Tag Archives: home-cooked meals

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Lima Beans . . . Yum?

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my Nana told me that she loved lima beans when she was my age.  Then she paused briefly before going on to say, “But they just don’t taste the same anymore.” 

No wonder.  The lima beans of my Nana’s adulthood — and for all of my childhood —  were either the salty canned variety or the insipid frozen kind. 

While I never turned my nose up at lima beans, I never really embraced them, either.  That is, until, I found them at my farmers market, fresh and still in their pods. 

Now I finally understand why Nana once loved lima beans.

Lima Beans . . . Yum?

FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+EmailMore
http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Everything Old is New Again

There seems to be a renewed interest in “ancient” grains.  Spelt, emmer (a/k/a farro), and barley are all experiencing a resurgence of popularity.  And for good reason.  Ancient grains are high in fiber and protein and, perhaps more important, they have a delicious and intense flavor that just can’t be replicated by your mother’s box of rice.

One of my favorite ancient grains is freekah, a green wheat that originated in the Middle East, and which is sun-dried and roasted during the production process.  It has a nutty flavor and a slightly chewy texture, and it’s delicious whether served hot or turned into a cold salad.  Moreover, it’s as easy to cook as that box of rice I mentioned earlier.  So give it a try and take delight in both the taste and the fact that everything old is new again.

Everything Old is New Again

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Hold the Sauce

During the cold winter months, we make homemade pizza almost every Sunday evening.  This time of year, however, the heat of summer generally keeps us from cranking up the oven to the necessary 550 degrees Fahrenheit.  Of course, there’s an exception to every rule, and the surplus of ripe, miniature tomatoes at the farmers market these days triggers the exception to our No-Homemade-Pizza-in-Summer rule.  Fresh mozzarella, sharp garlic, sweet onion, and minty basil are almost mystical compliments to the sweet and savory little tomatoes.  But, please, hold the sauce.  With tomatoes like these, sauce would only interfere with the magic.

Hold the Sauce

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Summer Isn’t Over Yet!

The passing of Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer.  And though that means that most of us will have to wait until 2015 for our next day at the beach, picnic in the park, or weekend away at the lake, the news is not all bad.  The farmers markets are still filled with summer fruits and vegetables, and it only takes a knife and a blender to turn tomatillos into salsa and cantaloupe into juice.  With flavors and colors like those, summer isn’t over yet!

Summer Isn't Over Yet

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Eating Garbage

A couple of years ago I learned that 40 percent of the food in the United States goes uneaten — more than 20 pounds per person every month.  According to the NRDC, reducing that waste by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year, no small feat when one in six Americans is unsure of where their next meal is coming from.

With that in mind, I have challenged myself to eat what I may previously have tossed in the trash or composting buckets.  Beet greens now get sautéed, mushroom stems get turned into soup stock, and squash seeds get dried and toasted. 

A few weeks ago, as I was enjoying the first watermelon of the season, I recalled eating watermelon rind pickles as a child.  They came from the grocery store in tall, skinny glass bottles and, because they were expensive, they were a once or twice a year treat.  I loved them.

This resurrected memory prompted me to ask myself why I was throwing out the rind.  Why wasn’t I turning it into the beloved pickles of my childhood?  After trying a recipe sent to me by a friend, I know I’ll never make that mistake again.   Eating “garbage” can be indescribably delicious!

Eating Garbage

 

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Ostrich Summer Sausage

While most of my father’s ancestors emigrated from Poland many decades before he was born, he still embraced some of the dietary customs his relatives had brought with them from their homeland.  Among them was a deep love of sausage, both hot and cold.  As a result, I grew up eating various types of fresh and smoked kielbasa, duck’s blood sausage, and — my favorite — a delicious pork summer sausage made in a Polish butcher shop near the Chicago neighborhood where my grandmother lived all of her life. 

Throughout my own adulthood, sausage has played only a minor role in my diet.  Nonetheless, when I recently spotted a rancher at my farmers market selling ostrich summer sausage, I couldn’t resist buying it.  I brought it home, sliced off a respectable chunk, and popped it in my mouth.  The memories of the countless, delicious summer sausages of my childhood came flooding back to me, and I wondered whether my Polish ancestors had ever had the opportunity to eat an ostrich.

Ostrich Summer Sausage

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Shell Peas Shelled

I love eating fresh English shell peas.

And when I see them at the farmers market,

I always buy a big bagful.

Then I get them home.

And I look at them.

And I remember how long it will take to shell them all.

And I wonder what I was thinking when I bought so many.

But I sit down at the table,

Or I stand at the kitchen counter,

And I start removing the tiny peas from their protective shells.

And it never really takes as long as I fear.

And when I’ve blanched them in salt water,

And tossed them in a little butter,

And popped them in my mouth,

I remember exactly what I was thinking when I bought so many.

Shell Peas Shelled

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Less Can be More

Once upon a time, I would spend days preparing a dinner for friends.  A typical meal at my home included six courses served on my great-great grandmother’s bone china, and could take three hours to eat.  I spent more time working in the kitchen during dinner than I spent with my guests at the table.

