Starting Off the New Year… 8 Days Late

Decreasing procrastination is a lost and dusty cause on my list of New Year’s Resolutions, which reveals itself below as an amalgamation of annually recycled vows and a few new ones to freshen things up. I don’t feel bad about being eight days late for a number of reasons, a notable one being that on a recent work trip I survived America’s own autobahn.  Have you ever traversed the roads outside of downtown Detroit?  Along with a rich automobile culture, the residents seem to possess the innate knowledge of how to cross five lanes of traffic cruising at an easy 90 MPH to reach a left lane exit within 4.67 seconds. I thought I’d been exposed to a lot in New York drivers (aggressive, offensive, but reasonable), Boston drivers (aggressive, offensive, reverses down one-ways, entirely unreasonable), and suburbs of Philadelphia drivers (distracted, SUVs, meandering). Everywhere else I’ve been didn’t really seem to have its own breed. But Detroit, you proved me wrong.  Not only can your residents drive, but they can drive well at ridiculously high speeds.  And they aren’t all on cell phones. So hats off, and thanks for your patience when my rented Chevy Aveo could’t push past 60 without shaking.

For the resolutions, the main impetus behind posting them is to be held accountable. Usually they end up scribbled on the back page of an old notebook which I come across in late September of that year, sheepish but unsurprised 1.5 to 2 of them saw accomplishment. But now here they are, in electronic black and white. The pursuit of this year’s resolutions will hopefully spur additional posts that at least one of two of my sisters (are you still reading? Please still be reading!) will find interesting.

2012 New Years Resolutions
More greens, grains, fish oil, yoga (or at least consistent stretching)
Find a charity we really like and learn about/support it
Get through the documentary list on Netflix
Take advantage of the gym’s group classes and also learn how to do a proper squat
Re-grout the tub (this has been needed for so long it definitely makes the list)
Make a suitable sourdough starter
Make sauerkraut
Make and age some cheese
More live music (these gentlemen look promising)
Buy a lemon tree and bring it to fruition (haHA!)
Plan our trip to Italy
Get clothing tailored
Write letters instead of e-mails where applicable
Other stuff
Other stuff
Other stuff
…Decrease procrastination

TGIF, Lidia Bastianich – Bread & Cabbage Soup

Growing up without cable made for a lot of pop culture miss-outs and PBS-watching. We still had TGIF, obviously, but unless mom and dad were out, we weren’t allowed to watch Perfect Strangers (too…uh…sexy?), Step by Step (divorce!!!), and some episodes of Dinosaurs (the demanding baby, I think, and the episode where the teenage son does drugs. Oh, and the tarpit). I’d like to say I was uninfluenced by my childhood TV watching, but seeing as how I now work in documentary film, it’s clear at least some of the PBS stuff seeped in.  Guess my parents were smarter than I thought at the time.

We still don’t have cable, and despite missing the occasional sports game or Food Network marathon, don’t really miss it. Matt hooked up a MacMini to the TV screen, so Netflix gets us movies and documentaries, Hulu gets us TV shows, and iTunes fills in any gaps.  But every now and then, when an open Saturday morning or afternoon presents itself, I’ll flip over to our basic TV and hope for the best.

Oh baby, just gimme a smorgasbord of Jacques and Julia, flirting like crazy despite the age difference, a dusting of the eternally stuffy-nosed Simply Ming, a tantalizing hint of Rick Steves washing his underwear in a sink in some German hostel, and the maraschino cherry on top – Lidia Bastianich, lording over her kitchen and her cooking guests with Italian grandmama pride – I’ll be in commercial-free bliss for hours.

Last year Lidia treated us to this heavy gem, and it’s become an annual tradition to make it when the temperatures dip. If you can catch the episode, do watch it, and shout like we did as she adds more cheese, more bread??, MORE cheese???!?, more broth?, even MORE CHEESE?!.  The book recipe is marginally less decadent, but regardless, it’s a warm, cheesy, broth-y, filling dish where you pack on one layer of food-comfort after another.

Gallurese Bread & Cabbage Soup
Recipe from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy 

Approximately 12 slices whole-wheat country bread, cut 1/2 inch thick
Small head of Savoy cabbage
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound chunk mild provolone (she says not aged, but we mixed mild and aged at a ratio of 3:1, and it was good. We also didn’t use a full pound…)
1 tablespoon soft butter for the baking dish
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino
4 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toast slices of bread in the preheating oven, turning them when one side starts to brown. When they are fully toasted, remove from oven and set aside.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Slice the cabbage head in half, cut out the core completely. Discard all rough and torn outer leaves, lay the cabbage cut side down, and slice crosswise into 1-inch strips.  Drop these into the boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Pour into colander, rinse with cool water, and then put in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt and olive oil. Toss.

Slice the chunk of provolone into slabs about 1/3 inch thick. Butter the sides and bottom of a large baking dish.

Assemble the casserole: layer bread slices at the bottom, trimming the pieces as needed to fit snugly and fill any gaps. Spread half the cabbage strips in a layer over the bread. Lay the provolone slabs on top of the cabbage in one layer. Sprinkle on half the grated cheese. Next, layer the remaining cabbage, and top with the remaining bread.

Press down gently on the layers with your palm to compress them. Slowly pour the stock all over the bread and down the insides of the pan, so everything is moistened. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese over the top.

Cover the dish with a tented layer of foil so it doesn’t touch the surface of the food, put the casserole dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue baking until the top of the casserole is golden brown.

Serve hot.

The Ubiquitous Olive Oil Granola, Twisted!

I’m not going to say that if you haven’t either heard of, read about, tasted, or made Melissa Clark’s Olive Oil Granola that you’re living under a rock.  I’ll let Geico do it for me. (Just replace the lizard in the sign with a huge bowl of granola atop a folded and coffee-ringed slab of the New York Times).


First off, welcome to civilization, rock people!  There are a few things you should know:
1. Avoid Netflix and Facebook for a little while. They’re in some sort of awkward, out-of-touch-with-their-consumer-base stage.
2. Food costs are on the rise. Fears of  meat prices climbing to 30% more per pound mean back to roots and berries.  If you aren’t already, it’s high time to jump on the meatless Monday train (or meatless Weekday train if you’re us. A subject for another post).
3. REM broke up this week, which I guess would be especially newsworthy if it happened in the late ’90s.
4. Make this granola.

We made it, initially skeptical of all the rave reviews, and were happily shocked to learn that olive oil + cardamom + some oven time = butter.  This stuff tastes liked you toasted all the ingredients and then tossed them in just the right amount of the best salted butter you could find.

Three batches later, and we’ve got our favorite version down – quite similar to the original, but with a few twists. It’s usually hard to part with even a crumb, but my youngest sister M, a freshman in college, is going to benefit from our fourth batch. It’s in a totally magnificent care package en route to her in Ohio.

Olive Oil Granola
(Recipe from Melissa Clark’s version in the New York Times)

3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chopped almonds (and/or mix of pecans, hulled pistachios)
1 1/2 cups coconut chips (don’t skimp on these!)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (or split the difference between brown sugar and honey)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup chia seeds (optional but worth it)
1/4 cup millet (also optional but worth it)
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, coconut chips, maple syrup, molasses, oils, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

2. The second time you take it out of the oven to stir, mix in chia seeds, millet, and apricots. Return to oven and cook 15 more minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

3. Try not to eat it all in one sitting. No accompaniments are needed, but here are some pairing suggestions anyway: yogurt or labneh, ice cream, milk, fruit, whipped cream, pbananas, peanut butter, preserves.

Makes approximately 9 cups.