Because I have dishes to scrub, bags to pack, and all sorts of people to see before we leave, I’m going to let the pictures speak for now.
Bittman’s overnight waffles (from How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food) are friggin’ excellent, for lack of a more eloquent expression. They’re light, fluffy, and incredibly simple to prepare, especially if you aren’t really interested in greeting the day with cheer without a giant cup of coffee and adequate time to adjust to the idea of being awake. And as it turns out, they can be transformed into something sort of healthy. Out of sheer forgetfulness, I have discovered that they’re just fine without a whole stick of butter. I also much prefer to substitute at least half of the all purpose flour with whole grains — I think the decrease in gluten structure that comes with this particular switch works well for waffles. Spelt is an especially good choice — it adds a sweet, slightly more interesting flavor to the dish, and complements the sourdough-like taste really nicely.
The best part about these? They freeze really well. Make some extras for the week, and just put them in the toaster directly from the freezer to reheat.
Liz’s lazy / low fat take on Bittman’s Overnight Waffles
- 2 c. flour — preferably 1 c. all purpose, 1 c. spelt (whole wheat is fine, too)
- 3/4 t. active dry or 1/2 t. instant yeast
- 2 c. milk
- 1 T. sugar or honey (leave this out if you want savory waffles)
- 1/2 t. salt (I left this out. I could tell it wasn’t there, and I missed it)
- 1 t. olive oil (yes, olive oil is delicious in sweet stuff, too)
- 1 t. vanilla extract (or make vanilla sugar by putting a vanilla pod in your sugar bag)
- 2 eggs
The night before, or 8 hours before you want waffles:
Mix all ingredients EXCEPT for the eggs into a smooth batter. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 8 hours.
Right before serving:
Mix in the eggs. Oil the waffle iron and make waffles as usual.
There’s something sinister about opening a can of tar-black something or other and throwing it into a pot. Unless, of course, you happen to be carrying a can of cuttlefish in ink. I discovered the stuff perhaps a year or so ago, in a local grocery store, and was intrigued by the box:
This could either be a very good purchase, or a seriously painful mistake. Undeterred, I made the ugliest risotto I’ve ever seen. I’ve been a cuttlefish convert ever since. In case you haven’t had them, cuttlefish are basically squid. In this form, they’re cut into relatively small chunks and bathed in a swathe of squid ink, which serves as a rich but subtle reminder of your meal’s origins. It also happens to have a somewhat creamy consistency, which makes it excellent for making a pasta sauce that’s both creamy and dairy free.
It pairs nicely (and quite simply) with sweet corn, garlic, and red bell peppers. This happened to be a pre-night shift lunch a few weeks ago, and took a whole 10 minutes to cook? The pasta was the limiting factor.
The local farmer’s market is always full of pleasant surprises, but I think early Springtime, when everyone wants something — anything — fresh and local to eat, is when I find the most unusual ingredients offered up. It’s funny, because sometimes those running the stands are almost apologetic about their wares. I always try and make a point to go and find something new on these occasions, searching for signs advertising strange, exotic (but somehow local?) ingredients. This week, I came across a bag of incredibly fresh nettles, picked just that morning. See how pretty they are?
Nettles don’t exactly sound appetizing. When they get older, they remind you not to go near them if you happen to brush their skin. As I found, the little ones still manage to do the same; pulling them out of their careful wrapping sent little tingles of pain across my fingers, like a thousand tiny splinters. I suppose I’ve done worse when cooking before (and after the aloe vera leaf we brought back with us from the store today, these little prickles were child’s play). I had no idea what to do with them. The girl at the stand just said they tasted incredibly green, like springtime, and so I figured I’d just do something simple. A little lemon, and crushed coriander would make for a subtle and delicious flavor, coupled with paprika, garlic, shallots, and olive oil. Add a bit of pasta, and you have the kind of meal you should be eating after cracking open an amazing triple creme brie in the afternoon, after planting still more vegetables in the garden.
The pairing was quite good, in fact, and as for the nettles? They cook down into fresh, slightly firm, soft greens, which go nicely with the tang and slightly spicy aftertaste of the lemon and coriander pairing. The girl who sold them to me? She was right on. They taste of spring, just around the corner. And for the skeptics out there, James says they’re better than Brussels sprouts.
When my week’s kind of crazy, I need something hot, filling, and nutritious. NOW. I don’t want to wait for the oven to finish pre-heating. And I certainly don’t want to bother making everything from scratch.
Or do I?
