Eating for Three

As some of you may or may not know, I've been eating for three over the past eight months...we're expecting twin boys in another month or so.  While this may have been a great excuse to try lots of new recipes, pregnancy has actually made it quite hard to cook.  Imagine cooking, while sea sick, with a forty pound bag of dog food strapped to your chest.  It's not that fun.  trust me.

I've been making simple meals, lots of take out, and sometimes even my husband pitches in.  I'm not complaining, he really does try, but I think he perfected his cooking during college when gourmet was sticking an entire box of pasta in a pot, not stirring it, and then consuming the "pasta log" with a knife and fork.  Unfortunately, he hasn't made much progress... the other night we had an argument on how to make ravioli--he insisted that you didn't have to use much water or stir the pot and that there was no need to heat up the sauce since it would warm up once it mixed with the hot ravioli.  don't try this at home!!!!!

Now that summer is here, I can't resist the kitchen.  Unfortunately, it's difficult to stand for long periods of time, so I have resorted to sitting down to prep the meals.  it works though!  It's early in the season, but I have been able to get delicious tomatoes in the farm market.  Summer GazpachoGazpacho, paired with crositini and crabs, is a delicious and easy summer meal.  I usual serve it with Maryland lump crab meat or smoked fish (trout or salmon are delicious) to add protein.  I also made delicious crab cakes--the key is getting high quality lump crab meat (you really can't beat maryland crab).  Although you need some spice and bread crumbs for flavor and texture, use restraint or else you will overpower the crab.

Here's to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen....



Cooking in Manhattan is truly an exercise of mind over matter, or mind over batter. My kitchen, for example, is 4 by 8, when wet. So there is not much to work with and it makes cooking a challenge. I moved into my apartment about 6 months ago and have only just recently felt comfortable in it to start experimenting. The problem, I found almost immediately, is that it must have been built for a southpaw. Everything seems oddly imbalanced, or mirrored. I have felt out in left field, so to speak. So I have parried Mary's requests to guest host her awesome kickass blog (that and, of course, my vastly inferior cooking skills).
Nevertheless! I accept your challenge Mary! Sort of.
I am a vegetarian. Have been for 23 years. So, Thanksgiving, Christmas meals have been more about the family than about the food. But this Christmas I decided to make one of my favorite meals, Spinach-Ricotta Ravioli. Yum! I know!!
For dough, I of course went straight to Mary's recipe. Having been at the receiving end of this recipe on more than one delicious occasion (even having my hand in it as well!), I know how good her pasta dough is. Simple! Done! well, not that simple. I don't have room for fancy appliances and so I don't have a pasta maker. But never fear! Just put on some good tunes (in this case Ella Fitzgerald!), and go at that dough! Bam!

After letting the dough rest for about an hour, I chopped up 3 cups of frozen spinach and mixed it with 1 and 1/2 pounds of Ricotta. I cut the dough in half and started rolling out one half. And rolling out. And rolling out. And rolling out. Actually, I had even to roll out the dough even after I cut it in strips (but don't tell anyone...).
I used a pizza cutter to cut the dough. I am not sure if that is the right implement, but it worked well. As this was my first time making Ravioli myself, I did have a beautiful image of perfectly square, Mary-esque raviolis...unfortunately, they were more like polygons and flattened jellyfish but I got better with time. So, I cut the strips, into squares, added a dollop of yummy spinach/ricotta, sealed 'em up, sprinkled some flour on them, and started piling them up in my tupperware for transfer to my parent's house. I saved one and boiled it up for a trial run. You can tell when they are ready because they float.

YUMMMM, I can't wait for dinner! Pretty darn good, if I say so myself. But the real test comes in a couple of hours, when the family digs in...
Thanks Mary! I miss you, hope to see you soon!


Turkey on My Mind

I have a confession to make.  I take Thanksgiving seriously.  A couple of years ago, we flew to my sister-in-law's house in Phoenix.  I volunteered to cook.  Not only did I bring various kitchen utensils, I flew out the free range, hormone and antibiotic free turkey I bought at the farmer's market in DC.   The TSA people looked at me as though I was crazy, but we both made it through security and the flight intact.  My husband's suitcase wasn't so fortunate... In case you are wondering, they do have turkeys in Phoenix, but, I still think bringing my special bird was worth it.

