Green Green Grits

Green Grits // Eat Your Greens

“You have a very cute baby!” said a woman standing next to Rob and me at the grocery store the other day. “Enjoy it. Mine is three years old now, and it’s like they say, the days are long and the years are short.”

Right before walking into the store, Rob had checked his email and found out his show is being renewed for a second season, which means we will be living in New Orleans for at least another year. Big news, huge news, which was instantly eclipsed by the immediate demands of grocery shopping with a seven-month-old. We forgot to talk about it again until we were halfway home. This seems to be the new order. The days are long and the years are short.

Green Grits // Eat Your Greens

Somehow we’ve settled into a daily life here — walking the dog around our new neighborhood, waiting in line for po-boys, finding a dentist — without it ever really sinking in that we live here now. But now there’s no denying: we’re on our way to becoming residents, not just visitors.

When I first starting cooking here, in a short-term rental kitchen with someone else’s tools, I felt totally lost. The ingredients were different. My pantry was sparse. Nothing I made felt right. But now, in my own kitchen with my own supplies, it’s finally starting to click. I’m buying collard greens instead of Chinese broccoli, and experimenting with field peas and other new-to-me Southern ingredients. It’s fun. And we need it, because dang it’s hard to eat out and still eat healthy here.

Green Grits // Eat Your Greens

Thankfully, it is easy to find beautiful local produce, along with locally- and sustainably-produced milk, eggs, meat and seafood, which makes eating in and eating well a lot easier. (And a lot cheaper than in LA!) So I’ve been playing around a bit in the kitchen, using NOLA ingredients with an LA mindset. Thus, green grits were born.

In my quest to both pump up traditionally heavy, dairy-laden dishes with vegetables and avoid making extra side dishes on tired weeknights, I am always trying to cram enough veggies into grain dishes to make them count as a full serving of green. (Or orange: this butternut squash barley risotto is a favorite.) I’ve discovered a love of grits here, but the usual restaurant treatment of equal parts butter and cheese isn’t the only way to love them. This super-green version blends in a bunch of hearty winter greens and a bit of green onion for a savory porridge that tastes just as good with breakfast eggs as it does with a soupy scoop of beans or braised beef shank for dinner.

Green Grits // Eat Your Greens

This is also a very flexible recipe. I like to go full-blast with an entire bunch of collard greens or kale, but if you or those you are feeding don’t love greens, you may be better off with using a milder green like spinach, or using a smaller amount of greens. (Rob admitted to me he found the collard greens version of these grits too bitter. Fine! More for me!) For a slightly richer flavor, you can also stir in a handful of shredded cheese at the end.

Welcome to my world of Southern California cooking in the South. Things aren’t very authentic here, but they taste pretty good — and make you feel a little better about that fried shrimp po-boy for lunch. { read more }

Goodbye, L.A. Hello, LA

Goodbye, L.A. Hello, LA // Eat Your Greens

Oh, hello. It’s been awhile.

If you’ve done the pregnancy math, you’ll know that I had a baby in early June — a son! my beautiful boy — which would be reason enough for a blog hiatus. But then life turned upside-down a couple more times when, hilariously and improbably, five weeks after our baby was born Rob booked a part as a series regular on a spin-off of the most popular TV drama on the planet. A show that shoots in New Orleans. That needed him to be in New Orleans by the end of that week. For an indefinite amount of time.

For the next six weeks, I was alone with a newborn, a dog, a cat, an apartment that needed to be packed up and moved across the country, and my spinning, exhausted mind. It was without a doubt the most confusing six weeks of my life, full of gut-wrenching loneliness and terror, but also a huge, blinding love for my new son, as well as for my family and friends, who went all in and helped me in a thousand big and small ways that I will remember and feel grateful for to my dying day.

Somehow I survived. And now I live in New Orleans. It’s been three weeks and our new life still doesn’t quite feel real.

NOLA eating at The Company Burger

NOLA eating at The Company Burger

After this summer’s kick in the throat, I’m very slowly getting back into the kitchen, feeling creaky and uncertain, but glad to be there. I miss my bountiful California farmers market and restaurant menus with plenty of veggie options, but I’m also excited to be living in a city with such a vibrant food culture and looking forward to soaking it in, one buttery, bready, blackened bite at a time.

So look for the return of recipes soon, and in the meantime if you have any recommendations for places to eat, shop for ingredients or just check out in NOLA, let me know!

Reunited!

Reunited!

Thai-Style Roasted Kabocha Squash with Crispy Shallots

Thai-Style Roasted Kabocha Squash with Crispy Shallots from Eat Your Greens

First of all, thank you for all your kind comments in response to my big news! It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks as I traveled to Columbus, OH to spend a week brainstorming and cooking and geeking out on kitchen minutiae with my fellow editors at The Kitchn on our annual retreat, then on to Massachusetts to spend some time with Rob’s family. We got home just in time for me to start the new school semester on the same day that we found out another piece of big news: we’re having a boy!

