Monday, December 17, 2012

different kinds of healthy

The label healthy is overused and ill-defined.  It's so hard to define that its use in advertizing is not regulated, so anyone who wants to can slap "healthy" onto their packaging and get me to buy their preservative-and-sugar-laden "healthy alternative."  ("Healthy alternatives" seem to belong to the class of things, that also includes chips, chocolate, and just one more, that knowing better rarely keeps me from.)  Cooking and eating locally and seasonally, luckily, encourages buying things that don't come in labelled packages and usually makes healthy for my body and healthy for the planet overlap, although thorny questions like crop spraying, overfishing, and mercury do still crop up.  When the question of healthy comes up, some people start thinking about a whole series of things related to fat content and other things you can count.  If I had to make a list of my all-time favorite things to eat, butter and cream would be near the top, so if I have to think about limiting how much of them I eat, I get very very sad.  But if I think about combining butter and cream with a fantastic variety of other local and seasonal products, and if I follow my school-teacher-mom's mantra to eat a rainbow every day, I get different kinds of healthy mixed up in the best way, and I get to eat things like creamed spinach (with, for full rainbow effect on the plate, hash browns and chuck roast braised with carrotts and onions).

Creamed Spinach
serves 4

24 oz. spinach
3 T butter
3 T flour
2 1/4 cups cream, half and half, or milk
1/2 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg

Steam the spinach for 5 minutes or boil it for one.  Remove spinach from pot and set to cool in a colander.  As soon as spinach is cool enough to grasp, chop into small peices, then squeeze in a ball between both hands to get out as much liquid as possible.  Do this into a cup and drink the yummy stuff, or use it in a broth! 

Melt the butter in a large pan.  Whisk in the flour.  Pour in the cream 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly.  Stir in grated cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir until cheese is melted.  Stir in spinach.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Happy Accident Soup for a School Night

This week we were unable to do our regularly scheduled blog dinner, and as it had been a few weeks since we had done one, we decided to do a quick meal together on Monday. We had each already planned a meal (soba noodle soup at one house and scallops at the other), but upon closer inspection discovered that they would blend perfectly into a much nicer meal than either of us had originally planned. It came together quickly, and we were able to time it perfectly with the kids finishing homework. All in all, a success!

Soba Noodle Soup with Scallops and Shrimp

2 TBSP mirin
2 TBSP toasted sesame oil
1 TSBP brown sugar
1 TBSP tamari
1 1/2 lb. sea scallops

In a mixing bowl add first four ingredients and mix well. Add scallops, stir to coat, and let sit.


1 package soba noodles
1 TBSP olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed

6 cups fish stock, heated
1 cup water

1 package tofu, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 sheets nori seaweed, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. shrimp, cleaned but with shells on
2 scant shakes crushed red pepper
1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
1 TBSP mirin
1 TBSP tamari
1 TBSP lime juice
salt, if needed

Cook soba noodles according to instructions on package. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, ~ 1 minute.

Add stock and water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium heat and sear scallops in a single layer (you may need to do 2 batches), until browned and just starting to crack open, ~ 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and repeat on other side.  Remove to a plate and set aside. (We used the leftover marinade for a hot salad dressing - yum!)

To the soup add tofu and nori. Cook ~ 10 minutes. Add noodles, shrimp, and all remaining ingredients, tasting before adding salt. Our stock was from shellfish and therefore plenty salty. If it is not from shellfish, salt will probably be necessary. Cook until shrimp are pink and broth is hot, ~ 5 minutes.

Serve soup in shallow bowls, topped with scallops. Serve with Sriracha hot sauce for a spicy treat.