Lucky for me, we're not traveling this year. As a self-proclaimed Thanksgiving expert, here are some tips.

1) Plan Ahead: I've been planning the Thanksgiving dinner menu for a few weeks now.  For appetizers, we're having homemade onion dip; spiced nuts; guacamole; sweet onion, sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese crosatinis; and prosciutto palmiers.  First course is chestnut soup followed by Turkey (of course), stuffing (technically dressing because it's roasted outside of the bird), garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce.  Oh and of course Pumpkin and Apple pie for dessert.  I'm gaining wait just thinking about the menu. 

2) Do as much ahead of time as possible.  The good thing about this menu is that I can make a lot of the food ahead of time.  I'm taking Wednesday off to cook, but I already started preparing!  My house smells sweet from the combination of roasted chestnuts and chicken broth.  I usually buy pre-made broth, but I decided to make my own since it's a key ingredient to the soup.  Broth is incredibly easy to make; it's just time consuming (it takes about 4 hours to make). I plan on making everything except the gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes, guacamole, and of course the turkey before Thursday.

3)Brine the Turkey.  I use a huge stockpot, but turkey brining bags are available in the grocery store or at Williams-Sonoma.  You can also use a garbage bag.  For good tips on preparing turkey, see the Alton Brown Episode "Romancing the Bird."

4) Smaller is Better.  A big turkey might look dramatic, but it will probably make all of those stereotypes of a dried out bird come true.  If you have a lot of people coming for dinner, make two smaller (no larger than 13 pound) turkeys.  Smaller birds also cook faster so you don't have to spend the entire day in the kitchen.


I hate potatoes

Sweet Potato GnocchiSorry tubers, but I've never been a fan.  I do have fond memories of growing potatoes as a kid, especially the harvesting (i.e. digging in the dirt) part.  I just don't like eating them.  I think it's a texture issue--they are too mushy and starchy.  This attribute makes potatoes a great ingredient to use in soups, sauces (potato starch is a good thickening agent), and of course dumplings.

Besides using potatoes to make pie, I love making gnocchi.  Gnocchi are actually a bit challenging to make.  You have to add enough flour and knead them enough so that they don't fall apart when you cook them.  Yet, if you add too much flour or over knead them, you get lead sinkers instead of light, fluffy dumplings.  My advice is don't be afraid to get up close and personal with the dough.  It should be somewhat moist, but not too sticky.  Knead it to activate the gluten, but remember, you aren't making bread!Duo of Gnocchi with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Blue Cheese Sauce

Gnocchi are great vessels for delicious sauces.  I made two different sauces--roasted red pepper pesto and a blue cheese sauce--for my sweet potato gnocchi.  It was delicious.

So maybe I don't hate potatoes.  I just strongly dislike them.


A Perfect Day for Chicken Soup

Homemade Chicken SoupIt's a pretty miserable day in Washington.  Maybe it's the cold and wet and cold weather, or maybe I'm just trying to procrastinate changing my closets from summer to winter clothes, but I gave into a craving and decided to make chicken soup.  My grandmother was a terrible cook except for her chicken soup.  I still use her recipe with a few additions.  Here are some keys to good chicken soup:

  • Don't add too much water--since chickens vary in size, only add enough water to cover the chicken.  The vegetables you add to the soup give off a lot of water (and flavor)
  • Parsnips are crucial--parsnips look like a white carrot, but they are much, much sweeter.  They add a lot of flavor to the broth.
  • Make the soup the day before you want to eat it--ok, I cheated today and had some for lunch, but it does taste better the next day once all of the flavors come together.  It also allows you to skim the fat off the top of the soup once it solidifies in the refrigerator.
  • The soup is done when the lima beans are cooked-- seriously.  
  • Always add flanken when you make the soup--flanken are beef short ribs cut from the center of the rib.  If you can't find flanken, use beef short ribs.  They add a lot of flavor to the soup.
  • Don't be afraid to use salt--You don't want the soup to be salty, but salt adds a ton of flavor.
  • Chicken Soup always makes you feel better!