Sunday, October 31, 2010

Savory Oatmeal With Parmesan and Olive Oil

Oatmeal has always been big in my family, and like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, each of us has a distinct way of personalizing his or her bowl.

My mom always adds fruit to her oatmeal; sliced bananas, frozen blueberries, chopped apples and dried apricots are all fair game. Dad prefers steel-cut Irish oats and takes an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to breakfast. He mixes in protein powder for extra nutrition, granola and toasted walnuts for additional texture, and then he’ll add golden raisins as well as whatever leftover fresh fruit Mom has cut up for hers. As kids, my brother and I used our oatmeal as a vehicle for heaping spoonfuls of brown sugar, as that was the one of the few times our nutritionally-conscious mother allowed us to add sugar to our food. I loved the soft consistency of the brown sugar, reminiscent of slightly wet sand on the beach only to melt into dark rivers once it came into contact with the hot steaming porridge in our bowls.  My brother is now more of an eggs-and-potatoes man at breakfast so I don’t know how he doctors his oatmeal these days. However, I definitely have something totally new to bring to the table, for I have just discovered the joys of Savory Oatmeal with Parmesan and Olive Oil. Say whaaat?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Raw Kale Salad

When I was growing up, there was a salad on our table every single night, without fail. My mother assembled salads that were a riot of colors and textures, in an attempt to give us as much vegetable variety as she possibly could. Though I don’t think I complained about my mom’s ultra-healthy creations at the time, I know I appreciate her efforts much more in retrospect. I was a kid who definitely preferred making my own salads at a restaurant salad bar when I could drown my lettuce in thick blue cheese dressing, croutons and baco-bits. If you had told me when I was little that someday I would be truly excited about eating a kale salad, I would have laughed in your face. However, it’s never too late to surprise yourself, for I have been eating some version of a raw kale salad all week long.

This kale craze started a week ago after I had a great play date with the Little Chef last Friday. We were celebrating the end of his school week on 18th Street, one of our favorite blocks in Manhattan.  You feel like you've hit the jackpot when you're on this singular block that contains one of the greatest children’s bookstores ever (the ever-delightful Books of Wonder) in addition to City Bakery, which proffers serious treats for kids of all ages.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fig Chutney

In my recent quest to cut down on my refined sugar intake, I am rediscovering the joys of the fruit-and-cheese plate for dessert. It’s an interesting experiment, as I’m discovering that fruit tastes sweeter and more flavorful to me now that I’m off the sugar treadmill. Pairing the fruit with a bit of decadent cheese offsets any chance of my feeling deprived.

You can’t beat a snowy round of Bucheron goat cheese accompanied by inky concord grapes, and I am partial to creamy gorgonzola dolce served alongside juicy slices of a ripe Bosc pear. I am a sucker for honeycrisp apples, utterly delightful on their own and especially so with extra-sharp cheddar or an aged Gouda such as Prima Donna or Dutch Parrano. I have been taking advantage of the end of fig season, enjoying them fresh with both blue and goat cheeses. As of this week, Fig Chutney is my happy new discovery.

This fig chutney recipe comes from the brand-new cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef, by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern. I’ve been following Shauna’s Gluten-Free Girl blog for several years, inspired by her lyrical writing and evocative photographs as well as the recipes she and her chef-husband have developed together. One bookcase in my living room is devoted solely to cookbooks, and I had to issue a temporary moratorium on cookbook purchases as the shelves were groaning under the weight of all of my cooking volumes. However, I couldn’t resist buying the Aherns’ new book last month, and I’m so glad I did. If the rest of the recipes are as satisfying as this fig chutney, I think you’ll want this book in your collection too.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Eggplant Parmigiana Without Fuss

There are certain dishes that I love but rarely make myself, given the realities of my kitchen. I often feel I’m juggling at a three-ring circus when cooking in my little Manhattan kitchen with its tiny stove and lack of counter space. I engage in a lot of creative rearranging, usually balancing a large cutting board over the sink to create more surface space while negotiating multiple pots on the burners as well as resting on the open oven door. If a dish requires me to have several pans bubbling on the stove AND have the oven preheating at the same time, I’m screwed.

For example, I’ve always loved Eggplant Parmigiana. I think you could convince me to eat just about anything if it were smothered in tomato sauce and blanketed in melted cheese, but I’ve always had a particular fondness for this Italian classic. However, eggplant parm is one of those dishes I’ve never felt compelled to tackle at home, preferring to order it in a good restaurant where their kitchen is presumably bigger than mine. I’ll let a professional with more counter space and a bigger cook top coordinate frying the eggplant and draining it on paper towels while also whipping up a killer tomato sauce, and I assume that a restaurant kitchen doesn’t have to empty their oven of a dozen skillets and cookie sheets every time they want to bake something.