These are a few of my favorite things

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One of my stashes–I use these the most.

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.  Bright copper kettles…”  Now you’re talking my language!  I admit it, I LOVE cooking supplies:  pots, pans, utensils, gadgets, dishes, glassware, cookbooks and on and on and on. I now peruse cooking equipment catalogs liked I used to go through the Sears and JC Penney catalogs as a kid.  And if I didn’t have a mortgage and did have a staff, I’d have more bright copper kettles.  However, while I am lacking in copper, I do own All Clad cookware.  I know, everyone uses All Clad now but I have had mine for a LONG time, before Martha and everyone else made it popular (and too expensive).  It cooks like a dream and I use it almost exclusively, unless I am using my enameled cast iron or one of Jack’s beautifully seasoned black cast iron pieces.

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Yikes, someone needs to do some polishing.

Utensils, I have a lot of them–three crocks and one drawer full.  Perhaps too many? but I use most of them.  My favorites are tongs, Microplane graters, sieves, heat tolerant spatulas (and lots of them), citrus squeezers,  good quality whisks, Y vegetable peelers (thanks to Megan for introducing me to this gem while I visited last week) and of course, knives.  My knives are sharp–sharp enough to send you to Urgent Care for stitches, twice.  I’ve never purchased a knife, there would be no point, that’s Jack’s job, and one he takes quite seriously. We also have a rule that I must be notified/warned  when knives have been sharpened.

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I keep a salt pig filled with kosher salt next to my stove.  I always cook with kosher salt as it is less salty and easier to incrementally season food with.

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And my newest favorite thing that I lived with out until this year and I never thought I wanted, but now I can’t imagine how I lived without it,  is  the automatic ice maker in my new refrigerator.  Ice all the time!  Blanching vegetables no longer means you don’t have ice for cocktails.  I freaking love this thing.

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I no longer hang soccer schedules or ortho appointment cards on my fridge but I do keep notes, pictures and mementos that remind me of the kids or of favorite places, notepads and snarky magnets–which make me laugh.

My fridge--notes from the kids, pictures an snarky magnets

My collage

Of course there are many more things I love, like the granite counter top next to my stove, my Bose radio which fills the quiet hours (and the magnetic remote volume control that attaches to my fridge) , my kitchen window which gives me something nice to look at while scrubbing pots…

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad…”  I head to my kitchen!

Cheers!

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Spiced Chickpeas

On pretty much a weekly basis for the past five years, when John and I ask each other what we should have for dinner, “spiced chickpeas with ginger” comes up. It’s also not unusual when Stephanie and Jack and I are planning on dinner together for this recipe to be tossed out as an idea. While it may have been an exotic way for us to fuel our spice purchasing addiction at one point, now it just feels like a homey family recipe.

Penzey's Order

One of the reasons this recipe has elevated itself to staple status is that it can be made from basic ingredients I tend to have on hand anyway: cans of chickpeas, a can of tomatoes, garlic, onion, spices, ginger (ginger can keep for quite awhile if you stash it in a cupboard rather than the fridge), rice, lemons, and cilantro. Oh, and a touch of mayo — it sounds crazy, but it really elevates this to a wonderful level of deliciousness. You can call it aioli in good conscience if it makes you feel better.

This meal also makes wonderful leftovers the next day in your lunch. That is, you should have plenty of leftovers if you don’t always end up eating more of it than you intend to…luckily I stopped myself in time last night!

spiced chickpeas

Spiced Chickpeas with Garlic Mayonnaise and Brown Rice

adapted from Deborah Madison’s recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 15-oz can of whole tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

For the garnishes:

  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise or light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro

Directions:

Start the rice. Use this method: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Rinse the rice and add it to the pot to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Drain. Add it back to the pot and cover it to steam for another 10 minutes. Voila. The easiest brown rice ever.

For the chickpeas: Gather all the unprepped ingredients on the counter. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, 10-12 minutes. You can prep, measure, and chop the rest while the onion cooks if you have everything at hand and work quickly. To a medium bowl, add the ginger (try peeling it with the edge of metal spoon — it works great), the minced garlic (setting aside half for the garlic mayo), the chopped tomatoes (drain the liquid into a measuring cup), the bay leaf, spices, and salt. Once the onions are browned, add the tomato and spice mixture, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add enough water to the tomato liquid to equal 1 1/2 cups. Add this, along with the drained chickpeas to the pan, and simmer until thickened to a sauce-like consistency, about 10 minutes. Taste for salt. Don’t burn your tongue.

Meanwhile, zest and juice the lemon, adding it to the mayo along with the reserved garlic. Set aside.

Chop cilantro.

How is your rice doing? It is probably done at this point. Dish up. Add a spoonful of the mayo…I mean, aioli, and sprinkle on that cilantro. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Farro Salad with Apples and Blue Cheese

Here is a confession that will come as a surprise to nobody: I am a rule follower. Up until very recently, I earnestly followed recipes, measuring each spice and seasoning, setting timers, and not allowing myself to riff too much on what was written.

Bag of Apples

Not that much has changed. I’m still a rule follower… in so many ways. But somewhere in the time lapse of so many meals cooked and enough cookbooks consulted, I have internalized a larger set of rules that are helping me break away from the written recipe scripture.

Now I know I did not discover this equation  — clearly this is a natural law with which people have been engineering for some time. Still, it felt like a revelation when I finally was able to spell it out myself:

grains + leaves + protein + seeds/nuts + vinaigrette = YUM.

The equation gets even yummier if you toss is something roasted, some fruit, and/or something cheesy. This is what I did. I put the “recipe” below, but really, you can do this without it. But all you rebels out there already knew that.

squash and onions pre-roasting squash and onions post-roasting

Roasted Butternut Squash and Farro Salad with Apples and Blue Cheese

Created by Megan Knottingham. Yes, she googled it afterward and was not the first to dream up some of these things in combination…nonetheless, this is her version.

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 of a large red onion, or 1 whole small red onion, cut into large wedges (these will melt down dramatically, so you want to cut them big)
  • 1 cup of farro
  • baby spinach
  • one large apple, cubed
  • toasted pepitas or sunflower seeds
  • blue cheese, crumbled
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°. Toss butternut squash cubes and red onion wedges with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, two big pinches of kosher salt, and some pepper on a large rimmed baking tray. Roast until the squash gets some crispy brown edges and the onions are melted and caramelized, about 60 -75 minutes. Stirring about every 20 minutes to ensure even browning. Let cool slightly or until room temperature. You can also roast your veggies ahead of time — the first time I made this, I roasted the squash the day before, and heated it up slightly in the microwave before combining it with the other ingredients.

roasted butternut squash and farro salad   roasted butternut squash and farro salad - leftovers

Meanwhile, prepare the farro. Rinse the dry farro. Add it to a medium pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, until al dente. Drain, then put into your serving bowl.

Whisk approximately 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt together. Whisk in olive oil until it tastes to your liking (I filled my container up to the 2/3 cup mark).

Toss the roasted vegetables with the farro and apples. Add big handfuls of spinach and the vinaigrette. Top with pepitas and blue cheese if you feel like it. Pour a glass of something delicious. Dig in!