roasted cabbage and a book review: An Everlasting Meal

I just harvested this cabbage

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sliced it into wedges, placed it in a cast iron pot with salt, olive oil and a red wine vinegar.  I put the cover on it and roasted it for 30 minutes until golden brown without and tender within.  Just like Tamar Adler told me to.

It was delicious.

Read An Everlasting Meal.  Trust me.  It is important.  I almost didn’t want to publicly announce it for the secrets and the advice in this -more than a cookbook/novel, but a way of eating and enjoying life- are so great that I wanted to keep them all for myself.  But that is silly and selfish and well, I know that this book has brought me so much happiness, and it would be wrong to do anything but pass that on to you.  Each night when reading it, I would be left salivating, inspired and downright hungry by the time my eyelids got heavy.  Each chapter is centered around a specific grouping of food.  She talks about an egg or a roast or a legume with such passion and poetry you suddenly remember how beautiful a thing it is to be able to prepare a simple meal.  And how enjoyable such a simple meal can be.  There are rarely fancy expensive ingredients mentioned, she focuses more on local seasonal affordable eating.  She is realistic and relatable, and she has a way of making you yearn for sardines in a way you will never believe.  So purchase it, savor it, place it among your cookbooks and refer back to it often.

now and later… pizza

IMG_7407I have been thinking more and more about our food budget and how to accurately share how I do it.  When making some pizza dough today I thought about this post.  I often make things for supper tonight, and freeze some for a later date.  Easy access if you will.  Pizza dough is one of these.  After some trial and error, I have come up with a recipe I believe to be perfection.  I have posted once before about pizza dough, but that one was merely a beginners trial.  This is the real thing I assure you.

This makes 2 large pizzas.  I double this for my now and laters….  But depending on the size of your crew this may work.

2 cups whole wheat flour (try to get something that uses the whole plant… not an easy task but doable!)

2.5 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon yeast

1 3/4 cup of warm water

2 tablespoons oil

1/3 cup of coarse ground cornmeal.  Believe it.  I use coarse ground yellow grits sometimes and it is superb.

2 cloves of crushed garlic

Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about seven minutes.  The fresh garlic gives the dough a very sticky texture so keep things lightly floured, including your hands!  Split in half and freeze one of the slices in an air tight bag or jar.  Turn the other half into an oiled bowl and let double in size.  If you desire mini pizzas, cut in half and form two smaller balls.  Let them rest a few minutes and start to stretch them out.  Put them on the back of a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal or if you have one, a pizza peel.  Place your toppings like a so and slide into a preheated oven of 425 onto your baking stone.  If you have no baking stone, just use your cookie sheet (right side up of course).  Bake until crispy done and wallah.

Some of my favorite toppings perhaps you have not thought of.

fried potato rounds and goat cheese with chives

kimchi!  WOah.  who would have guessed.  It’s salty crunch is just what pizza loves.

eggplant and peppers

my new favorite – daikon pesto… delicious i assure you.  pesto- the most versatile thing in the world.

how to make a good red sauce

When I was about ten years old, my mother declared her days of slaving over a hot stove had come to a screeching halt.  And she meant it too.  When it came time for supper the following evening, we all assumed our positions around our table in the dining room, figuring she would come around.  We waited and waited until my dad finally submitted, and just ordered pizza.   This was the first time I understood fully that my mother is a woman of her word .  So, we happily ate pizza for about a week straight,  throwing in the occasional fish stick. It seems my brother and I were doomed to take out and frozen fare for the rest of our childhood.

My father, being forever loving to his old lady, didn’t utter a harsh word at her.  He understood.  It had been at least ten long years of three meals a day, with little to no help, and she had had enough.  He got that.  But his stomach didn’t follow his way of thinking whatsoever.  My dad is a particular kind of man, and the likes of our small town pizza joints do not suit his oh-so-sophisticated tastes.  And while he may be slim his appetite surely is not.  He gladly eats chocolate cake for breakfast only to be followed by a full spread of eggs and bacon, and popovers with jam.  He introduced me to the glory of the late night snack.  He gets the urge for a scone at midnight (and follows through!).   To put it plainly, he is always in the clean plate club.  The man loves to eat.

So, he did what any intelligent person would do.  He tried to cook.  The first meal I can remember him stirring slowly over the stove was spaghetti.  And before you think please, that is a sorry excuse for a meal that anyone who knows how to turn a knob, boil some water and dump contents into a bowl can complete, realize my father doesn’t do things half way.  He goes all out.  He went so far as to take a class at a cooking school from an Italian Woman who taught him not how to make spaghetti sauce, rather she showed him the art of red sauce.  She divulged the amazing secrets of  how to flavor olive oil by browning chunks of peeled garlic into the simmering golden liquid.  She relayed the patience necessary to wait several hours for a tomatoes’ skin to disintegrate before your very eyes.  And subsequently she paved the way for the next hobby he would pursue: fermenting limoncello.  Oh, how I remember loving this hobby of his later on when filling small flasks of this potent liquor before leaving the house for the evening in high school.   I promise, I was the star of the party with that fire water.  But that is a whole ‘nother story now isn’t it.

Prior to this, I have no memories of my father cooking a meal with the exception of Saturday morning pancakes cooked atop the interchangeable piece on our stove top.  (How cool is that?  I have not seen a stove like this since…)  Over the next few months he became more and more confident in his skills.  He even had the nerve, unbeknownst to the rest of the family, to work in a high-end french restaurant for a small (oh so small) period of time.  Luckily my father has grace and could not tolerate the high temper and out right nasty words of a stressed out chef, and quit.  And though he claims he hated every last thing he learned to cook there, I think that perhaps this is where my love of the croissant may stem from.

My dear stubborn and oh so intelligent mama still makes a mean omelette now and then.  And no one, I mean no one, can touch her apple pie.  But all in all, she won the battle of the cooks.  She got what she wanted, and in turn made my father into a truly magnificent chef.  Even though years spent in a kitchen have taught me to reserve this title for a person of employed stature in the business, I would call him that regardless, because there is no other word for his level of cooking with out it.


Quick Quick red sauce

a ton of cherry tomatoes

a few tablespoons of olive oil

a few cloves of garlic

a handful of fresh basil

salt and pepper

Warm the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat.  Meanwhile peel and chunk up the garlic into about thirds.  Brown it in the oil and discard, just enough to flavor the oil.  Halve all the cherry tomatoes and place them into the flavored oil.  Cover and cook on low heat for several hours until the skins are all but gone and has developed nice flavor.  Periodically check to see if the sauce has become dry, and if this is the case add a few tablespoons of water.  When the sauce is good and thick,tear the basil leaves toss them in.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

star anise braised chicken

IMG_7280braise your chicken people.  braise it.  

Around here we (I) cook meat once every ten days or so.  Mind you, I make it last at least three meals and a few lunches, at least until my boys are ravenous adolescent boys that is.  But for now, though its been quite a transition for the man of the house, it works out just fine.

For this you put a chicken, some chopped onion, celery and carrots, two bay leaves, one star anise pod, some fresh parsley, some fresh thyme, and a big honkin chicken in a pot.  Cover it with some good old stock and simmer for an hour.  Turn off the stove and let it sit for another 30 minutes.  Serve chopped up with some broth, and some of those veggies and woah.  Succulent.

This week it turned into Caribbean Rice with chicken and garbanzos… delish.  And again was transformed into a chicken pita with cucumber yogurt sauce, black rice, and kale salad.  I also simmered a pretty stock that will flavor our meals to come.  Don’t forget to leave your onion skins on when you make a stock, it makes the richest color!  You won’t regret it.

So, go ahead.  Braise it baby.