Saturday, February 19, 2005
Dr. Alice Cooks
... when she feels like it. (My motto around the office is "I can cook, I just choose not to" - as I once told my secretary.)
I really ought to cook more often, but with my insane work hours and not getting home till 8 or 9 pm it's difficult to do. Also I'm usually too hungry simply to skip dinner. I often wind up eating junk food (Bad doctor!) or frozen dinners. I try to eat salad, which you can pour right out of the bag, but who wants to eat salad for dinner on a cold rainy night? Considering the number of food blogs I link to and read on a regular basis, you'd think I could put on a better show in the kitchen.
Sometimes on the weekend I'll dust off the chopping board and try something new. Super Bowl weekend, for instance, I tried Stewed Chicken with Lentils from Diana Shaw's book Almost Vegetarian which was quite good and relatively easy. You chop two cups each of celery, carrots, leeks and onion and saute in olive oil, then add a spoon or so of tomato sauce and a can of diced tomatoes, then throw in a cup of lentils and 2 or 3 cans of chicken broth. Put in the chicken and cover, throw in the oven and cook for at least two hours. The chicken was falling off the bone and absolutely delicious. The only thing I didn't like about the recipe was the spices: Shaw appears to be very fond of cinnamon. The recipe called for two teaspoons. Scenting trouble, as it were, I cut this to one but I think it was still too much. The cinnamon does blend nicely with the lentils, but still almost overwhelmed the dish. Next time I'll ditch the cinnamon and try a bay leaf and lots of garlic. Did I mention the leftovers freeze well?
One standby for me is aioli (garlic mayonnaise). It goes with pretty much any vegetable you can think of - potatoes, green beans, asparagus (yum!), broccoli, cauliflower, even beets. I adapted the "aioli platter" recipe from one of the Silver Palate cookbooks for Easter one year - it was a smash hit. I've been making it ever since. You can make it in a blender or food processor: Put in several cloves of garlic, two egg yolks, and blend. Scrape down the sides of the processor and add the juice of a lemon, one teaspoon Dijon mustard, a dash of white pepper, salt if needed, and blend again. Then, with the processor running, slowly add 1 1/2 cups of oil, half olive, half peanut. You'll have a nice emulsion: aioli.
Now you have the aioli sitting in the fridge. What you can do (again, all this ahead of time) is blanch/cook whatever vegetables you want to go with it, chill in ice water and arrange on a platter. As a condiment for protein, it's extremely versatile: fish, chicken and beef go with this. You can roast a chicken, let it cool, put the meat on a platter and chill (or for a really impressive meal, cook a beef tenderloin and carve and serve at room temp). You can also do grilled swordfish or tuna, which are strong enough to stand up to aioli. This is a great meal for a warm spring weekend, with fruit for dessert (I like sliced oranges and strawberries with it).
I like cooking - in small doses. What I do enjoy is canning. Quite a bit of work, but very scientific. I'm hoping to make some loquat chutney this year (My parents have loquat trees in their backyard). Should I pull this off I will certainly blog about it!