Saturday, April 28, 2007

Stuck to the Books

I confess: I am recipe dependent! Part of it is the pleasure of finding multiple recipes for the same thing. Part of it is the perfectionist in me, stubbornly attached to the notion that if I find one more suggestion for, say, stir-fry sauce, finally it will be close to what we eat on our forays to Chinatown. Then, honestly, I do just find pleasure in reading the blogs, the cookbooks and years of newspaper clippings.

But, of course, the other side of this is that I cook with my eyes attached to the computer or cookbook, hesitant to even throw in a bit of extra basil or a few more chips. Baking seems the scariest of endevors (a don't want to tempt science), but I have been known to add some salt to soup.

Tonight, though, with my stomach grumbling, R. ready to move on to his second course after a Cheerios appetizer, and only a few items in the frig, tonight I decided to go for it...Similar to arepas or Italian paninis but infinitely easier, healthier and quick.

Polenta Paninis
Cut one tube of cooked polenta (available at TJ's or Whole Foods) into thin slices.
Heat a cast iron or non stick pan lightly coated with olive oil on medium heat.

Place the polenta slices down and flip them when the are crispy. Sprinkle 1/2 of the cooked slices with shredded mozzarella. Top the mozzarella topped polenta slices with the rest of the polenta.

Serve on a plate with warmed tomato sauce.

Lentils make Life Easier

I am still on a quest to find simple meals that I can create while R. hangs on my leg or in my arms. My newest discovery is another Trader Joe's special (I really don't work for them!). In the produce selection they currently have two versions of prepared lentils. These little lentils are already steamed, and, as they come in vacuum sealed bags can stay indefinately in the refrigerator. Last night both my son, husband I enjoyed them 3 different ways:

1. R, now one year old and still slightly suspicious of all foods that are not found in a jar, happily scooped up the lentils, just warmed and served plain in his own bowl.

2. My husband mixed some lentils with little cooked pasta (ditalini cooked the previous evening, though little shells or elbow macaroni would have worked, too) in a bowl, sprinked shredded cheese on top and microwaved it.

3. I chose to eat them french style: I put them in a bowl and warmed them in the microwave. Simulatneously, I poached two eggs. I thew some tomato chunks on the lentils, topped it with the lentils and a sprinkling of salt-instant dinner!

We still have half a bag left over. I plan to put some on a salad and add some to a bowl of chicken stock for instant lentil soup. I am also hoping to try using the lentils Asian style by mixing the chicken stock with some coconut milk and curry paste or spices.

Easy, inexpensive, minimum clean up-what else is there?