I’ve had an intense avocado craving since Sonya mentioned that Octavia would be trying her first banana and avocado last week. Bananas and avocados are two of my local food failings – I love both intensely, and it makes me very sad that neither can be grown anywhere close to the Mitten. Two years ago, in the first blush of locavore fever, my prized souvenir from our Christmas trip to California was a big bag of avocados from an Ocean Beach co-op. We’re less strict now – we prefer local and seasonal, but if the occasional avocado, banana, or out-of-season pepper means the difference between a happy dinner or the continuation of the winter slump, it’s worth the food miles to me.
I mention this because I was convinced to make tonight’s dinner – pork posole – almost entirely because it was topped with slices of fresh avocado. I started dinner while Shane was working out, and as he walked into the kitchen, he told me that he kept smelling delicious smells and hoping that they were coming from our kitchen. Delicious smells indeed! The soup was simple but hearty, making good use of a couple of cups of leftover corn, pork chops from the freezer, and tomatoes that I canned at the end of the summer. I would season more aggressively next time – why are magazine recipes so conservative?! – and probably halve the recipe, as we had enough for two big bowls for dinner plus four cups of leftovers. Oh, and I’d buy more avocados. Definitely more avocados.
Pork Posole with Avocado and Lime from Fitness
You know what I’m talking about, right? Thanksgiving was about two weeks ago, and Christmas is coming in just under three. Hanukkah, replete with gorgeous fried things, started on Thursday. If you live in North America, as 91.9% of you readers do, chances are very good that you’re right in the middle of six weeks of extravagant eating. I know. I’m right there with you.
Unfortunately for all those delicious foods, however, I’d like to fit into my cute clothes when my 31st birthday rolls around next month. I think Shane would appreciate that too. After spending an afternoon archiving photos from the last three years, he’s similarly motivated. So while austerity measures aren’t fully in effect, we are trying to watch what we’re eating while concurrently getting our butts into the basement gym more often.
Tonight was a step in the right direction. It was cold and we were hungry when we got home, so I made a pot of corn chowder – warm, hearty but not heavy, and full of things that are good for us. Shane proclaimed that it was the best version of this soup yet! Later in the evening, he spent some quality time on the cycling trainer, while I made a point of going to bed early in an attempt to recoup some of the sleep stolen from me by Basil’s disruptive bedtime behavior. We were both hungry later, but we stuck to healthy snacks: toast for me and a protein shake for Shane.
If the new austerity involves big bowls of soup, tasty snacks, and going to bed early, sign me up.
Dinner tonight? Really and truly exceptional. Shane gave it five stars. I wish I’d taken a picture.
Instead you’ll have to imagine pan-fried corn and shallots tossed with snow peas, shrimp, and a handful of slow-roasted cherry tomatoes served over creamy and wonderful grits. A pinch of red pepper flakes to add a bit of heat. No cheese or other enrichment necessary. Just simple, fresh, hearty, and delicious. I halved the shrimp and grits and used the full portion of veg, which made plenty for the two of us for dinner plus leftovers for Shane’s lunch. I can’t wait to eat this again – good thing we have almost everything on hand thanks to the summer’s preserving.
Shrimp and Grits (and then some) from Dinner: A Love Story
Another quiet Saturday. Shane got home last night, tired and sick after a week away. We went to Corner on our way back from the airport, had beers and fish tacos, and went to bed early. Seriously, he was sawing logs by 9pm – well deserved after a long day of travel while under the weather.
To his credit, he dragged himself out of bed in time to go to the market with me – on the condition that we go to Comet first so that he could get his first good coffee in a week or more. Apparently Viennese coffee is all weak or sweetened or both – not the bracing fantastic espressos and cappuccinos from SF, alas. Comet cappuccinos followed by pumpkin donuts and several random friend meetings at the market makes for a nice fall morning.
And so we spent the Saturday – a few chores, a little moped work, a lot of getting caught up on new tv, and another batch of corn chowder with more sweet ears of market corn. I’ve been buying a few extra each time so that our freezer is nicely stocked for the months to come. I just hope we have enough…
Oh, and because several people have requested more biography and less straight-up food blogging, I should mention that at the end of a very relaxing and laid-back fall day, some JERK tried to steal one of the mopeds off the porch! I was in the bathroom, so I didn’t witness any of this, but Shane was sitting on the couch and heard a weird noise outside, and when he got up to check on it, he found some dude trying to pick up one of the mopeds. That alone is a feat since they aren’t light vehicles and they’re kind of packed in on the porch, and probably should’ve indicated his frame of mind. Shane yelled at the guy, who backed off of the porch as if he were getting kicked out of the club “yeah, yeah, I’m going”. Some further yelling took place as the guy walked away down the driveway and Shane followed, phone in hand and dialing the cops all the while.
By the time I looked outside to see what the hubbub was about, both Shane and the dude were across the street and Shane had reached the cops – in time for the dude to sort of attempt to chase Shane off? I guess? The cops were at our place within about 10 minutes, reporting that they’d caught the guy – a homeless(?) teen or 20something from an area familiar to the cops – so all’s well that ends well, though we’re newly paranoid about the (locked up) mopeds on the porch and our general safety in the area.
It was rainy and cool today – a perfect opportunity to make soup. With corn still in season, I was inspired to riff on my mom’s corn chowder.
Honestly, there’s nothing special about this recipe. No exotic ingredients, no amped up flavors, no designated pairings – just the warmth and comfort of root vegetables, homemade chicken stock, and the crunch of corn freshly cut from the cob. My family eats this soup out of bread bowls after Christmas Eve church. There’s usually a platter of cheese slices and Pepperidge Farm crackers. Later in the evening we might have a hot toddy. Again, nothing fancy – just familiar, and after ten days away from home, familiar was just right.
