Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Phony Minestone

With the baby my cooking style is changing already. Gone are the days when I would linger over cooking dinner. Instead, I am trying to get our meal in the pot as fast as possible during my little guy's impossible short naps.

Last night I hit on success with a quick minestrone soup. As an added plus, it was easy to make a big pot, so Kevin and I both have lunch for a couple of days.

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into small cubes
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped into rounds
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
12 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 quart chicken stock
12 ounce can white beans, such as great northern beans or canallini beans
2 cups kale, finely chopped
1/2 pound bit sized pasta such as elbow macaroni
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add pancetta and cook until slightly brown. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally for four or five minutes. Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Cook for another three minutes. Add chopped tomatoes. Gently scrap all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pot, and then add chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add beans and kale. Allow soup to simmer for 15 minutes. Add pasta and simmer until pasta is cooked al dante. Add Parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Wild Rice Salad

In the "great pantry stock up" before the baby was born I bought a giant bag of wild rice. I was surprised to find it at the Asian market on Duraleigh in Raleigh. Though wild rice is usually thought of as a food native to North America, I recently learned that it also grows in some places in Asia.

It seemed like forever since I had made anything with wild rice (I don't think I saw it in the markets in Germany), so this salad was a real treat.

1 and 1/2 cups wild rice
1 red onion
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1 apple
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Bring a large, well-salted pot of water to a boil. Add rice and cook until the rice is al dante, about 25 minutes. Drain rice and place in a large bowl.

Finely dice onion and chop carrot, celery, and apples into small pieces. Add to the bowl with the rice along with the cranberries and walnuts. Grate cheese and add to the bowl as well.

In a small bowl prepare the vinaigrette by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, and olive oil. Pour vinaigrette over the rice and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve warm or cold. To make the salad into a meal, place rice over mixed greens and top with grilled chicken.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Old Bay Burgers Bring Me Back to the Kitchen

Yesterday, for the first time since the baby was born, I put on my apron and made dinner. It was nothing fancy: Old Bay burgers with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, and Swiss and toasted baguette; baked sweet potato "fries;" and roasted Brussels sprouts. Kevin joined me and the baby happily bounced in his bouncy seat watching his parents. It felt good to get back into the kitchen as a family.

Kevin made the burgers. As a native of Maryland, he claims to love crabs, but I think he may really love anything that can get spiced with Old Bay seasoning. Made with celery salt, dried mustard, red and black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and paprika, Old Bay makes a yummy addition to standard burgers.

Old Bay Burgers
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 pound sliced Swiss cheese
Four 2-inch pieces of baguette
1 tablespoon spicy honey mustard
1 caramelized onion
1/4 cup sautéed mushrooms

Mix the Old Bay Seasoning into the ground beef and form into four patties. Grill for four minutes on one side. Flip. Grill for another two to three minutes for medium-well burgers. Add Swiss cheese and allow to melt.

Toast baguette on the grill for two minutes. Coat the bottom of the bread with mustard. Place the burger on the bread. Top each burger with onions and mushrooms.