everyday green lentils

I can’t remember the last time I missed the sight of brown dirt in the winter. It’s been over a month since a few major storms covered my part of the Northeast with snow, immediately becoming frozen in place. We literally have boulder-sized piles on the street made of solid ice and a thick layer of white on the ground you can walk on without making a dent.

All this icy whiteness is making me think about what spring will look like – one season I haven’t seen here in New Jersey yet – and what plants I’ll plant as soon as it thaws.

I always try to grow my favorite perennial herb plants like thyme, lavender and rosemary. Depending on what kind of winter blast Mother Nature sends, they can survive a few seasons, the lavender plants spreading out with fragrant flowers all summer.

Why did I start out writing about dirt?  It must be a sign of deprivation. Lentils taste nothing like earth or dirt to me, but their humbleness never fails to make a comforting, simple meal especially suited for eating while things go Arctic outside.  [Read more...]

brussels sprouts with pine nut gremolata

Are Brussels sprouts the new kale? I’ve been seeing them in markets and on menus all over the place – shaved raw into salads and roasted to a smoky-edged char in wood-fired ovens.

I didn’t know how much I could love Brussels sprouts, but that’s because when I was growing up my mom didn’t cook them – I don’t remember intriguing miniature cabbages appearing anywhere on the table when I was a kid. Were they not farmed on a large scale back then or were they just not a part of my family’s food tradition? I have a feeling they were the kind of vegetable you bought frozen in the 70’s, which might explain why I never laid eyes on a fresh Brussels sprout until I was an adult.

Even a just few years ago, those fresh-picked stalks with the sprouts still attached were kind of a novelty in produce departments, but now I see them everywhere.  It also never occurred to me that they could be so easily – and quickly – cooked in the microwave, with really delicious results. [Read more...]

rigatoni and roasted delicata squash

About two months ago my entire kitchen  — along with every other room in the four bedroom Colonial Revival home I’d lived in for the past 10 years — was packed into a seemingly endless pile of boxes and loaded onto a long distance semi trailer truck, headed for New Jersey.

It took a few professionals less than a day to wrap and pack it all, but here I am, these many weeks later still sliding razor blades, sticky from packing tape, along the tops of the few remaining boxes.

Settling into a new space is a process. As I unpacked pots, pans, dishes and so many spoons, spatulas and whisks along with them I also found things that I didn’t know I had and had no idea I needed. Like about a thousand bamboo cocktail skewers, for example. And 3 dozen souffle cups.

“Why do I have all this stuff?” I wondered over and over…the whole experience left me a more than a little traumatized. I made a promise to myself that from now on I need to imagine the inevitable exit of every single thing I bring into my house.

Cooking in my new kitchen has progressed from the baby steps of basic survival meals. I’ve been inspired by food shopping. There are fantastic markets here, so well-stocked I have to restrain myself…all I need to do is remember how I gave away my pantry while we were packing a few months ago.

One night I riffed on a recipe from Heidi’s 101 Cookbooks, a roasted delicata squash, chile and mozzarella salad. Delicata is only around for a few months (right now) and I’m always glad to see it. The beautiful, striated green and sunset yellow skin is tender enough that there’s no need to peel it — I sometimes just scrape the skin randomly here and there to remove blemishes — and the flesh roasts up tender and very sweet.

[Read more...]