our messy table

Month: January, 2015

roasted squash toast

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There was a time during our first 10 months of marriage where my husband and I would come home from work, stare into each other’s eyes and dreamily ask, “What would you like to do tonight?”

Most often the evening consisted of long, luxurious walks by the lake with our dog. Others were spent renting multiple Redbox movies and eating frozen pizza. Sometimes we would invite friends over to brave an experimental meal. Or we would just go out for food and drinks.

We were young with a small income to burn… or so we thought. But it didn’t matter that our priorities were self-indulgent. After we clocked out from an 8-hour shift, we were responsible for no one until 6:30 the following morning.

Don’t get me wrong. It has only been about 3 years … I will make it a point to say that we are still young. Alas, 3 years, 3 moves, several job changes and a baby later, our evenings are a bit more tied-up.

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If you would have asked me 3 years ago if I was ready for evenings as predictable as ours are now – evenings that consist of a pattern of events that result in half-eaten dinners and a very early bedtime – I would have probably, I don’t know, taken an oath of celibacy.

Yet, I am grateful to not be that person anymore. Our evening routine is deep in our bones. We all find comfort in it. And all 3 of us place a bit of our identity in it, too.

Often I have to take a moment to pause in gratitude for the fact that we can come home to each other each night. That my son can expect me to read to him after his bath, before he goes to sleep. That he can hear my voice rhyme to “Llama, Llama, Time to Share” as he slowly nibbles a graham cracker. That my husband can build him a “big, big barn!” out of Legos while I empty my head during an evening jog. That we can eat together in the messy, scattered, imperfect way that we do.

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. . .

It seems like we fall into familiar cooking patters this time every year; lots of roasted potatoes and root vegetables, mushrooms, broccoli, rice and eggs. I decided last week that I needed to rekindle some of that pre-Thanksgiving spirit by bringing back a meal that frequented our table in October and November; a meal consisting of roasted squash, caramelized onion, cheese and toast.

Pre-Thanksgiving, every time we placed this dish before our toddler, he would sort of scooch the squash and onion off the toast. Then we could proceed to eat the cheese and the toast… but not the squash or the onion. As you can imagine, it was quite annoying. But this last week my son lapped up the whole thing and finished with a, “Mmmm, thas goo, mommy”.

I was pleased and dumbfounded all at the same time. So much so, I thought it was time this recipe found a home on “Our Messy Table”.

Please forgive the awful pictures. This is a popular evening meal for us – hence the lack of natural light – and we never have leftovers for lunch-time photos! I will note that we typically use butternut squash since it is easier to peel. But any kinds of squash works and the additional peeling step is not necessary. This dish also serves well with rice or another hearty grain.

Roasted Squash Toast with Caramelized Onion and Ricotta

From Smitten Kitchen

Yield 4 servings as a main, 8 as an appetizer

1 2 1/2- to 3-pound butternut or other yellow-fleshed squash (such as delicata, acorn or kabocha)
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes, more or less to taste
Coarse sea or kosher salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick
1/2 cup ricotta, goat cheese, feta or Parmesan

Heat oven to 450. Prepare a large baking sheet. No need to peel your squash, just halved, seed and cut your squash into 1/4-inch thick slices. Toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 to 2 teaspoons salt and chile flakes until evenly coated. Transfer mixture to prepared sheet and roast until tender and slightly colored, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, flipping once about 2/3 of the way through. Once tender, you can cut the flesh from the skin and discard it. Leave roasted squash on the tray.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add vinegar and syrup and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until onions are jammy and broken down, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Pile onions on top of roasted squash, still on their baking sheet. Use a fork to gently half-mash the mixture; I like this best when the mixture is not uniformly combined. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil per slice of bread, and cook bread until just golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Spread cheese on toasts, heap with the squash-onion mixture, sprinkle with coarse salt.

 

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morning glories

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Our son is recovering from a spell of influenza, an ear infection, and with our luck, probably a few other things. However, the little guy seems to be in the home stretch. His night-coughing has eased. He has regained the energy to do more than doze off at any given moment. And I am no expert. but you would think that the flu shot should count for something?

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Anywaay… I was scheduled to start my first week of work on Monday, the morning after my son started showing symptoms of being sick.

Time, this week, seemed to be on our side. Due to early-outs and late-starts and school cancellations, I was able to guiltlessly spend time at home with my sick baby. On the days school was not canceled, my sister, in her last week of Christmas vacation before returning to college, was able to play nanny in my house. It was wonderfully lucky. My husband and I were spared the misery of hulling an un-well child outside in the negative 60 degree wind-chill. And after work, I was able to come home to healing child in a mismatched outfit with watercolor running out of his nose.

Thanks, little sister.

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You would think with all the unanticipated time-off, I would have been a picture of productivity. I had a to-do list the length of my freezer mounted in plain sight along with additional preparations for school. And yet, there is something about a snow-day, something about unanticipated time off that depletes my sense of urgency. For instance, on Thursday (a full snow-day), after I put sick baby down for nap, I took a bath while nibbling bittersweet chocolate. I took a second bath the following morning (a late start and baby still asleep) while drinking two cups of very hot coffee and finishing a book. From where I now sit, the thought of this is shocking. This is something I can never bring myself to do on a Saturday… mind you… anticipated time-off. Halfway through these bath-taking processes I wondered, “…. Who am I ?!”

