A Little Taste of Freedom in the Form of Polenta, Mushrooms and an Egg

The Runaway Mom Antidote

Do you ever think about what life will be like when (and if) your kids move out of the house? I know this may be a blasphemous thought in perfect mommy land because we aren’t supposed to think of day-to-day life without our little miracles. They ARE little miracles, don’t get me wrong.

But, man, they can be little buzz kills too.

There are two things I won’t miss when Luca and Alia make their way out into the world. One is negotiating every single act during the course of the day – getting up, putting clothes on, brushing teeth, choosing breakfast, eating breakfast, playing, not playing, putting stuff away, putting shoes on, taking shoes off, getting in the car, blowing noses, washing faces, flushing the toilet . . . EVERYTHING. I know many parents see these as mini “teachable moments,” but by 10 a.m. I am all taught out. Teaching tank is empty. Dry as a bone. I shouldn’t be surprised that all I can do after the final negotiation of the day – bedtime – is stare at the wall, then pass out into a deep, dark slumber only to wake up and do it all over again.

The other thing I won’t miss is tailoring meals to their tastes. It can’t be “too spicy.” Luca will surely ferret that out. If I put any kind of crunchy green or fresh tomato in a dish, I know Alia will resist. I don’t leave this stuff out though . . . because I want them to keep trying things. But, when I choose something to make, potential negative reactions are always in the back of my head. Or not. Sometimes, I am completely surprised that one of them doesn’t like something. Take the bowl of goodness pictured above. Cheesy, creamy polenta topped with oven roasted mushrooms and a fried egg. “How could this be wrong?” I thought. Last time I made it, there was a mutiny at our dining room table . . . there was crying and gagging and wrinkled noses. And, I can’t even write about the Dan Dan Noodle drama. It’s still too raw. I almost took my pot of scrumptious noodles and ran away from home.

So to keep myself put I sometimes make anything I want and do what I swore I would never do – make two (somewhat) different meals. Last night, the kids got the yoga special without the yoga and I made myself  Parmesan Polenta with Fried Eggs and Roasted Mushrooms. This recipe was a revelation to me the first time I made it. I discovered roasting mushrooms is the best way to prepare them. Their texture becomes satisfyingly chewy and dense, a great contrast to the soft polenta. This method of making polenta is brilliant. No laborious stirring at the cook top – just mix, bring to a boil and simmer.

And, everybody was content. The eggs and hash browns were gobbled up by the two miracle/buzz kills while I savored my little bowl of heaven and felt happy that they will be around for a while longer.

Parmesan Polenta with Eggs and Roasted Mushrooms
adapted from The Kitchn
Serves 3

For mushrooms:
1 lb mushrooms (I use cremini.)
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

For polenta:
1/2 cup polenta
1 cup milk
1 cup water
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

To finish:
3 eggs
chopped fresh herb of your choice for garnish (I have used chives and basil. Flat leaf Italian parsley would be good as well.)

Preheat oven to 475.

Cut mushrooms into quarters. Toss mushrooms with oil, pepper flakes, and salt on a baking sheet. Spread in single layer and roast until browned, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk polenta, milk, water, and salt together in saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, covered. After reaching a boil, turn heat to low and let sit with lid cracked for 15 minutes.

While polenta is cooking, heat about 1 teaspoon olive oil a cast  skillet over medium heat and crack the eggs so that they are sunny side up. Season with salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium low and put a lid on the skillet. Cook for about 4-5 minutes until everything is set.  Flip the eggs and cook to desired doneness. I like mine over medium – whites firm and the yolk somewhat runny.

Mix Parmesan into polenta. Spoon polenta into a shallow bowl. Top with 1/3 mushrooms and one egg. Garnish with chopped herb(s) of your choice.

Rating:

Me:  A+ (This is a perfect bowl of food. One of my favorites.)

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Spagittata

Spagittata - frittata with a backbone

Luca asked me what we were having for dinner last night. “A frittata with pasta,” I informed him. “We could call it a spagittata,” he suggested. (I am heartened by the fact that he likes to make up words as much as I do.) Luca then went on to tell me how excited he was because he is not crazy about frittata, but add some pasta and he may be sold on the concept. I could toss some pasta with sliced shoe leather and he would be sold on the concept. The kid loves his pasta.

