My farmers’ market trip last week fell on the same day as our big Passover Seder, so I had nothing planned and knew only that I needed parsley for the ceremony. You dip it in salt water to remind you of the tears Jews shed when they were enslaved, which is really very poignant, but also, let’s face it, delicious. Anyway, with no plan I walked away with a really random assortment. Leeks, romaine, parsley, dill, carrots, strawberries, and not one but two ground pork products. Needless to say we don’t keep kosher! Here’s what I did with it.
Barley Fried “Rice” with Ginger and Garlic. My very favorite use for leeks is this totally elegant and also super easy fried rice. You’re supposed to top this with a fried egg, which is sublime, of course, but I used every last one we had for Passover.
If you are wondering why I use so much barley, here’s why: I’m neurotic. I read a report a few months ago from Consumer Reports about arsenic levels in rice (all rice! Organic white rice too!) and it freaked me out. Rice is just uniquely great and soaking up arsenic from the soil and CR recommends that you really shouldn’t eat more than one serving a week. I read this at a time when Henry was eating probably 4 or 5 servings a week- it’s absolutely his favorite food. The report warned that inorganic arsenic builds up in your body, so if little kids are eating tons of rice every week for years, they’ll be at higher risk for cancers and all sorts of horrible things. This prompted me to diversify the grains I cook with. The report lists farro, barley, millet, bulger, and others as having low arsenic levels, and so I’ve been using them all more frequently. None have come as close to rice though in Henry-satisfaction as the pearled barley. It’s pretty much like bigger, chewier rice. Now, I know that if you drill down into pretty much any ingredient in your pantry you’ll learn that it’ll give you cancer or kill you in some other ghastly fashion, but it just makes sense to me to try to diversify the foods that we eat, and this switch has not been a big deal. We still eat rice every once in a while, but this feels like a permanent change in my cooking. Here’s the article, if you’re similarly neurotic. If you’re neurotic but also lazy, the takeaway is to not eat brown rice very often, and to avoid rice grown in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas if at all possible. White basmati rice from California or India is best.
Sweet Potatoes with Orange Bitters. Caesar Salad. The sweet potatoes were good, really good, but I can’t say I noticed the bitters- they just tasted sweet and roasty to me. I loved the soft roasted garlic with them though, which is a great and easy addition to any pan of roasted root vegetables. The salad is great, and easy, but it really helps to have an immersion blender. You can get one for 20 bucks and you’ll be so glad you did. If you get one, make this soup, and also this mayonnaise, both perfectly wonderful.
Sweet and Smoky Beet Burgers. Charoset Tabbouleh. I love these beet burgers. They’re topped with thick yogurt and a mound of dill, and a tomato/cucumber salad too if you’ve got the time. They’re a bit of a production though- they call for cooked lentils and also cooked rice as ingredients, which adds to the prep time. Because I had neither of these things I cooked bulger wheat to replace the rice and used half a jar of black beans I had in the fridge instead of the lentils- the burgers were still great. I used the rest of the bulger to make a tabbouleh-esque thing with the leftover Passover parsley and mint from the garden. Instead of the tomatoes and pomegranates called for in the recipe, I mixed in some charoset leftover from Passover, which is a combination of dates, apples, nuts, pomegranate mollasses, and honey. It was so so good in tabbouleh.
Old School Swedish Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes and Lingonberry Jam. Easily the best meal (and worst picture!) of the week. If you love meatballs, you’ve gotta make these. I use all pork for my meatballs because they’re more tender and fatty that way, two things I prefer. Henry ate 9 (9!) of them, and has been begging for more, so I’m making them again as part of our Norway dinner this week. Also, you mix sour cream into the gravy- isn’t that the greatest thing you’ve ever heard?
Coconut Cream Pie. Andy’s requested birthday dessert. This recipe is fun because you make your own sweetened moist coconut from shredded dry unsweetened coconut, and the result is really flavorful. I found the pastry cream to be a bit thick, but it’s entirely possible I cooked it too long. I love that you use the last 1/4 cup of the coconut milk can in the whipped cream- it really does make a difference in the taste. For the crust I tried the technique cited here, where you replace the water in the crust with vodka, but for me the result was a far denser, not flakier crust. The pie gods were just against me on Friday.
Hot Dogs. Potato Chips. Whiskey and Coke. Paper Plate. Andy’s requested birthday dinner and oh boy did he love it. Andy eats everything I make, happily and gratefully, but if things were up to him I think he’d be just as happy with a constant rotation of grilled cheese, hot dogs, and party pizzas, and he’d have an order of magnitude fewer dishes to wash! He’s such a good guy ❤
Next week: A Norweigan dinner (with, ahem, Swedish meatballs. But also lefse!), soy saucy chicken and eggs, fried fish tacos, and more.