Category Archives: leftovers

A new staple

Warm Quinoa and Radicchio Salad

If I could rewrite Thanksgiving tradition to include something a little more convenient and versatile than stuffing—a more colorful, more nutritious mixture of ingredients that really did stay perky overnight—it might look something like this fallish grain salad. Spiked with lemon and rounded with olive oil, it’s a colorful hodgepodge that comes together in about 20 minutes and passes as almost anything in my kitchen: as lunch on its own, as a bed for grilled tuna or roasted chicken, or as a nest for a poached egg in the morning. It’s wonderful warm, but equally delicious at room temperature, when the more subtle flavors of the parsley and pecans shine a bit brighter.

Of course, if this were served in place of stuffing at Thanksgiving, there would be gravy, and while this salad is many things, I don’t imagine it making friends well with gravy. Which is why someday soon, I will make both.

Warm Quinoa and Radicchio Salad with Pecans, Parsley, and Goat Cheese (PDF)

Note: You can toast the pecans on a baking sheet at 350 degrees F until sizzling and a shade darker, about 10 minutes, but in a rush I toast them by simply cooking them in the microwave for a minute or two.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
1 cup raw quinoa (any color)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Half of a medium (3/4-pound) head radicchio, chopped
Stripped zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 cup toasted pecans
1 loosely packed cup Italian parsley leaves, roughly chopped
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground pepper (optional)

In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Add the quinoa and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir to blend, then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring just once or twice during cooking. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then the chopped radicchio. Season the radicchio with salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the radicchio softens, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest and the juice of half the lemon and cook, stirring, for one minute more.

Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl or serving plate. Layer on the pecans, parsley, goat cheese, and cooked radicchio. Drizzle with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the juice of the remaining 1/2 lemon, and additional salt (and pepper, if desired) to taste, and toss all the ingredients together a few times. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The salad keeps well, covered in the refrigerator, up to 3 days.

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Filed under gluten-free, grains, leftovers, Lunch, recipe, recipes, salad, snack, vegetables, vegetarian

The perfect table

Split Pea Soup with Dill and Cardamom 3

It all started, I suppose, with an article in The New York Times about a vacation home in Nova Scotia. It wasn’t a home we’d ever build, even in our dreams, because to me, it seems strange to have your dream life more than 3,000 miles away from your real life. Even so, the inside was so light, and so welcoming to crowds despite its small size, that it got us thinking. We loved its long, slender, people-friendly eating space. We loved the built-in bench that ran along one entire wall of the living room. Since we’re predisposed to feeding crowds of people quite regularly, and usually on short notice, we thought, wouldn’t it make sense for us to have a big, hefty, crowd-loving dining table, instead of a formal, ill-fitting, accidentally inherited one?

And so early this fall, armed with advice garnered while writing a story on how the Seattle restaurateurs behind Bastille and Poquitos and Caffe Fiore (and soon Macleod’s) use reclaimed materials, my husband and I set out to convince a large piece of wood that it wanted to be our a new dining room table.

First, we found a church pew. It’s evidently a remnant from an old Episcopalian building in Portland, Oregon, one that spent the last 30 years in a garage in Kirkland, Washington. It made its way to our house on a trailer that only came unhitched once, complete with a pre-communion gum stash, but lacking hymnals. It’s nine feet long, so we settled on a seven-foot table.

Later, at Earthwise, a reclaimed building materials shop south of downtown Seattle, we found a 14-foot-long cedar board leaning up against the outside of the building nonchalantly, almost modeling, as if it knew just how we’d ooh and ahhh at it. It was a bear of a thing, and as we brought it home, our ski rack bent and cursing, we wondered whether we’d done the right thing. It had clearly spent the majority of its life outdoors, and even though my husband, a hobby woodworker, had A Vision, I couldn’t see it. He disappeared into his shop, about once a week all fall, to sand and chisel and patch and epoxy and finish. I made him coffee, and found great little wooden chairs at a consignment shop in Walla Walla, and hoped for the best.

The day before our Thanksgiving crowd of 20 started arriving, friends helped us assemble the table in the living room. (It’s bound by metal rigging that emits a high-pitched hum if you pound the table in just the right place.) I slapped burlap coffee sacks on top of the girly turquoise fabric the chairs had come with, and suddenly, instead of a dining area, we had a gathering space.

