Budget Archive

Thursday, February 20, 2014

stuck-pot rice with lentils and yogurt

stuck-pot rice with lentils and yogurt

I once read that if you ask a guy what his favorite item of clothing is, he would pick the oldest thing he owns — some t-shirt he’s had since high school or nearly threadbare sweats. And if you ask a woman, she usually picks the last thing she bought. [Nobody mentioned four year-olds but obviously: fireman hat.] Gender stereotyping copy aside,* when it comes to recipes, this has me down to a T: my favorite thing to cook is usually the last thing I made. Because of this, I fail 100% of the time at “content-planning strategies” [or as it sounds in my head when I read phrases like this: blargle-blargle blargle] because while I’m supposed to be telling you about this great dish I made last week for Valentine’s, I only want to talk about what I made for dinner on Tuesday night. Because it’s my new favorite everything.

what you'll need, plus a fork
i rinsed my rice. for once.

When I first read about stuck-pot rice many years ago, I guffawed a bit, because who needs a recipe for that? I come from a long line of cooks that cannot make rice without burning it; any night where rice is on the stove ends with a gunked-up pot soaking overnight in the sink. It’s tradition; one day I will teach this guy too!

deb, your pot is too small!

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Friday, November 22, 2013

parsley leaf potatoes

parsley leaf potatoes

As you may have noticed, as the week’s progressed, things have gotten simpler. We started with great ambitions — we will make a green bean casserole from scratch! We will trim the beans! make a roux! sauté the mushrooms! coat and deep-fry the onions! We moved onto my favorite stuffing made from torn baguettes, diced apples and onions and celery, three herbs, sometimes cornbread, sometimes sausage; it’s a two-pan ordeal. We slipped quietly into the simple weeknight savior, cauliflower and brown butter breadcrumbs. At the rate we’re going, I’ll have a boiled water recipe on the site by Monday. But somewhere between five-ingredient breadcrumbs and recipes that don’t need to be spelled out, there’s this, a potato recipe with only salt, butter and parsley.

scrubbed russets
halved lengthwise

Why slow down? If you’re like me, at the outset of a holiday, you’re brimming with ideas: dry-brined, braise-roasted and deep-fried turkeys! homemade stuffing from homemade bread! individual miniature pies for every person at the table. As the holiday gets closer — not unlike the progression of this week for me — real life begins to creep in. There are day jobs, flu-like symptoms, traffic jams and extremely dull things like dentist appointments doing everything in their power to interrupt. There are only so many hours in the day, and days left in which one can cook. There are only so many hours of those hours in which one can cook that they actually want to.

one leaf per potato half, plus salt

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Monday, October 7, 2013

miso sweet potato and broccoli bowl

miso sweet potato and broccoli bowl

Here are the things I jotted down on my cooking wish-list whilst (!) I was in the UK: baked cauliflower cheese, a “proper” English Sunday roast (with mash fried potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, creamy horseradish sauce), the “full English” breakfast (authentic = every item must be fried, apparently!), cider vinegar + Maldon sea salt crisps with champagne, please, chunky olive oil and mushroom risotto, clotted cream and marmalade scones, Welsh cakes, chocolate-dipped digestives and fall apple-plum crisps thickly drizzled with fresh cream.

blurry, but you have to see this sweet potato monstrosity
so much broccoli, ready to roast

And then I came home and made this instead. I am sure you understand. Before one swan dives into a vat of thick cream and baked cheddar and passes out on a Yorkshire pudding pillow only to revive oneself with a deep inhale of horseradish-triple cream sauce, one must reset their system, so to speak. One must prepare. At the very least, one must dust off their gym ID. And so I put all of those notes in the “dead of winter, need comfort” files and returned to the land of fall, where the leaves are beginning to turn, fragrant unblemished apples hang from acres of trees, and Gwyneth Paltrow gently suggests that if you coat the sweet potatoes and broccoli that are on every market stand with a heavenly miso dressing, you will find some gorgeous dinnertime nirvana in a bowl.

sweet potatoes, ready to roast

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Monday, March 4, 2013

french onion tart + uk cookbook release

french onion tart, little tuft of salad

Hello from 30,000 feet! I wrote this on my 23rd airplane flight since November 2012, but here’s the part where you can be certain at last that I’m as weird as you already suspected: I still love flying as much as this guy. How could I not? At the time, there were perfect white puffs of clouds below us (I always call them Simpson’s Clouds, because they remind me of the ones in the show’s opener) and the sky above the clouds, as always, was piercingly blue. The day before, it was snow-sided mountains down below, and before that, circular fields inside perfect grids, fern-like trenches and mosaics that stretched to the horizon. That I also get to hang out at awesome bookstores and meet really nice people who indulge me (but really shouldn’t, lest I feel encouraged) by laughing at my terrible jokes only makes it more fun.

a two-pound bag, you can use all/most
onion halves and peels

This strange thing that’s been happening over these book tours that I spend the entirety of my time outside the kitchen pining for it. I constantly jot down recipe ideas and become obsessed with making something very specific when I get home, like English muffins that taste like rye bread or a breakfast burrito like the awesome one I had at the Salt Lake City Airport (seriously) or intense homesick cravings for street meat from Rafiqi’s. Then I get home and… nothing. My cooking motivation goes through the floor. I try not to fight it; I hate when cooking is a chore, so we’ll order in or go out for one night, and then another. Usually, by the third evening, I am so completely over it — the salad with too much dressing, the raw-centered burger that you send back and comes out burnt through — that I’m back in the kitchen, relieved that absence made my cooking obsession stronger.

starting to wilt

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Monday, February 18, 2013

italian stuffed cabbage

italian stuffed cabbage

Prior to November, what I knew of stuffed cabbage rolls were limited to the Jewish/Eastern European variety, which I make the way my mother-in-law does. I hadn’t given it further thought because as far as I was concerned, it was never broken, and needed little improvement, and when there’s little room for me to tinker in the kitchen, I quickly lose interest. But if I had, it might have occurred to me that cabbage, being one of the ultimate peasant foods, has probably been wrapped around meat that’s been ground and then stretched (always budget-minded, those peasants) with other ingredients and cooked in a sauce in a zillion different ways over the centuries. And oh, the fun we might have been having this whole time.

peeling the savoy
big floppy cabbage leaves

As it turns out, it could be argued that any region that can grow large cabbage leaves is indeed stuffing them with something. The most cursory of Google searches leads one on a tour of Greek lahanodolmathes, stuffed with ground beef and rice and covered with a traditional egg and lemon (avgolemono) sauce; French chou farci, stuffed with beef or pork, sometimes mushrooms, wrapped in large layers of cabbage leaves and served in wedges; Polish gloabki, or “little pigeons,” with pork and beef, and rice or barley (sigh); Slovak holubky or halupki; Serb or Croatian sarma with (hold me) sauerkraut and ham hocks, and Arabic mahshi malfouf which adds lemon juice, cinnamon and mint (swoon) to the usual ground meat and rice medley. And guys, I’m just getting started. The idea that there are this many ways to fall in love with stuffed cabbage torments me, and leaves me daydreaming about a Westeros-length winter wherein we could audition each one.

quickly blanching the cabbage leaves

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