-op in Gallup (the grocery stores would never carry something so exotic!) on his way to spend what was perhaps one of two nights we passed in Thoreau in the year I lived there. The Fantastic Foods mix was perfect in that it took no time and only a jar of tomato paste to put together. We ate it often during our graduate school days. Of course now that we are living as expats, Fantastic Foods is impossible to come by. Sloppy joes have slipped from a common meal to a fond memory. Until this recipe. While the texture doesn’t match that of the TVP used by Fantastic Foods, the flavor is spot on. As per our tradition, we eat it on simple bread (hamburger buns are great) with mayonaise, cheese and pickles. This recipe boosts the dish from easy and filling to healthy with the use of lentils and flax seed. The jury is out on whether it is kid-friendly as our daughter threw such a fit at the table that she went to bed without eating. Due to her exhaustion, Ian and I were able to once again enjoy a favorite meal, just the two of us and the bags under our eyes.
When Juliet was born, Ian bought me a beautiful cookbook to fill some time in the hospital bed. The cookboook, Plenty from Yotam Ottolenghi, could be a coffee table book. It is full of gorgeous pictures and delicious descriptions. Both Ian and I have read nearly every recipe. While Ottolenghi is not a vegetarian chef, the cookbook is vegetarian. The book is arranged into chapters based on vegetable types. The recipes showoff their ingredients while including subtle seasonings. While reading through them, I have encountered ingredients I have never used before as well as cooking processes I am unfamiliar with.
The first couple meals I cooked overwhelmed me and took far more time than I was ready to commit, and I was worried I would need to resign the book to just a coffee table book because of it’s complexity. However, after repeating a few recipes I am beginning to understand how Ottolenghi’s drawn out processes contribute to the flavor of each dish, and have grown to appreciate them. Fortunately as I have repeated a couple of dishes I find they become much easier each time. This week I cooked a recipe (ratatouille) that, once again, overwhelmed me while cooking, but ended up so delicious that I haven’t stopped thinking about it.
I have posted Ottolenghi’s recipe for Tamara’s Ratatouille. Keep in mind that the dish is absolutely worth every step and every minute. The vegetables meld together perfectly in terms of both flavor and texture. The eggplant and zucchini both melt in your mouth, and the potatoes and butternut squash are simultaneously tender and chewy. On a mellow, rainy early fall day, give it a try- it is fantastic!