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MND – New Year’s Food Resolutions 2014

February 17, 2014

pumpkin

Apparently I never made New Year’s (Food) Resolutions last year.  This is probably for the best, because it means I don’t now have to contemplate the scale upon which I failed to live up to my best intentions.  Nonetheless, with a sense of doom and foreboding, I shall make food resolutions for 2014.

Eat More Adventurously
This is a perennial resolution.  I want to push myself to try new things, and retry things I thought I didn’t like but haven’t eaten in a decade (because, you know, I thought I didn’t like them).  After all, if I hadn’t been pushed to put something green on my plate in college I would never have discovered my love for spinach.  I have already made a start on this by ordering the scallop dish at 10 Tables the other night, instead of opting for a more familiar protein (okay, I also ordered the scallops because they came served on a bed of spicy carrot puree, and tossed with roasted cauliflower and confit’d chestnuts and everything about that sounded amazing*).

* Verdict:   The scallops were good, but not as good as the scallops I had in Barcelona; all of the side pieces of the dish, however, were as amazing as they seemed like they would be and made me wonder how on earth they got their carrot puree that silky and smooth.

Cook More Broadly
Err, can I make resolutions for other people?  My roommate agreed to try lamb again, so I have plans this year to start making some lamb dishes at home – probably lamb steaks, and ground lamb based dishes because she doesn’t like bone-in meats and I want to give lamb the fairest chance possible of winning her over.  In return I’d like to make grilled/pan-fried red meats often enough that I actually get competent at cooking them – she craves red meat more than I do, so that seems like a fair comprise.  I get to eat lamb, she gets to have steak more often.

On the flip side, I’d like to find more vegetarian recipes suitable for entertaining.  I have a number of vegetarian things I make for my roommate and I – I have reliably managed a meatless night every week for a while now – but these are dishes that tend to be a little more casual, or hard to scale up to serve a crowd.  However, this resolution comes with several conditions and caveats.

One, it must involve some kind of protein.  I am constantly shocked by the number of vegetarian main-course recipes I see in food magazines that contain no protein source – mushroom & barley stuffed acorn squash sounds delightful, but where exactly is the protein that dish?

Two, the protein can’t be tofu.  This is just because I dislike tofu, and my above reconfirmed resolution to retry foods I thought I didn’t like does not apply to tofu.  You have to draw the line somewhere, and this is my Rubicon.

Three, it can’t be a parade of pasta.  Some pasta is okay (in particular there’s a rustic Italian pasta e ceci that looks homey and comforting and like a reward for winter in a bowl), but I demand variety.

So, fancy vegetarian for a crowd that doesn’t involve tofu or pasta . . . go.

Make my grandmother’s Moravian Coffee Cake recipe
Yes, that’s a very specific resolution.  I figure I need at least one resolution I can cross of the list fairly easily.

What are your New Year’s food resolutions?

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce
Salad
Honey Garlic Bread

Thing the first, a plaintive musing that it had been an awfully long time since we’d had pasta with pumpkin sauce made its way to my ears before Christmas.

Thing the second, I felt like we needed to celebrate having survived this January.  This January has been a pitched battle between the weather (we aren’t having snow days, so much as ‘ye-gods-and-little-fishes it’s cold days) and our collective ability to put on enough layers to survive going outside.

Clearly, these two things were made to complement each other.  Because what better way to reward ourselves for enduring the siege of January than with large bowlfuls of fresh pasta coated in creamy pumpkin sauce, and sopped up with sweet-crispy-garlicky bread?

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce

Recipe previously given:  Season of Mists & Mellow Fruitfulness

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Honey Garlic Bread

Until I was about 13 or 14 I got tonsillitis and/or strep throat every winter with depressing regularity.  Most year’s I got one or the other twice, and in years that we moved I would average 3-4 times a winter (and since we moved every 2-2 ½ years . . . .)  That said, the saving grace was that I didn’t seem to suffer from either as much as other people do/did – mostly I got a swollen throat, but was never in huge amounts of pain.  Usually the only way my mother could tell I was sick was because my voice would start to sound thick, and then she’d peer down my throat with a flashlight looking for strep’s telltale white dots.

The really big upside to all this was that after she’d confirmed with the doctor that I did indeed have strep again, my mother would make honey-lemon-butter and feed spoonfuls of it to me at regular intervals to soothe my throat.  Honey-Lemon-Butter is more or less exactly what it sounds like – equal amounts of butter and honey melted together with a little bit of lemon juice.  It’s fantastic.

As an adult if you feel a tickle in your throat, you can stop by your local speakeasy on your way home and order a Penicillin.  They will swap out the butter for whiskey, and add some ginger, and cure what ails you.  If you don’t have a local speakeasy, you can wend your way homewards, put a pot of water on to boil, and when the kettle is singing at you doctor up a cup of tea with a generous dollop of honey, a healthy slug of bourbon, and a squeeze of lemon juice and retire to the couch with a your hot toddy.  The real upside to being an adult is you don’t actually have to get sick first to indulge in either one – although they are very soothing when you’re sniffling and coughing.

For the purposes of Dinner, however, this is the garlicky toasted bread version.  Guaranteed to do nothing except reward you for making it from A to B and still being able to feel all your extremities.

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½ cup (1 stick) butter
¼ cup honey
4 cloves garlic, finely minced/grated on a microplane/ mashed to a pulp with the flat of a knife
Generous pinch of salt

(optional extras, although I probably wouldn’t use all of them at the same time:
Grated fresh ginger
Minced fresh herbs – rosemary/thyme would be particularly good
Citrus zest – lemon or orange, I’m not sure lime would work as well flavor-wise)

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and melt – whisking to combine well.  Split a baguette or ciabatta in half lengthwise and spread the butter mixture generously over the bread.  Broil/toast in your oven until the butter is bubbly and the bread is crispy (less than 5 minutes under a broiler, probably about 10 minutes in the oven – but keep an eagle eye on it either way since it’ll go from nothing to burned in about 20 seconds flat, particularly under a broiler).  Slice & serve.

If you were feeling extra decadent a generous handful (or two or three) of shredded mozzarella would also be very tasty.

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