Plastic Cheese

Oh, the joys of plastic cheese.

I am speaking, of course, of Haloumi, that squeeky, chewy, salty, unmeltable Greek cheese that I have never encountered in a restaurant, but only in grocery stores.  

I first learned about haloumi from Nigella Lawson; I was intrigued by the idea of a cheese that could be seared–even grilled–without melting, but I refrained from trying it out.  I had been burned (literally) attempting a recipe for provoleta (that is, a naked slab of provolone cheese, grilled) a week previously, and I was disinclined to believe anyone’s claims about a cheese that didn’t melt.  (The provolone, in case you are interested, instantly liquified into a molten cheese-lava that adhered firmly to my grill pan and never released its grip.  After about five days of repeated soaking, scraping and washing, I finally threw the pan away).

A few years later I saw haloumi at the grocery, packaged with little line-drawing-instructions on how to grill it, and finally bit the bullet, buying a small amount.  At first I just ate it (very good, but arresting if one isn’t expecting the normal brininess of a Greek cheese in what looks like mozzarella), then I tried grilling it inside other things (wrapped in grape leaves, cubed and stuffed into bell peppers) and finally searing it in a blazing-hot pan. 

Exactly as the recipes and package instructions claim, high heat really brings out the interesting properties of the cheese.  The outside blisters and caramelizes, the inside becomes gooey and yielding, but never does the cheese lose its shape.   I’ve used haloumi as a substitute for paneer in Indian dishes, but it’s best by itself, seared and served with some kind of sauce to dab on at will. 

For lunch on Memorial Day I meant to grill long fingers of haloumi on our outdoor grill, hoping for a crust that cannot be achieved in a saute pan.  Events conspired against me, alas (the grill was out of gas), and a saute pan it had to be.  In an effort to make up for my disappointment, however, I cranked up the heat under the non-stick pan as high as it would go, opened all the windows and turned on the exhaust fan. 

Instant, miraculous, blackened cheese.  I served it with a simple salsa verde (the European parsley-anchovy-caper variety, not the Mexican tomatillo-green chile salsa) and a few other salady things.  A guest, who had never had it before, was astounded at the flavor and the novelty.  I’m sure he could have eaten an entire second package, had we one to offer.

As is so often the case, the simplest thing about the meal was the most impressive.  I ought to remember this for the future, but it’s such a hard message to absorb.  I can’t begrudge anyone the love of haloumi, though; even though I have just finished a bountiful meal, I wouldn’t be unhappy if I had a plate of that cheese next to me right now, hot out of the pan, to be eaten with burning fingers and sated sighs.

Advertisements
Published in: on May 30, 2007 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Green

My mother loves to tell me about the time, in my extreme youth, that I refused to eat a vegetable (green beans?) at dinner, citing its green color and pointing out that green is also the color OF ALLIGATORS.  I cannot recall if this objection was because alligators are vicious, frightening beasts, and thus the green vegetable had sympathetic magic, or because I had two tiny, much-beloved, bright-green plastic toy alligators, and thus eating the green vegetable would be cannibalistic.  In any case, No Green.

Eventually I grew up and one day, out of the blue, began eating green vegetables.  (Really–it was that sudden.  I remember looking into the refrigerator and thinking “I think I’ll have a salad for lunch,” and then recoiling in shock).  These days I eat and enjoy almost every vegetable I come across–I even have a secret pride in the fact that I love vegetables.  There is, however, one major exception.

Cooked spinach, as I may have mentioned here previously, is one of my last culinary hurdles.   It’s not that I can’t cook it, it’s that I don’t want to.  Raw spinach I love–the chewy texture and slippery way it behaves make a wonderful contrast to romaine in a salad, much like butter lettuce, but with more body.  The mild, raw, vegetal flavor is something that I actually occasionally crave. 

Cooked, though, spinach changes completely.  What was chewy becomes slimey and what was fresh-tasting becomes metallic.  Large quantities of cooked spinach actually make me gag. 

This is very frustrating, since I WANT to like cooked spinach (see previous note about my bizarre pride at loving vegetables).  Also, Teacherman adores cooked spinach.  One of the very first things he ever cooked for me was a family specialty called Priznel, a kind of spinach quiche, made from spinach (a LOT of spinach), eggs, butter, cottage cheese and hard cheese, with a little wheat germ on top, for textural contrast.  He was very proud to serve me a family favorite, just as I had been when I served him my favorite family recipe (poulet basquaise, naturally).  I managed to choke down a serving, but then “generously” insisted that he take the leftovers home with him.  That was the day that I determined that my aversion to cooked spinach Must Be Overcome.

