Why I Love Roasting

Lazy* is the word I would use to describe my cooking habits of late.  That is, if I've cooked at all.  We've had Thai carryout, deli sandwiches, pizza delivery, and leftovers for at least a week.  It's been kind of nice, but I've missed the meal planning and thoughtful grocery shopping.  I miss the routine of it all.

I needed to make something that would be a triple threat--taste, texture, aroma--to really drag me back to the kitchen.  It had to be simple and relatively low maintenance which of course brings roasting to mind.  Just today, Adam Roberts had article on reasons everyone should learn to roast a chicken in the Huffington Post.  The best reason:  it's ridiculously easy

I had a few pounds of small Yukon gold potatoes I picked up at Whole Foods this weekend calling to me from the counter to be eaten so I wanted to give them a proper roasting.  After a little research on epicurious, I decided to par-cook them on the stove top and then finish them off in the oven.  The entire process required little attention from me except to drain them and transfer them to a roasting pan before forgetting about them for a half an hour.  And that's why I love roasting--I got to continue my laziness and still eat well.

*Oh, those lazy pups up there?  Those are my dogs, Mia and Murray.  What a pair, eh?

Roasted Potatoes with Dill
recipe liberally adapted from Gourmet December 2001
serves 4-5 as a side dish

The dill took on an unexpected sweetness when tossed with the warm potatoes that Tim and I both really liked.  If you are not a dill person, or you have an abundance of a different herb like basil or parsley, feel free to swap for a similarly leafy herb.  Herbs like thyme and rosemary retain their flavor well in hot temperatures and would be fine to add during the roasting. 

2-3 lbs of small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled or unpeeled
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
coarse salt & black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Halve or quarter potatoes to desired size (around 2 inch pieces).  Place potatoes in a pot and add cold, salted water until just submerged.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes or until potatoes are slightly tender but still firm when pierced with a knife.  Drain in a colander and pat dry.

Transfer potatoes to a foil-lined roasting pan.  Toss with 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Roast in the middle of the oven, stirring potatoes once during cooking, for about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and toss with remaining olive oil, if needed, and fresh chopped dill.  Adjust salt & pepper to taste.  Serve warm.


One Year

All day long I've been reading bitter tweets about how it's MAY 16 and unseasonably chilly.  And then just now, I looked at my archive of posts and realized that MAY 16, 2010 was my first post on this blog.

So there it is.  One year.  I didn't make a cake and or blow out any candles.  In fact, I'm about to run out the door to head to Melissa's band concert an hour away.  But now that I know this day is here, I do want to say this:

I write this blog because I have something to say--about food, gardening, family, and life. Thank you to those of you who read it--even if you're reading quietly. 


The Gardening Virus

Tim got an email this morning that the Community Garden opening has been postponed because the ground is so wet. I'm disappointed that we will have to wait, but I know that we have been fortunate to not have any additional negative repercussions from the rain than this.

I know that the inclement weather has caused damage through storms and flooding to many around the US, and they are in my thoughts.  I also know that the rain has caused delays for many farmers to plant, particularly corn, and may cause the price of food to go up.  We will go through this together, in some form or another, no matter where we live.  But those affected have been on my mind quite a bit lately, and I thought it important to say.

On the non-rainy days, I have really, really been enjoying working on our landscaping around the house.  For Easter, rather than a basket of candy, my mother gifted us a few vibrantly green "guacamole" hostas to plant in our shady front yard.  I also planted a duo of purple tulips which thrived from the spring rains.  From there, it was as if I'd caught the gardening virusI can't shake the desire to plant

When we went shopping for mulch, Melissa and I couldn't stay away from the vegetable plants.  While Tim stacked bags of mulch onto a flat cart, Melissa selected a skinny tomato plant whose tag boasted "lovely, juicy slicing tomatoes."  Now in addition to our herbs, our back patio is the home of our "back-up tomato," a tomato-insurance, if you will, in case our plot at the community garden fairs poorly again. 

