Monday, March 05, 2012

Getting Back On Track, in the Kitchen

Last week, as I complained about on Facebook, was a rough one. I dropped all the balls I had been juggling. So today I started fresh, and the first thing I did to get back on track was sit down with my little notepad (iPhone notepad, that is) and make up my weekly meal plan. It isn't particularly complicated, just a list of the dinners I hope to make for the coming week. Then I hit the grocery store and filled my cart up with the things I would need. When I got home, I cleaned up the kitchen and started cooking.

The rotisserie chicken Keith brought home on Saturday was picked clean and plopped into the stock pot with the wilted celery and the last three miserable carrots from the crisper. I put an onion in there too, skin and all, a couple of bay leaves and some peppercorns. If you have never made stock from scratch, you should at the very least give it a try. That grocery store chicken cost about 8 bucks, and while that may not seem like a lot of money to you, I happen to know that an uncooked bird costs about 5 bucks (more like 3 dollars if you buy it frozen and don't care where it came from). The process makes me feel like I got my money's worth out of that rotisserie chicken! Stock in cartons is also pretty pricey, and it usually has the added bonus of MSG. Making stock is practically effortless once you get everything in the pot. It tastes so much better than store bought. Also it warms up the kitchen and fills it with delightful aromas which you just can't buy anywhere.

While that stock simmered away, I prepped some veggies for soup, and some more for salsa. When the stock was about done I ladled about 4 cups of it into another pot and set to making a big ole saucepan of Change Your Life Rice. The recipe comes from a food writer I like named Francis Lam. His method is for plain old white rice, but I use the technique for brown rice too, only increase the cooking time to 40 minutes. And you don't have to use any spices at all, but if you have them in your cupboard, why not?

Preheat an oven to 350°F, unless you’re one of those freaky people who can cook rice perfectly on the stove. Warm up a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Give it a few nice glugs of olive oil. Don’t be stingy... Now throw in your rice and stir it around. Add your spices and toast all this together, stirring, until the spices are all aromatic and maybe half the rice has turned opaque. Pour in your water; it will probably boil immediately. If not, make it boil. Then cover it and drop it in the oven. Pull it out 13 minutes later. If you’re one of those freaky people who can cook rice perfectly on the stove, do whatever it is that you do. Weirdo.

I used a about a teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, onion powder and paprika for this batch. Sometimes I use curry powder, jerk spice, Old Bay Seasoning, Penzey's BBQ 3000, or whatever spices are featured in the main dish.

So I strained the rest of the broth into a huge bowl to cool, and started making some Turkish Chickpea and Spinach Soup. Only because I wanted to eat some. If I am spending my day off making food I am damn sure going to cook at least one thing I want to eat, whether the family will eat it or not.

  • Chop one onion and 4 cloves of garlic. Cook in a bit of olive oil over medium heat till the onions start to soften.
  • Add 2 teaspoons coriander and 2 teaspoons cumin, stir till fragrant.
  • Add 6 cups of broth and 2 or three chopped potatoes. Bring to boil and then simmer till potatoes are tender.
  • In another small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup plain yoghurt, 1/2 cup cream (I used half and half), 2 tablespoons of corn meal and 2 tablespoons of tahini. Stir into the soup.
  • Stir in about half a pound of chopped spinach, and cook till the spinach is heated.
  • Season to taste with cayenne pepper and salt.
Salsa, Soup, Stock, Taquitoes, Guacamole, and Rice... All of these things came out of my kitchen this afternoon and were either immediately consumed or put in the fridge or freezer to make the rest of the week easier. I look in the fridge and feel like I am, indeed, back on the right track.

Also, my picture was in the paper this Sunday. I don't get the paper, but some nice people told me about it and sent me the link. So Yay! I love it that the photographer got my mixer and my recipes in the picture.


Trisha said...

That is so cool! It's ironic that I had my picture in the local weekly last week too. (I didn't have a fun interview however....). ;)

You so FAYmous! :)

bnicholson said...

Neat article and GREAT photo! Love it love it love it!