Polenta with Decadent Mushrooms

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Remember when I wrote last week about being so inspired by recipes in magazines? It happened again, all because of the glorious picture I’ve posted above. The recipe, once you look at it closely, is nothing fancy or complicated at all. Polenta, made a little richer with milk rather than all water. Mushrooms, both fresh and dried, sautéed with an extra hit of butter, soy sauce, and cream — just a tablespoon of each, but that makes all the difference between a meager sauté and something a bit more special to cook for your family.

Unless, of course, your family includes people who cry at the sight of sautéed mushrooms, don’t like anything mushy, and shy away from salt.

My first step was biding my time, waiting until the mushroom-loathing eight-year-old was out (at a basketball game with his dad and grandfather, who would have loved the dinner, but tough; I had a recipe to try and I was getting impatient). Step two was selling the no-mush twelve-year-old on the idea of broadening his palate to consider new textures, not just the new flavors I am usually peddling. As for the salt, to which my mother is acutely sensitive; well, I hoped the single tablespoon of soy sauce wouldn’t be too much, but it concentrates so much as it cooks down, I needed to thin the sauce with extra mushroom-soaking water. It’s a little less decadent that way, but she liked it. The twelve-year-old liked it. And I, sitting at the table with them, talking and eating, I didn’t really care what it tasted like…but I liked it, too.

image source

Tortillas

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I have over a hundred cookbooks, but there’s something so enticing about a recipe in a magazine. It’s beautifully photographed. It’s alone — not buried in a book full of other recipes — and yet often accompanied by recipes to make a whole meal. And did I mention the beautiful photography?

I tear recipes out of magazines all the time. I don’t even (currently) subscribe to any food magazines, but they come in the New York Times magazine section and other less likely sources. They accumulate on a particular spot on the kitchen counter until I gather them up and rest them above the cookbooks on the kitchen shelf (I don’t put them into my binder of torn-and-saved recipes until I have tested them.) When I grab a cookbook off the shelf, the loose recipes often tumble off the shelf, floating down to the floor like so many onion skins. Periodically, I sort through them and wonder what seemed so special about pasta with walnut-parsley pesto, anyway? (Probably the photograph).

But recently I went from tearing to testing very quickly, and have now made Mark Bittman’s easy tortilla recipe so many times, I know it by heart. We keep a lump of dough in the breadbox, and Eli smooshes some out every morning and makes himself a fresh tortilla for breakfast.

It’s not revolutionary, eating tortillas, but making them by hand is, for us. It turns an everyday element of our weekly dinner routine into something a little more special. It makes us plan ahead a bit (the tortilla dough takes all of five minutes to bring together, but is best if it rests half an hour or so before cooking), and makes us slow down a bit as we roll (or smoosh) and cook. It gets the kids in the kitchen and gives the adults time for a leisurely cocktail before dinner. Win, win, win.

My favorite way to eat them is as I’ve shown above, with some sautéed chard and roasted sweet potatoes, a dollop of guacamole, and a drizzle of salsa.

Now excuse me while I go sort through my recipes and find something to make for dinner…

Blueberry Birthday Pie

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Last year it was Baked Alaska, while the year before it was a more tropical Key Lime pie. One year he asked for a very lemon layer cake and one year he even drew me a diagram of the cake he wanted.

This year, Ben made his decision early and never wavered: blueberry pie for his birthday. Farmers market-shopper that he is, he worried a bit that blueberries aren’t in season right now (and I certainly never told him how much the organic Chilean berries cost me), but his love of berries outweighed thoughts of sustainability, this time.

His younger brother Eli (not a fan of fruit desserts) announced that he would rather eat graham crackers for dessert, but even he wound up eating all the crust of his slice and then giving the blueberry filling to his brother. Win-win.