Thursday, May 28, 2009

Best Laid Plans

Well, at 9:11 this morning I planned to write for an hour and 1/2, walk the dogs then write for another hour before heading over to Mad's school to stuff envelopes.  But I logged into Blogger and started reading some of the blogs I follow, then my mom called and asked if she could bring my (very beloved) Aunt and Uncle over for a quick visit while they are in town.  I said yes, of course, bring them on over because I don't get to see them nearly enough, and what was I going to do with the time anyway -- write?  Hah.

So we had a great quick visit, and now here I am, snuggled back into the comfy couch, dogs on either side, laptop fired up, and damn if I'm not hungry.  It's hard to blog about food when you're hungry.  Must. Write. Blog.  But perhaps if I had another cup of coffee...

I'm so distractable.  
(Here's a fact: according to my computer's dictionary, there is no such word as distractable.  Ah, but the Mirriam-Webster online dictionary does acknowledge it... interesting... did you know distract likely comes from the latin distractus, past participle of distrahere, literally to draw apart, from dis- + trahere to draw?

For instance, every week, usually on Tuesday, I get out my favorite cookbooks and find recipes, and make a shopping list of food for the week.  Then, I dutifully go to the store and buy only those items on my list, which I have trained myself to do so I don't wind up buying whatever the store happens to be hawking that day.   The rest of the day, I walk around feeling all smug and superior because I was able to resist the spicy peach chutney and andouille sausage because they just didn't fit into this week's plan.  No matter how excellent they tasted.  No matter how many times I went back to the hawk-er, pretending I needed to try that chutney one more time so I could decide whether my husband and children might like it.  I resisted, I stuck to the plan.  

Except that on, say,  Memorial Day Monday at 5pm, my original list/menu plan long gone in the jumble, I find myself staring into the refrigerator and thinking, why did I buy all that ricotta?  The friends we've invited over on the spur of the moment are piling through the front door with their children and their bottle of wine, and I've promised food, positive I've got something in the fridge.  Nope.  I've got a ton of ricotta and a lemon.  What the heck was a I planning to do with that?  

Completely flummoxed (ORIGIN mid 19th cent: compare with dialect flummock to make untidy;confuse), my first thought is pizza?  Got flour, got yeast, got a bit of tomato sauce somewhere, ok, it's paste but I can use that -- no mozzerella.  It wasn't pizza.  I don't have time to dig around the cookbooks, and if I'm going to be completely confessional here, I'd probably already used whatever other ingredients I was planning to mix with the ricotta when I abandoned (lost)  my menu plan earlier in the week.

But, there's a  1/4 bag of frozen broccoli and a 1/4 bag of frozen peas, and I've got pasta (I always have pasta) , and olive oil, and waaaay in the back of my fridge, I've got an old rind of Parmesan, and this is what I made:

Pasta with Ricotta, Broccoli and Peas
Serves 4-6 adults if you've got some salad and some bread (I served 4 adults and 4 children, but girl-children, who happen to eat like birds)

1/2 cup ricotta 
olive oil (1/8 cup or so)
1lb pasta (I used macaroni shaped pasta for this, but whatever)
1/4 cup frozen broccoli, run under warm water in a sieve until it is less frozen)
1/4 cup peas (also run under warm water)
a grating or two of Parmesan
kosher or sea salt
a solid grinding of pepper

Scoop ricotta into a bowl and swirl in olive oil stirring until the ricotta isn't quite so thick. Zest the lemon into another bowl and set aside, then cut the lemon and squeeze 1/2 into the bowl with the ricotta and olive oil.  Stir all this vigorously with a whisk until the mixture is well incorporated.  Boil up your pasta, plonking the broccoli and peas into the boiling water for a couple of seconds right before you drain the whole thing.  Put the pasta/vegetables back in the pot and immediately throw the ricotta mixture in the pot as well.  Stir it all up.  Add a teaspoon of lemon zest.  (Put the rest in a ziplock and save it in the refrigerator for another time) Grate a tablespoon or so of Parmesan into the pot, and add a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper.  Taste it. Add more lemon juice, or Parmesan or salt depending on your taste.  You can eat this right away, or you can put it in a nice looking bowl and let it sit until you're ready to eat it because it's also good room temperature.

If you happen to have broken down at the grocery and bought the andouille sausage that lady was pushing, then slice it up and saute it in some oil because it's good on top of this pasta (not that I did this exactly.  Oh, fine.  Ok.  I did come home with the sausage, but I froze most of it and just cooked up one link and it was heaven.)

