Friday, January 29, 2010

Cornmeal-crusted trout with mashed root vegetables and crispy leeks

So I was wandering around New Seasons, as is my wont these days, wondering what to make for dinner. It's citrus season again, so I grabbed some blood oranges. Even though they're not particularly sweet, I'm always suckered into buying them for their novelty. It's an orange! That isn't orange! Here, take my money.

I was sort of hankering for seafood, but after a recent flirtation with food poisoning (waited a day to cook fresh mussels, ate one or two, and realized they smelled like ammonia - luckily, came away unscathed) I wanted to play it safe with a nice salmonid. Salmon, steelhead and trout are so ubiquitous in these parts that kids growing up here get a shot at catching their very own at least once. My grandpa used to take me and my brother fishing at Rooster Rock State Park in the Columbia River Gorge when we were little. We'd always giggle at the fact that there was a nude beach at this park, and never caught anything but brown bullhead catfish. My grandpa usually ended up swinging us by the rainbow trout farm at the end of the day so we wouldn't come home empty-handed.

My mom would dutifully dredge the cleaned trout in some cornmeal and fry them up in a cast iron skillet. I think this was the only way I ate fish (or in fish stick form) until I was a teenager. Some wheels need no reinvention, and this is one. That said, I did want to doll up the cornmeal a bit, and so to it, added blood orange zest and fresh thyme.

I got about a half inch of grapeseed oil hot, then tossed in some sliced leeks to get nice and crispy. This is an idea I totally stole from Peter, and it's a good way to use a leek that languishing in the crisper. Also on the verge of going to waste was a bag of parsnips and a few carrots. Feeling the sweet root veg vibe, I simmered these in milk and mashed them with lots of butter. I fried the fillets of Idaho trout in the leek-flavored oil and in only a minute or two, dinner was ready. It was totally worth the mess.

Serve with a Pinot Prosecco and wedges of tart blood orange.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Moroccan Chickpea and Carrot Stew

...or, Back in the Saddle Again

Zephyr is now 8 weeks old, and I'm starting to get the hang of having him around. That said, cooking still takes me a bit of planning (unless I opt for yet another "pasta night" or "takeout night"). This is why I've decided to start doing what busy moms and dads have been doing for generations: the one-pot meal. Yes, I feel like a failure admitting it, but the one-pot meal is kind of a Thing.

Not just for cowboy camping anymore, a humble pot of beans (chickpeas, in this case) can be elevated to something you actually want to eat with the simple addition of a few choice ingredients. Carrots, shallots, garlic, homegrown heirloom tomatoes (that I canned during my nesting frenzy last fall), ginger, cumin and cardamom all combine easily with garbanzos to make a hearty, warming stew fit for a dark January Thursday.

I started mine early in the day and let it simmer over a low flame to thoroughly soften the dried chickpeas. The softly spicy scent of ginger, cumin and cardamom floated through the house all day, stimulating my postpartum appetite and filling me with a sense of Having Done Something.

Enjoy with warm, buttered flatbread and a chewy, raisiny garnacha.


Unless you take it to its hallucinatory extreme, sleep deprivation is not great for creativity. Preparing meaningful food, presenting it artfully and writing about it thoughtfully require both a rested mind and free time, for which new mothers are seldom known. Zephyr occasionally grants us a 4-hour chunk or two, but my evenings are generally broken up into 2-3 hour naps, interspersed with dozy, twighlit nursing. Being a good blogger means getting a good night's sleep, and this rarely happens these days. At this point, it's either slowly getting better or I'm slowly getting used to it.

As days lengthen, though, I'm finding myself more interested in thinking about things like combining ingredients instead of just filling my time with such enthralling activities as staring at the baby or waiting for Scott to get home from work. I am setting a goal for myself to update both of my blogs once a week - let's see how I do.