I’ve had varied success.  Cooked spinach with Japanese flavors (which I’d never contemplated)=good.  Cooked spinach with Indian flavors (which, given its long tradition, would seem like a natural)=bad.  Cooked spinach in soups=iffy.  The key seems to be to make sure that the dish isn’t packed with cooked spinach (which, I’m sorry to say, Priznel is), and that there are further strong flavors to mask the metallic taste. 

The past weekend Teacherman and I took a trip out of town, and, as is our wont, packed up a cooler with enough food for every meal away from home.  I made and purchased various portable foods–stuffed eggs, whole fruit, pickles, dried sausages, etc.  While contemplating the second day’s breakfast, I glanced into the freezer and noticed the remnants of a bag of frozen cooked spinach left over from making a dip.  (Many dips seems to require cooked spinach purely for color–I don’t know why none of the other herbs and greens are up to snuff).  Obviously suffering from masochistic delusions, I decided that the perfect portable picnic breakfast would be miniature spinach fritattas, very much like Priznel. 

Mindful of my strong-flavors requirement, though, I did diverge sharply from Teacherman’s recipe.  No cottage cheese, no butter.  These things add almost too much richness and seem to intensify the metallic flavor I find so objectionable.  After reconnoitering the refrigerator, I turned up a little sharp cheddar (one couldn’t entirely banish cheese from the dish), and the one thing that I thought would save my tastebuds–prosciutto. 

I lined half a dozen muffin cups with foil liners, then draped a piece of prosciutto across the bottom and up the sides.  I distributed the (defrosted, drained, squeezed-dry and fluffed) spinach loosely among the cups, then ground on a little pepper.  Over the top went four beaten eggs, then a little grated cheddar.  I folded the dangling prosciutto flaps over the top of each cup, then baked them in a moderate oven until done. 

I was right about the prosciutto.   Given the mini-fritattas’ existence as a food to be eaten out of a cooler, I didn’t taste them until two days later, on a muggy Ohio morning at 8 am.  Nevertheless, they were fabulous.  The salty crispiness of the prosciutto cut through the richness of the cheese, the greater quantity of egg and lesser quantity of spinach was smooth and light instead of dense, and the cheese and the prosciutto combined to obscure any metallic taste from the spinach.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, without any misgivings; I would even make it again.  Teacherman liked it too, though I imagine he didn’t like it as much as he likes Priznel, which is understandable, and as it should be. 

I still worry about cooking spinach, and know that I can’t assume that I’ll automatically like it, but I’m happy to know that I have another acceptable recipe in my arsenal.  Teacherman, I’m sure, is happy as well.

Published in: on May 28, 2007 at 6:59 pm  Comments (1)  

This is Not a Recipe

I bought a two-pound box of strawberries at the grocery store yesterday. 

I was only mildly disappointed not to be able to buy strawberries at the farmer’s market on Saturday, so I was surprised when I fell upon the pile of gleaming boxes like a desert dweller on manna from heaven.  Fall on it I did, though, and purchasing followed.  Then I had a two-pound box of strawberries in my fridge.

The berries might not be farmer’s market caliber (they are organic, but probably from California and bred for shipping, etc, etc), but they are amazingly juicy and yielding and strawberry-y.  Most people would leave them at that, but I, after snacking on “plain” strawberries all yesterday afternoon and evening, felt the need to meddle.

When making breakfast this morning, I skimmed about eight ounces of the ripest berries off the top of the box, hulled and sliced them, and slid them into a bowl.  I squeezed a tiny bit of orange juice over the top, tossed them, and then disappeared for a short time for the typical morning preparations, leaving the berries alone to ooze.  Just before sitting down to eat, I dashed out to the backyard, where the sole herb that I yet own–lemon verbena–is awaiting a new pot.  Lemon verbena leaves can be very stiff and fibrous, but this plant is young enough (though very bushy) that the leaves are as soft as basil.  I absconded with three or four leaves, finelyfinely sliced them, and then tossed them into the strawberry mixture. 

The result was not Cuisine, but it was perfect.  Neither the herb or the orange overwhelmed the strawberries, they merely set off the flavors that were already there.  I will most definitely be making this again, so long as my box of strawberries lasts–though that probably won’t be much longer.  How can the world be bad when such things as strawberries exist?

Published in: on May 22, 2007 at 8:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Today was opening day at the farmer’s market.

