Sunday, March 25, 2007


One of my favorite ingrediants are frozen edamame or soybeans. Although they are available in the pod, the shelled version, found at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, is one of the best instant meals available. Pure protein, low in fat and delicious, I sometimes just microwave a handful for a snack or throw some into the pot as I finish boiling pasta. With soy sauce on top, it is almost comfort food.

The other day, as I stared at my cupboard, and R., sick and wanting only the comfort of my arms, I created a yummy and very easy meal using the edamame. My friend had given me a recipe for "Oriental Salad" that included unhealthy (though tasty) Ramen noodles and included some ingrediants that I didn't have (such as scallions.) But with a few substitutions (I had just discovered "Broccoli Slaw"-pre-slivered vegetables), with less than 5 minutes of prep, I was done!

Easy Asian Salad

1/2 box of cooked thin pasta (spaghetti works) drained in cold water
2 T. rice vinegar
3 T sugar
1/4 cup sesame oil
any veggies (I used a bag of Brocolli slaw but you could also throw in steamed green beans, peapods, carrot slices)
1-2 cups of defrosted edamame (or shredded cooked chicken for a non-veggie version)
a few dashes of hot oil (optional)


Mix together. Put in the frig for about an hour. Enjoy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Playin' with the Cups

Playin’ and Cookin’

One of my favorite activities (and splurges!) this winter has been taking a Music Together class with R. I wasn’t sure that as a 10 month old baby he would get anything out of it, but I knew that one structured afternoon class would be wonderful for me. In fact, R. loved it. Between having a big baby-safe place to crawl, maracas to shake, drums to bang and nibble on, and music to dance to (I never cease to crack up as he sways his hips whenever he hears a tune), R. was as content as could be. Even better, he loved the CD enough that he stopped crying every time we went in the car. Instead he plays with his rattle and smiles as we play the songs over and over.

One of the songs on the Music Together CD is “Playin in the Kitchen.” Definitely not one of my favorites, I realized yesterday that I could put the song into action. For two days I had wanted to try Orangette’s recipe for Mujadara But since the dish called for not only chopping onions but also watching them cook for over 50 minutes I originally thought it would have to be part of the weekend files.

Instead, I picked R up, plopped him down by the frig and handed him a chef’s version of music makers: a wooden spoon, some metal pot covers, a measuring cup and a set of measuring spoons. I picked them up and clanged them together. R. giggled, and joined in.

For 10 precious minutes I was able to prepare the meal and engage with R. at the same time. While not quite long enough to make the whole dish, it was just enough time to get the onions and lentils in their separate pans and to measure out the rice. And, in fact, the rest of the meal really was a breeze, especially as the onions don’t need to be watched too carefully if the heat is turned down low. I even realized that if I purchased the packaged lentils at Trader Joe's (vacuum sealed in the produce section), this could be even easier. I enjoyed it with mango chutney, while my husband thought it was just delicious on its own.

Monday, March 19, 2007

From the Dentist to Rod Dee

For some people the dentist means an afternoon of sterile coats, bad news and an discussion about flossing. For me, a trip to the dentist is a destination with happiness. My dentist, you see, is located in the center of one of my foodie-heavens: Coolidge Corner in Brookline. There, within a 10 minute drive you can easily find Latino treats in Jamaica Plain, Israeli salads at the Butcherie, Super 88's frozen food and produce galore, Fugyaku's pricey but delicious sushi, Niko's unbelievable vegetarian mousakka, Pho Lemongrass' decent Vietnamese and not one, but two of our favorite Thai joints: Dok Boa and Rod Dee. Dok Boa is more of a sit down restaurant, while Rod Dee can pass for a store-front eatery. It has exactly 6 tables, you bus your own trays and while child-friendly (there is often a cute child sitting at a table), there is no room for an antsy toddler. We have often done take out, though I also enjoy sitting there for lunch. And it can always be counted on for an inexpensive, delicious meal.

Rod Dee has so many things that make it special: unlimited cups of sweet-fragrant Thai tea, unique desserts to go (Taro sweets, roti pancakes with shredded wheat), pictures of their dishes on the wall so you can literally point at a tempting dish and an open kitchen to watch the dishes being prepared. But it also has dishes that go far beyond the suburban standards of Pad Thai, spring rolls and chicken satay.

food_006 My current favorite is just fantastic: number N9, Pad Kee Mao. It is truly spicy (eye watering, mouth burning spicy), but also flavorful. The brown sauce coats thick rice noodles, but is never greasy. The Thai basil makes the dish taste fresh, while the vegetables (a generous combination of Chinese broccoli, string beans, carrots and tomato) are always crisp.

