March 31, 2008
Last of the Winter Veg
As we make the transition from Winter to Spring, I find myself wanting to clear out the old in my pantry to make room for the new. This is one way to use up ingredients that have been sitting around in order to start fresh with the produce of Spring. Also, I feel really proud when I can be improvisational in the kitchen, coming up with meals from the dregs of my refrigerator, therefore saving myself a trip to the store.
It seems I've had a few things in the vegetable drawer that needed using: a butternut squash, some carrots and a rutabaga. This would make a nice roasted winter root veg dish. (I'm starting to sound like Jamie Oliver). I opted not to throw in the beets as they would have stained everything and the different shades of calming orange looked so nice I didn't want to ruin it with overly emotional red. And this was a one- dish kind of thing. I was in no mood to roast these few veggies in three separate pans.
I simply diced everything more or less the same size so they would cook evenly and be done at the same time, tossed them together with good sea salt and extra virgin olive oil (only a light coating)...
then laid them in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides and popped it in the oven at 400 for about one hour.
I stirred them a few times while cooking to get them to brown a bit here and there, and they were done when they felt tender. I learned from Alice that if you let them get too brown they'll taste bitter. These were perfectly done and sweet--imagine little pillows of candy that are actually vegetables that are good for you!
While they were nearing completion, I pan-fried a couple of chicken breasts briefly on each side after pounding them thin. Then I sprinkeled some chopped garlic and herbs on top and served them right alongside my vegetables.
A friend commented recently about all the pasta and baking that goes on in my kitchen and asked why I don't weigh 200 pounds. I think this dinner is an example of how I can, in fact, cook a healthy meal here and there that is deeply satisfying in its simplicity. Actually, more often than not, this is what we eat. The pasta and the desserts are just thrown in for a treat--not with abandon--but certainly with some frequency.
It's like life, I've been thinking--mostly a string of challenges and suffering, with a few happy and joyful moments thrown in here and there. And it's not all bad, as those moments are all too easy to create. For example, in the little orange ricotta cream with shaved chocolate* that I whipped up for dessert.
(*ricotta, sugar, orange zest processed until smooth, shaved bittersweet chocolate and a cookie)
...Or this yummy banana bread from Nigella with bourbon or rum-soaked raisins and walnuts-- a simple joy on a Sunday morning.