Working at the table

I’d be willing to bet that if I poured carefully, I could fit a full cup of liquid into the cracks and crevices still undulating across this table. If you’re one for symmetry, it’s imperfect. Its two halves are mismatched in both thickness and shape, and now, with my computer high-centered on its highest section, it rocks back and forth a little as I type. I’ll have to be careful not to wear too much fine silk, because the edges are still a bit raw in places. We may have to floss food out of the center. But there are two full quarts of epoxy in this thing, making cracks that once went straight through the wood perfectly impervious to anything one can see with the naked eye. And filled with grandmas and grandpas, sitting hip by hip in the same place filled the hour before by scribbling toddlers, it has somehow, with its mere presence, made our house more of a home.

play-doh at the new table

We had a lovely Thanksgiving week. Despite the conditions on Snoqualmie pass, everyone eventually arrived. The cousin who stayed with us cooked and stirred and scrubbed more than any guest ever has (although I won’t say should, because I loved it). The other cousin made real southern biscuits, the kind you can pull apart layer by layer, and I ate them, gluten and all, and didn’t notice a thing. (That’s another story.) My brother brought a fresh venison roast. My parents did dishes and dishes and dishes. We made two giant meals in my own house, and held Thanksgiving itself at my in-laws’, which meant that the work was spread out enough that I could still taste the food by the time it hit my plate.

lunch at the new table

And now that everyone’s gone, this new table still works. My sister, who has been traveling the world (literally) for months, is here staying with us for a bit. When she wakes up, we’ll sit here together, dappled by the rare Seattle sunlight, with my recipes and her photos and our dueling coffee cups, and we’ll just be family. As the day wears on, we’ll eat split pea soup made with the bone of the ham she roasted to keep the turkey company. The empty bowls will sit on the table, I’m sure, like they did so often this past week, just resting, as if they themselves wanted a feel for it, too.

Then, as the days wear and tear on it, the table will get dinged and stained and scratched and abused, and slowly, year by year, it will become perfect. I can’t wait.

Split Pea Soup with Dill and Cardamom 1

Split Pea Soup with Dill and Cardamom (PDF)
Based on a recipe from my forthcoming cookbook, Pike Place Market Recipes (Sasquatch 2012), which is itself based on a verbal recipe from the ladies at the counter at Bavarian Meats in the Pike Place Market that uses their smoked ham, this soup blends the earthiness of split peas and leftover ham bone with enough dried dill and cardamom for intrigue, but not so much they take over the soup. You can puree it before stirring the ham pieces back in, if you prefer.

Time: 40 minutes active time
Makes: 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (2-pound) ham hock, or meaty bone from a holiday ham
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 pound dried split peas
1/4 cup cream or half and half (optional)

Heat a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ham hock, broth, water, bay leaf, dill, cardamom, and split peas, stir, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook at a bare simmer until the peas are soft and the meat falls off the bone, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the bay leaf.

Transfer the ham to a cutting board and set aside until cool enough to handle. Finely chop the meat, discarding the bones and any fatty parts, and add it to the soup. Add additional water, if necessary, to thin the soup to your desired consistency, and rewarm over low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper (you won’t need much salt because the meat is usually salty enough), stir in the cream, and serve hot.

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Filed under gluten-free, leftovers, Lunch, pork, recipe, soup, soy-free

Like we did for pie

Pulled Pork and White Bean Chili eaten

My sister called me from Colorado this weekend, in the midst of cooking for the UW ski team after a day’s races. She was with my brother, who was there coaching Stanford’s team. (Sometimes it’s convenient, having a family full of ski racers.) On the stove: a sweet potato version of the squash- and black bean-stuffed peppers we’d made together once.

There, in the midst of making dinner, she realized she wasn’t sure what to do with the potato.

“Do I just bake it?” she asked.

Allison,” I admonished. “You can’t call me from Nationals with a question about potatoes. How’d it go?”

She gave me the quick, half-hearted version of the day’s race, then continued on her quest. “So I bake them. Then do I just scrape the stuff out, like we did for pie?”

Like we did for pie.

Those were the five words that got me: Like we did for pie. Those words, they made me realize that of all the things I might have expected, when Allison moved to Seattle, the only thing I really wanted was to have a sister again. I never harbored any real plans for teaching her to cook stuffed peppers, or sweet potato pie, or anything, for that matter. I just wanted to see her more, and take life’s juicy parts in together, in smaller sips—less How’s life, I haven’t talked to you in ages? More Hey, is that my sweatshirt?

It’s not like we ever stopped being sisters. But when you live smack in the middle of the underarm fat on the curled bicep of Cape Cod, and your kid sister lives in Idaho, it’s not exactly easy to bond on a regular basis. With my brother, distance never seemed to be an issue—we grew up in the same house, at the same time, close enough in age to suffer the mental and physical battles that bind siblings together for life.

But Al and I never had time to beat each other up. Visits were usually exciting, but hurried, sometimes stilted, and always, always too short. It’s hard to have time to wrestle with someone who lives across the country, much less invite her over for dinner.

Since September, though, when Allison moved here, we’ve been doing better. Sunday nights, she shows up with dirty laundry, chases the dog around the couch in circles, and pillages my closet for clothing that no longer fits. I love it all.

