I just had some beautiful broccoli for lunch, pan steamed, with a hint of garlic and nothing else. It was soft, melting, but retained a little bite. savory, punchy, and yet it had nothing but sea salt added.
All this happened because I happened to cook it just right. I don´t always get it so perfect, but today I did. I know it was that, because the broccoli itself wasn´t much; your basic supermarket head, somewhat rubbery and beginning to yellow from having been in my fridge a little bit too long.
I just say this to remind everyone not to be too hung up upon the Myth of the Marvelous Ingredient. Sure, the fresher the better, and yes, starting out with marvelous ingredients helps, but...you still have to cook. It´s annoying and patronizing and plain stupid to convince people that unless the produce was harvested within a mile of them by vestal virgins they needen´t even bother to start.
Can you imagine an article on decoration beginning with "unless your bedroom is in a XV century palazzo overlooking the Canal Grande, there´s no point in painting a wall this shade of blue"? Or someone saying "don´t bother to learn to drive if you´re not prepared to get a Ferrari".
Cook, even if the vegetables are wilted.
This works with all vegetables, but the time they take to cook will vary. It is a very easy way to cook, and has more flavor than usual, as no nutrients are lost on the way. You also need less fat than with the usual steam-then-sautee method.
Put a non-stick pan that has a lid on the hob, with a bit of oil or butter or both. A very little will do. Put a smashed garlic clove or two in there, let it cook while you prepare the broccoli.
Cut the florets, peel the stalk and dice it. Add to the garlicky fat, swirl, and pour a half cup of water in the pan. Cover, and let steam.
You might need to add water if it dries up, or uncover and turn up the fire if it´s almost cooked and there is a lot still. Either way, keep an eye on it. Five minutes is usually enough.
You can add spices, or anchovies, to the oil with the garlic for a change of flavor.
The red lentil soup used to be a huge hit. Bowls and bowls were consumed by toddler and baby, and I took to making big batches and freezing them in single portions. It was so popular that at one point Pía demmanded it every night.
Now, you risk mutiny if it shows up. Pepe hates it too. What happened?
I still tried to serve the last portion last week. It was refused, forcibly. O well. The fish fingers were well received, so all was not lost. But what to do with that small bowl of soup? Reheating again was too sad, eating it cold a tragedy, and yet, to throw food away…no.
I added a squirt of lemon, another of ketchup and another of hot sauce, put it in a pretty bowl, with a bigger one full of tortilla chips beside it, called it a dip, and it was great.
Happy reincarnation story.
The list of foods they eat is short, so any time a novelty is accepted I am over the moon. These chicken fingers of Melissa Clark´s were gobbled up enthusiastically yesterday. Or rather, a hastily improvised version, with pork, no more spice than cumin and garlic, and I cooked them under the broiler instead of heating up the oven. This means it´s a golden recipe; if you can improvise so much and it´s still delicious it´s a weeknight winner.
The drawing is from the website of Au Pair Rescue, an agency just set up by two good friends of mine. Nothing like an extra pair of helping hands for dealing with kids at mealtimes. I´m not saying the chicken fingers aren´t great, but they can never be as great as that.
We came back from Spain on Wednesday; a twelve hour trip, all told, with a three year old and a one year old. Luckily they slept on the plane and were quiet in the car, but it never pays to take chances with dinner and so I chose the easiest, fastest option: eggs.
In Scotland you can buy free range eggs at gas stations, which is very handy in these situations. In Spain anyone clueless enough to need stocking up at gas stations is reckoned to be so slack that they´ll to put up with battery farm eggs, so that was lucky.
Pía likes a soft boiled egg with her face painted on, but Pepe takes his scrambled, and for him I use the express microwave method. Adults can wait the full three minutes it takes to scramble a couple of eggs, but one year olds must be appeased FAST.
So: take a microwave safe mug. Crack an egg into it, grate some cheese and beat it. Give it 30 seconds, take it out, beat it again and give it another 10. Voilà, scrambled eggs. Not the creamiest, of course, but more than ok for the little banshee banging his fists on the highchair.
We're going home tomorrow, to the land of tapas and sunny beaches. No wifi, so no email, no tweets and no blogging.
Had one of those strange fridge clearing dinners: toast with avocado and sardines, home made jelly and custard. A tiffin box is packed with breakfast burritos for tomorrow. There are bananas and biscuits for the children. All this sounds so organized that clearly I must be forgetting something crucial.
Have a good week, dear readers. Back all to soon, sadly.