2 tbsp butter
1 small white onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 small white potatoes, diced
1-2 small carrots, sliced into coins
kernels from 1 ear of corn (around 1 cup corn)
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp flour, or enough to reach desired consistency
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and saute until golden. Add the potatoes and carrots and continue to saute until soft. Add a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and stir everything around, then add the corn, broth, and bay leaf. Bring just to a boil, then whisk in the flour. Start with one tablespoon and increase a little at a time until the broth thickens. You don’t want it to go all the way to a gravy – just a wee bit thicker, so that it clings to the vegetables a bit in the spoon. Let it simmer for a while – maybe 10 more minutes – stirring occasionally, then serve with crusty bread.
We were both starving after work, so while Shane was hassled by a door-to-door salesperson about our choice in internet providers, I popped a BBQ chicken pizza from Trader Joe’s into the freezer and boiled a couple of ears of corn from the market. I don’t recall when I first learned that you could have a sauce other than a basic marinara on a pizza. It was probably after college, around the time that I returned to meat-eating, that I discovered the wonder of BBQ chicken pizza.
When you think about it, what’s not to like? Instead of the sweet-savoriness of marinara, you get the tangy-sweetness of the barbecue sauce. Sure, it won’t work with all the typical pizza toppings – but that’s not the point, is it? I suppose if you don’t go for sweet things on your pizza – ripe tomatoes, pineapple, Canadian bacon, caramelized onion – the idea of putting a richly sweet sauce under a layer of mozzarella or smoky gouda might sound gross. But me? I love it. I also love pesto pizza, pizza with alfredo, pizza with black bean sauce, and crispy pizza crusts dipped in ranch dressing. And to think that I used to not even like the marinara! How things have changed.
We had planned to have grilled chicken with another batch of that delicious cilantro pesto – but Shane and Aaron’s moped work ran long, and I ate solo instead.
I’ve never been intimidated by eating solo. I’m not sure why this is. I’ve always relished the experience of going to a restaurant, ordering whatever I want, eating it at my leisure, and lingering over a glass of wine and a good book. Sometimes it’s lonely, but most of the time, it’s a lovely and indulgent experience. I can probably say this because I’m in a relationship and eating solo is the exception rather than the rule – but this was the case even when I was single.
At home, though, solo eating is more of a mixed bag. Sometimes I’m eating down the fridge, making bizarre-o meals out of whatever’s available. Sometimes I forget to eat. Sometimes I prepare elaborate dishes. Tonight was somewhere in between – an ear of extra juicy sweet corn with a pat of butter so tempting that Mina kept stealing it, followed by tomatoes on toast with a good pinch of fleur de sel. And then, later, a small bowl of Cheerios, a convenient snack while knitting and watching TV.
Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Tonight’s dinner is brought to you by the urgency of thawing food from the freezer and of a giant bag of corn dropped on a doorstep.
Photo by beanqueen
A pound of shrimp that half thawed over the weekend, peeled and quickly sauteed. A couple of spoonfuls of yesterday’s cilantro “pesto” (which I forgot to mention also contained a handful of raw cashews, which added a creamy nuttiness). Hard taco shells (soft would’ve been better). Corn on the cob, boiled and topped with a fair amount of butter, salt, and pepper. Simple, satisfying, and delicious.
Though my siblings and I are enthusiastic carnivores, our parents don’t eat that much meat, so planning a dinner for the whole family can be tricky. When mulling over our options this morning, though, Mom and I hit on an excellent plan: a shrimp boil. And also cheddar biscuits. And maybe cupcakes for dinner. The sort of meal where you could pick and choose your preferred components – Pop could have mostly veggies, I could eat all of the corn on the cob that I could manage, and everyone could bathe everything in butter. I like where this is going. A LOT.
At Go Time, though, I was worn out from a night of lousy sleep, so Shane and Jenn did much more of the prep than I did. I came upstairs in time to knead and form the biscuits, though, and to peel and devein a couple of pounds of shrimp with Shane’s nimble help. And then we feasted:
Frogmore Stew, torn out of a magazine several years ago
Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits from The Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
“I don’t like fish, but I’m trying really hard.”
This statement should tell you everything you need to know about my relationship to seafood. I love shellfish. We’re addicted to fancy tinned tuna. I hate salmon, even the remarkable smoked salmon from Tracklements that the fishmonger at Zingerman’s convinced me to try. The rest of the sea remains relatively unexplored, aside from a few nice pieces of halibut or tilapia. I posed this statement at the fish counter at Plum today, though, and came home with a small slab of cod – firm, great flavor, not too fishy – or so I was told. I was also told that a pound would be just right for two of us, but that’s neither here nor there.
I had intended to bake the fish in a foil packet with lemon and garlic, but I was reminded of this recipe while flipping through cookbooks. I sliced the fish into two filets, halved some cherry tomatoes, ripped up some basil from the garden, and drizzled olive oil over the top. The recipe calls for mozzarella, but I didn’t feel like making another trip out on the moped, so I skipped that step and instead shredded a bunch of Parmiagiano-Reggiano over the tomatoes and filets. While the fish got lovely and golden in the toaster oven, I boiled a couple of ears of sweet corn for about 7 minutes.
The fish was perfect – flaky, tender, and infused with delicate flavors from the basil and tomatoes – and the corn was impossibly sweet when rolled in butter, salt, and pepper. The juices from the corn and fish mixed together on our plates, making everything even happier. Especially my tastebuds. Now to find more fish like this…
Roasted Cod with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella from Happy Days with the Naked Chef