I don't claim to be an expert on all their dishes. But I can tell you that everything I have tried is fantastic. I can also guarantee that I could happily return (if they were just a bit closer), to try different dishes each time. Lastly, hope that they have the sticky rice with mango. Coconut cream is warmed and poured over it so the dish is simultaneously nutty, juicy and sweet. My final wish: that "delivery" meant 20 minutes West.

**Both photographs are from Rod Dee's website. Check it out for locations, menus and more photos:

Rod Dee Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Desperately Seeking Metrowest

Our favorite restaurants meet a few criteria: a price we can justify for an evening meal, modest decor, a comfortable atmosphere, the owner is the chef, or is, as least related to him/her, and, of course, delicious food that we couldn't create at home. In fact, this has been my biggest complaint about life in Metrowest: while so many "drive-worthy" places fit the bill, we have yet to establish a good restaurant for those weekday occasions.

When we decided it was time to branch out to babysitters beyond my mother we found ourselves facing all the standard dilemmas and apprehensions of any new parent: was she CPR certified? Would we see her face staring at us from America's Most Wanted? Would R. be happy? Take his bottle? Complain about these nights years later to some overpriced therapist? Once in fact, references were checked, e-mails were exchanged, interviews were complete, and I subjected her to a 3 page set of directions, Jay and I were ready to go out.

However, we were still left with the true foodie/mommy dilemma: where should we go? Clearly, as it was going to be our first real time out, we wanted to stay local. I suspect that for most parents this would have been an easy decision: simply head out to Route 9 and make a night of eating Bertucci's rolls. Or, alternatively, accept the mediocre food in the town center as a trade off for Korean jap chae and a low-stress evening, knowing one could race home in minutes.

But, no, such a decision was, for me, monumental. I spent, not one, not two, but three nights on-line, scanning the web in the vague hope that there was a restaurant that met our requirements (or at least a few!) By the end, I was left with a long list of kid-friendly, overpriced chains; mediocre but locally owned Americanized ethnic eateries and some unknown Brazilian restaurants in Framingham. On paper, or at least, on line, some of those looked promising-unique menus, good recommendations by friends, still only 10 minutes away. But, the number of dishes that included pork (which neither of us eat) and seafood (which Jay avoids) meant that it would be another night of...grilled chicken.

Suffice to say, at that point, the mommy in me won out. So, Jay and I returned, yet again, to our standby: Firefly's in Framingham. The restaurant is always friendly and reliable for rich cornbread, homemade pickles, moist chicken and Jay's favorite: pecan coated sweet potatoes. Sure we could have brought R. with us, but at least it was a date, not so far from home.

However, if you do know of somewhere, please, please do share.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Saved by the Slow Cooker

Until R. was about 9 1/2 months old, he took an afternoon nap. While it was only 25 minutes long (to the minute, amazingly enough!), it was incredible what I could accomplish during that precious time. Somehow, knowing that I had to prepare dinner in that window meant a seemingly complex meal could emerge. However, like most little ones, as he began to crawl and pull himself up to standing (simultaneously-in one week), his excitement and pride at his new accomplishments meant that his nap was dropped. Now, mind you, he still needs it, he just thinks it is overrated compared to standing against the couch and dropping his toys into a bin.

So, once again my cooking shifted. For a few weeks I turned to the standby: Trader Joe's frozen foods. (We highly recommend the whole grain lasagna, sausage stromboli, pizzas and enchiladas, which, apparently may actually be Amy's brand, repackaged!) But, while healthier than some freezer born meals, the list of ingredients still made me wish for another way to create dinner.

Thus, the slow cooker, one of the best items Jay brought to our marriage, has been particularly helpful. I turn to it most frequently on the weekends. Then, as Jay and R. play together in the mornings (something that, as sappy as it is, makes me smile each time), I can throw ingredients in and even clean up, turn it on and by 6 p.m. we have dinner. I am just beginning to learn the art of adapting standard recipes for the slow-cooker, and, of course, I am not content with the recipes that consist of "add 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup to frozen beef". So for now I keep turning to the slow-cooker books by Beth Hensperger. Although the recipes involve a bit more preparation (e.g. dredge the chicken in flour and brown before placing them in), I also appreciate the Gourmet Slow Cooker (Volumes I and II) by Lynn Alley.

My favorite recipe so far is actually one I adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl. I first ate Harira at Amanouz Cafe in Northhampton. Simultaneously sweet and sour I couldn't identify the ingredients. I just knew it was one of the most delicious (and comforting) soups I had eaten. I now realize that saffron (just a pinch, Trader Joe's will do fine) is the secret ingredient. Somehow, though, lemon also brings out the flavors. Although the Gourmet recipe includes lamb, I created a purely vegetarian version. And, best of all, it freezes and reheats beautifully.