Conveniently enough for me, it’s not considered polite to pick physical fights with your pregnant sister, the way she might with my brother. So instead of wrestling, we cook—and increasingly, that means cooking together automatically, as opposed to me cooking, with her waiting, deer in headlights, for me to assign her a specific task. Now, she knows where the measuring cups are. She knows how to cut an avocado. She knows where we keep the good cloth napkins, and the hot sauce, and the extra sparkling water. And, it turns out, she knows how homemade sweet potato pie is born, which tickles me pink.

Of course, I should have seen this coming—should have seen that in my house, every Sunday at the stove means roasting one’s first chicken, and learning what goes into a fruit crisp, and learning to like real summer tomatoes. But honestly, I wasn’t marinating her in kitchen experience on purpose.

What I wanted, and what I now realize I’m getting, in part because we’re spending time eating together, is a sister who’s growing into a friend. We’re separated by twelve years, and are living quite different lives, with different values, and priorities, and schedules. But when someone that looks a lot like you walks through your front door with a hug every week, things change. We’ve gone from being related to relating.

Outside the kitchen, it’s fantastic. And the food knowledge goes both ways: Allison introduced me to the Swimming Rama stir-fry at Thai Tom, and to a new place for bubble tea, and someday, I will make it to University Teriyaki, just because she loves it.

But last night, when Allison came home after Nationals, and we started Sunday night dinners again after the two-month hiatus her ski season necessitated, I felt paralyzed. Getting confirmation that she’s watching, and listening, and learning every time she comes over freaked me right out. Teaching someone how to cook a specific dish is one thing, if you know they’re paying attention, but this whole subtle absorption thing is a bit disconcerting. What if the woman never learns to cut an onion properly? I know how to do it, and I can do it if I need to, but in practice, I’m usually sort of an onion mangler. It just wouldn’t do if she thought that was the right way.

It comes down to this: What if I don’t teach my sister the right things?

I’ve decided that would be okay. I’ve decided that if she’s learning how to stir-fry, she’s also learning that not every stir-fry tastes the same, and that some may, in fact, taste really bad. She’s along for the ride when I stuff peppers, and also when I tear their soft flesh accidentally, or burn the cheese on top. She’s realizing that the best part of a well-roasted chicken is a super crisp skin, eaten right off the bird right when it comes out of the oven, even if that means putting a bird on the dinner table stark naked. She’ll eventually find out that I hate eggplant, and that I’m not very good at making pizza, and that I’m actually quite lazy when it comes to washing vegetables. She’ll also be here for nights, like last night, when dinner means taking a vat of the world’s easiest homemade chili out of the freezer, simmering it on the stove for an hour for good measure, and not really cooking at all.

With any luck, Allison will learn that enjoying spending time in the kitchen means writing her own definition of what it means to cook, and what it means to eat well, rather than adopting mine or anyone else’s.

Six-Can Vegetarian Chili 3

Last week, I cooked dinner for about 25 people with a friend who also happens to be in her third trimester of pregnancy. My assignment was chili—two giant pots of it. I made one simple vegetarian version (pictured just above), and a more time-consuming one, made with pulled pork, white beans, and green chilies (pictured at the top of the post, and farther below). We split and froze the leftovers, presumably intending to save them for when neither of us has the energy to cook. Our portion probably won’t last.

Here are both recipes; choose what suits you best.

Six-Can Vegetarian Chili (PDF)

It doesn’t sound as sexy as a meal made entirely from raw ingredients, but throwing together a hearty, healthy, vegetable-studded chili in well under half an hour appeals to me. In this version, loosely based on the beef chili my mother-in-law makes, I especially love that I can dump all the canned ingredients in without any fuss—which usually means that even on a tired day, I have the energy to make homemade cornbread while the chili simmers. Serve as is, or top with shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled—you’ll just have to cook the vegetables a little longer before adding the beans.

If you like a spicier, smoky chili, consider adding a finely chopped chipotle pepper or two, from a can of chipotles en adobo.

TIME: 25 minutes prep
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (6-ounce) package sliced crimini mushrooms
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15-ounce) can corn
1 (7-ounce) can fire-roasted, chopped green chilies
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the onion, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Add the chili powder, oregano, salt, and garlic, and cook and stir for a few minutes, until the spices become fragrant. Add the mushrooms, stir to blend, and cook, covered, until the mushrooms give up their water, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer for an hour or two, stirring occasionally. Season to taste and serve hot.

Leftover chili can be cooled and frozen, in an airtight container, for 3 months or so.

Pulled Pork and White Bean Chili side

Pulled Pork and White Bean Chili (PDF)

I don’t suppose I get extra credit for writing a recipe that’s double slow-cooked, but that’s just what this is: pork shoulder, braised to fallingapart in spicy green salsa, then pulled and stirred into plump white beans that have been simmered for hours with the braising liquid, tomatoes, cumin, chilies, and garlic. The result—a relatively easy, deeply flavorful (but not blow-your-mind spicy) chili spiked with shreds of tender pork—is enough for a crowd. Any leftover chili can be cooled, then frozen in airtight containers up to 6 months.

