Monday, February 11, 2013

Grilled Cheese


It's funny how there are many lessons our parents teach us without trying.  Growing up around a man who blasted opera in the house every Sunday so loud the neighbors had to shut their windows was  desperately embarrassing.  He always had a song, either whistling or singing in public.  I remember how much this annoyed me as a teenager.  However, these things have a way of rubbing off on a person.  Now singing is a tool I use to calm my nerves or lighten my mood.  It costs absolutely nothing and if I really get into it, I might even get someone to join in.

He also exposed me to the art of making great grilled cheese sandwiches.  It involves a good amount of resourcefulness, finding flavorful treasures, objets trouvĂ©s to tuck inside the sandwich.   You need some zing in the way of a spicy mustard, or something pickled.  Sometimes the best sandwiches, (soups too) come from found objects.  No recipe, no planning, just bits and pieces pulled from the refrigerator. It's about versatility as much as flexibility.

Sometimes it's the unintentional lessons that prove most valuable.

Here is one of my own recent creations.
Here is what I used to make 2 extraordinary sandwiches:

4 slices of the best sourdough bread you can find (or make)
1 zucchini, sliced thinly lengthwise
4 shallots, sliced thinly
6 slices smoked turkey or ham (substitute extra vegetables if you don't eat deli meats.)
2 cheeses -  I suggest Parano, Gouda or Emmentaler for one and a harder cheese like parmesan for the second cheese.

Red pepper relish  (takes about 25 minutes to make, or you could use store bought) Alternately you could use a pesto or mustard.

Grill the zucchini slices on a grill pan, under the broiler or on an outdoor grill if you have access to one.
Saute the sliced shallots in olive oil until very soft.  Stir them frequently for about ten minutes.
Build your sandwiches by layering the ingredients on one side of the bread- relish, zucchini, turkey, shallots, one of the cheeses.  Grill the sandwiches on a grill pan or a frying pan (add butter to one side of the bread) and then transfer them to a baking sheet.  Grate the second cheese on top of the sandwich and finish in the oven at 375 for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

pumpkin quinoa muffins

We live in a time of so many choices.  What to do with our days, our lives, who we want to be, what we stand for.  As a little girl, even into my twenties, I dreamt of notoriety.  As a ten year old, I signed my diary entries with a grand flourish, convinced that one day the world would read them when I  became a famous dancer.  I declared that I'd never have kids because I would be too busy as a diva on the stages Europe. 

These are just muffins, but to me, they represent a lot more.  You see, the diva in me would probably have had a staff in charge of menial daily chores.  But I could never give up certain things for the sake of an "easier" life.  The hard worker in me thrives on stirring up a batch of the granola that Roman loves, whipping up some of his favorite multigrain pear waffles for second breakfast, and so on for lunch and dinner.  In between there is laundry and there are always dishes to be done.  

I know I've grown up because I'm grateful for my life as it is.  I feel settled and no longer need the attention I once craved.  There is order, calm and purpose in caring for other people- something I never would have understood as a younger person.  I'm just living.  Trying to help my people thrive and grow.  Modest tasks.  And for now, this is how I go on, one snack at a time.

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup cooked Quinoa
2 large eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin (unsweetened)
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 cup raw shelled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Preheat the oven to 400.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, salt.  Stir well with a whisk.  Add the cooked and cooled quinoa and stir with a whisk or fork to break up any clusters. 

In a measuring cup, beat the two eggs and add to the flour mixture. Measure out the buttermilk and combine it with the pumpkin, adding this to the large bowl.  Add the melted butter and the vanilla if using.  

Fill 12 muffin tins (grease them or use muffin liner cups if needed) about 3/4 of the way and sprinkle each muffin with pumpkin seeds.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool them in the tins for about ten minutes before turning them out to cool completely on a rack.  These muffins freeze well.

* To cook quinoa, rinse one cup of dry quinoa well using a fine mesh strainer.  Boil 2 cups of water, then add the quinoa, cover the pot and simmer for 12 minutes.  Remove from heat and leave the cover on the pot for another 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.  
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