Then on Mother's Day, I arrived at my parent's house with fresh cut flowers for my mom.  I spent a sunny afternoon with her outside; Mom carried a shovel and I carried an assortment of grocery bags, following her around like a lady in waiting, while she dug up a flower here or an herb there for me to re-plant in my own garden.  I left her house with four bags of plants, three little corms (to indulge my mother's--and now my own--dream of growing a flowering tropical plant), and an assortment of clay pots that were leftover after she had finished her spring planting.  As I drove back home, I thought about how today was supposed to be about me giving to her--but my mom always finds a way to give me more than I could ever offer.

I spent the next few evenings after work planting what she gave me--a couple of plants that have an electric blue flower resembling a dandelion, another flowering plant that she warned me will spread like a weed if given the chance, a fragrant low-to-the-ground plant that is soft when I run my hands over the top of it's leaves, and a few more.  I planned out where they might get the most sun and what might compliment its neighboring plants if in the same area.  I also tried to create what I'd like to call a "corm nursery" for the little bulb-like balls, planting them in thick, clay pots with good drainage and excellent potting soil, making sure they get lots of warm afternoon sun, but not too much, to try to mimic the tropical environment.  It's still a bit of a mystery to me what exactly I will get from the corms--what plant it is and how many years it may take to flower--but this gardening virus has me unable to say no to anything.

I have been so busy working in our yard that I haven't even thought about planning out our community garden plot.  My sister is growing a variety of peppers so we may skip those altogether in the spirit of hopefully exchanging excess produce with her after we begin to harvest.  I've considered some eggplant and maybe another go at melon, but I need to start doing some research.  Any suggestions on a good website or magazine to check out?

I will keep you, my readers, in the loop as to how things progress with the garden, but I'd like to hear about your gardening, too.  Please feel free to post a link to your blog or send me an email if you'd like to discuss garden tips and strategies. I really enjoy hearing from you and cheering you on, too.


All Sorts of Things

I had a friend named Craig who would spend all afternoon on Sunday's cooking chicken.  He didn't like to cook after work so he would prepare an entire week's worth of chicken to hold him over until the following weekend.  When asked what he would do with all of that chicken, Craig would sort of shrug and reply, "All sorts of things."

I haven't seen Craig in a few years but I suspect this habit hasn't disappeared.  The convenience of pre-prepared chicken breast is easily overlooked by an eager home-cook like myself.  I plan many meals around the multiple uses of a whole-roasted chicken, but what about when I just want something quick?

Thus the reason that grocery stores like Whole Foods are so popular these days.  I went to Whole Foods solely for the purpose of stocking up on organic strawberries that were on sale for $1.99/lb (!) and, as usual, found myself hungry as soon as I walked in the door.  I wanted something simple and I was craving those strawberries.  I wandered over to their deli section where they a vast assortment of prepared foods and picked out a nicely charred chicken breast.  The very polite deli worker wrapped it up for me and I headed home with my chicken and strawberries.

I tossed the strawberries with some fresh spinach and a quick, homemade vinaigrette (champagne vinegar, honey, chives, olive oil, salt, & pepper) and topped it with sliced chicken breast.  Tim liked it, too, which means that it wasn't too sweet or girly for his manly appetite. 

The more I think about it there really are all sorts of things to do with a cooked chicken breast.  Now that the weather is starting to cooperate and offer some nice afternoons for working in the yard, taking the dogs on walks, and lounging on the patio reading books on my new Nook, I am thankful for the short-cuts. 

I was going to offer a recipe for the vinaigrette but making great homemade vinaigrette is really more about the method than a recipe.  Traditionally vinaigrette's are composed of vinegar, mustard, oil, and salt, but you can play around with those ingredients to meet your tastes.  Molly Wizenberg has a great recipe for vinaigrette over at the Spilled Milk Podcast website that would be a great "starter" vinaigrette.  For this strawberry salad, I wanted more sweetness so I picked a fruity vinegar and swapped the mustard for honey.  The trick is to whisk your oil & vinegar mixture with an ingredient that has some structure--like a dijon mustard or honey--to create an emulsion.  The thick creamy texture of the emulsion is what will help your vinaigrette stick to the salad leaves.  If you find the perfect combination or want to share a link to your favorite vinaigrette recipe, please come back and share!