Wednesday, March 28, 2007
My nights as a domestic goddess...
I love to cook! My husband, a wonderful, professional chef opened my eyes to the fabulous world of food. A vegetarian for ten years when I met him, he has introduced me to ingredients and techniques I never knew existed. On one of our first dates I asked him to cook for me, it didn't have to be vegetarian. He made me a simple pasta dish with broccoli and spicy pork sausage. We sat on the living room floor of my small apartment eating from large bowls in our laps. I haven't been a vegetarian since.
On my nights off, I love to putter around the kitchen with a glass of wine, dicing and blanching and seasoning. I try to time it so that when Noah comes home from work around midnight, our dinner is ready to go. I watch cooking shows --not Rachel Ray or Emeril--but Nigella Lawson, Alton Brown, or a program on PBS hosted by Julia Child. I peruse Noah's extensive selection of cookbooks, usually guided by an ingredient I have at hand. Wednesdays is Farmers Market day. Noah comes home with all sorts of baggies filled with produce and I search them excitedly, picking one or two ingredients that I will base our dinner on. Today he brought home some Oregon morel mushrooms, asparagus, baby carrots, spring peas, fava beans, strawberries, and rhubarb. Spring is here! My favorite season for produce.
I went to the nearby seafood market and picked out a beautiful peice of halibut, wild caught from Alaska. I'm going to shell and blanch the spring peas, then saute them, with the morels, in shallots, butter, and a small amount of homeade chicken stock. I'll pan sear the halibut, put it on a white plate, then top the fish with the peas and mushrooms. I'll drizzle the juices all around the plate and add some chopped Italian parsley at the last minute to finish. This is how Noah taught me to cook. No measuring, no following a precise recipe, just taking what is in season and letting the simplicity of the ingredients create the dish.
Last night, I was heavily involved with a sewing project (simple but fabulous dinner napkins) and didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I made a recipe that I learned on Nigella Lawson's show for times just like this. She seasons and rubs with olive oil two chicken legs (drum and thigh together) and places them in a shallow baking dish. Then she scatters a variety of chopped vegetables around the legs, chopping them to approximately the same size. For my dish I used potatoes, onions, unpeeled garlic, cauliflower, cremini mushrooms, and an orange bell pepper. But you can use whatever you have on hand, even apples, eggplant, broccoli, whatever. She tosses all the vegetables in olive oil and salt and pepper, then sprinkles dried thyme over everything. (I used herbs de provence.) I figured Noah was going to get home around 11pm, so I threw the dish in a 425 degree oven at 10:15. At 11:15, when Noah was already home and relaxing on the couch, the chicken was done. He taught me a trick to check if the chicken is cooked through: Put a small knife through the thickest part of the leg, then quickly touch the knife to your bottom lip (why there? I don't know). If the knife is hot, the chicken is done. We plated some vegetables in the middle of the plate, cut the leg apart where the thigh met the drumstick and placed that on the vegetables, then we drizzled the accumulated pan juices all around. The chicken was really tender and the vegetables were delicious, especially with the herbs. So easy, and it only took me about 5 minutes to chop the veggies and assemble the dish. I added the left over vegetables to scrambled eggs for breakfast this morning.
After we ate our dinner last night, Noah looked me in the eyes and said, "Naomi, you are a wonderful cook. I appreciate, and look forward to, coming home and eating a delicious meal with you. But...a man has got to have some sweets at the end of the day. You rarely make desserts!" He's right. I don't often crave sweets and I rarely order dessert when we go out to dinner. I prefer savory flavors. I would rather eat some cheeses at the end of a meal instead of something sweet. When we have ice cream in the fridge, I never touch it. Noah has the whole pint to himself. So, I am in the process of making some homeade vanilla ice cream and a rhubarb and strawberry compote. The cream, eggs, vanilla, and sugar have been boiled and tempered and watched very carefully and is now cooling in the fridge before I put it into our automatic ice cream maker. The strawberries and rhubarb will simply be cooked down with sugar and lemon zest until soft, then served warm on top of the ice cream.
I've got a lot to do tonight, finish my ice cream, start my compote, shell my peas...why am I still blogging?