As I recover from my lack of cooking, I am easing back in with my favorites, my go-to’s, and things I realize I should have shared with you.
I think it was around Thanksgiving that I first had some variation of this bowl. It’s a simple equation, really, and one you’ll find all over the internet. Cook a grain (or combination of grains), top with vegetables and/or proteins, and season with sauces. What I like best about them is that with minimal effort, you can feed yourself anywhere from four to six meals with only about two hours of effort. They have become a go-to in our house: I add a soft boiled egg at breakfast or crispy baked tofu at dinner. I add greens to make it more of a salad, or whatever roasted vegetables I might have lurking in the depths of my fridge that need to be finished up, or some smoked salmon from the farmers market. The point is, this is endlessly riff-able and endlessly people-pleasing.
Here are a few other recipes I use for topping my grains and sauces:
We all do it. We buy a beautiful loaf of bread to eat with dinner, or to sop in egg custard for breakfast, and then, a few days later it’s looking rather sad. Maybe mildly shriveled, too crusty around the edges. And it doesn’t feel great, knowing that you have half a loaf of kind of inedible bread, knowing how chewy and perfect it was when it was fresh. But it is edible! You just have to have a few stale bread recipes in your back pocket. Here are some of mine:
Make breadcrumbs: Cut the crust off your bread and cut it into chunks, then throw them in the food processor till they’re the right consistency for you. You can either toast them now or throw them in a ziplock back in your fridge – for sooner use – or freezer – for later use. Pull them out later to top your favorite macaroni and cheese (I’m dying to try this one) or this chicken gratin (which I just made and was a big hit).
Ribollita: Stale bread soup may sound odd, but that’s what this is. I love this easy, throw-whatever-you’ve-got-in-the-pot soup. It’s a hearty, delicious meal for colder days.
Croutons: Cube your bread, toss it in some olive oil, and throw it on a sheet pan with a few cloves of smashed garlic and sprigs of thyme. Toast at roughly 350°F for about 8-10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them to avoid burning.
Bread pudding: If you’ve got more of a sweet tooth, cube your bread, soak it in eggs, sugar, milk, and spices, and bake it for an easy, rustic dessert.
Panzanella: A summertime recipe, panzanella is a great way to use up stale bread and the plethora of tomatoes you may have from your garden. Remove crusts and cube your bread, halve or dice your tomatoes, some cucumber, red onion if you want, and add some crumbled feta or ricotta salata. Top with torn basil and a simple balsamic or red wine vinaigrette.
French onion soup: Not only is French onion soup a great way to use stale bread, it’s also a great way to use any chicken or beef or vegetable stock you might have in the freezer. But let’s be honest, the best part of this soup is the cheesy toast floating on top, soaking up all that delicious broth.
Soba noodles have become a staple in my kitchen. I have always liked them, but as the weather has been slowly getting warmer, and there’s lovely produce all around, they have been appearing more often in my kitchen. I love them with a light sauce made of rice vinegar and lime juice. But the true beauty of soba noodles, to me, is that they are delicious cold. The day after you make them, and they’ve been sitting in whatever sauce you’ve tossed them with, they become ultra flavorful and refreshing. I am a big fan. And I think you should be too.
Jonah came home this week, on Monday actually, and I had a feeling that cooking might not be exactly what he wanted to do the moment he stepped of the plane. So on Sunday night I made a big batch of soba noodles tossed with roasted zucchini, fresh mango, and a light citrus-y sauce. I ate a small bowl, and threw the rest in the fridge, knowing that it would be delicious the next day for dinner with some roasted green beens (also in the fridge).
I love how colorful this dish is, how summery it is, and how packed with flavor. I think it’d make a great cold side dish for a summer party (4th of July, anyone?), and it makes great leftovers to take to the office for lunch. You can add some seared tofu, or maybe even some grilled chicken.
Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Mango
2 zucchini, julienned
2 summer squash, julienned
1 9-oz package buckwheat soba noodles
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped (and seeded, if you’re not feeling the heat)
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 Tbl sesame oil
1 ripe mango, peeled and julienned
~1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
~1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
optional but recommended: chopped peanuts to top (I used about 1/4 cup), lime wedges
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the julienned zucchini and squash with olive oil and salt. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned, tossing halfway through. Set aside to cool.
Cook the soba noodles as instructed on the package. Usually, this means boil them for about 4 minutes, drain them, rinse them with cold water, drain them, and spread them out on a dish towel to try.
While boiling the water for the noodles, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add garlic and jalapeño. Allow to cool, then add the lime juice and zest as well as the sesame oil. Whisk to combine. Put the soba noodles in a bowl, and toss with the dressing. Add the squash, mango, herbs, and nuts to the noodles, tossing to combine. Garnish with a sprinkle more of chopped peanuts and a lime wedge. Enjoy with a light beer on a hot day.
Well friends, today marks the beginning of June. That’s a pretty crazy thing. This year is flying by, and it seems like if I blink, it’ll be Christmas. But I’m working on taking things a little slower and enjoying what I’ve got going on. These finds are what I’ve been liking this week.
When family is in town, we eat. And we eat well. Last night, after finally winnowing down our list of places to dine, my dad, Darla, Jonah, and I went to Davenport. The kitchen is helmed by Kevin Gibson, of Evoe, and they’ve been open for about 6 months. I’d been wanting to go for all of those 6 months. Located in the old June space on E. Burnside, the restaurant is cozy and clean. Last night it was warm enough that the big garage door was open. Our servers were so kind, the wine was perfect (a red sancerre) and the food was impeccable. Highlights included: roasted fava beans with pancetta, fried octopus over frisee, asparagus with porcini/breadcrumbs/parmesan, and grilled duck breast with a walnut aioli.
2. Pro Pie Tips
It is officially pie season. The rhubarb is here and the strawberries are starting to trickle in. So do a little prep work and check out these tips from Bon Appetit. I’m especially keen on the recommendations to put the pie at the bottom of the oven and to put it in the freezer for 15 minutes before you bake it. So smart.
3. Rachel W. Cole
Now don’t get all judgmental on me here. Rachel Cole is a life coach who focuses on feeding your true hungers. Via her social media outlets (which I follow), she talks a lot about body image and how we fill ourselves, with food and other things in our lives. I recently signed up for her newsletter, and spent a few hours on Friday doing her fulfillment pyramid activity (you can get it too if you sign up for her newsletter on her site). Think of it as making a food pyramid for yourself, but putting all the things you need in your life in it, not just vegetables and grains. It was a really fun, reflective, positive activity, and I definitely recommend it. Trust me, cooking for friends and baking pies definitely made it on to my pyramid.
I’ve been itching to try cooking with pork belly, and I think once my schedule becomes normal again, it’d be a great day-long kitchen activity. I’m picturing it seasoned with thyme, and served with a rhubarb chutney. I’ll definitely be re-reading these tips from Food52 before I go for it.
6. Grocery Shopping
I like this little meditation on grocery shopping. Jonah and I have been trying to do more meal planning and making enough to have leftovers for lunch and then committing to actually eating those leftovers… It’s all harder than it sounds. But here’s what I’ve realized – as long as we are all feeding ourselves well and trying to be conscious about where the food is coming from, then we’re “doing it right.”