Urban Family Eats Leftovers

Lest anyone begin thinking that urban family dining is an unending bourgeois experience, I thought I would include some leftovers. And because, (let’s be honest) creativity with leftovers is sort of an important life skill (unless you are my friend Will, who can eat mujaddara five days in a row, and not complain, God bless him).

So….you may have noticed in the “Week 10: The Dog Days are Over” post I roasted half a ginormous head of napa cabbage. I actually used only about 1/3 of it…(because I mixed in other greens)….so I had approximately five pounds of roasted napa to attempt to use the following week.

First, I made this….an open-faced grilled cheese sandwhich…

I took the left over warm feta dip (feta, shredded italian cheese blend, mayo, a dab of butter, red pepper, white pepper and black pepper) and spread it on toasted gf sourdough, and broiled it...served it open-faced with the broiled napa and a little spicy mustard...a re-mixed vegetarian reuben. with beer, I didn't even miss the corned cow.

I took the left over warm feta dip (feta, shredded italian cheese blend, mayo, a dab of butter, red pepper, white pepper and black pepper) spread it on toasted gf sourdough, and broiled it. I served it open-faced with the broiled napa and a little spicy mustard…essentially a re-mixed vegetarian reuben… with beer, I didn’t even miss the corned cow.

A few days later, I was in the mood for Asian (I always am)…and decided to combine two of my favorite things: cabbage and noodles. To my dismay, (providence) I realized that I was all out of rice noodles (which means a dim sum trip is in my future, as the dim sum place has the best Asian market in GR) so I used these mung bean noodles given to me by the urban family, for my birthday.
leftover roasted napa, garlic, candied ginger, tamari, siracha and sesame oil

I chopped the leftover roasted napa, and combined it with garlic, candied ginger, tamari, siracha, sesame oil and white pepper. I should have added shiitake’s, but I was famished, and didn’t want to wait for them to reconstitute….next time.

this was shockingly yummy..the mung bean noodles are packed with protein, have a lower glycemic index than rice noodles, and remain soft after refrigeration. I think I've discovered a new go-to.

This was shockingly yummy..the mung bean noodles are packed with protein, have a lower glycemic index than rice noodles, and remain soft after refrigeration. I think I’ve discovered a new go-to.

Additionally, this made a great at-the-beach meal. Due to no meat or dairy products, I didn’t have to be obsessive about temperature control, and the protein-fiber combo kept my friend and I powered well through our day-long sun-worship extravaganza…

we may have been drinking like undergrads on the beach too. when in rome...

We may have been drinking like undergrads on the beach too. We were college roomies…we chalked it up to nostalgia.

You may also remember the Indian Pizza that I made a few posts ago. I had extra toppings, and had used all of my gf pizza crusts, so I decided to make a quesadilla with the leftovers.

gf wrap with Indian Pizza ingredients and some cheese

I used a gf wrap.

I took the curreid cabbage salad (what was left of it, after eating it for several lunches) and added (CSA) arugula and peas.

I took the curried cabbage salad (what was left of it, after eating it for several lunches) and added (CSA) arugula, cashews and  peas. I love peas, and they work with everything Indian.

I had my friend Janalyn over for dinner this past week. She’s one of those kinds of people that won’t give you a judgmental glance in the event that you serve her leftovers for dinner…this is one of her many good qualities….so, I threw nearly all of the veggies that I had in a spring-form pan….

this is a not-as-pretty version of Jeff's vegetable torre....I was able to use CSA eggplant, potato, squash, zucchini, bell pepper, tomato and parsely

The results: A not-as-pretty version of Jeff’s vegetable torte….I was able to use CSA eggplant, potato, squash, zucchini, bell pepper, tomato and parsley. (I added peas and corn as well, but those weren’t from the CSA…and I learned that using a smaller spring-form pan enhances the attractiveness of the torte..will make a note of this for next time.)

the original recipe calls for a crusted parmesan topping....because Janalyn is a vegan, I created a pistachio-nutrional yeast-gr breadcrumb topping.

