Has it been a week? King Cake, pasta, salad, Nutmeg

It has just occurred to me that I've not slept through the night since January 19, and even then, I was tired. Politics, the March, our kitchen, Nutmeg, various ailments racing through our house and community...I am so tired that today I watched a hilarious skit featuring Seth Meyers (SNL, The Late Show, and a former college-mate of mine) and Kelly Clarkson day-drinking and immediately wondered if I was drunk without my own knowledge.

I am that tired.

So, I have little for you except some recent kitchen wins and a kitchen update and an enormous spot of gratitude for hot tea and the fact that my in-laws have the boys tonight. Praise whomever for local grandparents being a fact of my life.

It's Mardi Gras season, y'all, and so, King Cake. This one was for Jack's family culture evening at school. Although we will have no kitchen starting Tuesday, I have promised cakes for both boys' classes on Mardi Gras Day. Hmm. As usual, I use Southern Living's Traditional King Cake recipe but I do NOT add the lemon juice to the icing. 


Last night: pasta with Brussels sprouts, speck, and parm. Amen for good carbs on cold nights. Also, it has a distinctly Mardi Gras feel, which I love. 


Lastly, a gorgeous winter salad of shaved fennel, avocado, pomelo, roasted and salted pistachios, shaved manchego, salt, pepper, basil olive oil, and blackberry balsamic. Is this not just glorious? It tasted as good!


The Nut acts as if he were never injured, and mercifully, our kitchen renovation finally commences on Tuesday with demolition day 1. If I could take the first swipe at it all, I would. Maybe I'll ask. I mean, this stupid Nunes memo nonsense has made my blood boil, so perhaps the crew wants a lady eager to crank through some cortisol via sledge hammer?!

Our new range -a stunning charcoal gray beauty from Lacanche via France- arrived last Monday. I have nicknamed her Gal Gadot because she is not only stunning but also strong and charismatic. She will anchor our new kitchen, but many other beautiful treasures will complete the room. I'll keep you posted, but here's a sneak peek of Gal. 

As an aside, why is not all language written in the beautiful scripts of Europe? Just look at those handwritten letters and numbers on the crate. Mon dieu. 

Meatless Monday quinoa and carrots

When T and I were in NY whenever that was -2 weeks?- our first meal was a lovely lunch at Gramercy Tavern, the fabulous, storied Danny Meyer establishment near Union Square. Our first meal there, several years ago, was 5 Stars in every way: service; food; wine; memories that have stuck. This recent lunch was less OHMYGOSH but nonetheless lovely. I had a glass of vespaiolo, an Italian white from the Veneto, we shared a warm lobster and potato salad to start and for my main I ordered the grilled carrots with quinoa, pistachios and cremant, a delicious little cheese from Vermont. The uniqueness of the latter dish really made an impression on me, and I've been meaning to try and recreate it since we returned home. Yesterday at the farmers market, I picked up some gorgeous young carrots. This evening in my pantry I saw some red quinoa. And it was off to the races of re-creation. I'd forgotten both that Gramercy's carrots were grilled and that pistachios were involved in the dish; funny enough, I spur-of-the-moment added a handful of the beautiful green nuts, lightly crushed, to my dish tonight. Must have been a sense-memory. And I went with a gentle roast of the carrots because I wanted to concentrate the flavor but retain a definite need for a knife.

Gramercy's carrots had the most delightful shellacking of honey so I started with a combo of olive oil and orange blossom honey for my cooking glaze. In addition, I added the zest of a half orange, a generous sprinkle of kosher salt and some white pepper. Nearly a half hour in the oven, and you could just easily pierce them partway through with a knife: done!

In the meantime, I'd cooked the red quinoa in some vegetable broth, letting it steam off heat towards the end. Currently, I find myself obsessed with fresh thyme so made a garlic-olive oil-thyme pistou to drizzle over the finished dish and then considered the pistachios.

Lastly, Gramercy's quinoa had a wonderful risotto-like creaminess and so to mimic that, I whisked some crème fraîche with the cooking liquid left in the pan and then stirred that into my steamed baby Saturns (have you noticed just how much cooked quinoa resembles a bunch of ringed planets?!). Even T, skeptical vegetarian he is forced to be on Mondays, truly enjoyed this dish.


And as our side, baked ricotta smeared with radicchio jam from that insanely appealing Italian shop I went wild in in NYC.


Quinoa marvelousness

Quinoa is one of my all-time favorite grains. That fact that it's hailed as a superfood makes it all the better, but I'd love it still even if it didn't enjoy such a vaunted health status. This morning, a number of my girlfriends came over for a wonderfully fun morning of breakfast, tea and laughter. After a couple hours, I realized I needed to get hopping on tonight's dinner for the Grands and so set a pot of water to boil for my favorite summer quinoa salad. A good thing I did because shortly thereafter, I lost all power in my home; at that point I gave another great thanks for my gas stove. But back to the salad. The Grands have each got a hell of a palate, so I generally make for them what I'm also going to be making for us. I do think they'll love this fruity-grainy-zippy concoction as much as I do. Right now, I'm devouring my own portion for lunch.

quinoa with apricots, pistachios and mirin-lime vinaigrette

Just after the quinoa is done cooking, I drain and then tip it into a glass bowl. Immediately, I toss in dried apricots, raisins and roasted pistachios, mint, scallions, and parsley and cilantro if I've got them. The vinaigrette is comprised of lime juice and zest, olive oil, some of the cooking liquid from the quinoa, a host of spices (cumin, coriander, paprika), jalapeño (or, in a pinch, cayenne), mirin (in a pinch, seasoned rice vinegar + agave syrup) and a few other tidbits of taste. I love this dish because it's portable, can be made ahead, is easily doubled, can be served room temp or cold, is forgiving, is simple and just rocks my taste buds. This is an awesome salad to accompany BBQs and picnics, and it is perfect for the quickly-approaching 4th of July!