Now that my son is on the mend, and the winter weather is supposed to regulate, I am both excited for and leery of a promised routine.

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I mean, I really enjoyed those baths. There was even one night where my husband and I got lost in Netflix like we used to. It felt like summer in January… in negative 60 degree wind-chill…

I want to wish my Midwest readers well as we all re-enter the time of routine. I hope you all are warm and safe and healthy. And since the weekend is upon us, I though a recipe for a hearty breakfast cookie would be a great way to start.

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. . .

I picked up on this recipe after a friend served them to us while we stayed with them for a weekend. This friend also introduced me to Sarah’s blog, My New Roots, from where the recipe originated.  I put my own spin on things when I make these cookies, omitting the anise and grating in orange zest, sometimes adding a splash of vanilla, sometimes not. At first I was puzzled by the ingredient list. Why pureed beans and an egg? Can we swap the brown sugar for honey or maple syrup? How about gluten-free flour? I have tried all of these options, all yielding very different results. I would trust Sarah on the original. The listed recipe is a reliably good one. But feel free to tinker around.

Like Sarah, we affectionately call these breakfast cookies “Morning Glories”. They go very well with a cup of coffee or earl gray tea. If you are a toddler, yogurt-dunking is mandatory. Yogurt dunking, and also your new favorite fox cup filled to the brim with water.

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Morning Glories

Adapted from: My New Roots

Yield 1 to 1 ½ dozen breakfast cookies

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole grain flour (we use spelt)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. taking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 15-oz. can white kidney beans, great northern beans or navy beans, rinsed and darined
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar*
  • 1 large egg**
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 2/3 cups sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and place a rack in the top third. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Pulse the oats in a food processor (or blender) until they resemble a very rough flour. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest and salt.

Pulse the beans and olive oil in the food processor until they are creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and pulse until smooth. Add dates and pulse a few times until chopped and incorporated. Scrap down the sides of the bowl once or twice along the way.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until the ingredients start to come together. Stir until everything just comes together.

Place the sesames seeds in a bowl. With a tablespoon, scoop out some dough about the size of a golf ball, then roll it into a rough log shape. (Yes, the dough at this point is very wet, but it becomes very easy to handle once coated in sesame seeds.)

Roll the log of dough into the sesame seeds, remembering to dip the ends too. Set each log on the prepared baking sheet and with the palm of your hand flatten the dough just a bit, into a bar shape. You want the bar to be the same thickness all the way through – do not make the ends flatter than the middle. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving at least an inch or so between each bar – they’ll spread a bit, but not much. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the sesame seeds around the bottom start to get golden.

Store in an airtight container for a week, if they keep that long!

Notes:

*Swapping brown sugar for a natural sweetener, such as maple syrup or honey has yielded, for me, a very messy and wet batter I didn’t like working with. Give it a try if you want!

** I have swapped out the egg for a vegetarian binder such as pumpkin or apple sauce with success.

risotto with radishes

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Tonight, I swept the dust off my old, decrepit-looking watercolor cakes. I dug out a few crappy brushes and printer paper. As my husband made chicken noodle soup, my son and I painted. I painted a heart and a funky-looking castle and a shark. My son painted blue and green and a little bit of every leftover color from the meager assortment. He said he was painting a “scary monster”.

He dipped his brush thoughtfully into each cake and watched as the colors slowly blended and ran into a dark, feathery mass over the cheap paper. It was charming to see how careful he was being. How engrossed he was.

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Our son has been sick the last few days and is being treated for influenza. I took him back to the doctor today to learn he also has an ear infection. We have a date with 13 milliliters of medicine and a nebulizer machine later tonight. You can imagine our exhaustion excitement.

It felt good to turn off the TV (aka Dinosaur Train) and paint tonight. It felt good to walk away from the same toys and puzzles and make something new. To hear the chicken broth bubbling. To smell the fresh parsley. To be entranced by the movement of water and color pigment. To let go.

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No, no… this is not another soup recipe. Though it just occurred to me how much soup we have been making and eating lately. Instead, I am sending you a recipe for a most delicious and simple way to serve risotto… which always sounds so good to me on cold days like this. My sister and I made it for lunch on a recent cold and snowy afternoon and it was perfect.

The risotto is very creamy and rich while the radishes offer a refreshing, earthy snap. We ate this with nothing but a sprinkle of salt and black paper, but you could also serve it with additional Parmesan or fresh herbs.

Risotto with Radishes

From Bon Appetempt

Yield about 4 servings

For risotto:
7 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup hot water
3/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
1 large shallot, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pound Arborio rice (2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)

For radishes:
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar (or possibly a bit more)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound trimmed radishes julienned

Bring broth and water to a simmer in a 3-to-4 quart saucepan. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons butter in a 4-to-5 quart heavy pot over medium heat, then cook onion, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add boiling water and cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Stir 1 cup simmering broth into rice and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding broth, about 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, 18 to 22 minutes. Thin with some of remaining broth if necessary (you will have some left over.) Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 3 tablespoon butter.

Prepare radishes:
Whisk together vinegar and oil with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Toss radishes with the dressing.  Serve risotto topped with radishes.