Sunday, February 7, 2010

Some Everyday Food

Even on weekends when I spend hours in the kitchen trying to channel Thomas Keller, I still have to take care of business and prepare meals for the rest of the week. People who know me have often pointed out that I'm a freak of nature in that I can eat the same meal for lunch and the same meal for dinner every day for 5 straight days with no problem. In fact, the OCD side of me really enjoys the repetition. (It acts as a good filter for recipes, too. If I'm not looking forward to eating the fifth serving of something then that's not something I'm likely to ever make again, at least not without major modifications...) This works out well for several reasons. It's difficult to buy one or two servings' worth of ingredients, for one thing. It's a lot easier to cook for 4 - 6 people, so if you're a single person who primarily cooks for one then it pays to enjoy leftovers. I also am a person who is tuckered out by the end of work each day. I come home and want to sit down to a nice glass of wine and delicious dinner without spending an hour in the kitchen first. This ramble is to clarify that when I say that I cooked something "for lunches" or "for dinners," it really does mean that I'm eating that dish for 4-5 straight days. Weird, I know... Anyway, I dug into the recipe archives for lunches this week for something that I haven't made since early in grad school as far as I can remember: Turkish Yogurt Soup with Chicken, Chickpeas, and Rice. Having tasted this again, I have no idea why it took so long for me to come back to this recipe. It's ridiculously easy and seriously delicious.
You basically whisk together yogurt, egg yolks, chicken stock, and flour, and while that is coming to a simmer you grill some chicken breasts, cook some Basmati rice, and open a couple cans of chickpeas. The only other work is to mince a couple cloves of garlic and cook them in some melted butter with paprika and a bit of cayenne.
The bowl of ingredients above gets dumped into the simmering yogurt mixture, and is topped with a drizzle of the parika-garlic butter and a chiffonade of fresh mint:
Tell me that's not absolutely gorgeous. The added bonus is that it made my apartment smell like heaven. This dish made me really happy. It will definitely not be another 6 years before I get around to making it again. For dinners during the week (and for lunch today), I went with one of my favorite go-to easy dishes: Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, Chicken, and Feta. I usually make this with grape tomatoes, but it's not exactly tomato season and they were crazy-expensive, so this time I went with a big pile of super-cheap Romas from Russo's. These were rough-diced, then tossed with garlic, olive oil, and copious amounts of crushed red pepper flakes, then roasted off until they seemed done.
I put this dish together by layering ingredients into a big pot over very low heat, which takes the urgency out of the timing on assorted components. You can even roast the tomatoes the day before, then just re-warm in the pot before proceeding. The dish starts with the roasted tomatoes:
then gorgeous baby arugula, which can start wilting over the hot tomatoes,
grilled chicken, the heat of which continues to wilt the arugula,
then the penne,
and finally a crumbling of feta cheese.
This is all tossed together so that the feta starts to melt, the arugula wilts, and the juices from the tomatoes and chicken are absorbed by the penne and form a sauce.I made this batch pretty darned spicy, since that's how I like it. One of the main joys of cooking for one is that you don't have to give a second thought to what "normal" people think is too spicy or too strongly flavored... So good. All in all, between the soup and the pasta, not a bad output for a couple hours putzing around in the kitchen on a Sunday morning...

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