David and I are usually eggs and toast people when it comes to weekend breakfasts, but I recently made these hearty oatmeal pancakes that I think are worth sharing. Because of the oatmeal, these pancakes have enough heft to them to satisfy those who don’t like super sweet foods first thing in the morning (like me). They’re kinda like the Quasimodo of pancakes, though: they’re a little lumpy and misshapen but they’re also kind of sweet and worth the effort. (I’m talking about the Disney version…).
It’s funny, I bought this pumpernickel loaf last week to make an entirely different recipe than what I’m posting today. Originally, I planned to write about a very German-sounding meal of pumpernickel-breaded chicken with mustard and cabbage. I did end up making that dish, which was good, but then I made this sandwich with the leftover bread, and I’m so glad I did. This egg salad was splendid.
I happened to have some tarragon on hand from when I made seafood risotto, and pairing tarragon with eggs is second only to pairing it with seafood. A few years ago my sisters and I took my mom to a traditional afternoon tea the day after Christmas, and they served these slender egg salad sandwiches on dark rustic pumpernickel. They were so manageable, and I’ve kept that sandwich in my head until I had the chance to make it myself. Believe it or not, good pumpernickel isn’t the easiest thing to find in Boston.
I found this quick & simple recipe from Gourmet, but I happened to be out of shallots at the moment. Adding a bit of celery kept the crunch factor, but incorporating both the shallots and the celery is probably the way to go. Also, toasting the bread gives the sandwich a nice firmness so it doesn’t fall apart on you (as much) when you’re eating it. When David took this to work, he kept the egg salad separate in a small tupperware container and constructed his sandwich just before lunch….
This roasted butternut squash soup is my response to the pasta overload and general intensity of last week. Just like my corn chowder, this soup is basically just a pot of vegetables: so simple and so good for you. The acidity of the apple cider vinegar cuts through some of the heaviness of the squash puree and adds a bit of brightness to the dish. The freshly grated nutmeg adds a subtle spice.
To top off my week of homemade comfort foods, I made seafood risotto. And it was a great way to finish a great week. First, my mom celebrated a special birthday (happy birthday Mom!). Then, on Saturday, I spent the afternoon cooking with my friends from school for a project – and isn’t it amazing that my program requires some kitchen time? And now, as I’m writing this, David and I are both sitting happy with wins for our favorite teams. Incidentally, both games were St. Louis vs. Wisconsin: the Green Bay Packers beat out the Rams yesterday afternoon, and are now 6-0, and late last night the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Brewers to head to the World Series! Very exciting.
As for the recipe, this is another one of my own creations. I absolutely love the combination of tarragon and seafood, so it was easy to come to the idea of flavoring a seafood risotto with tarragon. Being on a student budget, I thought a shrimp & pea risotto would be simple, relatively inexpensive, yet delicious. So I headed to my neighborhood seafood mercato to pick up the shrimp. Kerri, one of the owners of Mercato del Mare, tucked in a few lobster meat claws for us, too (thank you, Kerri!). Perfect.
I spent a big chunk of Monday evening making these gnocchi after studying most of the weekend for an exam at school. The recipe comes from the September issue of Cook’s Illustrated, and since it’s full of useful cooking science advice, I thought I’d have plenty to share about my experience making the gnocchi. Like gluten development when kneading the potato-flour mixture and starch granules within the potatoes themselves. But then I tried to modify the sauce recipe (taking out the heavy cream and replacing it with half-and-half) and it all fell apart on me. Literally. First, I combined the wine and heavy cream in a skillet, turned on the heat, and it curdled. Thinking that the heat was on too high too soon, I started over with the heat way down and just the cream.
And it curdled. Curious about what I was doing wrong, I turned to Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise book, a reference I used during my food science class last year. I was doing most everything wrong, it turns out, because I was making a reduction sauce. Shirley lists a few reasons for what happened to my sauce:
– The wine: If it isn’t boiled before adding the dairy element, the milk or cream can curdle. Alcohol and other compounds need to undergo chemical changes (caused by heat) before adding the cream.
– Using lower-fat dairy: By not using cream, there wasn’t enough fat in my sauce to coat the milk proteins. Heat and acid (like the wine) can cause these proteins to unwind and reform as coagulated masses. Adding a starch element can help with this issue.
After two attempts, I switched to heavy cream and followed the recipe as outlined in the recipe. Both the gnocchi and the sauce turned out wonderfully. Having spent time in the Cook’s Illustrated offices, I knew the recipe was a winner, but I was trying to lighten it up a bit. Guess I’ll save that project for another time.
It’s a beautiful Columbus Day weekend in Boston, and David and I have spent an enjoyable week watching baseball and football. He’s a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, who had a close finish in their series against the Phillies a few days ago (though their game last night wasn’t so fun). I’ve been watching the games with him (while I study, of course) and I’ve been really entertained by the little squirrel that keeps popping up inside the stadium.
But I got some cooking in this week, too. I made one of our favorite pastas from Mark Bittman’s book, The Food Matters Cook Book. It has figs, Brussels sprouts, and rigatoni, all held together in a pungent but not overwhelming blue cheese sauce. It’s also mostly healthy; it’s full of cheesy goodness, but it also has loads of fruits and vegetables.
Most weekends I start out with grand plans about what I’m going to cook. Homemade pasta is high on that list. But so often the workload of a full-time student/part-time employee means I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like lingering over super hands-on dishes. But, luckily, my schedule as a graduate student means I was able to spend Monday afternoon at home, so I put on a large pot of brown rice and made shrimp stir-fried rice for dinner.
This is a great recipe because it doesn’t have any of the heavy, leaden textures and flavors that take-out can have. I upped the cilantro and lime by a lot, cut down on some of the salty ingredients, and added peas to up the amount of veggies in the dish. The intense flavors of the cilantro and lime really add a lusciousness that more than makes up for the lack of greasiness (if you’re into that). Plus, the leftovers heat up really well for lunch the next day….
It’s four weeks in to the start of the semester, and things are starting to ramp up at school. In some ways, it’s really interesting and rewarding: I really like my Medical Nutrition Therapy class (the nitty gritty science) and Nutritional Epidemiology. But in other ways (exams, projects, presentations), it’s exhausting. Which is why I so wish I could label this recipe in the “Quick & Easy” category… but I can’t. It’s a really good recipe (David gave it rave reviews), but the 8+ hours of chilling time required means that this falls squarely in the thinking-ahead category.
This dish is a nice combo of savory and sweet flavors. It’s almost like a brunch/dinner savory french toast. And after the ingredients are assembled and chilled, the pre-meal prep time is very minimal. The original recipe, from Cooking Light magazine, called for a cinnamon-raisin bread, but wanting to cut out some of the sweetness, I substituted whole white wheat bread instead. I also used the beautiful “apple pears” pictured above, and they held their shape very well throughout the soaking and cooking process.
I’ve been sitting on this post for awhile, not quite knowing what to do with it. Though it’s really a quite simple dish, it’s not exactly ground-breaking. But I decided to go ahead and post it because it’s quick, easy, healthy, and it’s a good use of ingredients that are often leftovers or pantry staples.
It’s a perfect combo for nights when you’re too busy to put something more complicated together. Or when you’re not actually too busy, you’re just diving into to other, more distracting, things. Like this. Or this.