It’s not as if the market opens with great fanfare, or that it’s advertised as “opening day” (or even that it’s advertised at all, really), but I’ve been looking forward to this morning for weeks.  The produce I can get at my favorite grocery store is certainly top-quality, but a trip to the grocery store, no matter how lovely, cannot compare to wandering among farmer’s stalls and buying produce that was only recently(mere hours ago!) in the ground.  I’m not saying that the produce is definitively and scientifically healthier, but the experience of the farmer’s market adds to my appreciation of my purchases, and my excitement makes them taste better.

Naturally, of course, I was scheduled to work on this day of days.  Luckily for me the farmer’s market opens at 7:30 and I didn’t need to be at work (which is, it must be admitted, a 30-45 minute drive from the market, which is a 30-45 minute drive from my house–the three points form a very stretched out scalene triangle) until 8:30.  Given the scheduled labor, the out-of-the-way location, the early hour, and, most especially, the fact that Teacherman is out of town and therefore I am responsible for The Dog, whose needs cannot be put off, one might think that it would be wise to skip the market this week and pick up later in the season.

Are you kidding?  There was never any doubt: I was going to the farmer’s market. 

Breakfast, grooming, dog-walking: all of these things were dispatched as quickly as possible, and I flung myself into the car, double- and triple-checking to make sure I had the week’s shopping list.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get everything I needed, but it didn’t matter–I wanted to get everything I COULD.

I arrived at 7:30 sharp, parked, and headed out into the blinding sunshine.  The grid was somewhat sparse, the full contingent of vendors not having come down, given the earliness of the season (especially considering the strange weather we’ve been having), but still: there was my favorite cheese stall, and there were the people with the best greens, and there were the mushroom foragers, and there was the slightly scary earthy-crunchy woman who always has things I’ve never heard of, etcetera, etcetera.

I made a quick swoop around the market to see what was available.  I was hoping for strawberries, but alas, no.  I didn’t spy a single fruit the entire market over, but one stall had lavish piles of rhubarb, almost burying the cash-box in bright magenta bundles.  I bought two pounds.  (I don’t have any plans for rhubarb, but it’s never a bad idea to have some chopped up in the freezer).

The same stall had the only arugula at the market–compact bunches of leaves tiny enough to be considered ‘baby’ arugula, but sold without any gourmet markup.  Still on a salad kick, I grabbed two bunches for tomorrow’s dinner.

The all-organic stall two rows away had spring onions, actually-grown-by-a-stream-watercress, and chives with the blossoms still on–not to mention fresh eggs.  Two dozen eggs set me back $3.50 per box, but these are worth it–even I, with my chile-dulled taste-buds, can revel in the flavor of the arrestingly golden yolks. 

I hesitated in front of the stall with piles of beautiful French breakfast radishes.  Through no fault of their own, I always like radishes less than I think I will–they’re either too spicy when I want something milder, or tasteless when I’m looking for incendiary.  They’re so beautiful that I can rarely resist them, but this time I remembered last Thursday’s dinner, after which Teacherman professed himself to be radished out, and I managed to contain myself.

This sounds idyllic, but my joy was not entirely unalloyed.  They’ve changed the parking regulations on almost all of the streets surrounding the market.  A rental-car agency has taken over all of the good spots in the parking garage.  The cheese guy at my favorite stand is no longer MY cheese guy–the one who knew exactly what Teacherman and I liked and disliked (and where we differed in our opinions) and would produce new items for us to try almost every week.  Pout.  Sigh.  I will get over it.

With only seconds left to go before I had to leave for work, I stood in front of a display of tomato plants, gnashing my teeth.  I want tomato plants.  I NEED tomato plants!  Very specifically I want (among many others) a Green Zebra tomato plant!  But I cannot leave tomato plants on the floor of the back room all day at work!  (Taking up the fridge with multiple bags of produce is bad enough).  Last year I found myself in a similar situation and when I returned the next week there were no Green Zebra plants left.  This is a situation I vowed to avoid in the future, but I was thwarted.  I can but hope that market’s tomato plant purchasers will want more conventional varieties and that there will still be Green Zebras when I return in two weeks.  (I will be out of town next Saturday morning.  It is painful to contemplate).

I did finally tear myself away from the plants and head off to work, toting my eggs and greens.  I’m sure that the pervasive smell of spring onions in the staff refrigerator was hideously annoying to the rest of the Saturday workforce, but to me it smelled like excitement and hope and fantasies of meals to come.