Let’s just say I was procrastinating a bit. Taxes, tow truck adventures, experiment planning, and lobbying for better health care packages make for an interesting week. An exciting (and potentially, fairly fulfilling) week, I admit, but I needed a little break. So I did what I do best — turn a potentially quick, healthy dinner into a three hour play session, starting with fresh, made-from-scratch corn tortillas, shaped ever so clumsily with my very own palms. And you know something? It was worth it. I’d give up my evening in a second for hot-off-the-pan tortillas, with a bit of melted cheese, a little snack to hold me over until the vegetables finally roasted into the perfect succulent sweetness that only a bit of patience can yield.
But the best part of this story? You can do this in pretty much no time at all, with a bit of preparation. You don’t have to muck about in your fridge, mixing this and that, like I did. Throw your vegetables in your toaster oven to roast, bake the squash ahead of time by simply cutting it in half and throwing it in a hot oven for an hour (or use a microwave, if you dare). And those tortillas? All they are are a bit of masa and water, mixed and shaped. You don’t have to make more than you need for dinner, and they cook up in minutes. Minutes!
And that’s only if you, like me, have no clue what you’re doing. Which, I assure you, only adds to the fun.
Take a nice bike ride (26 miles), add in a strenuous hike, throw in a bit of gardening, and then maybe a bit of desk work. Eat only hot cross buns, caffeine, and a bit of leftover pizza. Then tell me if you feel like making something nutritious and filling for dinner. Because if you’re me, you’re going to be mighty grumpy well before 7 pm.
Given that most Sundays happen to look fairly similar to my little checklist above, I’ve learned to have a few tricks up my sleeve. Yes, cookies are involved, but only for the pre-dinner prep. For the actual meal, there are protein, carbs, veggies, and some sort of liquid, and they all get thrown into a big, sturdy pot rather haphazardly (I am amazingly uncoordinated when I’m hungry). Sounds appetizing, right?
Despite its somewhat rough origins, this dish still manages to get a bit of praise every time, in all of its various guises. I highly recommend trying this at least once, as it’s quick to actually prepare, and can be customized to your taste. Use the recipe below as a rough guide for making this dish your own.
I haven’t forgotten about the baking post I promised. It’s coming along, though it’s taking a bit longer than I thought. As with everything else in life, it seems!
James always works late on days when I have overnight shifts. I hear him come in quietly, grab some food — something simple, usually involving cheese on toast — and slip out into the twilight, back to work, just as I’m settling into bed for a nap. When I wake up, the house is quiet, and sunlight no longer peeps around the curtains, taunting me with its brightness. On nights like these, I wake up in time to make something light but filling — something to get me through until morning.
Usually, this breakfast / dinner / midnight snack involves pasta. It’s funny, because it kind of feels like I’m reverting to when I lived by myself. I think I ate pasta almost every day, tossed with a few vegetables and a bit of spice. Since James and I moved in together, pasta’s taken a backseat to protein; typically, there’s some sort of meat involved. Yah, me, the ex-vegetarian for who knows how many years. I’ve become a serious omnivore.
Not that I’m complaining, of course.
But on nights like these, pasta’s all I want. Especially when I have gorgeous farmer’s market spinach and eggs on hand.
This recipe is really simple, and can be prepared in the same amount of time it takes to boil the pasta. I didn’t want to mess with the spinach much, since it tasted lovely and fresh as is, and I wanted creaminess without the cream. That’s where the eggs came in. Beyond that, I did the usual — tried a little of this and that, until I had a dish worth blogging about.
Sometimes, I can’t stop playing with food in my head. I’ll buy a new ingredient, perch it proudly upon a shelf, and puzzle over what best to do with it for a whole week, until I’m finally forced to make a decision already.
But the whole process — the research on flavor combinations, the obsessive construction and deconstruction of the meal in my head — is a hell of a lot more fascinating than the final act of preparing the meal. By that point, it’s perfect in my mind, but rarely ends up achieving those ambitions upon completion. It’s kind of like a junior high crush. I waste so much energy thinking about the possibilities that I just can’t help but be disappointed when (more like if) the thing finally comes to fruition.
There is a difference, I promise you. In my “wise” old state (ha), I try again. And again. And learn from my mistakes. So this recipe — this product of a week-long obsession over one of the ugliest root vegetables on earth — is a quick glimpse at the start of a new relationship. Here, I realize the ingredient’s weakness, and its potential. And I come to understand a few of my own shortcomings as well.