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Tuesday, January 17 2012
Carla Lalli Music, Bon Appetit 

When I was a lowly line cook at Union Pacifichaving a rough day (meaning, it was 40 minutes until dinner service and the chef just added a special), we had a saying: "Make it happen." Thirteen years later, I get to spend my days atBon Appetit (huge improvement), but I have two monsters at home who eat dinner at 5:30pm. Now, "making it happen" means feeding them even when I'm not there. I want them to eat the food I've made--honestly, it lessens the guilt of not being there--and these are the tips and strategies I'm devoted to. They help get meals done in advance, and help other ones come together quickly. 

Use the freezer 
Yeah, I shop the farmers' market every weekend and love to cook with what I bought that day. But I have to get ahead, too. So I try to have these items in my freezer (pictured above) at all times: frozen peas, edamame, ground turkey, burger patties, chicken cutlets, ravioli, homemade soup, and homemade meatballs in sauce. Did you know you can freeze brown rice? True story. Each night I take a look at my freezer and transfer an item into the refrigerator to thaw for the next day. Keeping the freezer in rotation means I always have a green vegetable on hand and don't have to worry about meat spoiling in the fridge during the week. 

Make friends with the family pack 
It was a sad day when my older son announced, apologetically, that he "didn't really like chicken."Chicken cutlets on the other hand, those are totally fine. I buy a couple of family packs of chicken cutlets at a time, bread them, and freeze them in packs of two (wrapped in freezer paper and tucked into a gallon-sized zip-top bag). I use the standard flour-egg-panko breading, and our sitter can easily cook them to a crisp at dinnertime, without having to fuss with a bunch of breading ingredients. I am also a huge fan these days of the "meatloaf mix" from the butcher case: 1 pound each of pork, veal, and beef. I buy two packs at a time for double batches of meatballs (browned on sheet trays under the broiler). 

Choose soup 
There's a lentil soup I make pretty much every weekend, and it's a meal in a bowl. It starts with a big batch of sofrito (see below), flavored with bacon or sausage or leftover ham. I add spices like cumin and turmeric, lentils, stock or water, and kale and let it simmer until the beans are tender. Throw a Parmesan rind in there if you've got it. This Sunday soup has become a staple--I serve it with some bread and a little Parmesan grated over the top--and it's kind of crazy how much kale my children will ingest in soup form. A pot of soup is just as easy to make in big batches, and the leftovers are a perfect freezer staple. 

Celebrate sofrito 
Every cuisine has its version of this flavorful, aromatic base. I make mine with onions, carrots, celery, garlic and olive oil. The food processor is my tool of choice for chopping the vegetables--do them individually, since they break down at different rates. Then cook the vegetables together slowly in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and a bay leaf if you're feeling fancy. When making soup on the weekends, I'll start with a monster batch of sofrito, then remove two-thirds of it from the pot to freeze in quart containers, and continue on with the soup. When I want to make tomato sauce for meatballs, another batch of soup, or a quick pot of black beans, I start with a container of sofrito, which cuts prep work in half. 

Read up 
There are a few books I'm regularly inspired by. Whether I'm following the recipe word for word (rare), or letting my son flip through and tell me what looks good to him, these are the titles that have earned a spot on the kitchen shelf: 

The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whitting-Stall. Written for kids, with excellent recipes and ideas. My new favorite way to poach eggs is in here. 

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. I treasure my sun-bleached copy. Will teach you how to cook every grain, bean, and vegetable under the sun. 

Time for Dinner by Pilar Guzman, Jenny Rosenstrach, and Alanna Stang. Filled with crowd-friendly recipes and my favorite lists of essentials for the pantry, fridge, and freezer. Brought to you from the editors of Cookie magazine. 

More from
 Bon Appetit: 

10 Foods You Thought Were Healthy But Really Aren't 
The Top Food Trends of 2012 
25 One-Bite Appetizers 
Quick and Easy School-Night Dinners 
Posted by: Send a Meal AT 02:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, January 05 2012
 There are some wonderful foods that come from the sea which some people do not know about; for example laver bread which is a seaweed, and delicious when bought already cleans so that all you have to do is fry it in bacon fat with some cockles for breakfast with eggs and bacon and a sausage or two along with mushrooms. It's full of iron and iodine and is good for your health as well as being very tasty. This is a traditional Welsh recipe, enjoyed all along the Gower coast.

Another of my favourite recipes is one from the Alentejo region of Portugal; I had this in a wonderful restaurant in the mountains but the only problem was that we ordered far more than we could possibly eat. The dish was pork and clams; the pork had been marinated in white wine, garlic, thyme, onions and possibly oregano and the clams had been cooked in the dish with the tenderloin of pork. It was delicious, but I don't think I had realized before that meal that pork could combine so well with seafood.

Octopus cooked in red wine, with tomatoes and macaroni is another of my favourite seafood dishes, but Greek this time. You need to throw the whole octopus in a large pan with just a little water, cover the pan and cook on a low to moderate heat for 15 minutes. When you remove the lid, the octopus will be cooked, you can tell because the tentacles will have curled up and you will have a pinky liquid at the bottom of the pan. You fry onions and garlic in olive oil and cut the octopus into bite size pieces, removing and discarding the beak and any other bits of the head you don't want to use. When the onions are translucent, throw in the octopus, tomatoes (about a kilo of chopped) red wine and macaroni and cook until the macaroni is tender with some black pepper and oregano and thyme.

Another of my all time favourite seafood dishes is again from Portugal, although they eat it in Spain too, and that is cuttlefish cooked in its own ink. Squid cooked like this is great too. It isn't the prettiest dish you could have on your plate, but it is worth trying just once.

Finally there is the sea urchin, which is very underused and under-rated. I first came across it while living on Mykonos, Greece, when I was given half a prickly shell, half a lemon and some bread which I had to dip in olive oil and move around the interior of the hell to scoop up the orange star in the centre. It was delicious, and I then tasted the sea urchin soup, but that was way too gelatinous for my taste. Later on the island of Aegina I was invited to try sea urchins in a novel way - in a shot glass with a touch of Tabasco some freshly squeezed lemon juice and a slug of tsipouro (something like ouzo). This was good too; if not a traditional Greek dish it certainly had the flavours of the country.

There are so many varieties of seafood that we can use, it seems a shame to just stick to the ones we are familiar with. Why not experiment with some of the seafood I've mentioned here and give your taste buds a treat? If you found this article interesting, why not click on the link to find out more about herbs and spices and the plants that we can use to benefit our health? There are some easy recipes for you to try and lots of information too.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 11:18 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email