Tuesday, January 18, 2011

lessons learned at the cutting board

Call me a lifelong student or simply a student of life; I love learning things and applying the things I learn.  When I was actually in college and grad school, you couldn't shut me up once I got going about something I had learned or read and once I had babbled all about it to one person, the information was with me - learned.  There is something about sharing what I learn with others that helps me to more fully understand it myself.

It was really difficult to make myself go back to work yesterday - I had a three-day weekend because of taking my birthday off and at least half the country seemed to have yesterday off because of Martin Luther King Day.  I tried to give myself a pep talk by asking myself, rhetorically, I thought, what on earth I would do if I didn't go to work.  Unfortunately, I was prepared, and started listing things I would do if I stayed home.  Ultimately, I convinced me to go to work because I knew we were in for some nasty weather and I wanted to leave myself the option of calling out today if it really was bad.

That's exactly what I did.  I'm pretty sure it was fate or possibly predestination (in other words: I had predetermined to take the day off if the weather was even remotely hazardous to travel).  After thawing out from my walk home in 20something degree weather since the buses felt the best way to honor MLK was to make sure Rosa had to walk, I started making dinner.  As I was shredding my cabbage and boiling the farfalle, Mister drew my attention to the little sparkly bits of snow dancing around in the streetlamps' light.  By the time I put dinner on the table, there was actually a coating on the roads which surprised the heck out of me - I didn't think we were actually supposed to get an accumulation!  Through dinner and clean-up, the snow continued to fall - just tiny little guys, but enough of them that the 20-degree streets didn't stand a chance - and then they got bigger.  By the time we were heading to bed, the snow had turned from fluffy flakes of happy to ominous drops of freezing rain, ricocheting off the windows before coating the snow-covered streets with a layer of ice.

I got up in the morning and it looked like the rain had cleared up most of the streets, so I had some tea and breakfast, but as I listened to the moaning of the wind outside, I became more than just a little curious about the state of things, so I visited weather.com and decided now was as good a time as any to follow SEPTA's tweets and was I ever right.  For the next twenty minutes, as I hemmed and hawed about whether to risk a relapse of my fragile health to go to work today, I was bombarded with updates on this bus being rerouted and that one being cancelled, while this train was late and that one is only going half its normal route, and let's not forget about the trolleys being stopped because of "smoking manhole covers."  I decided the apocalypse was manifesting itself through public transit and said to myself, once again, "what will you do if you stay home?"  This time, though, I made a list of all the ways I would be more productive at home than at work, and when I hit the bottom of the paper, I called out.  It took a minute, including writing time, by the way.

What on earth does all this have to do with learning, you ask?
Well, nothing really, aside from allowing me a little extra time to cook dinner and forcing me to be introspective about something I thought I'd left mostly in my past for the sake of helping a student with her homework.  So, on to dinner!

Since I was well-rested (yes, I left out the part about going back to bed after leaving the list to be completed upon re-waking), I had plenty of energy to devote to making Chickpea Piccata, served on a fluffy cloud of Caulipots, both from Appetite for Reduction.  Here are some things I learned:

1. If Isa wants to help people lose weight, she needs to stop making her recipes so darn tasty.  I have not had trouble keeping my promise to my mom yet.

2. Thanks to Isa and Dynise, I have become much more daring with garlic and with shallots.  There was a time, about a month ago, actually, when I couldn't fathom preparing garlic in anyway that did not involved pressing it so that it would more or less dissolve innocuously into my food.  Now?  Check out these huge slices of garlic:

3. Shallots make me cry.  I've seen some funny pictures of onion goggles, but I've never really had any problems with onions, green onions, shallots, or garlic making me tear up...until tonight.  It was the weirdest thing; I was slicing the shallots and all of a sudden, I noticed my eyes were stinging and about to tear up and I stood upright and allowed myself a moment of confusion - it's not like tonight was the first time I'd sliced shallots.  I think the difference tonight is that I was wearing my glasses, not my contacts - can anyone else confirm this or am I just a freak?

4. Angst loves when I stay home, but he doesn't like to share.  He demonstrated his defiance tonight by hopping up onto Mister's dinner chair while I was filling our bowls and making himself very comfy.

Look at that scowl!  He was very clearly saying, MY chair.  When Mister came to sit for dinner, Angst just gave him that same angry look, as if to say, "find another chair. This one's taken."

He scrammed when Mister made like he was going to sit on him, though.

The Chickpea Piccata was absolutely fabulous.  From the minute I opened this book for the first time, that was high up on my list of things I wanted to make, and it did not disappoint.  I want to share Isa's intro because it perfectly sets you up for the amazing flavors about to meet and mingle in your mouth:
A plate of piccata is like an instant fancy dinner with all the stops.  One second you're just sitting there, all normal-like, but the moment that first forkful of lemony wine bliss touches your tongue, you're transported to candlelight and tablecloths, even if you're sitting in front of the TV.

I served the piccata over Caulipots, as Isa suggests.  Mister and I love the way this girl thinks; one of the things we missed the most after "going veg" was mashed potatoes, which doesn't make any sense, since potatoes are not an animal.  We realized, though, that there are very few things in our diet with which you can serve mashed potatoes.  Isa has changed all of that, though, with her genius scheme to used mashed potatoes as the starchy base, rather than the standard rice/grain or pasta - we love her for it.

The caulipots were unbeatable - they were just a little lighter than regular mashed potatoes, but packed a powerful punch, flavor-wise and nutritionally.  I used only two Tbsp of broth in the mashing, yet the whole batch was perfectly seasoned from that + olive oil + little bit of salt.  This may very well become my standard "mashed potatoes" recipe.  If I haven't said it yet, please do yourself and everyone you cook for a big favor: break open your piggy bank and head to your local bookstore to get yourself a copy of Appetite for Reduction.


  1. Onions (particularly red ones) and shallots have a higher concentration of sulfuric acid than most other onions. When the sulfuric acid is combined with oxygen, it causes your eyes to water to get rid of the sulfur that's hitting them. In glasses, your eyes receive way more oxygen than when you're wearing contacts, thus your eyes are more likely to water in contacts.
    I watched some 'man' show about this with my husband. haha. <3

  2. wow! thanks! yet one more lesson learned - thank you for confirming what I thought: the contacts set up a protective barrier.