These are two of my favorite things

We took a break tonight from working through the mounds and mounds of lettuce in last week’s CSA for the two top jewels (for me): purple asparagus and goat cheese.

I was worried about the asparagus, which had been standing in a shallow cup of water in the refrigerator since last Friday.IMG_5562 I threw one stalk away, but the others seemed firm enough still to grill. I brushed them lightly with olive oil, seasoned them with sea salt, and tossed them on the grill when the chicken breasts had reached 155 degrees. The timing was perfect — the asparagus was finished just as the chicken hit 165.

But the pièce de résistance was definitely the goat cheese I sprinkled on top. Truly farm fresh, and really soft and creamy, it was the perfect complement to the asparagus. I was tempted to eat more than my share.

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Cookbook love: ‘Clean Eating 2’

CleanEating

If you want to know more about the concept of “clean eating,” the editors of Clean Eating magazine are the folks to see.

I subscribe to their magazine on my iPad, and own all three of their “The Best of Clean Eating” cookbooks. But “The Best of Clean Eating 2” takes first prize, hands down. I cook from it more than any other cookbook in my collection, clean or otherwise, and have made quite a few recipes more than once.

Our favorites: Curried Chicken with Peas, New Potato and Turkey Skillet Supper, and Thai Chili (with bulgar in lieu of meat, and sweet potatoes!).

You can also find clean recipes — for free — on the Clean Eating website.

CSA, hooray!

IMG_5553

Today marked the beginning of our second summer of community supported agriculture. Our first CSA box, from new-to-us Scotch Hill Farm in Brodhead, Wisc., featured:

  • red iceberg lettuce
  • leeks
  • a lettuce mix
  • arugula
  • spinach
  • carrots
  • Bibb lettuce
  • oregano
  • bok choy
  • asparagus
  • a ball of fresh goat cheese (YUM!)

Yep, that’s a lotta greens. I’m not sure how many salads two people can eat in a week, but we shall soon find out.

The only head scratcher is the bok choy — I’ve never cooked with it. Any suggestions?

Rocking lobster

risotto

While wandering through the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s post-holidays, I came across lobster tails. And at a typical Trader Joe’s low price — score!

I immediately began plotting to make artichoke and lobster risotto, a recipe I’d learned during an awesome culinary boot camp weekend at Kendall College. Unfortunately, we’d worked in pairs on that one, and my partner was a little greedy with the mixing and the stirring (basically, she let me ladle in the broth and cut up the lobster) so I’d actually learned very little. But the end result was delicious, and I hadn’t shared the leftovers with Mike after class because, well, did I mention it was delicious?

Lobster tails in hand, I decided it would be the perfect dish for our 18-month anniversary dinner.

I should add that my only other risotto-making experience involved barley and a recipe I half wrote down from an odd Canadian cooking show during my days in Detroit. Also good but, obviously, much different.

On the night of our anniversary, Mike arrived home to find me at the stove, 15 minutes into what turned out to be 30 minutes of steady stirring (in figure 8s, I’d gleaned that much from class). He asked if I’d received some texts he’d sent, that I hadn’t answered. Because of all the stirring.

“Don’t they have a machine for that?” he asked as I moved aside so he could toss the brussels sprouts roasting in the oven.

I kept up with my figure 8s and made a mental note to research, and perhaps invent, some sort of risotto-stirring machine.

Although one probably isn’t necessary. Less than 20 minutes later, we were on the couch feasting. Well, I was feasting. He was trying to capture a photo of our (delicious) meal for this post.

Love him.

RISOTTO WITH ARTICHOKES, PARMESAN AND LOBSTER

Ingredients
Artichoke hearts, chopped (I used a jar of artichoke hearts in water, because artichokes are a pain. Kudos to the first person who looked at an artichoke and said, “Hey, we can eat this!”)
1 pound of frozen lobster tails, thawed (about two medium)
4-6 cups chicken stock (I used a mixture of broth and stock, and ended up using 5 cups)
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1  1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup brandy
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (I skipped these because the store was out)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions
1. Rinse and chop artichokes.

2. Steam lobster for 8 to 10 minutes, until meat is opaque. (Mine took 8.) Cool for 15 minutes, then cut through the top shell lengthwise, remove the meat, and cut it into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.

3. Place chicken stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat.

4. In a large saucepan (I used a 5  1/2 quart round Le Creuset French oven), melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and artichoke hearts and cook until the artichoke hearts begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the rice and stir to coat it with the butter. Add the brandy and simmer until the liquid is nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the broth, and stir (in figure 8s!) until its nearly absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly (in figure 8s!) and not adding more until the stock is absorbed. Cook until rice is tender but firm, about 20 minutes. (Like I said, mine took 30 minutes.)

5. Remove risotto from heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and 2 tablespoons of chives. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl or platter (I just plated ours) and top with lobster and remaining chives.

*Complete credit to Kendall College for this recipe.

Welcome!

I often call my mom when I’m making dinner, a habit from years ago when I was fresh on my own in the adult world. She’s an excellent cook, and in those pre-Google days, it was easier to pick up the phone than thumb through a cookbook to find out how long to bake a chicken breast, boil an egg or, as my dad often joked when he answered, toast bread. (Seriously, though, I wasn’t that incompetent.)

Over the years, I learned my way around the kitchen — and developed my own love of cooking. But those phone calls continued.

By the time I met my husband, Mike, I had ventured into recipes much different than those of my childhood. This concerned my mother to no end. Suddenly, our conversations revolved around what my then-boyfriend thought of eating meals involving off-the-wall ingredients like artichokes and quinoa. “Does Mike like that?” she’d ask time and again. I could sense the scowl on her face, the same one I saw when I introduced her to goat cheese.

“He eats what I make!” I finally barked into the phone.

And honestly, Mike does exactly that — happily, I might add. Luckily for me, he was blessed with an adventurous palate, a stomach of steel and, when worst comes to worst, a love of Sriracha that borders on addiction.

Now that you know the story behind this turn of phrase-turned-blog, welcome. I hope you’ll be back often for my reflections on how food nourishes life, and love.