But I kind of wish I’d bought those radishes.

Published in: on May 19, 2007 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Springtime Salad on a Winter Day

I’m beginning to believe that the weather in this town is controlled by some kind of evil genius.

One day the high will be over 80, then next, below 50.  It’s mid-May and instead of having spring we’re having alternate summer and winter.  Yesterday, on a blindingly sunny day, I had to wear two sweaters and a flannel shirt to work in the backyard garden.  Aside from all other annoyance about this sweltering frigidity (almost Freudian, that phrase), it’s wreaking havoc on my meal planning.

The day I went grocery shopping, it was extremely warm.  With visions of cool meals on the back patio in my head, I bought various lettuces, herbs, and tender salad vegetables.  By the time I came to use those ingredients, it was freezing outside.  With no other choice, I made salads anyway.

I plucked the romaine lettuce out of the fridge, along with some cilantro, some deli ham and a jar of pepperoncinis.  I have a weakness for pickles of any kind, and spicy things are a life-long (at least a two thirds of my life-long) favorite.  Pepperoncini make their way into many of my salads.

Remembering a recipe I’d seen the other month for a salad dressing made of avocado, I took two of the things out of their ripening bag on the counter (full disclosure: it is a paper lunch bag with an apple in it) and set to work.  I peeled and pitted one avocado and put it in the food processor along with nearly an entire bunch of cilantro, a shallot, and some garlic.  I added in a squirt of lemon juice (that is what had struck me about the salad dressing recipe–it used lemon juice with avocados, instead of the more usual lime juice) and a glug of oil, put on the lid, and blended it up.  It was a little thick, but I like stiff, thick dressings, especially on crunchy lettuce like romaine. 

I poured equal portions of the dressing into our two enormous salad bowls, then topped it with chopped romaine (one heart per person), chopped ham, stemmed pepperoncinis and the second avocado, cubed.  I had, of course, forgotten to add salt (a perpetual problem), so I crushed some kosher salt over all, ground on some pepper, and then tossed the salads. 

It was light and cool and delicious.  The dressing coated the leaves substantially, but not heavily, and the crunch of the lettuce kept it from being too unctuous, in the same way that the mild tang of the pepperoncini cut through the mellow sweetness of the ham.  Teacherman, who has a furnace burning inside of him, thought it was the most perfect lunch imaginable.  I thought it was tasty, too, but I might have wished for something slightly less chilly.   I buttoned up my overshirt, but I also scraped the bowl.

Published in: on May 15, 2007 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Success!

I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to poach an egg. 

No matter what method I used, no matter what implements I used, no matter how assiduously I paid attention to freshness and temperature, nothing ever worked.  The egg would hit the simmering water and disintegrate, as if it was hitting a brick wall. 

This irked me.

It’s not that I have an Eggs Benedict habit to feed–in fact, I rarely even have poached eggs when I can have someone else cook them for me–but I was annoyed no end that I continually failed at something so basic.  I was enternally frustrated, trying more and more different and outlandish ways of poaching eggs, each touted in more and more obscure books.

From the relatively well-know ‘vortex’ method, which called for cracking the egg into the exact center of a pan of water one had just stirred madly into a simmering whirlpool (which caused bits of my egg to actually leap back out of the pan and spatter all over my shirt) to the (hopefully) almost unheard-of microwave method, which called for cracking a raw egg into a microwave safe bowl of water, then heating it on high power for a few minutes (which ended with still-raw egg splattered all over in the inside of my microwave and a burnt-sulfer smell that permeated my entire apartment, not to dissipate for almost two weeks).

Around the time of the microwave incident, I decided to give up on poached eggs.  Every time I made a recipe that called for one, I’d either steam-fry, bake, or soft-boil one instead.  This gave admirable results and the taste was probably similar, but inside, I stewed.

Last month I got the May issue of Bon Appetit, and surprised a recipe for Asparagus with Poached Egg and Miso Butter on nearly the first page.  I love miso, and this sounded intriguing enough not to let pass by.  On the spur of the moment I decide to make another try at poaching–it had been nearly a year since my last attempt, and my memories of the shrieking and swearing and kicking had almost faded. 

I followed the basic method–the one that I tried first (and fourth and tenth and seventeenth, ad nauseum) and discarded in tears each time.  I brought a small pan of water to a simmer, added a little vinegar and salt, then cracked two eggs into two custard cups, quickly dipped the cups into the simmering water and then upended them.

No explosion.