This recipe takes some planning—please read it carefully before beginning. And don’t be afraid to make it ahead of time; the flavors will only improve with a day (or three) in the refrigerator. I made the pork after an early dinner one night, cooked the beans overnight, and simmered the finished chili just before dinner the next day.

TIME: 1 hour active time, plus plenty of slow cooking
MAKES: 10 servings

For the pork:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (roughly 3-pound) boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 (16-ounce) jars green salsa*

For the beans:
2 pounds dried cannellini or great northern beans (or a combination of the two)
2 (28-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
3 (7-ounce) cans fire-roasted chopped green chilies
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups chicken stock

For serving:
Chopped cilantro
Chopped avocado
Crumbled cotija or shredded Monterey Jack cheese

*Be sure to taste your green salsa before using it—if you don’t like it in the jar, you probably won’t like it in the chili. I like using El Paso or Trader Joe’s version, although the latter is a bit salty, so watch your seasoning if you use it. Of course, you could use any kind or color salsa (or a mixture), as long as you avoid anything fruity.

First, braise the pork: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large, ovenproof Dutch oven or casserole dish over medium heat. Add the oil. Season the pork on all sides with salt and pepper, then brown on all sides (about 5 minutes per side, undisturbed). Transfer the pork to a plate, add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Return the pork to the pot, add the salsa, and add water, if necessary, until the liquid comes halfway up the side of the pork. Bring the liquid to a bare simmer, cover the pot, and braise in the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, turning the pork halfway through cooking—the pork is done when it falls apart when you try to pick it up with tongs. Transfer the pork to a plate, and reserve the braising liquid for cooking the beans. When the pork is cool enough to handle, chop or pull it into small pieces (discarding any fat), and refrigerate it overnight.

While the pork is cooking, start the beans: Place the beans in a large pot and add water to cover by 3 or 4 inches. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for an hour. Drain the beans, and transfer to a large slow cooker, along with the tomatoes and chilies.

When the pork is done, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, then the onion, and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the spices (next five ingredients), and cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add one cup of the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and cook for a minute or two, scraping any spices off the bottom of the pan. Pour the onion mixture over the beans in the slow cooker, add the reserved braising liquid, stir, and cook on low heat for 10 hours, undisturbed.

Before serving, combine the beans and the chopped pork in a (probably very large) pot, or two smaller pots. Add the remaining chicken stock, and simmer for half an hour or so. Serve hot, garnished with chopped cilantro, avocado, and cheese.

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Filed under gluten-free, leftovers, Lunch, pork, recipe, Seattle, soup, vegetables, vegetarian

Crash

Creamy Chicken Casserole close

It’s been a tense week, here in this house. My hard drive crashed.

It wasn’t ahead-on collision. More of a series of fender-benders, repeated with such dependable idiocy that I could have told you, one year ago today, that total disintegration was inevitable. Like that concrete post in the parking garage you always narrowly miss, until the day you don’t.

She’s a drama queen, this one. Every time she misstepped—I hate to be sexist, but this computer has to be a she—she’d give me this whole back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead song and dance about being worked so hard, when really, her extra memory was just installed wrong from the beginning.

This week, she just couldn’t take it any more. We’ve been talking, since she came out of the ER, and she explained it was the technological version of a complete mental breakdown. Sometimes a black screen and a white blinking cursor are all one can muster.

I know what’s done is done, but I can’t help thinking that maybe it’s all my fault. That after months and months of feeding this computer recipes and photographs, without actual flavors, she finally cracked, with a close-up of what to her just looked like creamy mac and givemesome.

Anyway. I’m giving her a second chance, because without her, I simply felt naked. I’m depending on her, even though last night, she was nothing more than a paperweight. (That’s when Jim picked her up and shook her. Sort of like a defibrillator, I suppose.)

I’m trying to go easy on her—trying not to get mad when I have to reload all my applications, like one does with a new machine. Even though I can still only see my photographs in miniature, and I can’t seem to edit them. Even though I have to find passwords to everything all over again. Even though I haven’t installed Office yet, and the temporary version doesn’t have a print function. (Why would one want to use a version of Word that doesn’t print, I ask?)

So for today, just a recipe, the very warm, gooey, comforting recipe whose photographs may or may not have sent her into the coma. If I could open up the CD slot and shovel a bite or two in, I’m sure she’d be happy, but alas, it’s not the kind of drive that slides out, and my husband would be so angry if I fed pasta casserole to the computer he’s spent two late, late nights fixing.

