Friday, April 29, 2011

Super Quick Smoky Chic Peas & Wilted Greens with Goat Cheese

Have I ever mentioned my love affair with smoked paprika, aka pimenton? I use it so often, in so many ways. Love, love, love that smoky goodness, in bean dishes, soups, stews, marinades. And these little cans that it comes in are great for storing pencils & pens when the can is empty, as an added bonus!

My love of paprika grows ever deeper on a night like tonight, when a little dash of it is added to a meal that took all of about ten minutes to make, and was thoroughly satisfying. Win-win!

You can make this with any kind of beans you have around, and any kind of greens too. If you happen to have creamy goat cheese around too, by all means, invite it to the party.

First, just mince some garlic and saute' it in a bit of olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes.

Next, add the chic peas...a cup or two if you've made them from scratch, or a whole can, rinsed & well drained, which is what I happened to have on hand tonight. Add a sprinkling of salt & pinch of crushed red pepper and cook for a few minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times. And then, add a little sprinkling, or a big sprinkling if you like, of smoked paprika. Stir to incorporate, and stop to appreciate just how delightful the kitchen is smelling right about now.

Now it's time to toss in your greens - I used a bunch of wild baby arugula. You could also use spinach, or perhaps coarsely chopped mustard greens or chard. Now would be a good time to add another sprinkling of salt, too.

Keep on stirring and once the greens are just wilted, it's time to flick in a few dollops of goat cheese, if you've got it. And around here, we're fairly addicted to it so we've almost always got it!

And before you know it, before you've even finished your first glass of wine, you're pretty much ready to eat. This dish is great to combine with a grain, and tonight we were lucky to have a delicious wheat berry salad that the lovely Kanteen was kind enough to share, and it was the perfect complement.

If you didn't happen to have something at the ready, you might start cooking some rice or quinoa a few minutes before starting this dish so that it'd all be ready at the same time. Or you could just eat it with some crusty bread. It's highly adaptable and the perfect remedy for those times when you need something healthy & delicious but are running low on energy & time, which for me lately, seems to be all the time!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lasagna!

Last weekend I went to my friend Jamie's to prepare 7 lasagnas for the family wedding dinner, and my friend Erin showed up to help. We spent the day in Jamie's perfectly gorgeous, well set up, and inviting kitchen.

The week prior had been very trying on many levels. I had had a supposedly minor procedure to have a cyst on my eyelid taken care of, and ended up with a pretty massive, long lingering black eye afterwards. I looked like a serious victim of domestic violence. The day after the procedure, the honey and I had planned to go to SF City Hall to get our marriage license, but somehow it would have felt strange to show up there looking like I'd just been beaten!

And then, there was the obligatory pre-marital argument that turned into a major blowout, the kind of blowout that has one or both parties threatening to cancel the wedding, divide the possessions and just bail on this whole thing. Fortunately, that one ended in forgiveness, commitment in tact.

But the bad feelings were hard to shake, and by the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was feeling pretty wrecked and emotionally hungover. I would have spent the day in bed in the fetal position if I hadn't already signed up to do this, but there was no turning back. And spending the day with sweet, generous friends in a warm & inviting kitchen, cooking food with and for people I love turned out to be just the remedy to everything ailing me.

As an extra special, most kind and utterly generous gift, Jamie not only did all the shopping, but paid for everything - that would be something like twelve pounds of local asparagus and six pounds of fancy imported gruyere and parmesan from The Cheeseboard, not to mention many, many boxes of noodles and many, many cans of organic fire roasted tomatoes. It really was a perfect way to spend a day, and feels so good to have that task completed. Jamie was also kind enough to lend us his freezer to store all the lasagnas until the big day.

As if all of that wasn't enough, he served us a world-class lunch featuring meltingly tender Rancho Gordo yellow-eye beans and fresh cod slathered in miso and baked in tin foil, all served over mixed baby greens. All of it was just the remedy to soothe my soul, and a reminder once again of how fortunate I am.

Monday, April 11, 2011

42 = The End of High Heels

Somehow my 42nd birthday came and went without my managing to attempt to turn the day into a national holiday. I actually had it in my head that it'd just be low key this year, but somehow the Universe (and my wonderful friends!) conspired to deliver quite a lot of fanfare in spite of this!

In the course of three days, I was treated to not only some wonderful company and inspired gifts, but also some seriously great food, including the acclaimed San Francisco institution Zuni Cafe, as well as other trusty East Bay favorites Dona Tomas and Burma Superstar, and new favorite Plum! More good food than a person has a right to eat! More good food than a woman who's going to try to squeeze into a wedding dress soon should even be attempting to eat! But, I did my best, oh yes I did!

One of the great things about turning 42 is that I feel like, for better or worse, I'm getting more comfortable at living in this body of mine, even when it gives me trouble. And BELIEVE ME, it gives me trouble, despite my best efforts to be good to it.

On my birthday, I was walking down the street looking live Olive Oyl, holding on to my honey's arm so I wouldn't trip as I walked in my mild 2-inch heels that I'd just bought. Mother f*cking DANSKO'S for f*cks's sake! Supposedly any old broad should be able to walk in these things! But alas, not me. I'd already twisted my ankle while walking in these shoes no less than THREE TIMES the previous weekend, and this was my last ditch attempt to try to train myself to walk in heels.... but I had to ask myself: why bother?!

Because really, the truth is, I'm a sneakers & cowboy boots kind of girl, and I have been for years. And in all my years of living, I've never had anyone in my life think less of me because I wasn't wearing heels, or more of me because I was. And as I gingerly tiptoed down that San Francisco street, desperately afraid of falling and twisting my ankle again, that realization sank in hard. In fact, my honey even asked me who exactly were these people I was trying to impress with my heels? Because he likes me no matter what.

So as I turned 42, my present to myself was the decision to ditch the heels and all the pretense that comes along with them, and focus instead on the things that really matter: the fact that I've got people who love me no matter what, and that I get to enjoy so much goodness on this earth and in this life. I've got quite a nice collection of cowboy boots and I just might be wearing them when I get married, and I'm happy about that!