The original recipe calls for a sprinkle of crusted parmesan….but because Janalyn is a vegan, I created a pistachio-nutritional yeast-gf breadcrumb topping.

Janalyn brought her previously-made-world-famous gingered lemonade and we mixed it with vodka. Something about the vodka made the lemonade last longer….we sipped and we talked. I started thinking about the sorts of friends that it is ok to serve leftover’s to, and the sorts of friends that it is not. Janalyn can handle leftovers, as she can most things in life….she has found this fascinating balance of refusal to thrust her head into the sand matched with a refusal to stop offering grace and mercy. I’m realizing that I could learn a lot from her….and that it’s ok to serve a friend a bad-looking veggie torte from time to time.

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Being Halfsies and Being Wholly Urban Family

It’s a funny (but a beautiful) thing…being halfsies. Growing up, my grand mother who lived in Detroit, fed us flat bread, kalamata oilves, homemade cheese (that she molded herself under a light in the telephone room) and dolma made from the grape vines in her backyard…and the other grandfather, who lived in Ann Arbor, served us kielbasa and sauerkraut with bacon and green beans. (And drank cream sherry…if you can believe it.) The food of the two cultures wasn’t terribly compatible, but I loved them both, and this week decided to attempt to make a hybrid of two of my favorite recipes from both sides of my family: Gloumpki  and Koosa.

First, I started with some CSA cabbage, because we got two this week….but I also prefer cabbage over zuchinni/squash…..(gloumpki uses cabbage, koosa uses squash).

I carmelized onion in buteter, then added cabbage and salt and used lemon juice to deglaze the pan, so that none of those delicious carmelized bits would be lost

I carmelized onion in butter, added cabbage and salt and used lemon juice to deglaze the pan, so that none of those delicious carmelized bits would be lost

Gloumpki uses beef, and Koosa uses lamb, I’m partial to lamb, so that’s what I used. My grandmother never mixed mint in with hers, but we had lamb prepared this way frequently while in Greece..it takes off any sort of “gamey” edge, as well as providing a refreshing profile to an otherwise heavy-ish meat.

lamb, salt parsley and mint

Then I cooked lamb, salt, pepper, parsley and mint.

Both recipes call for a tomato-based sauce, but I am partial to the Middle Eastern tradition of adding cinnamon to tomatoes. I used a “Syrian Mix” spice blend that I picked up at a grocery that a man from my church owns. It’s mostly cinnamon, but has some cloves, allspice, cumin and a few other ingredients as well.

diced tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, "syrian mix" spice

This is essentially diced tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, and the mysterious “syrian mix” spice.

I decided to serve green beans alongside it, as a shout out to another Middle Eastern fav, Lubee.

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Dan and Rachel brought a phenomenal red rice blend-(CSA) greens-swiss gratin (they left  bread off of part of it for me).

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Jeff brought an piece of art, which happened to be edible…It was a compressed veggie (CSA summer squash, zuchinni, eggplant, potato, onion and tomato) dish, made in a spring-form pan. It was fresh and unassuming, and something I think should be on the menu at every B&B.

it was topped with chives

it was topped with chives and a bit of parmesan

this is what I mean when I say "work of art"

this is what I mean when I say “work of art”

We talked, ate, caught up with one another, and committed to doing this more often….we get busy, and we forget that it’s important to take time to relax around a meal with each other. Then, something awesome happened: Dan and Rachel began talking about a new (to us) cheese shop in town…and moments later….they popped downstairs and brought six cheeses, a (CSA) white watermelon and Rachel-made strawberry jam back…I was hosting, so I rummaged through my things, and found some wine, beer, almonds and pistachios…and we had impromptu cheese plates for dessert. This, my friends, is the beauty of urban family. I may be part Syrian and part Polish, but I am wholly part of an urban family.  I wish everyone could have one.