In its first morph, the spagittata did not live up to expectations. When trying a new recipe, I attempt to stick to the original as much as possible the first time around. Then, I rate it (out of 5 stars) and note possible changes for next time. This time I made three changes out of necessity and prudence . . . I should have listened to my gut and made two more for the sake of flavor. The recipe calls for arugula, which excited me because I love arugula and I happened to be at Kroger when the produce people were marking it down drastically. A good sized container went from $5 to .75. When I got home, I discovered it was too far gone to use. Into the compost bin it went. I had a bit of spinach in the fridge so I used that instead. The original recipe also calls for 2/3 cup of cream – copious amounts of cream the little, old German woman in me decided. So, I cut that down to 1/3 cup. And, there is the ONE cup of Parmesan. I reduced that to 1/2 cup.

The resulting spagittata made Luca imitate this commercial:

which brings me to what I should have done. I should have substituted basil for the mint because as is, the thing tasted like a not-as-strong egg version of a peppermint patty. It needed more salt as well. The thing with frittatas (or is it frittati?) is, it is difficult to check seasoning because it is mostly raw eggs. There have been times when I have under and over seasoned. This time was under. And, it doesn’t matter if you add salt when it is on the plate. It is too late to infuse the eggs with those precious little grains of flavor boost.

I’m not done with this recipe yet. I will try, try again – mostly because I can’t let a good, made-up name go to waste.

Spagittata
adapted from Fine Cooking
serves 6
Kosher salt
3 oz. uncooked dried spaghetti (or 1-1/3 cups cooked)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large or 2 small shallots, trimmed, peeled, and thinly sliced crosswise
2 oz. (about 2 cups lightly packed) fresh spinach, stemmed and chopped
8 large eggs (preferably at room temperature)
1/3 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (use the large holes on a box grater)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint (Next time I will use basil instead – see above.)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons sliced chives

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water according to package directions. Drain well and let cool. Transfer to a medium bowl.

In an ovenproof 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and 1/2 Tbs. of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened and lightly golden, about 8?minutes. Add the arugula and toss with tongs until wilted, about 1 minute. With a heatproof spatula, scrape the arugula mixture and any fat left in the pan into the bowl with the pasta. Toss lightly to combine.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, 1/2 tsp. salt (I will increase this to 1 teaspoon next time), and several grinds of pepper. Add the pasta mixture, Parmesan, mint, parsley, and chives. Mix gently but thoroughly.

Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and 1/2 Tbs. butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, add the egg mixture. Use the heatproof spatula to gently distribute the ingredients evenly. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the eggs have set just along the outside edge of the pan, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the frittata is puffed, golden, and set, 22 to 24 minutes.

Let the frittata cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes. Run the spatula gently around the edge and underneath the frittata, and slide it onto a cutting board. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with pan-fried and steamed broccoli.

While the frittata baked, I broke two bunches of broccoli into bite-size florets and sauteed them in 1/2-1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan. I seasoned the broccoli with about 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a few grind of pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. When it turned bright green and was brown in spots, I put a few tablespoons of water in the pan and put a lid on it and steamed to desired tenderness. This is my favorite way to prepare broccoli!  

Ratings:

Scott:  B (“It needs something.”)

Me:  B- (See above for explanation)

Luca:  B- (See above for explanation)

Alia:  A? (I am not sure she really thought it was an A. She ate it all, but it was a dessert night so that could explain it.)

Egg Salad with a Kick – No Fooling!

Egg salad sliced tomatoes tucked into a pita

Lunches for adults are most often an afterthought around here. There is thought put into lunches packed for school and daycare . . . deep thought. Are they balanced? Will they eat what’s packed? Is there too much dairy? Too much grain? Can I slip in another fruit or vegetable? But the adults eat leftovers or a banana and granola bar woofed down at a desk or standing in the kitchen.

On this particular Friday afternoon, I found myself with some time on my hands and a few beautiful, local, free range eggs. A jar of prepared horseradish provided some inspiration.

I still woofed down lunch standing at the kitchen counter, but it was one tasty inhale. Since hard boiled egg fest is coming up next weekend, you may want to tuck this recipe in your back pocket.

Egg Salad with a Kick

adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

serves one hungry mother

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used Hellman’s light)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 – 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons chopped chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Place 3 eggs in a sauce pan. Add water to cover with 1-2 inches above the eggs. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Transfer eggs to an ice bath and cool for about 10 minutes.

Peel eggs and chop. In a medium bowl, mix with mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish (to taste), and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Rating:

Me:  A (This is the best egg salad I have made.)

