Presidents' Day Eats

It feels like absolutely forever since I had a day off, all to myself...I actually had time to neaten up the house (that is, neaten those corners that David has designated "Emily piles"), sing my recital rep, and plan a dinner that for once would not be rushed!

My mom gave me a copy of The New Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Kayden sometime last year, and while I've flipped through it quite a bit, I hadn't actually made any recipes out of it. Lately, though, I've been craving healthy cooking, and Moosewood promised me that. I settled on the Onion Soup, a top contender for the Easiest Recipes Ever Award. Anyone can do this one, kids...all you need are 4 large onions (I am in love with Sweet Mayan Yellows right now), a big stockpot and an hour to spare. Throw a couple spices in the mix (thyme and mustard this time around) and some butter to get the onions started and you're golden. I must admit to being a little underwhelmed as I began this dish--could 4 cups of water really replace beef stock sufficiently? But after those onions sat in the stockpot for 40 minutes, soaking in their own 'juices' so to speak, they were as tender as overcooked spaghetti, and smelled just heavenly. Pay the onions minimal attention, with just the occasional stir to ensure they don't stick to the pan, and you will wind up with a really simple and delicious soup. 

I had some ciabatta bread left over from the weekend, which I sliced into four small pieces, brushed with crushed garlic and olive oil, and stuck in the toaster oven for about 9 minutes at 350 degrees. I plopped the slices into the soup and laid a thin piece of Swiss cheese over each serving. Let me tell you, that beef broth was not missed one bit.

To go with our soup, I decided to finally test out my new panini press, which has been gathering dust since I received it for Christmas. I had some sliced sourdough bread, on which I added a spread of goat cheese, artichoke hearts, chives,crushed garlic, jalapeno, rosemary and thyme (next time I may leave out the last two and substitute other things--it was a little too woodsy for me); on top of that was some thinly sliced oven roasted turkey breast. I added some balsamic to my oil and garlic spread (I love garlic-sue me) and brushed this onto both sides of the sandwiches. I grilled the sandwiches for about 5 minutes, and they were pretty much perfect. 

NOTE: Some people may still wonder how practical it is to use panini presses, or for that matter, Foreman grills, considering how difficult it is to clean up the insides afterwards. It is for that reason I ALWAYS use aluminum foil, sprayed, as protection for anything cooked in those types of appliances. Trust me, it works exactly the same, and you'll still get those neat grill marks, but without the clean-up hassle afterwards!

To end this cozy comfort foods dinner, I made something else I had been dying to try out from scratch: rice pudding! Using some of our new cookware, I was able to begin the pudding (using Arborio, or risotto, rice for extra thick-and-gooeyness) on top of the stove and move it into the oven to bake using THE SAME PAN. Yeah, yeah, I know, big deal, but it's new for ME. And therefore awesome.  

Want to top off your own cozy evening at home? Try this simple recipe for yourself! I put a couple of personal touches on it--some lemon zest along with the spices, with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and blueberries on top! 


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