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Saturday Refrigerator Breakfast

Sometimes you don’t eat much for dinner, and you wake up at a ridiculously early hour, famished, and not wanting to fix your hair and put on make-up so that someone else can make breakfast for you. On such days, you are relegated to refrigerator breakfast. This is one such day.

I began with some (CSA) potatoes, parboiled them for 3-ish minutes, and then tossed them with some onion, oil, cumin, salt and tajin.IMG_1271

There is a long story behind tajin….it is a spice that is unlike any other…a little spicy and a little citrusy, and I love it…especially sprinkled on corn on the cob, after mayonnaise and before cotija cheese. The Cuban method. A friend of mine, whose family lived in South America for some time uses tajin like it’s going out of style. I resisted buying it for a long period of time…mostly because the ingredient list includes several things that I am unable to pronounce. But…there’s no substitute for it. So, I use it sparingly. While visions of cancerous tumors dance in my head.

Then, I put the potatoes in the oven for a half hour at 400. Just before they were done, I added some bell pepper.IMG_1274

Next, I threw my remaining salsa from the week (about half a container), half a can of black beans and the four eggs I had in a pan together with some black pepper.

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And then, combined them, with some cheese on top. All of this before 8am. I’ll be eating dinner at 3pm tonight. I’m a grandmother.IMG_1276

Week 11: Italian Veggies and Integration

There are some weeks when you are standing in your kitchen, post-workout, drinking red wine, and stirring a steaming pot of Italian veggies, and you find yourself wondering….”Am I an awesome version of domestic goddess? Or, am I “Ma” from Little House on the Prairie, incarnate?” This week, my friends, was one such week.

Due to an appointment with my stylist (read: hair colour girl) (a very non-“Ma” thing, by the way)…I wasn’t able to pick up our share, and thus, wasn’t able to photograph it. Nonetheless, this was a part of it:

we recieved two of everything you see here, as well as two cabbage, arugula, leaf lettuce, frisee, spicy greens, potatoes and sage.

we received two of everything you see here, as well as two cabbage, arugula, leaf lettuce, frisee, spicy greens, potatoes and sage.

It’s around Week 11 that even the most ardent veggie lover is feeling a little veggied-out…and I am in such a position this week…so I decided to turn this rainbow of delight into Italian veggies…a valued commodity in winterdom: a season we Michiganders have for eight months every year.

First, you chop everything but the greens, and toss them into a pot with olive oil, red wine and Italian spices (garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, fennel, salt and pepper).

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I added some onion to the mix.

Then, toss the greens (kale, chard, and basil) in your food processor.

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After blending them, add them to the pot of veggies.

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I love Italian Veggies, because there are so many uses for them: Add diced tomatoes and tomato paste to create a marinara or ratatouille, use as the “veggies” on a pizza, use in lieu of spinach in a lasagna, place atop polenta, add to soup, or as a tapenade on toast, with buffalo mozzarella. The uses are endless, especially in winter, when one needs a break from potatoes and butternut squash.

Finally, place in labeled bags, and in your freezer.

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This last step may make you feel especially “Ma”-esque. But during times like these it’s good to remember the words of a wise friend….it’s not about either/or….it’s not about achieving “balance” (whatever the hell that is)….it’s about being integrated. It’s about being, some days, a domestic goddess, and some days, Ma, and being ok with that. And finding someone to share your life with who is ok with that too.