So for now, I’ll focus her little eye on me, eating the leftovers of a recipe sparked by the one for modern turkey tetrazzini in Food & Wine. I’ll be her seeing eye human—or wait, would that be tasting mouth human, then?—and tell her how the goat cheese-spiked sauce slides over roasted chicken, mushrooms, peas, and caramelized onions with just the right speed, lingering only as long as it takes for me to dig another crunchy-topped piece of rigatoni out of the bowl. She’d recommend stirring in a sprinkle of crispy bacon, I think. (I can’t imagine her skimping on anything.)

“Why didn’t you put something red in?” she’ll ask, when you’re not here. I’ll explain that it might have looked better, but when you’re making Cream of Refrigerator Casserole, with all the things that need to be used, there isn’t always something red available. (Like memory, I’ll remind her, if I can’t leave well enough alone.)

And besides, if it’s going to be called “casserole,” peas and mushrooms are the rule. At least, they’re my rule, for my first (ever) homemade casserole. And they made it just what it needed to be: Creamy. Filling. Comforting. A little old-school. And quite delicious.

For a version as creamy as the top photo, substitute crushed potato chips for the breadcrumb topping and bake just 10 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Casserole bowl

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom, and Green Pea Casserole (Word Doc)

Updated a bit with goat cheese, whole wheat pasta, and caramelized onions, this casserole (inspired by a recipe for Modern Turkey Tetrazzini in Food & Wine magazine) skips the can-of-soup approach, to good effect.

This recipe requires doing a few things at once—please read through it before beginning, so you don’t miss a step.

TIME: 1 hour active time
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

For the casserole:
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, halved, cut into 1/4” slices
2 whole chicken legs (legs and thighs together, about 1 1/2 pounds total)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
6 ounces crimini mushrooms, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 pound whole wheat rigatoni, or other bite-sized pasta
6 ounces goat cheese
1 cup frozen peas

For the topping:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then the onion slices, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until the onions are soft and golden brown.

Once the onions have started, rub the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil onto the chicken’s skin. Season with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, chop the meat (reserving bones for stock) and set aside.

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta.

Make the sauce: Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan. When melted, add the flour, and stir and cook at a bare bubble for a minute or two. Add the broth in a slow, steady stream, while whisking—the sauce will first thicken, then thin out. Add 1/2 cup of the cream, then slowly bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 minutes at a simmer, until the sauce is thick and velvety. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the onions are golden, add the mushrooms and herbs to that pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook another 20 minutes, until the onions are a deep brown and the mushrooms have given up all their water. Add the remaining 1/4 cup cream, and stir for a minute, scraping any brown bits up off the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente, according to package instructions. While it’s cooking, mix the topping ingredients together in a bowl until moist. (I find fingertips work best.)

Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and stir in the onion/mushroom mixture, along with the sauce, the goat cheese (crumbled), the peas, and the reserved chopped chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then transfer the mixture to a 9” x 13” pan (or two 8” x 8” pans). Top with the breadcrumbs, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling bubbles and the topping is lightly browned.

Let cool until the bubbling stops, then serve warm.

Creamy Chicken Casserole pan

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Filed under chicken, leftovers, Pasta, recipe

Never enough time

Warm Quinoa and White Bean Salad 2

I didn’t mean to help. I didn’t have a choice, really. I was shimmying back up the airplane from the lavatory, and she was just there. Our eyes met, and we started to do that little aisle dance. This time, I remembered my belly. Only, before I had a chance to turn baby into the space between two seats, the woman leaned into me, fainting. She had time to grab a headrest, but the other hand flailed. I grasped it, and we sank together to the floor in a slow motion hug.

She came to right as we reached the floor. She opened her eyes, bewildered by what had happened.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’ve never fainted before. But I think I can get up now.”

“No,” I countered. “I think you’re just fine right here. Let’s just hang out for a few minutes.”

So we sat.

She seemed young and fit, but she was clearly frightened. Her second hand went to mine, and we just looked at each other, all four of our hands resting on my knees, down on the carpet near everyone’s feet. It might have been five minutes before a flight attendant arrived with water, who knows – but in that span of time, the woman stopped shaking, and her head seemed to clear, and she just looked at me, thankful.

Eventually, I realized that I was still in a low squat, and my legs were screaming, and baby was squished. The flight attendant had fetched someone with better credentials than being in the right place at the right time, so I excused myself, stepping right over my new friend, and that was that.

It was a good reminder that we are, all of us, simply human, first. That we can’t always explain why we come together, but sometimes just have to be thankful that we do. And that sometimes, a touch says what words can’t.