Another excellent breakfast standby: steel cut oats. Usually a time-consuming recipe that needs to be watched closely, the crock pot is perfect for this. Just follow the directions on the can: add one cup oats (I always use McCanns, not the quick version) to 4 cups water. Put it in the crock. Turn it on low. Then 9 hours later, breakfast is ready! You can also add dried fruit.

I always make double the recipe as it lasts for days in the frig. Just add milk or water to some in a bowl. Mix it and reheat in the microwave or on the stove.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dividing the Dinner

My husband cooked for me...once! It has become one of those tales of any marriage: the same man whose specialty was defrosting a Lean Cuisine, treated me to his special fish dish. Coated in sheets (and sheets...and sheets!) of mayonnaise, even he had to admit that, while it was moist, maybe he should have cut back on the Hellman's. To this day when he kindly offers to cook, we both pass, and instead he is given a chance to use one of his true gifts: dish washing (at which I am a complete failure).

In many ways, this division of labor works. I can indulge my love of cooking and he can eat contentedly while knowing that the cleanliness of the kitchen meets his liking. There are, though, catches. I am, I admit, a sloppy cook. Within minutes nuts scatter on the countertop, eggs trace the stove and flour coast the floor. Now that my cooking fits in between the moments that R. is happily indulging in Cheerios or playing with his toys, my haplessness is augmented as I am constantly straddling the jobs of entertainer and chef.

This has, admittedly, led to the typical bickering of dual income parents: should I try to be neater? Should I do more of the clean up? Should we splurge, as many of my friends do, to a weakly cleaner? Should J. try to be more patient with crumbs on the floor? Do we just succumb to defrosted meals, straight from chez Trader Joes?

For now we've both tried to share the compromising. J is trying to be as patient as possible with the scattering of ingredients on the floor (and to appreciate that it is the price to pay for a nice dinner with an 11 month old). And I try (I really do) to keep my mess contained as much as possible (or at least to share the clean up.)

The best meals allow us both to be happy. Last night, in another of my Orangette inspired meals, our dinner consisted of opening sausages and cleaning stems of of grapes. Left with stems and packages to throw away, the end result was an incredible meal and only one dirty skillet. (Ok, and one lone grape that rolled away. But I found it before R.!)

This dish is absolutely one of those where the sum is more than the parts. I literally browned the sausages (Trader Joe's chicken) in a skillet, threw grapes and olive oil on top and baked it in a 475 degree oven for 20 minutes. Some how baking the grapes transformed them completely until they tasted of the freshest, sweetest, most complex fruit. Fabulous.

Drive Worthy

Yesterday I drove 20 minutes out of my way to Clear Flour Bakery in Brookline. Despite the fact that it meant my husband had to then go 20 minutes out of his way to bring R. to daycare, we both felt it was worth it. I discovered Clear Flour's baguettes a few years ago and my first thought, was Paris. Only there had I eaten bread that had so much flavor. While the crust meets the standards of any good baguette (striations of golden brown, crisp), it is the smell that makes it more than just any loaf of bread. It sings for butter or cheese, Nutella or real fruit jam (the best being those made Christine Ferber and, as far as I know, only available in Paris). But it is so good that I can never resist eating it plain. Unlike so many other breads it has just enough salt, just enough yeast, just enough leavening time. It also is so airy that it rarely tastes as good the next day. But it always works perfectly as croutons, for mopping up soup, or toasted.

As euphoric a find as their bread was, it was stumbling into Clear Flour on a Sunday morning that I truly fell in love-there they sold cannelles. Soft dumplings like cake, caramelized to a dark brown black on the outside with an almost custard like center, I had only once had these gems-in the Marais in Paris. Clearly, I wasn't the only person to swoon-they now sell them everyday of the week. Alas, not until 11, so today's loot consisted of their delicious brioche rolls filled with Scharrfen-Berger chocolate still warm from the oven.

As time goes on I will try to list the food finds that J. and I will go anywhere for. I will keep it posted as a running list, but for now:
  • Garlic Shrimp, Dali, Cambridge
  • Stir Fried Rice Cake, Seoul Food, Cambridge
  • Sunchoke Soup with Chestnuts, Pava, Newton
  • Baguettes, B & R Bakery, Framingham
  • Truffled Eggs and Radiccio Salad, 'Inoteca, New York
  • Pastami Sandwiches, Katz's Deli, New York
  • Corned Beef, Fine and Shapiros, New York
  • Red Sauce, Veracruzana, Northhampton
  • Harira, Mint Tea and Couscous, Amanouz Cafe, Northampton
  • Cornbread, Poppa B's, Dorchester
  • Tuna Tartar (and ANY sushi), Oishii, Chestnut Hill
  • Hot Chocolate, Burdicks, Cambridge
  • Pizza at Umbertos, Reginas or Ernestos, North End
  • Any sandwich, All Star Sandwiches
  • Cantuccinni and Sfogettelle, Marias, North End
  • Walnut and Sesame Fatayer and Baked Alaska, Oleana
  • Bread used for Panini, Flour Bakery, Boston
  • Mango Fried Rice, Spicy Noodles, Dok Boa, Brookline
  • Pupusas, La Pupusa Guanica, JP
  • Mango Rice with Coconut, Rod Dee, Brookline
  • Burger, Wild Willys, Watertown
  • Eggplant with thai basil, Taiwan Cafe, Boston
  • cherry pie, Petsis, Somerville
  • Soft tofu in ginger syrup and Chow Foon, Hei La Moon, Boston
  • Cannelles at Clear Flour, Brookline

