Sunday, January 23, 2011

a menu for Mister (+1)

With some favorite cookbooks nearby for inspiration, I made Mister a present last night: his very own menu.  I put my mind to making a whole week of meals that are Mister-approved: pasta, Italian-inspired, our favorite rice-n-beans recipe, and the chickpea stew that never stops being a near-existential experience.  I was so pleased with myself by the time I got to the end that I interrupted Mister at his computer to proudly display my masterpiece; he was thrilled and recognized that I did it just for him.  Here is Mister's Menu:

1. Penne with Roasted Red Pepper Marinara Sauce from Vegan Italiano.

2. Chickpea Stew with Fried Polenta from Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook.  I have managed to hold off temptation for a few weeks, but now it is time to make this hearty, satisfying dinner and experience some mid-winter zen.

3. Seitan Cacciatore from The Accidental Vegan.

4. Cajun Red Beans and Rice, also from The Accidental Vegan but with a twist this time... you'll just have to wait and see.

5. Lemony Garlic Chickpea Patties from Vegan on the Cheap, served with Greek-seasoned roasted potatoes.  They're like big falafel I get to use my burger press to make; best of all worlds, especially with the potatoes.

6. Pasta Con Broccoli from Appetite for Reduction.  Yes, I just made this a couple of weeks ago, but it's really good and Mister really enjoyed it.  I really enjoy having Italian pasta dishes that don't include red sauce once in a while.  Unfortunately, it appears that since we've overcome our Spinach Famine, we are now experiencing a vegetable broth drought.  There was not a single drop to be found in Superfresh or Essene, which means at some point this week, I'll have to try Whole Foods.

Tonight, I asked Mister what he wanted me to make first and I didn't have any trouble getting a response.  In my brain, I had silently placed a bet with myself that he would start the week with the very first item on the menu, because although he loves the whole menu, I think he'd be most enthusiastic about simple pasta with red sauce.

I won!  He absolutely chose Penne with Roasted Red Pepper Marinara Sauce to start the week.  I made a few tweaks to the sauce; despite many Americans finding dozens of creative ways to avoid adding salt to their diets, I was very surprised that the recipe I followed didn't add even a little bitty pinch of salt, so I took it upon myself to "write in" about a teaspoon.  Also, to balance out the oregano that I really had to pep myself up to add, I sprinkled in a generous teaspoon of marjoram and a glug of balsamic vinegar.  I don't normally simmer my marinara as long as I did tonight, but ice cold water takes longer to bring to boiling (more in a minute).  I'm glad I did, though, because at the beginning, the sauce was watery and thin, but after about 30 minutes of simmering, uncovered, it had reduced enough to be slightly more opaque.

As you can see, I also subbed rotini primavera for the penne in the title.  I don't know what's so special about rotini primavera, but it's the only dried pasta I can find in a 12 oz box - even regular rotini is 16 oz.  This was actually a much bigger decision than it needed to be due to the conversation in my head:

"I only need 12 oz."
"But I can get 16 oz for the same price, making this the greater value."
"We might be moving soon and I don't want to pack a bunch of half-used boxes of pasta."

Eventually, it was that line of logic that deposited the smaller box of pasta (for the same price) into my basket.

So, when I got up this morning, I went to the coffeemaker, presuming to make coffee and learned something.  I'm happy to learn something new every day, but I do think sometimes it's a little too early to start the lessons.  Here's what I learned before coffee or tea or breakfast: we take for granted that when we pop the faucet, water will come pouring out of the nozzle.  This is not always true.  This was not true in my home this morning.  I flipped up the magic wand that would fill my waiting coffee pitcher with water to make Mister's favorite beverage and nothing happened.  Kind of like when I turned the key to my car's ignition on the morning of my wedding, but that's another story from another time.

Apparently, the water pipes froze in our single-digit temps last night and it took until late afternoon to get the cold water back.  There's still no hot water, which is why I'm sitting at my computer typing away instead of cleaning up the huge mess I made of the kitchen even though I knew there was no hot water.  A few times, during the baking process (yes, baking...that's the +1) I had to rinse my hands off.  Let me tell you what it felt like: Right now, the temperature in Philadelphia is 17 degrees Fahrenheit with a "real feel" of only 8 degrees.  The water coming out of my tap feels the way it would feel if you could turn Outside into liquid form and pump it through some pipes.  It was like rinsing my hands under melting ice cubes.  I don't see this improving any time soon, either, since tonight's low is also in the single-digits (I've already washed the apple I'm having with tomorrow's breakfast because I don't think there will be water in the morning).

If you ask me, all this cold is perfect weather for baking...

Cinnamon-Date Scones

So, I cranked up my oven, pushed my sleeves up at least halfway to my elbows, and tied on my apron to make a good old-fashioned flour mess in my kitchen.  The minute I saw the recipe, waiting to be tested for the upcoming UV2 cookbook for which I have the privilege of testing, I knew I'd have to jump on it before everyone else did.

I haven't had a date in years.  Wait - that didn't come out the way I meant it.  The last time I ate a date, I was living in my parents' house and my aunt was still married to my uncle.  I remember this because every Christmas, when she came to visit with us and brought her two beautiful collies, she also brought a Hickory Farms gift box full to overflowing with edible treasures: summer sausage, port wine cheese, gobs of these little hard candies dressed up in wrappers that looked like strawberries, and dates.  They were so strange and rare that although my mother can attest to what a picky child I was, I couldn't resist trying the dates and I found that I liked them very much.

Unfortunately, back in the real world, they're a little expensive to be a regular part of my cupboard neighborhood, but I decided no amount of expense would prevent me from picking up just enough for this recipe.  In the searching, I discovered that they aren't as expensive in some places as they are in others... and that brought me joy.

so did this

With a rustic, crunchy outside but a soft and cupcake-like interior, these scones will find their way to our table again.  I envision us, sitting at the table beside the big, bright window in what I hope is our next home, celebrating the first snowfall in our new home by brewing a pot of tea or coffee and sharing a pile of these sweeties.  Throughout a soft and not-too-sweet body, there are little bites of sweet, moist dates, adding a little wow factor to what would be a perfectly palatable scone with just the cinnamon.  Maybe on a future making, I will include a scant handful of cinnamon chips or sprinkle the tops with coarse cinnamon sugar for a little extra oomph.

Trust me, folks - you can't wait until this cookbook hits the shelves.

No comments:

Post a Comment