Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday supper

A week ago this Sunday night, Jack and I were touching down in Chicago after a family visit to Cleveland. Already travel-weary, we arrived home to what Jeremy and Jossie had been dealing with for 24 hours - a gas leak in our yard. The heat was off in our house and there were gas levels registering in our basement. I ran through our cold house (42 degrees) to grab a few things for all of us for the next morning, and then we retreated to a kind friend's house. The local gas company's trucks were idling outside, their orange lights constantly flashing in the icy-cold winter's night.

Everything is fine now, but we had a brief vision of what it's like to feel unsafe in your home. Not awesome. Three-year-old Jossie keeps telling us she's so glad we're all home and I agree.

I've spent this weekend pulling the house back together and found a home-hearty meal for Sunday night that is not time-intensive but provides some great aromas from the kitchen. And you roast the chicken atop the vegetables, which makes the vegetables so tender and delicious. It also calls for only 1/3 cup of dry white wine, so there's plenty left over for dinner (a big plus in my kitchen). Serve with a nice green salad and some hearty bread:

Roasted chicken breasts with sweet potatoes
From the super-awesome cookbook: Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen

4 sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
4 chicken breast halves (about 3 pounds total), patted dry
1/4 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with a rack in the middle position. Put sweet potatoes in a large roasting pan, sprinkle on the the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss until well combined. Spread the potatoes out in a single layer and set aside. (Note: Instead of 4 sweet potatoes, I used an assortment of 1 garnet yam, 2 russet potatoes and 3 carrots - the yummiest parts were the yam and carrots.)

In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, rosemary, lemon zest and juice, and season with salt. Gently loosen the skin from the chicken breasts and rub the mixture between the skin and meat. Season the chicken with a little more salt and pepper, then put skin-side up in the pan on top of potatoes and roast for 20 minutes.

Gently toss the potatoes, sliding the ones under the chicken out and vice versa. Pour the wine over the chicken and continue to roast until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken to a plate, tent with foil to keep warm, and let rest for 5 to 10 more minutes. If the potatoes aren't tender yet, return to the oven. When they are soft, toss them again, scraping up caramelized bits o nthe bottom of the pan. Serve the chicken with the potatoes.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Can we start again?

If you are reading this, then you must be my mom or sister. Hi Mom, Dayna, and Laura.

I've taken a considerable break from blogging. I'm concerned with putting myself out there while protecting the privacy of my children. I don't want future prom dates or college admissions offices to find my blog, where they will read tales about how long it took someone to graduate from diapers to underpants.

But I do want to chronicle these days for my kids and Jeremy and for myself. I do want to write things about being a mom who works in the nonprofit sector. Who lives on Chicago's North Shore. Who has an interfaith marriage. Who comes from and married into very loud, very loving families. Who easily harps on the bad stuff, even when the good stuff is overflowing. Who likes to cook. And entertain. Who sees recipes as both honoring the past and welcoming the future.

Yesterday was one of my favorite days - Valentine's Day. Simple interactions at school - a hello, a knowing smile over our kindergartners' heads shared with a fellow parent - mean so much to me. Quiet time at home by the fireplace next to Jeremy, reading a book instead of doing laundry, work email or the dishes. Treats in the mail sent thoughtfully by a friend and the kids' grandparents. Decorating sugar cookies with Jack, and a Valentine's Day playdate with Jossie and her new little girlfriends. This is the stuff that I cherish.

I've posted this recipe before, but among my friends, it's been officially branded as Mrs. Caruso's sugar cookies.

Mrs. Caruso's sugar cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Mix together flour, baking soda and cream of tartar in a bowl and set aside. Mix powdered sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and almond extract in a stand mixer. Mix in flour mixture; do not overmix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out cookie dough and cut into desired shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 7-8 minutes until edges are slightly brown.

Makes 5 dozen 2-inch cookies.

Creamy decorator's icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons of half and half
2 or 3 drops of food coloring (optional)

Mix all ingredients together until smooth and of spreading consistency. Tint with food coloring if desired.

So we'll see where this goes. Maybe there will be more stock art and less photos of the kids. Thanks for sticking with me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Settling in

It's September 6 and the high today is supposed to be 85 degrees. But I still got myself my first pumpkin spice latte on the season. Mmm-mmm, bring on fall.

When Jeremy and I were house-hunting in the spring, I reflected that there is only so much research you can do on an area - the schools, amenities and property taxes. But your neighbors - well, only time will tell.

Blessedly, we landed in a very warm, community-oriented neighborhood, anchored by a one-lot playground. On school mornings, the kids parade down the streets, walking to the elementary school. Friday evenings, there are pizza parties on the playground. We had our block party last weekend, where Jeremy and I got to meet more people. One woman noted that the house really becomes your own when you start cooking and baking your favorite recipes, perfuming your house with those wonderfully comforting, familiar smells.

I thought of her as I prepared our Rosh Hashanah dinner this week. We had what are becoming our traditional dishes for this holiday - Italian-style brisket and apple cake; I had my little baker at my side.

And we added some new side dishes; all from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust:

Provencal cherry tomato gratin

3 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1⁄3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 cups coarse bread cubes from a country bread (crusts removed)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the tomatoes in a 9x13-inch ceramic dish. Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss together. Spread the tomatoes evenly in the pan.

Place the garlic, parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the bread cubes and process until the bread is in crumbs. Add the ¼ cup of olive oil and pulse a few times to blend. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the tomatoes.

Bake the gratin for 40 to 45 minutes, until the crumbs are golden and the tomato juices are bubbling. Serve hot or warm.

Potato celery root puree

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (4 leeks)
4 cups (1½ pounds) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced into ¾" cubes
4 cups (2 pounds) celery root, peeled and diced into ¾" cubes
3 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter over medium heat in a large (8" to 10") saucepan or Dutch oven. Rinse leeks well in a colander, spin dry in a salad spinner, and add to pot. Sauté over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, until tender but not browned. Add potatoes, celery root, cream, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper to the pot, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to very low, cover pot, and simmer gently 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Be careful—don't let the vegetables scorch on the bottom of the pan! In batches, pour mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely pureed. Taste for seasonings, return to saucepan, and keep warm over very low heat. If mixture gets too thick, add a little more cream.

Green beans gremolata

1 pound French green beans, trimmed
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and blanch them for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Drain the beans in a colander and immediately put them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve their bright green color.

For the gremolata, toss the garlic, lemon zest, parsley, parmesan, and pine nuts in a small bowl and set aside.

When ready to serve, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Drain the beans and pat them dry. Add the beans to the pan and saute, turning frequently, for 2 minutes, until coated with olive oil and heated through. Off the heat, add the gremolata and toss well. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and serve hot.

Happy weekend!