Despite my return to the time-crunch of balancing work and school, I’ve been motivated to cook a lot since getting back to town. My diet always goes out of whack when I travel and there is no better reset button than a solid week of home-cooked, veggie-heavy meals. I like making big batches of roasted vegetables that I can eat throughout the week as a snack or alongside a sandwich at lunch or a quick omelet at dinner.

Thai-Style Roasted Kabocha Squash with Crispy Shallots from Eat Your Greens

But plain roasted veggies need a little jazzing up once in awhile. Last winter I was all about tossing them with my favorite miso-lime dressing, but this year my new obsession is eating them “Thai-style,” flecked with crispy shallots that roast alongside the vegetables, dressed with a combination of citrus, rice vinegar and funky fish sauce, and tossed with a big handful of cilantro.

Thai-Style Roasted Kabocha Squash with Crispy Shallots from Eat Your Greens

I was inspired by a roasted potato dish I tried at Forage, one of my favorite local spots, and while the original was freaking delicious, there is no need to confine yourself to white potatoes. Or kabocha squash, for that matter — it’s just what I happened to have on hand. I’ve tried this recipe with cauliflower, brussels sprouts and other winter squash like butternut as well, and all are tasty. (Cauliflower is especially good.)

Bonus tip: here’s why I use my ugliest, gnarliest baking sheet to roast vegetables — and why you should too!

Let me be clear: this is not actually related to any Thai dish that I know of, but the flavors are particularly Southeast Asian, in that bright umami way that brings a little sunshine into even the darkest winter weather. We’re doing all right in the sunshine department here in Southern California, but if you live somewhere that could use some light, see if this recipe helps you dream of warmer days.

{ read more }

A Surprise Pomelo and Some Big News

2014_01_06-PinkPomelo

This was supposed to be a post about prepping pomelo to eat as a healthy snack in the winter, inspired by my mom and stepdad, who are living in Shanghai and probably snacking on peeled pomelo at this very moment.

This was supposed to be a post about pomelo and also about my big news.

Except that when I cut into the giant citrus that was sold to me at the farmers market as pomelo, it turned out not to be the usual white pomelo I was expecting, but some type of pink pomelo. Pomelo flesh is usually sweet, yellow and dry-ish, so it is easy to separate into segments and store in a container in the fridge for snacking throughout the week. This pink specimen was juicy and drippy, so separating the flesh was a messy, ugly business that I took care of over the sink, eating almost the whole thing as I did. It was nothing to post about; it wasn’t pretty, though it was delicious. { read more }

Warm Rye Berry, Roasted Pumpkin & Kale Salad with Miso-Maple Dressing

Warm Rye Berry, Roasted Pumpkin & Kale Salad from Eat Your Greens

I thought I knew the quick and healthy weeknight meal game. It involved some extra work on the weekends, making beans in the slow cooker and freezing them. Or making a big batch of brown rice or other whole grains and freezing them in portions. I had healthy, long-cooking ingredients ready to go on even the busiest night.

And then I got a pressure cooker. And it has changed the game.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent most of your life picturing a rattling pot suddenly exploding its contents over the ceiling whenever you heard the words pressure cooker. But the truth is that modern pressure cookers are a lot safer and quieter than those of the past, and cooks around the world use them to safely and reliable cook ingredients that would normally take hours in a matter of minutes.

Warm Rye Berry, Roasted Pumpkin & Kale Salad from Eat Your Greens

Still not convinced? I can cook perfect brown rice in 20 minutes. I can cook (soaked) dry beans in 12 minutes. TWELVE MINUTES.

I might have never had my eyes opened to the wonders of a pressure cooker if I hadn’t received one to review for The Kitchn, but now I’m such a convert, I’m immediately buying another should the company request that I return theirs. (It happens sometimes.) In the meantime, I’m cooking with it as often as I can, finally digging into some of the beans and grains that have been languishing in my cupboard because I wasn’t ready to commit to their long cooking times.

Like these rye berries, which I bought on a whim at Whole Foods. (You know about my whole grain hoarding problem.) Wheat berries, rye berries and other whole grains like this typically take at least an hour of simmering to become chewy and edible. In the pressure cooker, they took 22 minutes.

Warm Rye Berry, Roasted Pumpkin & Kale Salad from Eat Your Greens

While the rye berries cooked, I roasted some cubes of pumpkin and washed half a bunch of kale. Yellow miso paste, rice vinegar, walnut oil and a little maple syrup combined into a salty-sweet dressing that soaked into all warm grains and vegetables, making a hearty salad with a lot of different textures to enjoy: soft squash, chewy rye berries and the crunch of chopped almonds.

Even if you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can just cook the grains in a regular pot on the stove, or you can substitute a quicker-cooking grain like pearl barley. This salad tastes even better the longer it sits, so the leftovers are perfect for lunch the next day.

And someone had better warn Rob…I think I might be falling in love with my pressure cooker. { read more }