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Spring has finally Sprung…today in my kitchen



Can I complain for one hot second? I’ll take a rain check on a verbal/written reply and take the silence as a ‘yes.’ I am fed up with winter. It rained for my sister’s entire outdoor graduation. Sideways rain, and I don’t think you can get more insulting than that. It rained for my graduation too, but I was happy as a clam to be inside a Track & Field stadium (addendum: I would not have found myself quite so content had it been a sunny-side-up day). I am angry at the weather. Angry to be on the East Coast, although, given the recent (and not-so-recent) rash of natural disasters and other not-so-natural disastrous events, I suppose I should feel at least a modicum of gratitude to be right where I am.  But I am not grateful for my location so much as the produce that it produces. Today, it a little market near my train stop I found all three of the above-pictured vegetables. I hadn’t a clue what to do with them, but daydreamed all the way home on the train, and by the time I arrived, I had the scaffolding of a couple of ideas in my head. I rushed home. I dirtied a lot of a pots and pans. I sweated in my kitchen for the first time in many moons. I requested fancy cocktails from my fiance for our guests. He provided them. (they were delicious) I had a mini-meltdown over 2 poorly poached eggs. Then I got the hang of it.

I took one singular picture…it doesn’t do the final dish justice…but if you want to try any/all of the mishmash medley of vegetarian sensations that I created, the lackadaisical recipes are as follows:

Creamy Polenta

6 cups of water with a dash of salt to speed the boiling process

2 cups dry polenta

½ cup cream

2 tbsp butter

¼ cup grated romano/pecorino/other fancy cheese

Salt & Pepper to taste

Bring the water to a rollicking boil before mixing in the 2 dry cupfuls of polenta. Lower heat and let bubble and brew at a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in cream and butter, stir well and bring to a simmer again. Lastly, mix in cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste before serving. Best served hot. Makes 6 servings or more…

Mizuna Greens

A Japanese green, these tender young’uns have been descried as “piquant, mild peppery flavor…slightly spicy, but less so than arugula.” I tossed them lightly with sesame vinaigrette, toasted sesame seeds and finely grated pecorino.

Caramelized Rutabega

1 large rutabaga (cut into ½-inch cubes)
¼ cup butter
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Freshly ground pepper

Cut the ‘bega into small cubes. Boil in salted water until tender-crisp (about 10 minutes). Drain well. Melt butter in pot, add the rutabega, sprinkle brown sugar and mix gently until caramel appears, just a few short minutes. Add pumpkin pie spice and pepper.

Crispy Pan-friend Spring Onions

4-6 young spring onions

3 tbsp butter

salt, pepper, lemon

With a mandolin, slice the onions into rounds. Melt butter in a skillet and turn up the heat. Add onions and flash-fry for 1 minute on each side. Season the onions with salt, pepper and lemon. Drain any excess butter (can be used with the polenta for an additional seasoning flavor).

Poached Eggs

Tips:

  1. Do NOT boil the water. Do not let it simmer. Get the water “excited” with bubbles just barely appearing at the bottom. It is poachable now.
  2. Pour in a splash of vinegar
  3. Prep your eggs in ramekins, do not crack directly into the whirlpool you create.
  4. Make a whirlpool in the water with a spatula in your dominant hand, hold the ramekin containing the egg in the other hand, and gently dump it in the center of the whirlpool at the same moment that you remove the spatula
  5. Do not touch your egg as it swirls and gels. Close your eyes if you have to! Do not touch the egg. Trust it.
  6. Let it cook for at least 90 seconds before nudging it gently with the spatula to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If it is ready, gently scoop it out with a slotted spoon and put in a warm bath of water to await serving time.

I discussed egg poaching in a previous entry and recommended Smitten Kitchen for an excellent tutorial. I still  stand by this method, despite my initial failed attempts. Check it out for detailed instructions and pictures.

Happy happy spring!

 

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Crispy Broccoli Delight

I will be leaving soon from working at my Assisted Living home. It has only been 6 months but it feels like ages in terms of what I have learned about myself and about caring for others. It feels wonderful that I will be leaving here for something that will permit me to build on the skills that I barely touched upon by working in assisted living, but I am actually quite sad that I will never be working with people in quite the same way again. Insofar as I can surmise about the role of nurse practitioner, I will be able to develop relationships, but never again with the depth that I have now, where my residents kiss me on the cheek and tell me how much they love me before they fall asleep. I will not have the luxury of spending hours upon hours caring for my new patients, instead our encounters will be condensed into 15-minute snippets in sterile examination rooms. Sometimes I think it would be better if exam rooms looked more like my mom’s therapy office – cozy and inviting, with couches and carpet, replete with comforting pastel watercolors on the walls.  Wouldn’t that make you more open to sharing intimate details of your life with a perfect stranger? But beginning nursing school, I am sure I will learn the tricks of the trade to help someone grow comfortable with me very quickly.

Focusing on the present, I have approximately 2 weeks left working with my residents. I will cherish these days, and my goal is to write about every single one of them, so that I accumulate as many memories to cherish as possible. I feel like I am hoarding acorns, squirreling them away for a time that I can yet only imagine: I am sitting in front of my textbooks, far removed from people, and feeling slightly despondent. Then, maybe, I can just pull up these memories, and recall why I am doing all the studying and testing and rote memorization. It is for a much greater good. And it is one that I still get to experience, firsthand, every day I go to work, for the next two weeks.

For the meantime, a recipe for thought:

The Best Broccoli of Your Life

found in: The Amateur Gourmet

Broccoli is my favorite cooked veggie. Hands-down. It absorbs sauces in stir-fries, picks up the main flavor in any dish, and gets delightfully juicy. Broccoli is not ashamed to be less than flamboyantly bold in flavor and it never minds taking a supporting actor’s role to the main dish. Yet this recipe celebrates broccoli for being just broccoli. It has the starring role, and it gets fabulous reviews by me. Perfect in texture, crispiness and flavor…you’ll never want to eat another vegetable for a side dish. My singular mistake in making this was not doubling the recipe. I could have devoured the end product entirely on my own, but I managed to save a few pieces for my lovely boyfriend.

And it is so simple:

Preheat the oven to 425.

Take 4 to 5 pounds of broccoli (I just got two large bunches), cut into florets (but relatively big ones.) Here’s the key that she doesn’t mention in the recipe: dry them THOROUGHLY. That is, if you wash them. (which I’ll admit, I did not).

Now, it’s easy. Put the broccoli on a cookie sheet.

Toss with roughly 5 T olive oil, 1 ½ tsp kosher salt and 1 ½ tsp freshly ground pepper. (I eyeballed the measurements, and also threw in some red chili flakes.) Now add 4 garlic cloves that are peeled and sliced and toss them in too.

Roast in the oven 20 to 25 minutes, until “crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.”

When it’s done, take it out of the oven:

–        Zest a lemon over the broccoli, squeeze the lemon juice over the broccoli

–        Add 1.5 Tbs more olive oil,

–        3 Tbs toasted pine nuts (I left those out),

–        1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

–        Original recipe also has you add 2 Tbs julienned fresh basil, but I left that out too.

Go gaga over broccoli.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2010 in Vegetables and Sides

 

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