Our trip to New England wonderful. It was snowy, and then warm, and then really good and stormy, and delicious, the whole way through. We walked on wintry beaches, and made lobster stew, and went snowshoeing, and cooked with friends, and held babies. I didn’t even bring my computer, which meant time reading, and – on someone else’s machine – joining (gag) Facebook. And we even had a little surprise baby shower. I got to whack the head off a duck-shaped pinata.

chocolate cake with brown sugar buttercream

But in most cases, we never got to see the people we love quite as long as we wanted. Each visit ended with a rushed, sort of sorrowful hug, and pledges for the year to come, and in each case, we had to be satisfied with the assurance of that touch. You can guarantee long-distance love, but it’s hard to promise time.

Still, gosh, was it good to come home. Ten days is quite a long trip. And almost as soon as we landed, Seattle reminded us that we belong here. My mother drove my sister back up for college, so we saw them. Kate stopped by with Ric, and Dave and Kelly officially moved into a house just down the street from us, and Melanie and Kevin came to stay the night during the snowstorm. Here, too, we saw each of our friends for too little time.

That’s just the way it works, though. There’s never enough time.

But however precious little there is, I appreciate spending visits in the same rhythms life normally offers. I don’t like the pomp and circumstance of How are you?, and Oh, it’s been ages!, and Do you really have to leave so soon? I’d much rather ignore the distance, and help myself to a cup of tea. I like going straight to where I know the teabags are in a house I haven’t stepped foot in for months, and plopping down as if I’d been there the day before.

I had lunch with Melanie and Kevin, before they left, and it was like that. I came home from a morning working, and they’d cleaned our kitchen, like they might have in their own house. We made lunch together, six hands pitching in. It certainly wasn’t fancy, but it was healthful, and tasty, and as they walked out the door, heading back to California, we hugged, and hoped to see each other soon.

That’s all you can do, I guess.

Warm Quinoa and White Bean Salad 3

Warm Quinoa, Vegetable and White Bean Salad (PDF)

Arugula, grape tomatoes, zucchini and Parmesan cheese make this a nutritious lunch or dinner that’s perfect for wintry weather.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 zucchini, chopped into 1/4” half moons
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups cooked beans
2 lightly packed cups arugula
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley

Bring the broth and quinoa to a boil in a saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Set aside.

While the quinoa simmers away, heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then the onion, and cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and tomatoes, and cook another 5 minutes, until tomatoes are soft. Add the beans, arugula, and cream and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the arugula has wilted and the beans are warmed through. Stir in the cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup of the cheese and the parsley, and season to taste.

Pile the salad into bowls, top with remaining Parmesan, and serve immediately.

Warm Quinoa and White Bean Salad 1

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Filed under gluten-free, grains, leftovers, Lunch, recipe, salad, vegetables

A way with leftovers

thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving really was was all that: Four women, more or less, buzzing around in the same in same six square feet in an otherwise very large kitchen, like bees in a blender with the top wide open. We chopped and spooned and buttered and mixed, smelled and tasted and barked and laughed. In a fit of last-minute organization, my mother taped all our recipes to an easel, which was genius, because it prevented people from actually entering the kitchen to find out what we were making, or how much garlic we planned to sneak into the mashed potatoes, or whether we really did have all the ingredients for sweet potato pie. We limited our six trips to the grocery store to before noon on Thursday, which seemed like a major accomplishment, and round about 4 p.m., the turkey came out brown and beaming.

the thanksgiving board

My brother didn’t help much, unless you count plying people with scotch and herding them out of the kitchen, which, come to think of it, is about as important a job as any. (Thank you.) He also lead the pie attack. Twelve of us polished off three pies in not much more than 24 hours, which makes me proud to be a Howe.

pie line-up

But he saved his culinary efforts for leftovers.

Josh doesn’t cook by the book. (He couldn’t. He doesn’t own a single cookbook.)

There’s no problem there – his food is delicious, and he clearly loves making it. And instead of teaching himself to cook in a methodically guided way – picking, say, one ethnicity to learn about, or one dish to perfect – he scampers from country to country, digging into favorites without any regard for how much knowledge he might have previously gathered about a given cuisine.

I think it’s admirable. No one should need a passport or a pedigree to cook new food.

The day after Thanksgiving, he and my sister woke up with a mission: They were determined to make congee with our turkey leftovers.

I, for one, had never had congee. Ever. I get to a dim sum restaurant, and the call of fried or strangely wiggly food far outstrips any curiosity about plain ol’ rice porridge. But Josh is apparently a new devotee, and my sis, who’s started weekly pilgrimages to discover all of Seattle’s dim sum, isn’t far behind.

It was 9:30 last Friday morning, and we’d already had breakfast. (Not that that matters to me these days. I can eat three or four breakfasts without blinking.) I left for a walk with my cousin and grandmother, and by the time we came back, the house smelled like he’d put a turkey in a rice cooker – all the starchy heaviness of a permeating rice aroma, plus the deep, almost fatty scent of dark meat turkey, and a whiff of ginger.

