Sunday, October 26, 2008

New recipes and old

Photos: Some of my favourite ingredients. (Baby bok choy, cannellini beans, shiitake mushrooms, rainbow trout).

Some weeks, I continually fall back on my standby recipes for dinner (oyster beef, chili, baked pasta, chicken curry, grilled trout), and other weeks, I'm excited to try out new recipes and see if they'll become part of my new repertoire. Looking for inspiration, sharing ideas, and shopping for ingredients are some of my favourite things to do. I dislike the term foodie (it has negative connotations of materialism and snobishness), but I do love good, high quality, delicious food made with love, and I enjoy sharing my food adventures here.

Many of the above recipes did start out as newbies, and have since replaced some of the old standbys (fajitas, homemade pizza, and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sandwiches...all of which I still love, just don't cook as much anymore). With both of us leading busy lives, I plan to make the hubby and I a good meal most evenings (which also solves any lunchtime issues, as I'm always happiest when I've got a tupperware of leftovers), but I've always got the wherewithal for something quick and easy in the house for those nights when a real meal isn't going to happen (like Baxter's roasted tomato soup and a salad, homemade & individually frozen burgers with sweet potato fries, quick cooking salmon fillets with sauteed spinach, etc.) This week, there are a few new recipes I'm excited to try:
  • Meyer lemon barley risotto I love risotto made with Arborio or canaroli rice, but neither have a ton of nutritional value. I'm always happy to substitute more healthful ingredients whenever I can, and a barley- for-rice swap seems like a great idea. I've picked up all of the ingredients I'll need; I'm excited to try this out using watercress as the green element, which I think will add a nice bit of bite. I know that a lot of people are either intimidated or put off by the idea of risotto, both because of it's supposed persnicketiness, and because of the long stirring it requires. I find the stirring immensely restful (as long as I put on my Birkenstocks before I start. Standing in bare feet on hard tile for 25 minutes solid can be quite uncomfortable), and as long as you keep tasting your risotto for doneness, until you learn by practice how it looks when it is done, there is little chance of screwing it up.
  • Onsen tamago These were one of my favourite foods when I was living in Japan. The name translates to "hot springs egg", and they are traditionally made and served for breakfast at Japan's famous hot springs. They were widely sold in grocery stores where I lived, which is quite close to a few wonderful hot springs resorts. I've got pictures from a few of my visits, which I'll try to find and post later. The just-below-boiling temperature of the hot springs water makes the perfect bath for fresh eggs: they turn out creamy and silky, with the yolks runny and the whites smooth like silken tofu. Yum. I was fascinated by the fact that these are sold as a shelf-stable item: a.k.a. not refrigerated. Somehow, the cooking process preserves them somewhat. I'm a huge egg fan, and I miss these, so I think I'll give them a try, especially as I'm trying to be better about incorporating enough protein into my diet. I grew up semi-vegetarian, and I still find it easy to forget that part of a meal (but not as easy as I used to, as the hubby reminds me. The man loves his meat).
  • Nikki's Healthy Cookies Healthy cookies, you're asking? Well, yes! These are made with fruit, oats, nuts, olive oil, coconut, and dark chocolate. Nary a bit of refined flour or butter to be seen, and they look delicious. They seem to be a hit with everyone who has tried them, so it's my turn. I'm not sure where I could find coconut oil around here, without trekking down to the market, so I'll try them with olive oil first and see how they go. Everyone needs a sweet treat once in awhile, and once you've looked at the ingredients on a box of store-bought cookies (or read this article), you'll see why I like the idea of making my own.
As usual, I'll be posting photos and commentary on my attempts at these recipes as I make them, so stay tuned. And thanks especially to Heidi at 101 Cookbooks, who is a huge inspiration to me; her food is beautiful, healthy, and delicious. She makes my life, as the primary cook in my house and an epicurious home cook, simpler, more fun, and more delicious.