Thursday, January 29, 2009

Expect the unexpected.

There are things that I love that I don't expect my food-loving kids to like.  Mussels for example.  I can't get enough of them, and yet when I think of feeding them to the boys, the voice of my former roommate springs to mind. "They taste like zoo," she said, whatever that means.  All I know is it wasn't a good thing.  Still, there are times when I decide to make something that isn't kid friendly just because I want to eat it.  Tonight was one of those night.   Mmmmmmm, mussels.

Then something freaky happened.  They liked them. No, scratch that, they loved them.  They each ate them as quickly as I could take them from their shells and put them on their plate.  After a bit they cut out the middle man and started eating them from the shell on their own.  A hit, I tell you.  Which is good and bad.  Bad because they ate up a giant portion of the mussels I had planned to devour, and good because now I can make them whenever I wish with the full support of the tiny dictators.  

Mussels that Don't Taste Like Zoo
(serves two adults as a meal, or 4 people as a starter)
2 lbs fresh mussels (in the shell, only live ones, cleaned and de-bearded)
1 large leek, cleaned and chopped into medium sized pieces
3 medium shallots, chopped
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup cream sherry
1 cup heavy cream
salt to taste

In a big pot melt your butter.  Saute the chopped leeks and shallots until they are soft and taste slightly sweet.  Add the sherry and simmer for about a minute.  Add the cream and bring the mixture to a boil.  Dump in the mussels, cover and let cook until the mussels open.  It only takes a few minutes.

Serve in a bowl with a nice portion of the sauce from the pot and a nice hunk of bread to sop it up.

I served it with a simple salad of baby greens tossed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and kosher salt.  You can make the whole dinner in about 15 minutes.  And it's fancy enough for dinner guests.  Take that time management issues!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dinner in seven minutes flat.

Sometimes I just don't feel like cooking. And sometimes I don't even feel like eating. But even when stress has the best of my appetite and my culinary skills are taking a night off, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. And they're tasty tricks according to the boys.

One of the current favorites is made with favorite items of the boys, but things that I don't eat. Ham and peas. I hate them both. And yet, because they are loved by all of the Argilla men, we always have them on hand. I threw this little combination together one night I was going out and it has been a frequent repeat.

Pasta with things mommy hates.

1 package fresh tortellini (I use the Trader Joe's tortellini cheese or pesto both work and I'm sure any other variety would also be successful, so a package of tortellini, but not the dry kind)
1 cup of frozen peas
1/4 lb. sliced black forest ham (I use sandwich sliced ham because we have it in the house. I don't personally eat ham, but this is what the boys like, so I'm calling out b black forest style. Again, probably any ham would work)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (grate it yourself, that powder in the green can might as well be scouring powder for all the similarity it has to real Parmesan cheese)
2 tbsp butter

Boil your water (ok, this is going to make it longer than 7 minutes, but if you start the timer once the water is boiling, it really comes close). Once the water is boiling, drop the pasta in the water. The Trader Joe's tortellini cooks in 6 minutes if you've frozen it, and I always do. So set your timer for 6 minutes (or whatever time the package of pasta you're using says for cooking time)

Put a frying pan on another burner and melt your butter over medium-high heat. While the butter is melting, slice the ham into strips, about 1/2 inch wide. Fry the ham in the butter until the edges are a bit crispy and brown.

At the 4 minute mark, toss your peas into the pasta water. When the timer goes, drain your pasta and peas. Toss the pasta and peas into your butter and ham mixture and toss to coat. Add the shredded cheese and put it on a plate. You're probably right at the seven minute mark. Awesome, no?

Feed this wonder of modern mother/slacker innovation to your family and relax.