Sunday, June 12, 2011

Quesadilla Mom Dinner

When Craig is gone dinners with Mom are down and dirty. Quesadillas are a favorite because they are soul food for me, and because they are fast and creative. They are also very good vehicles for protein. Colby's neurology thrives on high quality, grass fed protein, and it has taught me to consider my own need for it, how my mood and energy are more stable when I get good quality proteins versus refined carbs. And now, in the glorious summer, we eat outside and let the melted cheese and creme freche melt down our chins and onto the grass.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Getting Stuck and Bread Crumb Pasta

I have been colossally stuck with writing, the deadly combination of feeling depressed and having very real, massive pressures on my time led to no writing, none, for nearly a month. It is a well worn story, the cumulative effect of not doing what you need to do and that compounding to make you feel worse and worse. Every day you don't go to the gym makes it easier to skip it the next day. I was moping and thinking about this and mentally kicking myself for not making the time, when Craig opened a package of rotten chicken. Finally, something more foul than my mood.
Craig went into an instantaneous brainstorm, what else to make? As I watched him I had a small, eventual epiphany on how having to get something done is often the only reason anything does get done. Opening a spoiled package of chicken at six p.m. on Saturday evening, two hungry kids licking at his ankles, zero takeout options, is dealt with immediately and creatively because it has to be. Kids need dinner, especially after the day they'd had: they had walked a full mile and a half hike on their own two feet. No strollers. No piggy backs or "uppy" carrying. They had done it, one foot in front of the other.
And, that morning at the market, Maryrose nicely but firmly nudged me for having slacked on writing the blog. Maryrose is someone I deeply admire. Her lamb, which I have written about frequently, and cheese, and sheepskins, are the fruits of very hard, intelligent work. And you should see her gorgeous biceps.
As I watched Craig whip up an anchovy and bread crumb pasta, I felt my mopey, myopic self loathing shift. I realized I had been focusing my admonishments on not writing anything to post, but my real problem was that I simply had not been writing. I had jumped ahead to feeling like a loser for not putting anything out there. But what had I given myself? What time had I given, what respect for my work had I given myself? The problem was not a gap in posting to the blog, the problem was the inattentiveness to myslef. It was like putting the kids to bed with no dinner. Sorry, the chicken was rotten, too bad, see you at breakfast! No, you have to give attention to what needs it. Even if the chicken is rotten you have to make dinner. Even if I don't have any ideas to post, I still have to write, because if I don't I am awful and cranky, like a toddler in need of dinner. Get it done because you have to. Get it done so your mood does not reek like rotten chicken. Get it done because someone actually wants to read it.
In fifteen minutes Craig had this meal ready. We sat around the table and slurped it up, greasy chins, our bodies slowly easing, nourished and loved.

Craig was buying pasta at Murray's, years ago now, when he ran into his friend Ignacio Mattos. They were talking about what they were up to, what they were cooking, new music they’d found, when Ignacio related his favorite fast pasta: pasta, bread crumbs, anchovies and chili flakes. It has been a staple ever since. Especially in emergency moments such as this rotten chicken evening.

Even if you think you don't like anchovies, try this out. When used in cooking, and not eaten directly, say off a pizza, they become a wonderful salty essence. Not "fishy," just a really nice saltiness. Chances are if you were once revolted by an anchovy it was oil packed, packed in not so great quality oil. Anchovies packed in salt or high quality olive oil are distinctly better tasting, and have a better texture.

what you will need:
spagetti or fettuchine
anchovies to taste. i prefer salted. a small can of olive oil packed filets will work.
some garlic, minced
the green part of 4 or 5 scallions slivered or some chives (and their flowers) finely diced.
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
bread crumbs

heat a large pot of water.

in a large skillet splash some olive oil and over low heat soften the garlic. add a some black pepper to taste. add the anchovies and smash with a fork until they dissolve into the oil. red pepper is nice, if you prefer a bit more kick. toss in the scallions or chives and remove from heat.

when the water is boiling, cook your pasta of choice until barely al dente (it should have a bit of a snap when you bit into it) then, using tongs, put the pasta in the skillet with anchovy oil mixture.
put the skillet back on medium-high heat. add about a ladle of the hot pasta water. toss the pasta and the sauce until the liquid is about gone. remove from heat and add bread crumbs. mix and serve!

variations…try adding the white part of the scallions along with the garlic. parsley if you like at the end.

for the bread crumbs:
save all your bit and pieces of bread in a paper bag. when you need bread crumbs, grab a hunk of the dried bread and grate on a box grater into a large bowl. add salt and pepper to taste and put in a cast iron skillet on low heat. stir periodically with a wooden spoon so the crumbs don't burn. when they are nice and toasty put in a bowl until you need 'em.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Double Stove In Action

Craig's "Can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need," double stove situation is working out. It is effective to have both gas and electric, depending on what you are cooking. The gas is much hotter and faster when you need that: stove top espresso maker, sauteing greens, boiling water. And the electric is good for slow and steady: stock, frying eggs, warming tortillas, certain meats. On simpler dinner days, or when when only the electric is needed, a huge wooden cutting board over the gas stove top adds much needed counter space.
This summer we might actually get to do a little work on the kitchen. It is rudimentary but effective now. It will never be slick cabinets and marble counters, it will always be open wine crates for cups and glasses, open shelves stuffed with baskets of spices, eggs, bread. But, it could look a little less like a make shift mess kitchen at camp. The ability to cook in any situation is one of the signs of a good, determined cook, like being able to cook a meal when it seems there is absolutely nothing in the house.
What we need to address are simple, affordable changes to reduce the frustration of a place lacking work flow. And I wouldn't mind at all if it was a little more rewarding to clean. Right now the flooring is a strange white underflooring that was under the ancient, decaying, gold flecked linoleum that Craig tore out one day when it just became to ugly to bear. No matter how much work goes into the white mystery material floor, it never looks clean. It is very unsatisfying to have so little gratification for labor.
So, little kitchen, this summer we want to give you some love and attention. We all want it, and need it.