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The foodie in me represents the urban me. The person who would take the subway for 45 minutes to try a parmesean cheese that costs $35.00/pound, follow signs in a language I barely understand to have authentic rice candies or take out my favorite sesame dumplings from one restauarnat for an appetizer and spicey Duk Bogli for dinner. It is the person who lives to eat, but also loves to meet new people, to explore art, to check out sidestreets and enjoy reading the Sunday Times in a cafe. It was also the me that was always, always planning the next trip-to eat passion fruit in Kauai, Hevin's chocolates in Paris or roti in Dorchester.

The mommy in me is my new life-in suburbia (husband needed space for his job-a much longer story), with a baby and a husband and a job. Out here, though only 25 minutes from Boston, are an endless series of chain restaurants interuppted by mediocore inexpensive family eateries. That isn't to say all the food is bad, but it certainly no longer means leaning out the door for authentic Mexican, Thai, Korean or Cuban.

So here I am. Trying to make a gourmet meal while R pulls at one leg, shopping for Earth's Best Organics while picking up arugala, planning meals around nap time and realizing that eating out means spending 40.00 for a babysitter....before we even start the meal. It also means introducing R. to the joys of avocado, tofu, fresh strawberries and sweet peaches. It also, perhaps, means sharing the pleasure of food and cooking with him as he grows older.

For now, it is the start of a new me: Foodie/Mommy.

The Mommy in Me

I became a mommy 11 months ago. As a friend so aptly said, it really is the greatest change in your life. Unlike all the other transitions I faced (new jobs, losing a parent, moving in with my fiance, getting married, buying a house), becoming a mother has challenged me to figure out who I am NOW, now that someone else is so completely dependent on me. And it happened instaneously because all those years wanting to be a mother, and the 10 months preparing are nothing compared to the reality.

And, in many, many moments it is wonderful. When R. does something new (and recently it seems to be every day), I just stare at him and smile. At times I burst out laughing as this marvelous cutie discovers that he can wave and proceeds to wave at everything: us, plastic men, carrots, cups, himself. We show him how he can put a little toy in a cup and he proceeds to try to put toys of all the cup. He dances by swaying his hips-no matter what music he hears. And for a few weeks, he played peek-a-boo endlessly, over and over and over again.

Every parent can detail the challenges of emersion into parenthood-the lack sleep, the lack of control, the "not-knowing." These have been true for me. But on top of it all has been trying to figure out how to still be ME-the foodie in me, while being the mommy for R.

The Foodie in Me

I am convinced that I have been a foodie from the moment I was born. My mother insists that my first word was Cheerio and my grandmother tells stories of me eating shrimp from my high chair. I always preferred banging pots and pans over dolls and thought my Easy Bake Oven was as close to a treasure as I could get. Almost every one of my non-professional jobs consisted of working in or near a kitchen and, while I can't say I have been a chef, I have baked pancakes (very soggy) for an inn and muffins for coffee shops. But cooking and eating for me has been more of a personal passion. I take joy in reading new cookbooks, cutting out recipes from magazines and newspapers, and discovering a new food at the supermarket. I am not one of those experimental chefs, so I hug a new recipe as close to me as possible, planning when I can cook it as soon as possible. Those recipes are my optimism-something to look forward to no matter what.

I also, as a friend once put it, travel to eat. Whether it is 5 minutes or 5000 minutes from my home I devour restaurant reviews, creating and recreating lists of where I want to go to eat next. Trips are really an excuse to eat local foods and often involve taking the longest route possible to stop and eat as many snacks as we can. As my friend L. and I joked: when we finally saw the Grand Canyon, our awe was about the amazing french toast that we had for breakfast that day. Paris is a series of unpasturized cheeses, hot (steamy, melted) chocolates, baguettes, french macaroons, the most delicious soup in the world, unique salads and gelatos with some art thrown in. Italy: more gelato, local olives, pizza bianca from the Forno, the small local Trattoria and cantuccini. And, New York...New York is lusting after all the foods of the world in one place.