Thursday, February 04, 2010

snow dreams of food

Richmond is seeing its snowiest winter in recent memory this year. It's almost as though all the jokes about runs on the local grocery stores for milk, eggs, and bread when the word "snow" hits the forecast have finally brought karmic retribution back on us in the form of two good-sized storms. Each has dumped nearly a foot of snow on the area and paralyzed businesses and shut schools. The kids have had a hell of a time, and parents are running out of ways to amuse them. After all, there's only so much you can do when you live in the heart of the city to send your kids out to pasture.

There have been some collateral benefits, however. They include slowing down by necessity and re-acquainting ourselves with the house, and remembering to cook more and use more of the food that stuffs the fridge. Recent adventures have included remembering how to make crépes, gingerbread and biscotti (thanks to L), fondue, chili, and more.

Last night's adventure was more of a culinary break than I've made lately. Facing down dwindling supplies of various staples and specialty items, I knew we had a few hurdles to cross. L is a pescatarian, which means I have to temper my meat-loving tendencies for some meals or find a general balance in others. The Kid has lately gotten even pickier about what she'll eat — a foodie kid losing her omnivorousness is another post for another time. Lastly, I realized feeding us all at the same time wasn't going to work. Solution time...

The kid got pesto pasta. It's not the most creative solution, but some penne with TJ's pesto on it is a sure-fire silver bullet when she's hungry and tired. Add a bit of feta and a few grape tomatoes, and the meal is complete and easy to put together while she hangs out with us.

For L and I, I concocted a wholly different idea. I had lentils that had been around a while, a small stash of grape tomatoes, an onion, garlic, and a well-stocked spice cabinet. A quick check of Saveur brought up an Ethiopian lentil stew. That combined with some savory whole-wheat crépes started to sound a whole lot like an improvised Ethiopian dinner. The lentils took about an hour to cook and come together. It was the right amount of time for mixing up a quick crépe batter and running the crepes. I pulled one of the small zucchinis in the fridge and sliced it into quarter-inch-thick half-moons. These I tossed with a bit of olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper, and put on a baking pan to roast while L was working on biscotti, round 2.

When the crépes were ready, I laid out one on each plate as one might find a bed of injera in an Ethiopian restaurant and then added two more, folded to quarters, to section off the plate. On one side went the zucchini, and on the other a pile of lentils topped with a small dollop of plain yogurt. On a shared plate, I put out The lentils weren't as spicy as I'd hoped, so I'll be looking for some real berbere powder for the next attempt. Nonetheless, the flavors came together wonderfully and both L and I finished the meal with nearly clean plates.

I recommend stepping back and looking back at your cupboards once in a while and thinking about new ways you can use the same old ingredients.