WND – Having an off day

October 22, 2009

apple peels

You ever have days where everything is just a little bit off?  Nothing specifically goes epically wrong, it’s just that the T is a little bit slower than usual which means you get to work just a little bit later than usual, and normally this isn’t a big deal but this morning you really needed to be at work exactly on time or perhaps even a little early instead of a little late.  Other drivers on the road are just a little bit stupider.  Things which are normally just make you roll your eyes are suddenly intensely annoying, like your coworker’s cell phone which serenades the office with Coldplay every 10 minutes, or the person in front of you at Starbucks who wants the venti, half-caf, sugar free vanilla soy latte, no whip at exactly 130 degrees.

My day yesterday was like that.  It was full of not quite enough sleep, and a man next to me on the T who smelled egregious, and a photocopier that stopped working and questions so inane that they actually didn’t have answers.  I went home hoping that cooking would soothe my soul because there’s something about turning a mass of raw ingredients into dinner and the chaos of cooking and timing everything to be ready at the same time that I find satisfying and calming.

Instead my day followed me home.  I was stuck behind someone who apparently forgot that you actually have to pay to leave the parking garage, and hit every red light on the way home, and got cut off by an SUV which always makes me tetchy.  Then my oven decided to cook high instead of low, so the butternut squash and grapes cooked a little too long and moved from caramelized to slightly burned.  I had too many large pots and pans on my stove so the chicken browned unevenly because half of the pan was too hot and the other half was too cold.  The pot I used for the spinach wasn’t quite big enough so it didn’t cook down right, and none of it got quite enough seasoning.  I think the only thing that came out exactly the way I planned it was the apple sauce, and that’s mostly because I’m not sure it’s possible to screw up apple sauce, even when the burner decides to go out halfway through cooking and refuses to relight for several minutes.  None of dinner was bad per se, it’s just that none of it was quite as good as it should have been either.

Sautéed Chicken
Roasted Butternut Squash with Grapes
Apple Sauce

Roasted Butternut Squash with Grapes
It’s Fall.  This isn’t an admission I make gracefully.  I didn’t want to have to turn the heat on.  I didn’t want to have to pack away my cute, brightly colored summer clothes.  I didn’t want to have to admit that the year really was fading into winter.  However, then it snowed – twice –  and I had to turn on my heat, and I gratefully pulled out my heavy winter clothes and went hunting for gloves that matched.  So reluctantly I admit, it’s Fall schizophrenically fading into Winter – it snowed on Sunday and today it made it up to 70 and I sat outside in the sun at lunch, go figure.  On the upside, while I’m not the world’s hugest fan of cold and snow and winter, I am a big fan of autumnal foods and all I need is the slimmest excuse to cut up a butternut squash.

Recipe previously given:  Cleaning up the Fridge

butternut squash

Apple Sauce

Recipe previously given:  Bangers-n-Mash

apple sauce

I had a revelation last week, fresh spinach is amazing.  I don’t mean the pre-washed stuff that you get in bags at the grocery store.  I mean picked 8 hours ago, still damp from the morning dew and muddy from the dirt it grew in, spinach.  I mean spinach you get at a farmer’s market.

I was converted to spinach years ago – actually I was converted to spinach pretty much as soon as I discovered that it didn’t have to come frozen in briquettes and could be flavored with things like garlic and olive oil.  However, buying and sautéing spinach from the grocery store in no way prepared me for the taste of spinach picked mere hours before.

I do the whole locavore(ish) thing.  I buy from farmer’s markets and try to buy responsibly.  But honestly that’s mostly because I feel like I should and because I really loathe supermarket tomatoes.  I’ll shamefacedly cop to the fact that most of the time I can’t really tell the difference between chard I bought at the farmer’s market and chard I bought at the grocery store.  The bunch from the farmer’s market always looks fresher and more colorful, but by the time I cook it down with garlic and olive oil and a few red pepper flakes they both more or less taste the same to me.  This is why the spinach was such a revelation, because it was so much better it was like it was an entirely different vegetable.

The downside to fresh spinach?  The dirt.  Spinach in its freshly picked state is a muddy, gritty prospect.  I rinsed mine twice before I cooked it.

The easiest way to rinse spinach is to fill a large bowl (or your sink if it has a tight seal on the stopper) with water and then drop the spinach into the water by handfuls and swish it around to get ride of the dirt.  The dirt will fall to the bottom, the spinach will float.  Remove and either spin dry or drop onto towels to soak out some of the water before you cook it.

Then cook in a little olive oil until wilted – drain the excess liquid and sauté for another minute or so and season with salt/pepper and nutmeg.

And after all that, did I remember to take a picture of the piles and piles of fresh spinach either in it’s original muddy state, or in it’s cleaned state piled in a mountain on my counter?  No, of course not.  Because it was just that kind of a day.


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