Tuesday, March 21, 2006

cooking up a storm

I just posted a bunch of recipes over at Sweet Juniper in response to Wood's plea for some... which in turn reminded me that one of my goals for this blog was to record what we've been eating on a regular basis (along with the recipes), for reference later on in my life. This is because I've noticed that over the years, some recipes become weekly standbys for a while, then for whatever reason I just drop them & they wind up relegated to limbo. It's the same thing that happens to me with friends, I guess. I'd like to figure out why this happens.

Last night's dinner was easy because we had some leftover red snapper and salmon that had been cooked in basil butter on Saturday night. All I had to cook was some white rice, the green beans (before they spoiled), and heat up the previously cooked-and-frozen PRican Navy beans. Not bad, as far as weekday meals go. I got a wild hair and decided to cook the green beans the same way we like to cook our asparagus: in the toaster oven, drizzled w/ extra-virgin olive oil, salt & pepper, at 500º for about 10 minutes. Eeeeeasy, fast and crunchy.

Mo will eat pretty much anything, as long as he feels full when he's done. His requirements are fairly straightforward and simple. Unlike me. I need at least one meal a day that appeals to all my senses (and sensibilities). Color, aroma, texture... I've often compared the experience of cooking and eating to making love. I'm looking for sensory overload in order to feel satiety. Mr. Hyde has grown up in this kind of food-obsessed environment and is quite the food critic already. As a baby, he ate so heartily and so much, there were times when I'd joke that someday he was going to take a bite out of me.

My problem now is El Niño. He isn't picky per se, just very particular about what he likes and doesn't like. Add to that the typical independence of the 20-month-old who wants to feed himself, throw in a few food allergies, and it's a freaking miracle that he manages to eat anything at all. Most of the rice and beans I gave him last night wound up all over his clothes, high chair, and the floor. He wouldn't even look at the fish, and didn't touch the green beans. Tonight I'm planning to make a whole roasted lemon-chicken, which I know he'll eat because he loves roasted meats (not smushy ones, like in soup or stews). My dilemma now is what to make to go with the chicken. The last time I made stuffing as a side, he didn't eat it. I could make the stuffing for us and give the baby some leftover rice... but I hate not giving him the same stuff we're eating. Part of my child-rearing "philosophy" is that children should always have the occasion/opportunity to eat the same things their elders do, so they're not always eating chicken nuggets and hot dogs. I'm always irritated by people who say this or that food is too "good" to give to children... WTF? How are they going to develop a taste for it, if they never eat it? So, maybe I'll give him a little of both and see what happens.

It's also a challenge to cook *with* a baby who will not be distracted easily. Sometimes I have to strap him into one of the carriers we have and put him on my back or hip so I can cook, if Mo and Mr. Hyde aren't home to help keep him busy and I'm gonna be a while in the kitchen. Maybe that's why it's been a while since I've made the more complicated and yummy dishes in my repertoire, like asopao or arroz con pollo. Now that I think of it, I've never made lasagna for Mo, even though we both love it and it used to be one of my special-occasion dishes. Must. plan. to. cook. lasagna. SOON!

Roasted Lemon Chicken

Preheat oven to 375º

1 whole chicken
basil, tarragon or sage (pick one, each has a very distinctive taste that complements chicken & lemon very well)
salt & pepper to taste, or Goya adobo (seasoning salt)
1 lemon, or 1/2 cup ReaLemon (I hardly ever plan meals well enough to have fresh lemons on hand)

Clean the chicken, trimming excess fat from the cavity areas, any feather quills and bits of skin & giblets left behind in the processing plant. Put chicken in the roasting pan you'll cook it in. With your fingers, gently separate the skin from the breast meat. If using a whole lemon, wash thoroughly then prick it all the way around with a fork and insert in the chest cavity. If using the ReaLemon, try to coat the chicken with it, get it under the skin (a baster helps with this), inside the cavity... Then season w/ salt & pepper or adobo, tucking some of the seasoning under the skin as well as rubbing it on the outside of the skin. Also tuck whichever herb you picked under the skin, over the breast meat. Cook in oven for 90 - 105 minutes. Check throughout the cooking period and baste the chicken in its rendered juices a couple of times after the first half hour. Once removed from the oven, allow the chicken to rest for at least ten minutes before carving. Oh, if you cook it with the lemon inside the chest cavity, remove the lemon *immediately* after you take the chicken out of the oven.

(this recipe is my adaptation of Sally Schneider's recipe that appears in The Art of Low-Calorie Cooking)

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