(No one else had this or cared to . . . and for this, I am grateful.)

After the Bliss Redux

Thursday night yoga and then out for a late birthday celebration for me. No potatoes and hash browns. No Jimmy John’s. A dirty martini though. Can’t go wrong with that.

Back at the ranch, Scott made an old stand-by for dinner – what I often refer to as the egg potato salad thing. The recipe lives in one of the stand-by recipe binders in the photo. That’s where I keep most of the recipes I find online or in magazines, although I have been relying on Pinterest a lot lately. Do you have a system for keeping track of recipes?

Yes, eggs and potatoes again. This is the real world and sometimes there are repeats in the real world. Actually, LOTS of times there are repeats. This is a good recipe to have in your arsenal. You probably have all the ingredients (or approximations) kicking around in the fridge. We don’t always have spinach. Romaine works just as well. We also don’t use 2 pounds of greens – maybe most of the head of Romaine or about 3/4 a bag of spinach. Once you put the dressing on, you must eat the greens. They don’t keep . . . at all. So, I just dress what I think we will eat. I love the dressing. It has lots of vinegar so there is a nice tang. I use sherry vinegar if I have it. It is complex, but has a softness to it at the same time. The Dijon mustard adds a nice punch.

Tomorrow, I am hanging up my yoga pants and cooking again. Hint: it rhymes with ‘awful’.

Ratings:

Me:     I was having a drink, remember?

Scott: A (“That’s one of my favorites”)

Luca:  A (“Hmm. I’d give it an A, but not an A+ because there are some things that are better, but it IS good”)

Alia:   D (This is one of her unfavorite meals due to the presence of crunchy greens. She did eat the egg and potato, however)

And, After the Bliss There Is

an egg with some hash browns? Wednesdays and Thursdays are yoga nights. I am as passionate about yoga as I am about cooking. I am not sure the two will ever come together as I am not all that interested in regularly eating what I see in my yoga books or doing this.

In Poser, Clare Dederer writes about leaving offerings of roasted, organic chicken for her family so she could go practice with a clean conscious. There have been a few times when I have made dinner before yoga . . . when I wasn’t teaching . . . in the summer . . . But, this is not a common occurrence. No clean conscious here. Usually, Scott makes dinner for the kids and I stumble in the house around 7:30 full of bliss and ravenous as hell. So far, two meals seem to fill the bill – a fried egg with hash browns or a #6 with barbeque chips from Jimmy John’s. Not exactly pure eating. My friend Michele swears by this meal (which IS pretty amazing). I can’t be bothered with boiling water in a bliss filled state, however.

My meal is simple, but infinitely satisfying especially since we recently found a source  for local, free-range eggs that have viscous yolks the color of an orange peel (Thank you, Molly!).

Salt is the key to a simple dish like this (to all dishes, in fact). I used to be afraid of salt when I was a teenager. I have no idea why. Fear of a hypertension diagnosis at 16? It must have been the same hormone-induced logic that caused me to live on Minute Rice (unsalted) topped with shredded Colby cheese (what IS the point of Colby anyway?), canned Hormel chili and Yoplait yogurt.

Post-Yoga Bliss on a Plate

1 russet potato shredded using the large holes on a box grater (don’t bother peeling it because, remember, you are ravenous as hell)

1/2 TBS oil – olive, sunflower . . . whatever you have

1 egg

salt and pepper

Heat oil over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet. When hot, put potato shreds in a thin layer covering about 1/2 the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Feeling fancy? Use smoked sea salt. Cover the pan. Reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 7 minutes or until the potatoes are the color of dark caramel. Flip the hash browns. Get the eggs out of the refrigerator. If you have a source for local, free-range eggs, they will be different sizes. Choose the largest one and crack it next to the potatoes. Season both with salt and pepper – not too much, not too little. Put the lid back on. In about 3-4 minutes, lift up the lid to check the egg. When the egg white is opaque over the yolk, flip the egg. If you like the yolk runny, let it go for 30 seconds or so. I like my yolk medium these days, so I let it go for a couple of minutes.

When the egg is done and the the other side of the hash browns is brown, slide onto a plate. In the summer, I slice up a tomato and top it with – you guessed it – salt and pepper.

One potato makes a pretty big serving of hash browns. This is after an evening of attempting things like this, so I think a few extra fried potato shreds are in order.

Rating:

Me:  A