Separate but Unequal

October 15th, 2010 · 14 Comments · Dinner, Pasta, Picky Eating, Vegetarian

I knew what I wanted for dinner yesterday before I had even taken a sip of my morning coffee. It was going to be that beautiful fusilli with chard and crunchy breadcrumbs that accompanied Melissa Clark’s story in the Times about whole wheat pasta. I didn’t have any fusilli — but I had some whole wheat rigatoni, and chard, and onions and…hey look at that!…I had some thyme and goat cheese and mushrooms, too! With the addition of each new ingredient to the pot, though, I was not only getting further away from Melissa’s recipe, I was getting further away a meal I could expect my children to eat no-questions-asked*. So just before I dolloped a hunk of very un-extractable goat cheese into the hot pasta, a point-of-no-return move if there ever was one, I made a decision: The kids are eating something else tonight. Tonight, I just need to cook my dinner the way I want to cook my dinner, and I want to eat my dinner the way I want to eat my dinner. The family has sat down to roughly the same meal for, what, about four straight nights now? Plus, I volunteered at school today and sent out Abby’s birthday invitations! Surely these noble deeds qualified me for some kind of kickback? So Andy and I had our special earthy, herby pasta and the kids had their Trader Joe’s chicken taquitos from the freezer. And the sun still rose from the east in the morning.

*in my house, mushrooms + goat cheese is asking a lot

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What We Can Learn From a Cast Iron Pan

June 29th, 2010 · 10 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Vegetarian

I bought this Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron skillet about seven years ago after writing a story for Real Simple about pots and pans. The 8-inch skillet costs only 17 bucks, is naturally nonstick, moves easily from stovetop to oven, has been the site of untold thousands of pancake and French toast fry-ups, and, not least, is always good for conjuring up images of Ma Ingalls in my 21st-century kitchen.

But what really sold me on the pan were the Use & Care instructions in the pamphlet. I’m paraphrasing: Wash only with hot water. Do not use abrasive sponges or cleansers. You never want to clean a cast iron pan too well. The fat and the flavor left in the pan helps it build a naturally nonstick surface.

Can I tell you how much I love Use & Care instructions that reward laziness? It’s like braising a pork shoulder — the longer you ignore the hunk of meat simmering away in that pot, the more the pork will melt off the bone. And — here’s a leap — dare I say, it’s like summer parenting? Doesn’t too much engagement with the kids, too much cruise-directing, too much kneeling on the floor and playing horsie, too much chauffeuring from camp to camp, too much playdate-planning and organizing and in general too much supermomming make for enabled, dependent, unimaginative children? Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. (more…)

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