If you have some fresh thyme in the garden (I didn't, but I will once I get to the garden center and buy some) about a tablespoon into this mixture would seriously enhance the whole thing.

Mint might be good too, actually, but I don't have that either.

And If I'd had a can of artichoke hearts I would most certainly have chopped a few of those up and thrown them in.

Have you noticed how my tenses have been slipping all over the page in this post?  Like I said, distractable.  Past, present, past perfect --  what other crazy tenses have I used all you English majors out there?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sometimes You Just Order Pizza

We've been eating a lot of take out lately and I'm not too proud to say it.  I don't know what happened.  Well, yes, actually, I do.  It's the end of the school year and everything is going ka-blewie.  We are all insane here.  For instance, this morning I can't find the coffee press.  I've looked in all the usual places, and I've looked in all the unusual places and now I'm just caffeine deprived and mad.  This is what comes of giving angry pre-teen children jobs to do around the house.  Ask one to empty the dishwasher, but don't expect to find your coffee press ever again.  

Dear God, I may have to go to Starbucks.  

I hate end of school-year stress.  It always feels much worse to me than even the stress of September.  Sure, September brings new classrooms, different kids, school supply shopping.  In September, kids who have been going to bed late and waking up late, now have to go to bed early and wake up early.  There are new routines, plays and bands, choruses and teams to try out for, and I'm shelling out money right and left for t-shirts, and field trips, cleats and guitar lessons. 

But May is sneaky.  It is deceptively stressful.  You're all happy because the sun's finally out and the plants you thought you'd killed last fall are sprouting hopeful shoots, and the dogs can lie outside on the deck with their bellies turned toward the sun.  You feel like you're running down the home stretch because school's almost over -- which is a good thing, right?  Except that one child has a chorus concert, and a project on Rome due which is 60% of her grade, and a biography project for language arts which is 40% and for which we have to go to the actual library, in town, and look for books.  The other daughter has soccer tryouts, and an end of year band concert,  and, even though she's only in 4th grade, she's in the chorus of the 5th grade play and she has to be at rehearsals, and we need to  make 80 madeleines for the French festival (and we only have one pan).  And she's stressed because transitions stress her to the ceiling so all you have to do is say boo! and she's the Tasmanian Devil.

Oh, and because one of my 100 jobs is tutoring highschool kids in writing, I'm getting calls about their end of year projects.  Which is good, work is always good, but still... time.

Also, the end of April is my dad's birthday, then the first week in May is my husband's birthday, then it's Mother's Day, then the week after that is our wedding anniversary: all wonderful events, celebratory events, but events which take time and definitely preparation.

Sorry.  Didn't mean for this post to turn into a big whine-fest.  However, this is a long way of saying that sometimes, pizza is very very good.

Instead of a recipe, I am linking you to Poppi's pizza -- my favorite joint in this area.  They have this thin crispy, New York style crust that I cannot get enough of.  (I'm sorry, everyone else in the world, but New York crust is the best. Just like New York bagels are the best.  It's the water there, so don't feel bad.  When I was pregnant with Em I almost had Smith talked into driving me to my favorite pizza place on Greenwich and 6th -- even though we lived in Center City Philadelphia at the time.  At the last minute he made some panicked calls to a native Philadelphian who directed him to a pizza place he swore had NY style crust.  It didn't.  If Poppi's had been around back then, a very ugly chapter in our marriage would never have happened.) 

However, there is quite a lot one can do with leftover pizza.  We always order a large, and sometimes two because you can put slices on a cookie sheet and freeze them, then, once they're frozen (about an hour), wrap them in parchment and stick in freezer bags.  Take a slice out and reheat it in the oven (never the microwave, which makes the crust soggy) whenver you want it.   

To make it taste yummier, take your leftover pizza and plonk a spoonful of tomatoes from a can on top, grate a bit of parmesan, stick it in the oven at 425 and in 10 min you have crispy pizza.  Really, any cheese you have is good on cold leftover pizza.  I like ricotta, goat, brie, tallegio, but not all at once.  Or, put a few pieces of pineapple on your plain, bacon or sausage pizza before warming it up. I've also put frozen slices of mango on my pizza -- surprisingly yummy, especially for breakfast.  Right now I am eating plain cold pizza while sipping hot coffee. (Found the coffee press, it was in the cereal cabinet).   Christine Lavin prefers her's with cold coke. 

Em prefers her leftover pizza delivered to her in bed by her mother as a bribe for getting up before 10am on a beautiful May Saturday in order to go do something as a family without a huge argument.  At least I'm hoping this will be the case.  Wish me luck.