I even more quickly repeated all my actions with a second two eggs.  Again, no explosion.  The eggs stayed in neat, plump little ovals, so tall that the yolks almost rose above the surface of the water.  (In the end, I put a lid on the pan for a moment, or the yolks never would have cooked through).

They were done in about six minutes, including one with the lid on the pan.  I skimmed them out with a slotted spoon, dabbed at them nervously with a paper towel, then put two eggs each into two bowls of some vaguely arranged roasted asparagus (the original recipe called for boiled asparagus, but boiled asparagus is an abomination in the site of all that is good).

The miso butter–what originally drew me to the dish–was much more simple.  The recipe as written called for 8 Tbsp of butter and 6 Tbsp of miso (and a bit of vinegar) to cover six eggs, but since I was only serving two people (though making four eggs) , I determined to cut the quantity down.  Due to my fuzzy math skills, for some reason I cut the quantities in sixths, and made up a little two-Tbsp ramekin of the sauce.  Thank heavens I didn’t make more than that–the sauce was divine, but so rich that I don’t think I could have stood to eat any more than I did.  As it was, the quantity I prepared easily coated the eggs and asparagus in each bowl.

Yes, the eggs.  They were perfect.  They looked perfect, tasted perfect and were the most heartening cooking experience I’ve had in days.  I couldn’t tell you why they suddenly worked, after years of failure, but they did.  I’m a little afraid to try to poach eggs again, in case this was a lucky chance, but you can bet that I will, nonetheless.

Published in: on May 13, 2007 at 1:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Little Bit Jumbled and Jivey

I have been on an oat kick recently.

After a few years of ignoring the grain, I recently rediscovered the joys of hot oatmeal in the morning–it is still early spring here, no matter what the calendar says–and oats have become a staple freezer item.  (I treat oats like nuts and store them in the freezer, to prevent any oils from going rancid).  I’ve purchased many different varieties of oats for my experiments: mostly ordinary old-fashioned rolled oats, but lately also steel-cut oats, those little nubbins that most would be unable to identify as oats at all.  They make a wonderfully rustic and grainy oatmeal, but since it takes half the amount of steel-cut oats to make the same finished quantity of oatmeal as that made from rolled oats, I always miscalculate, overbuy, and end up with uncooked steel-cut oats that languish in the freezer while I finish my overabundance of leftover breakfast.

As part of my search for perfect oatmeal, I checked out Lorna Sass’s new cookbook Whole Grains: Every Day, Every Way.  I certainly enjoyed her recipes for hot breakfast oatmeal, but what really intrigued me was a recipe for a Tex-Mex turkey soup with steel-cut oats stirred in at the end, instead of rice or pasta.  It seemed a perfect use for the leftover steel-cut oats in my freezer and a perfect Sunday night dinner–warming enough to cut the chilly wind, but not so stodgy as to repulse, given the vaguely spring-like tendancies of the weather. 

The stew is simplicty itself, the only deviation from the norm being the presence of the oats.  Sweat an onion and a stalk of celery in oil, add stock (or water) and that beloved southern staple, a can of diced tomatoes and green chiles.  Plunk in some turkey thighs (boneless and skinless in my case, though the recipe calls for bone-in) and various spices, simmer for a short while, then add a measure of steel-cut oats and simmer again until the oats are soft.  Finally, add in some corn kernels, diced avocados, lime juice and chopped cilantro.  The result?  A deeply flavorful bowl of tomato-y stew, enriched by the turkey and stock, spiced by the green chile, and thickened by the addition of the oats.  The oats serve the same purpose as barley in a beef-barley soup, but add a toasted flavor that deepens and enlivens the dish. 

I would definitely make this stew again, and am excited to try other oat recipes from Sass’s book.  If I can get my hands on some whole oat groats, her oat pilaf might be in the offing.  But wait–whole oat groats?  I wonder what kind of hot cereal that would make. . . ?

Published in: on May 7, 2007 at 8:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Strawberry Whirl

I told you things were going to get exciting.

I had only a few minutes to make breakfast on Saturday morning, and a vow to make something that would shock us out of a rut of meal-boredom. 

Food processor?  Check.  Strawberries?  Check.  Yes, yes, this is sounding familiar.

Leftover oatmeal?  Check. 

Leftover OATMEAL?!

Bear with me. 

