Mirepoix 11.1

Mirepoix 11.1

Mirepoix -- From the French, a mix of aromatics that provide the savory foundation of a recipe. From The City Cook, a periodic report on things that have been collecting on my desk.

I've been largely absent from The City Cook these past few months due to knee surgery. Many friends (and my surgeon) have reassured me that people of all ages have meniscus problems but there's nothing like being immobilized by a leg brace for six weeks to make you feel like you'll never dance again.

Had someone told me that I'd have a month and a half when aside from being unable to walk, I'd be in good health with someone else taking care of everything -- shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, retrieving the daily newspapers at our door -- I'd be doing high fives and pulling out my unfinished copy of Middlemarch. But that didn't happen. Instead the most I could focus on were food magazines and the latest copy of Garden & Gun.

And I would watch television. Especially reruns of The Big Bang Theory, a sitcom that was completely new to me despite it being a hit for 10 years. As my brain became as dull as the ache in my left knee, I'd binge watch reruns of a gang of adorable nerds who seem to spend most of each half-hour episode eating. They eat take-out sitting around their coffee table, sandwiches in the Cal Tech cafeteria, burgers at the Cheesecake Factory, and snacks in various science labs, bars, and cars. No one seems to cook much. And no one is overweight despite a diet of Thai food, Chinese take-out, pizza, tacos, toast, and bowls of spaghetti.

Fortunately the nerds' meals wouldn't inspire my husband, who eschews take-out as much as I do. Instead, when facing six weeks when I couldn't grocery shop or cook, he did it for both of us. Mark is very competent in many things, but aside from his making breakfasts and THE best scrambled eggs, I normally do nearly all of the cooking in our family. When he stepped into this temp kitchen job it took some planning to figure out what he should, more importantly, could do. We didn't want the daily tasks to be stressful which meant simple cooking. We eat healthy meals and so I didn't want too many bowls of pasta. Six weeks is a long time so we wanted some variety. And I wanted to have a meal plan that wouldn't create a huge grocery-shopping burden for him.

We were certainly not the first family to face such a challenge -- to abruptly have the primary cook be out of commission and have daily meals be added to the other stress that is inevitable when there's a health issue in a household. So in case it is useful to others, I thought I'd share what we did. Or more precisely, what Mark did -- both on his own, and with me sitting in my wheelchair, giving him instructions and applause.

The goal was a daily dinner that didn't require much technique or fuss meaning we stayed away from stews, braises, anything that needed assembly, and anything with a sauce (except tomato sauce).  It needed to include two vegetables or a salad and a vegetable, plus protein that five days a week was either chicken or fish, and two days could be red meat (pork, beef, or lamb). We do not normally eat dessert aside from fruit. We live a few blocks from a full-service grocer, two blocks from a fish store, and about 5 blocks from a Whole Foods and Mark would shop two or three times a week.

This is what we did:


I'm happy to say that my knee is fine and I've taken back the kitchen.  Dancing comes next.

Cuisinart Recall

In case the holidays caused you to miss this, Cuisinart has issued a recall for the steel blades in many of their food processor models. If you think that just because you've had your food processor for a long time that it doesn't affect you, think again: I had bought mine about 20 years ago (it's still fabulous and I still love it) and mine was on the list.

For more information, including how to find out if you need to register and have Cuisinart send you a new blade, go to this website: https://recall.cuisinart.com/

Shrimp Reminder

I'm always beating the drum about wild shrimp. I know they cost more and not every fishmonger has wild shrimp in every size. But if you needed more anecdotes as to why you should make it a rule to only buy wild -- and in my opinion, to also stop eating shrimp in restaurants -- read this recent article from Bloomberg.

NYC Area Classes

If this winter seems like a good time to up your game in wines and cocktails, and if you can wait until March, you can take advantage of a 15% early bird discount on all classes at Astor Center in Manhattan. Classes that month include Tequila Cocktail Lab, Wines of Tuscany, Brunch Cocktail Class, Whiskey Smackdown: Irish vs. Japanese, and many more. You have until January 28 to sign up and use EBMAR17 to get the discount. Or you can visit them here.

