Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Recent adventures in cooking.

Every so often these days, I think, if only I had an oven. And then I think, HEY. Because I do have an oven. I like the quick turnaround. It's like playing peekaboo with a baby. Except I'm the baby. And my mind is the peek-a-boo-er, or something. Anyway, it's nice to have that little surprise, over and over again, as I think about dinner.

For instance, the baked potato. When you don't have an oven, potatoes can basically be fried or boiled. Or nuked, but I submit to you that the nuked potato is but a poor imitation of a potato which has undergone a more suitable cooking method. I shall not nuke, is my motto vis a vis potatoes. Not vis a vis leftover Indian food, which we had for Sunday dinner, nor leftover enchiladas, which I had for Sunday lunch. But the potato? I shall not nuke.

Last night, I had one of those if only HEY moments, and decided I would bake potatoes. Plus steamed broccoli, plus a lovely cherry tomato, basil, and goat cheese salad. They were Yukon Golds which I had purchased, I believe, for chowder making. Baked, they were delightful, especially with a little Gorgonzola mashed in with a little butter. Don't judge. Not a highly theoretical use of the oven, to be sure, but a tried and true one, and the good Lord knows that there hath not been a mightier potato served in this house in lo many a month.

Also, leftover baked potatoes are amazing cut up and briefly pan fried to go in a breakfast burrito. Especially if you scramble the eggs with goat cheese and green chiles. Heat the tortilla in the hot pan and you are set, breakfast-wise. I made one of these for myself after my morning workout. And then I made one for my son after he'd had some morning time to think about it. Fortitude. That's all I have to say about the substantial breakfast.

Last summer, when I was in Scotland, I had the chance to peruse the British edition of a new Jamie Oliver cookbook. Basically, every time I go to Scotland, I cook with my daughter and come away with ideas for new stuff to cook, as well as new cookbooks to buy, once they come out in the U.S. This one is all super healthy recipes, and I have to say, they're pretty inspiring.

I had a butternut squash given to me by my friend Benjamin, grown in his very own garden. It sat in my kitchen looking full of potential. But again, I have some principles regarding hard squash. I shall not cut up a hard squash before it is cooked, is my motto vis a vis hard squash. I have tried once or twice, and I feel that thereby lies the path to folly and big knife accidents. Having recently sustained a mandolin accident whilst cutting vegetables, I am especially adamant at the moment. A recipe for butternut squash soup swam past me on my Instagram feed, and I thought, if only HEY, and thus the plot for the soup was born.

Rather than cutting up the squash to roast it, as the recipe directed/suggested, I roasted it whole. In my oven (in my oven in my oven in my oven!!!). Meanwhile, I also made my own harissa, which I highly recommend. The soup is just onions and a fresh red chile, sautéed in olive oil, then the squash and some harissa and some thyme added to that, plus broth. An already-roasted squash is highly adaptable to almost any recipe. Then you blitz it in a blender (I used my submersible blender for the first time, whee!) and adjust the seasoning. You can also grate in some orange peel, which I frankly forgot to do.

You also make a delicious salad to go with this soup: it's chickpeas, drained from their can and dry roasted in a pan (tossed with the harissa first); three oranges, peeled and sectioned; red onion, thinly sliced (I got back on the horse, metaphorically speaking, and used my mandolin, but this time with more safety measures); flat leaf parsley galore; salt, pepper, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and crumbled feta cheese. Warm up some whole wheat flatbreads (tortillas), one by one, in a dry frying pan until golden spots appear and each starts to balloon a little. Spoon some of the salad in the flatbread and eat it like a taco. You will feel like genius and super healthy too.

In conclusion, having an oven is better by far than not having an oven. You'll be relieved to know that my oven is still spotless, because I will spill nothing in this oven, ever, is my new motto. At least for a little while. It seems worth a try.

this is the salad, minus the feta. I thought this was so fresh-tasting
and really delicious.

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

In my opinion, if you're an Instagrammer and you don't follow @jamieoliver,
you are totally missing out.

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