I decanted the frozen strawberries into the food processor and let them sit for a minute, to soften just a tad (I didn’t want them thawed, just less than rock-hard freezer temperature), and then blitzed them until they’d been carved into myriad feathery strawberry flecks.  I poured in a small measure of mint-infused simple syrup and pulsed it again, to amalgamate.  Finally, I spooned in half a cup of leftover oatmeal–regular, old-fashioned rolled oats, previously brought to a boil in water, then steamed for 20 minutes (and, in this unexpected case, refrigerated overnight).   I pulsed the food processor again and let the soft oats break down and meld with the strawberries.  The whole mess was spooned out into two bowls, then balanced precariously in the freezer while I dashed through the shower.

This bizarre-sounding concoction did not spring entirely fully formed from my pointy skull.  A few years back I discovered the Scottish recipe for cranachan: oats mixed with whipped cream or yogurt or cream cheese, left to soften overnight and then served with fruit, usually raspberries.  To some it sounds odd, but to me it’s not so far from muesli, or even a kind of less-than-crunchy granola parfait.  Cranachan is softer than one might expect, if one is used to American breakfast cereals, but the the nutty flavor of the oats and the sweetness of the cream combine well, and the texture–thick cream thickened even more by the oats–is like that of a slightly chewy pudding.

Cream-based cranachan, alas, isn’t an everyday thing.  Not because I’m so very fat-concious, but because I don’t always have cream in the house; I love the barely-pasteurized cream that I can buy at the local store, but it goes bad too quickly to buy it on a whim, without any specific recipe in mind. 

The other week, though, I was flipping through a library copy of Darina Allen’s second to last cookbook, “Easy Entertaining,” and saw a recipe for strawberry cranachan.  In her interpretation of the recipe, one mashes fresh strawberries to a pulp, mixes in rolled oats, lets sit for a short time, and then serves.  This sounded a bit too crunchy to me, given how short a time the oats spent soaking, but I was intrigued by the idea of using mashed fruit instead of dairy products, and I squirreled the idea away in the back of my mind. 

On Saturday morning I dove into the freezer to grab the frozen strawberries, then opened the fridge to get the ginger I was planning to grate into the morning’s sorbet.  But wait!  My glance was arrested by the tupperware container of leftover oatmeal and my thoughts whirled back to that recipe for strawberry cranachan.  It was too late to thaw and mash the strawberries and leave the oats to soak therein, but the oats I had were already cooked (and thus soft), and I had been planning to make sorbet anyway, so: Frozen Strawberry Cranachan!

And, because strawberries go so well with mint (and because I cannot leave well enough alone), I used mint simple syrup to flavor the sorbet, instead of plain.  And yes, it was a success.  The toasty flavor of the oatmeal added immeasurably to the sweetness of the strawberries, and there was just enough mint in the background to make one sit up and take notice.  Notice we did; the week of boredom was officially over.

And what of the ginger?  It was forgotten entirely.  That is, it was forgotten until this morning’s breakfast, when I found myself with a bag of frozen raspberries in my hand.

Published in: on May 6, 2007 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

No Excitment

After Sunday’s proto-nuptial feast, nothing has been very exciting.  The meals have all been good–entirely comforting and satisfying–but no dish has made me want to leap up from my seat and run to the computer to tell everyone about it.

There was a chuck roast rubbed with chipotle powder and cooked with tomatillos, zucchini, carrots and tomato sauce: spicy but mellow and perfect for leftover lunches with a crisp salad.  There was a cherry-yogurt panna cotta with vanilla cherry sauce that made an indulgent, creamy breakfast.  There were the fish cakes so full of herbs that they were virtually green, with a lemon-horseradish sauce and a radicchio-endive-arugula salad (too bitter for Teacherman, but just right for me).  Tonight there were ample bowls of tofu laksa, slippery with shiritake noodles and bean sprouts, silky with coconut milk and tofu, with a faint memory of chile and utterly lacking in verve. 

This cannot go on. 

Comforting fare is all very well and good, but it isn’t enough.   Unfortunately, though, Teacherman and I will be away from home for both lunch and dinner tomorrow (more wedding-related meetings)  which considerably reduces my immediate scope for shocking our meals back to life.  There is, however, tomorrow’s breakfast. 

Teacherman does not know it yet, but that forthcoming morning meal will be arresting, invigorating, and above all, exciting.  I have no firm plans, but after a concentrated period of opening cupboards, my brain is spinning with ingredients, equipment and ideas.   So many ideas, in fact, that they may spill over onto Sunday’s breakfast. 

And I think I see a jar of harissa off in the corner. . . .

Published in: on May 4, 2007 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment