Friday, January 28, 2011

Cornmeal Arugula Soup

Having been a hardcore night owl for most of my life, it’s fair to say that I do not respond well when my phone rings before 10 a.m. However, I totally didn’t mind yesterday’s 8:15 a.m. phone call informing me that my morning rehearsal had been cancelled due to the intense blizzard conditions. Hooray! I felt like a little kid being given a snow day, but rather than going sledding in the park followed by steaming mugs of hot chocolate, I took the opportunity to try out a new recipe with ingredients already on hand. Even if I’d had to make a special trip to the grocery store, it would have been worth braving the icy elements to have this rustic warming Cornmeal Arugula Soup for lunch.

You may be asking what the words “cornmeal”, “arugula” and “soup” are all doing together in the same recipe. Think of this as a very loose polenta that’s been prepared with much higher than usual ratio of liquid to coarse-grained cornmeal. Polenta is one of my favorite comfort foods, and it makes a beautiful golden side dish when it is finished simply with a rich bit of cheese stirred in. But I love the way it takes center stage in this recipe when amplified with a healthy dose of greens.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Orange Fennel Salad

I don’t know about you but I’m ready for a little sunshine right about now. While Christmastime in New York is one of my favorite stretches of the year, I always feel very much in touch with my California roots around mid-January, ready for a break from the dreary winter weather. Unfortunately I’m not able to leave town at this time, and I’m more than just a little bit jealous of my friends who have plotted various escapes to Hawaii and other tropical climes. (You know who you are.) Since I have no beach vacation in my immediate future, I’ll have to get my sunshine in citrus form. My Orange Fennel Salad is almost as refreshing as a sunny holiday. Almost.

I love the wide variety of citrus fruits available at this time of year, and I always have a bowl of little clementines on my table. Floral Meyer lemons practically beg to be incorporated into decadent desserts, and I’ve been enjoying the most succulent ruby red grapefruits every morning. I’ve gone wild about these rosy Cara Cara oranges, also known as red navel oranges, and their pinkish-orange flesh is unbelievably sweet with hints of raspberry and cherry. Blood oranges may look like regular navel oranges on the outside, but their ordinary looking peels belie the brilliant purple fruit within.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baked Egg Custard With Gruyere and Chives

I’m at my table looking out the window as I type, happily tucked inside my cozy apartment on this snowy day. The snowflakes are a riot of white confetti, falling fast and furious while buffeted by the wind. It’s a perfect day for something warm and comforting, preferably a dish that involves melted cheese and/or bacon. How about a Baked Egg Custard with Gruyere and Chives, with a little bacon on the side just for kicks? Yeah, I knew you’d like that.

I’m still flying high from New Year’s Day, on which the One-Year Plan Club gathered for our annual January 1st celebration. I’ve written more extensively in the past about the OYPC here and here. In short, for nearly a decade now this special group of friends and I have gathered each January 1st to take stock of the year gone by and map out our goals for the upcoming year. There was much to celebrate as many of us had a banner 2010, and everyone was particularly focused in his or her goals for this year, as though we’d definitely entered a more mature new chapter in the life of the OYPC. I am truly inspired by these friends, by their honesty and vulnerability as well as their determination to live their lives more fully as they realize their creative and professional dreams.

It was a brilliant sunny day, which seemed like a portent of good things to come in 2011. I was thrilled to host my first sit-down meal for EIGHT, a small triumph in my not-so-large apartment. I couldn’t have been happier to have everyone gathered around the table in my sun-drenched living room.