I won’t lie. I didn’t do a thing. I just walked right over to the pot, and scooped some into one of the bowls my sister made recently. It tasted calm and comforting, like a bowl of slow-cooked oatmeal with Thanksgiving stirred in.

For the record, I hear this is much more fun to make if you call them shit-talking mushrooms.

turkey congee 2

Post-Thanksgiving Congee (PDF)

It’s a week after Thanksgiving, and the only thing you have left to show for it is half a container of dried out dark meat and the turkey stock you don’t really want to save ‘til next November? Don’t throw either out. My brother’s congee, patterned after the rice porridge frequently eaten as breakfast in some Asian cultures, is a bit unorthodox – but delicious, and ideal for weekend brunch on a cold day.

TIME: 2 hours, start to finish
MAKES: 8 servings

1 1/2 cups long grain rice
8 cups homemade turkey stock
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 bunch scallions, white and stiff green parts
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into quarter-sized rounds
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, quartered
2 cups shredded leftover turkey (preferably dark meat)

Place the rice in a large liquid measuring cup and add water to measure 5 cups. Transfer the rice mixture to a large, heavy soup pot, add the stock and vinegar, and bring to a boil. Cut 3 of the scallions into 2” lengths and smash them flat with the side of a heavy knife. Add them to the rice, too. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add the ginger and garlic, plus a cup of water, and cook another 30 minutes. Add the shiitake mushrooms, and another cup of water, and cook 30 minutes more.

Slice the remaining scallions into thin rounds. Stir the turkey into the congee and cook for 5 minutes or so (just long enough to warm it through). Serve the porridge hot, garnished with scallions.

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Filed under Breakfast, chicken, chinese, grains, kitchen adventure, leftovers, recipe, soup

A quick salad, for skiing

I know. “Salad” and “skiing” don’t usually go together. But someone told me it’s supposed to hit 70 degrees in Seattle this weekend (hallelujah!), and we’re going skiing, which means a picnic, which means portable edibles. I will be ready.

Besides being delicious, this little salad is the perfect solution to a refrigerator full of fennel fronds.

Beet and Fennel Wheat Berry Pilaf

Beet and Fennel Wheat Berry Pilaf (PDF)
You could substitute dill for the fennel, if you’d prefer, or add any variety of crumbled cheeses, but I like the way the simple combination of lemon and fennel leaves a clean, bright taste in my mouth.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1 pound baby beets (about a dozen 1 1/2” beets), trimmed
1 cup raw wheat berries
2 teaspoons salt, plus more, to taste
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fennel fronds (the soft, green tops of one big fennel bulb)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the beets, wrap them in foil, and roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until tender. Cool slightly in the foil, then peel and quarter.

Meanwhile, place the wheat berries in a large saucepan. Add about 6 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for about an hour, maybe a little longer, until the berries are al dente. (Some of the berries may begin to open up.)

In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a good grinding of pepper together to blend. Drain the wheat berries and stir them into the bowl when they’re hot, so they soak up the dressing. Fold in the warm beets, fennel fronds, chives, and pecans, and season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Since fresh fennel fronds don’t wilt very easily, the salad keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, up to 3 days.

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Filed under leftovers, Lunch, recipe, salad, snack, vegetables, vegetarian

Birds and sneaky fat ass

I’m not normally obsessed with my appearance. I’ve been with the same partner for 11 years, and what can I say? I take it for granted that he likes what he sees. Sure, I do it up sometimes, but I’m no fancy-pants dresser and I rarely freak out about my image.

When I get dressed, my primary objective is usually to make sure everything’s clean and matches, more or less, and that nothing is on inside-out. I typically leave the house feeling fairly satisfied.

But every once in a while, it happens: I pass a mirror, or see a photo of myself from someone else, or (God Forbid) try some skinny-legged jeans on, and my image slaps me right in the face. Oh, come on, you know what I’m talking about. You see a picture, and you’re supposed to be looking at all the smiling faces, but really you’re looking at that part of you that seems just a bit bigger than it is in your mind’s eye.

It’s sneaky fat ass. It hits most often in the fall, for me.

I’ve been on a yoga kick for the past week or so, feeling drawn to the mat by a happy body (I’m feeling much better than I did in September and the beginning of October), and by the by cross-pollinating encouragement of the upcoming ski season and a burgeoning behind.

When we came home from yoga today, my legs wiggled. I needed food. But Jackson (the cat), who decided it would be fun to turn the house into a menagerie of tiny live birds just a few days ago, decided we needed more exercise. On Friday, the birds had been small; I ushered them out from under the refrigerator with a broom handle and the action was over.

Today was different. When we got home, the house was littered with feathers, big and small (like this). Feathers in the office, feathers in the living room. Feathers in the kitchen, feathers glued to the inside of the shower curtain. Feathers, everywhere. But no bird.