Saag-Khumbi-Tikka Masala Pizza and Curried-Lemony Cabbage Salad

I worked at an Indian restaurant called Shalimar for about six months…I’m not sure I ever made more than $25 a shift, but that didn’t matter, because, as part of the gig, I got to eat from the lunch buffet every day. I also dated the chef, Raju… a fascinating amalgamation of old and new. He pumped serious iron every morning, drove a black Escalade and wore a thick gold chain with an ‘om’ symbol hanging from it. I remember one night in particular… him taking me to the “Indian store”, buying us sugar cane juice and renting a non-sub-titled Bollywood movie. The juice was in a green can, sweet, and the movie was innocent, repressed, in a way that I liked. He had limited English proficiency, but we spoke the same language…the one comprised of  the gestures made in the kitchen and those made while eating everything with naan.  I still have the mix CD that he made for me…(think: Panjabi MC). It was the music of the kitchen, the beat of the tandoori oven, and I loved it.

This is what I love about food…it’s never just about the food…it’s about who made it, where it came from, where you ate, who you ate with. Food is a conduit….through which so many essential life elements flow, comingle, crash. Pulling my head out of kheer clouds, I decided  it was time for some Indian this week….and friends were coming over….the perfect opportunity.

So, I sauteed a couple massive portobello mushrooms in butter, added some coconut milk, red pepper flakes and curry powder, and blended in a paste of (CSA) kale, (CSA) chard, (CSA) onion and (CSA) garlic.

that's all of it in a pan together.

that’s all of it in a pan together.

I mixed the aforementioned combination with some diced chicken breast and a packaged tikka masala sauce (I cheated, it's true.)

I mixed the aforementioned combination with some diced chicken breast and a packaged tikka masala sauce (I cheated, it’s true) and spread it on a pre-made gf pizza crust (I cheated twice).

then I chopped (CSA) cabbage, (CSA) bell pepper and onion, and tossed them with lemon juice, cider vinegar, honey, curry powder and celery seed

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the salad was lacking dimension…so I tossed in some cashews…I topped the pizza with mozzarella, had I been shooting for authenticity, I would have used paneer…but, how authentic is “Indian pizza”, anyway? haha. Friend brought some cider, a perfect accompaniment.

It wasn’t Shalimar, and it wasn’t Raju…but it was a good Indian-ish dinner with good friends….we should have ended the night with some Bollywood.

Week 10: The Dog Days are Over

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Please forgive the bluriness of this picture…I was balanced precariously on a chair whilst taking it. Our weekly share was: 2 lbs of red and white potatoes, 3/4 lb spicy greens, kale, napa cabbage, radishes, 2 green peppers, frisee, garlic, 3/4 lb arugula, chard, 2 eggplant, zucchini, 2 summer squash, cucumber, cabbage, 2 jalapenos, 2 serranos

I’m not sure why, but as I left the CSA pick- up this week with four bags, biceps burning, I spontaneously began singing Florence and the Machine’s “The Dog Days are Over“. One of my friends referenced the world being on a string a few days ago..and maybe that’s why. Or, maybe it’s because making good change, taking a good risk, is so refreshing…or maybe it’s because on days like this, I can’t believe we only pay $24 a week for this amount of organic, locally grown food! What’s not to love?!?

The dog days are over. The horses are coming.

Horses, in this case, could be read as root vegetables. I love a celeriac. I love fall. But…I’m getting ahead of myself, we’re not there yet.

I had the pleasure of hosting a dinner for three friends this Sunday…Alicia (my college roommate), her husband Mike, and our friend John, who was in town from Ann Arbor. John and I have joked about having some sort of Iron Chef competition, and apparently, this was my week to showcase my skills. (If we’re being honest, I had sort of forgotten about this part of the get-together….but “CSA foods” ended up being my theme.)

The meal began with this:

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I like to call this baba-mus…it’s a baba ganoush-hummus hybrid…made with our eggplant from this week and served with the veggies from the CSA

I as well threw together a little dip at the last minute…I have a sickness…call it ethnic, or motherly, or something, but I’m always convinced that we’re not going to have enough food….so I put together a warm feta-three pepper dip (red flakes, black and white) which received positive reviews, but I didn’t document it  in the photog realm. Another time.

