Now that it’s colder out, I am much more inclined to cook. I think I went to the grocery store perhaps four times over the summer. In New York, it’s way too tempting just to run around all day and eat in restaurants when the weather is nice. In winter, with it getting dark so early and going out in the evenings not appealing as much, I prefer to cook.
I particularly enjoy having restraints placed on my cooking, such as when my friend Courtney was coming over last night. She’s allergic to milk and does not eat meat, which forced me to get creative. (Same thing with going to someone’s house and seeing what I can cook for us using only what they have on hand. I would have loved to have been a Ready, Steady, Cook participant.) I have a strong interest in milk-free cooking because I have a few loved ones who are allergic. Ditto gluten-free food.
So what did I make, cooking in handcuffs?
First, I modified Smitten Kitchen’s pasta with garlicky broccoli rabe by using brown rice fusilli and adding sautéed onions and baby portobello mushrooms, plus fresh lemon juice. I also used frozen broccoli rabe because that’s what I had, and I would use it again – I like the texture with al dente pasta. This dish looks very plain (this photo was before I added the mushrooms and onion) but oh my gosh, it is excellent. I am very anti-grain in my daily diet, so I sadly sent all the leftovers home with Courtney.
I also roasted some baby carrots, let them cool, then tossed with fresh, torn mint and pomegranate seeds. I will be making these as frequently as possible – they were just the best. I love the combination of the carrots with the sweet, crunchy pomegranate and fragrant mint. Big love. (This is a good base recipe for perfect, simply prepared roasted carrots. No need to get fancy, these are great on their own, but I was in the mood for something different.)
Courtney brought over a big salad (spring greens with artichokes, avocado, mushrooms, walnuts, tomato, and alfalfa sprouts) and an addictive batch of roasted butternut squash. I selfishly kept those leftovers for myself.
For dessert, I made a few different things. First, the easiest “ice cream” ever; it really does have the perfect soft serve consistency. One banana makes one small scoop, so I used two bananas and flavored the results with organic wildflower honey and some vanilla extract. The ice cream went perfectly with the blueberry persimmon crumble, which we split between the two of us. (I modified this recipe to make just one serving, substituting coconut oil for the butter, using barley flakes and almond flour in the topping, omitting the egg, and incorporating blueberries instead of cranberries). I also offered those brownies, which Courtney loved and said reminded her of the (super pricey) Emmy’s dark cacao macaroons.
What didn’t work? The brown rice salad I was going to make. I forgot to rinse the grains, and so it turned out super mushy and bleh. I then tried to rescue the results by making a sweet version of arancini, incorporating almond butter and almond flour, but I didn’t like the texture. Not that I minded. In cooking, as in all of life, sometimes you have to fail in order to win.