If you prefer something a bit more dangerous involving knives and blood, the splendid new butcher-cum-restaurant, April Bloomfield's White Gold Butcher is holding butchery workshops on-site at the butcher shop on Amsterdam Avenue at 78th street. You can get more information here.

Recent Cookbooks

Here are two excellent and recently published cookbooks that you might want for yourself now that holiday gift-giving is done.

Donna Hay is a hugely popular author, magazine editor, and television host in Australia. I first discovered her cookbooks about twenty years ago, first drawn to their easy-to-use and welcoming style and her appealing ideas of what it means to cook every day. I also loved her books' stylish format and paperback bindings, and the four I own -- Modern Classics I and II, The New Cook, and Off The Shelf, are all well dog-earred and have influenced the cook I am today.

Late last year Donna Hay published in the U.S. a new volume that is very exciting, plus gorgeous, and I think perfectly timed for how our ways of cooking and eating have evolved. Life In Balance: A Fresher Approach to Eating (by Donna Hay © 2015, photography by Chris Court, William Meppem, published by Fourth Estate, a division of Harper Collins publishers, 239 pages, color photography, soft cover with ribbon, $34.99) is the kind of book that can get you back into the kitchen, and back with enthusiasm, flavor, and healthy eating. It will also help you navigate what may still be unfamiliar ingredients, such as seeds, greens, grains, and non-animal proteins.

Hay is an advocate for moderation, or she puts it, "…embracing the flavour and richness of whole foods, but leaving plenty of room for life's little indulgences." In this volume she has over 115 recipes that offer satisfaction and pleasure, enriched both in terms of flavor as well as nutrition from what she calls nature's superfoods. So while you'll find appealing ways to cook meats, make dessert, have banana pancakes, savory tarts, and be comforted with recipes like Thai Crispy Chicken Soup, Whipped Ricotta Soufflé, and Ras el Hanout Grilled Lamb, many of the conventional ingredients have been swapped out with whole grains, spice mixes, seeds and nuts, and what she calls power proteins, such as her recipes for Cauliflower and Goat's Cheese Whole-Wheat Tart, Dukkah-Crusted Salmon, and Peach and Coconut Chia Snacks. We've published two recipes: Watercress, Broccoli and Roasted Garlic Pesto (great for mid-winter when fresh basil is scarce) and Crispy Chia Tofu.  See our links.

If you don't know Donna Hay, this book is a perfect introduction. And if you've made New Year resolutions about eating better, Life In Balance will make that promise much easier to keep.

So will a new volume from the folks at America's Test Kitchen called The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook: 500 Vibrant, Kitchen-Tested Recipes For Living and Eating Well Every Day (© 2016 By The Editors At America's Test Kitchen, Paperback, 440 pages, color photography, $29.95). This compilation is based upon what is known as the "Mediterranean diet," which includes fresh vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, more seafood and less red meat, and olive oil -- the way so many of us eat today.

The 500 recipes are influenced by the cuisines of France, North Africa, Spain, Greece, Italy and other areas that rim the Mediterranean Sea. ATK prides itself on creating appealing dishes that use supermarket ingredients so this is a volume that can be not just healthy and flavorful but also budget-friendly. As in many of the region's cuisines, there is no butter in any recipe; only heart-healthy olive oil. As an example, see our link to their recipe for Olive Oil-Yogurt Cake in which whole milk yogurt gives the cake and its lemon glaze tang and richness.

Food News

Miscellanea

In researching recipes for Bolognese sauce (although I'm sticking with Marcella Hazan's classic), I came upon a charming and useful blog by American food and travel writer Elizabeth Minchilli who lives in Rome (she also gives food and other tours plus cooking classes there). Give it a visit if you're planning a trip to Italy, or want some new ideas about making pasta, or maybe are simply craving some dolci ricordi. Sweet memories.

Happy New Year everyone.

Kate McDonough
Editor, TheCityCook.com

 

 

 

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Marcella HazanDonna HayAmerica's Test KitchenShrimpAstor CenterCuisinartWhite Gold Butchers

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