Next course: Nicoise salad. I rubbed the sushi grade tuna with herbes de provence…and seared it for about 3 minutes per side (that should make it about medium).

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Then, I drizzled the napa with some olive oil and salted and peppered it, and tossed it in a 400 degree oven for 8-ish minutes…

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CSA napa…so many uses for it…

And, assembled the salad.

that is a (csa) dill, (csa) chive lemon vinaigrette alongside the salad

that is a (csa) dill, (csa) chive, lemon-caper vinaigrette alongside the salad

And then, the pizza course (an essential course for any dinner)…

I used my arugula pesto, from earlier this week, as a base, and layered balsamic marinated portobello's and proscuitto

I used my arugula pesto, from earlier this week, as a base, and layered balsamic marinated portobello’s and proscuitto

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And then I added an Italian cheese blend and some pepper and cooked it.

We wrapped up with a watermelon-mint-feta salad with a balsamic reduction.

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Then my old friends and I talked…about everything….the University of Michigan, Romeo and Juliet, New York City and Catholic wedding songs….

I especially like how my friend, John, is voraciously engaging his piece of pizza in this photo

I especially like how my friend, John, is voraciously engaging his piece of pizza in this photo

Then, because we hadn’t spent enough time together, nor consumed enough calories, we walked to get ice cream…and then beer. They go well together.

that's us

that’s us and ice cream

that's alicia and john, laughing heartily, before our beverages had even arrived

that’s alicia and john, laughing heartily, before our beverages had even arrived

This was a really good Sunday…a really good weekend. I’m new to weekends, as I had worked them for almost five years…and I’m just starting to rediscover them….learning how to enjoy myself, how to relax, and how to turn off the impulse to be “productive” every minute of every day. Days like today, weeks like this one, make me realize that such things are not only possible, but essential, even life-giving.

As Florence would say, “…the dog days are over…leave all your love and your longing behind, you can’t carry them with you if you want to survive.” And while that may sound sad to some, it sounds like a big, fat exhale to me.

It sounds like a good sweat, after a ride on a trainer bike. And two pounds of red and white potatoes. And diving head first out of a plane. There is a free-fall, where you can’t breathe, but you know you’ll survive. And knowing you’ll survive makes the uncertainty of the moment bearable….even, exhilarating.

Monkey Meat

this is markiel. he is the monkey meat master.

About two years ago I met a guy at a now defunct bar. In the midst of our conversation I asked him (this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone) about his favorite foods. He smiled and sort of sheepishly said “One of my best friends is Filipino…his family makes this thing called monkey meat…(him: ‘I know this sounds crazy’ expression, me: ‘I swear I’m not judging you’ therapist look )….it’s so good.”

Yesterday, 23 months after first hearing of this famed monkey meat, I was invited into the inner circle, and attended a Filipino family gathering. Upon arrival, after surveying a sea of more Asian people than I’ve become accustomed to seeing in the great Grand Rapids, Markiel placed a skewer of monkey meat in my hand.

I spent the first hour or so just hanging out at the grill with Markiel. Because (of proximity to monkey meat) he's a great friend.

I spent the first hour or so just hanging out at the grill with Markiel because (of proximity to monkey meat) he’s a great friend.

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It absolutely lived up to it’s reputation…salty, sweet and incredibly tender….the secret, Markiel says, is marinating it for between three and five days. An investment that is well-worth the effort. Because this was Filipino extravaganza (a party thrown every year to celebrate several family events, and to give the ethnic community an opportunity to be together) there was Asian food aplenty. All unique, all awesome. Markiel’s sister was literally my tour guide for the food table…

It was a good tour…I could live in this land.

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Asian food, beach-side. So great.

We ended the night with wine and a boat ride. I sincerely hope to be invited to Filipino family gathering 2014, and will be thinking about primate on a stick until that time…

this is the guy who first uttered the words "monkey meat"... and me.

this is the guy who first uttered the words “monkey meat”… and me.