When I moved from a single-family home in Chicago to a small New York City apartment, I left my heirloom china behind in my brother’s custodial care for my niece. As a result, my friends  now enjoy eating simpler dinners in my home, and I enjoy having more time to spend with them during the meals. 

The focus of a meal is no longer on the culinary skills I worked so hard to acquire and perfect.  Instead, our attention is on the incomparable produce and heirloom grains grown by local farmers, and the fresh fish or succulent piece of meat sold to me that morning by a local fisherman or rancher.  After all, a good cook without talented and dedicated farmers is like a writer without an alphabet.

It took me years of study and decades of practice, but I now understand that — more often than not — less can be more.

Swordfish & Sorrel Sauce

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Veal Tongue

One of the unfortunate consequences of growing up in a wealthy country is that most Americans children don’t learn to value the offal and other under-appreciated — though wonderful — parts of an animal.  Even as an adult, I find that most of my friends wince when I mention dishes such as braised sweetbreads and tripe tacos.  I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to have grown up with a father who loved calf’s liver, a mother who ate chicken hearts, a grandmother who cooked veal kidneys, and a neighborhood Chinese restaurateur who routinely used chicken feet in his meal preparation.

So, when our favorite New York dairy farmers, Tim and Mary Tonjes of Tonjes Farm Dairy, mentioned last week that they had veal tongue for sale, I bought one and brought it home.  Having not cooked one for about 15 years, I found an easy recipe on the internet, and threw it in a pot of celery, onions, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and gently boiling water for about an hour and a half.  Then I turned the burner off and let the meat sit in the cooking juices for another hour.  When I finally removed it from the liquid, I peeled the off the outer layer, discarded it, and sliced the tender meat.  The aroma and flavor are delicate and meaty, and the texture is somewhere between corned beef, though not stringy, and stew meat, though far more tender.

I served the meat on a crunchy baguette with horseradish and lettuce.  It was simple.  And simply delicious.

Veal Tongue

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Rhubarb Season

We can have a legitimate discussion about whether rhubarb should be classified as a fruit or a vegetable, and whether is it best used in sweet or savory dishes.  But please don’t try to convince me that the arrival of rhubarb season isn’t a reason to celebrate.  If you do, I won’t invite you to the party.

Rhubarb Season

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Rainbow Chard

While standing at one of my favorite greenmarket stands, I overheard a couple speaking to each other while gazing at the rainbow chard.

“Look at this.  It’s absolutely beautiful,” one said.

“Yes it is,” said the other, “but I never know how to cook it.”

I apologized for eavesdropping on their conversation, and quickly explained that cooking rainbow chard is as easy as chopping it up and sautéing it with some oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and — if they liked — a squirt of fresh lemon juice.  Then, I promised them that it would be delicious.  They thanked me and bought a big bunch, as did I.

On my walk home, I wondered how many twenty-first century Americans believe they no longer know how to cook.  It’s a shame that our society has become so intimidated by the concept of turning on a stove, throwing some fresh food in a pan, and seeing what happens.  

So, if you think you may be letting fear keep you from expanding your culinary repertoire, buy something you’ve never bought before, bring it home, research a simple recipe or two on the internet, and give it a shot.  Chances are, it will be easier than you think, taste better than you expect, and give you a well-deserved reason to pat yourself on the back.

Rainbow Chard

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Hard Boiled Eggs

Recently, a woman selling me eggs at my farmers market apologized for the price.   At $6.00 a dozen, she felt they may be too expensive.  I assured her they were not.  What else can you buy for fifty cents that is high in protein, low in salt, sugar, and fat, and contains only about 80 calories?  Add to that the versatility of eggs, and they seem like a genuine bargain to me.   When I got home, I hard boiled a few and added them to some fresh salad greens, homemade croutons, and sliced red onion, and tossed it all together with some mustard vinaigrette.  It was delicious.  In fact, it was a lot tastier and healthier than a large coffee beverage that costs nearly as much.  So, the next time you hear someone complaining about the price of eggs, you may want to politely suggest that they think again.  

Bacon and Egg Salad

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Will Play for Food

Cooking isn’t a game, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.  Of course, if you’re too concerned about getting perfect results every time, you won’t always enjoy yourself.  But if you keep working at it, and learn from your mistakes, I’ll be surprised if you don’t have a great time and find yourself feeling like a winner.

Will Play for Food

http://eyeslobber.com/about/

Jam Juice

“Waste not, want not,” my Gramps told me, as he scraped the last of the jam from the jar, filled the jar with tap water, and shook it up.

“What are you going to do with that?” I asked him, wide-eyed and spellbound.

“It’s jam juice!” he declared before pouring half the vaguely pinkish water into a small glass for me, and drinking the rest down straight from the jar. 

I followed his lead, noting that the liquid no longer tasted exactly like water, nor did it taste anything like juice.  In fact, I wasn’t really sure I liked it.  But I smiled widely and drank it all anyway, because I loved my Gramps, and that was good enough for me.

Jam Juice