But we were tired, and hungry, so we hit Pete’s Egg Nest and forgot about the bird.

When we came home with friends in tow, we remembered the bird. It was hard not to: it was flapping frantically around the living room, a gorgeous, healthy-sized specimen, spastic with stress and bleeding from what was presumably a siginificant struggle with the cat. We all started yelling at once, fluttering about the room around it, guessing its species. Woodpecker? It had a sharp, forceful-looking beak, with a body like a pigeon, but a thicker neck and colorful plumage. The camera was conveniently out of batteries, but it looked kind of like this.

We flushed the bird out, and returned to the house. We looked closer: bedlam. Bird blood on the walls, on the white blinds, on the windowsills, on the floor. Bird shit on our credit card statement, on my datebook, dripping down my yoga mat, matted into a dog bed, slashed across the kitchen floor. And the cat? Nowhere.

So the afternoon wasn’t the relaxing, chill Sunday we’d hoped for. We spent it scooping bird poop and picking feathers out of the rugs.

By the time we got hungry again, my energy wavered. I wanted soup. Fast. I thought of the turkey and rice avgolemono Kathy made for Favorites, and thought I’d make something like it. But I had no lemon, and no herbs, just half a turkey carcass and a refrigerator jam-packed with nothing.

With rich, thick stock (from the batch I’d made with two chickens and labeled “GOOD chicken stock”), sweet leeks, and richness from the cream and egg I swirled in at the last minute, the soup was perfect. It preened when I took photographs, like the bird must have done before the cat ruined is day (and ours).

But when I loaded the pictures up, there it was, a half-hearted looking soup with not enough color and dubious ability to make many mouths water.

Really, I mean it: I loved it, every fat, hot, satisfying drop. And before I loaded my camera with a fresh battery, I felt 100% certain it would be gorgeous.

But now it seems . . .blah. Even soups get sneaky fat ass, I guess.

Quick Turkey

Quick Turkey “Egg Drop” Soup (PDF)
Recipe 308 of 365

When only the ugliest bits of turkey meat are left on the carcass, make this soup, with the best chicken or turkey stock you can find (which is probably your own). For variations, add lemon juice, chopped fresh parsley or basil, or any other leftover vegetables that need a home.

TIME: 13 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 1 to 2 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 small leeks, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup, or onions will also work)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups homemade chicken or turkey stock
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup chopped leftover turkey
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 large egg

Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil, then the leeks, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, and bring the soup to a simmer. Add the peas and turkey, and simmer 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the simmering stop.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and cream together. Stir the soup, and drizzle the egg mixture in as it swirls in the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and eat hot.

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Filed under leftovers, recipe, soup

Mmm. Turkey Burritos.

This is Tito’s idea of a fantasy dinner. He told me so. Mine too, actually. It turns out that when you mix it with salsa, leftover squash makes a delicious, earthy alternative to an enchilada-style sauce, and turkey’s moist, dark, flavorful leg meat is as much like carnitas as poultry can get (unless you’re making duck confit, I guess).

When you roll the burritos, don’t worry about tucking the ends in – the weight of the sauce will keep the burritos closed.

Ever wonder why some dinner plates say “ovenproof” on the bottom? This is why.

Turkey, Black Bean, and Squash Burrito

Wet Turkey and Black Bean Burritos with Squash Sauce (PDF)
Recipe 307 of 365

After sandwiches, my family always drifted toward using turkey leftovers for Mexican food – turkey quesadillas topped the list. But when I hosted my own Thanksgiving a few years ago, I was dismayed at how few of the actual leftovers (besides the turkey) we ate the following night.

Modeled after the kind of wet burrito one finds often at Mexican joints (rolled, smothered with sauce, and baked), here’s a delicious rendition that uses leftover pureed squash as a base for the sauce.

TIME: 10 minutes prep
MAKES: 2 big burritos

2 cups leftover pureed squash (preferably not sweetened)
1 cup hot salsa (the smooth kind)
1 cup chopped leftover turkey
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup leftover rice (white, brown or wild)
2 large (14”) flour tortillas
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix 1 cup of the squash with 1/2 cup of the salsa in a small bowl (or in the food processor, if your salsa is chunky), and set aside.

Place the remaining squash and salsa in a mixing bowl. Add the turkey, black beans, cheddar cheese, and rice, and mix to blend.

Place the tortillas on two large ovenproof plates. Divide the turkey mixture between the two tortillas, roll into burritos, and place them seam side-down on the plates. Cover the burritos with the squash-salsa mixture, and top with crumbled cotija.

Bake for 15 minutes, and serve hot – but careful with those plates.

Turkey, Black Bean, and Squash Burrito (Cut)

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Filed under leftovers, mexican, recipe, vegetables