Over there

There’s now a Cardus staff blog, and along with some of my colleagues, I’ll be posting there once a week or so. So I blogged something very brief about the KJV Bible today. (I also quite frequently post to the Comment Tumblr.)

And speaking of colleagues, Rob and I have a point/counterpoint piece in the May/June Books & Culture on food politics. Some of it may sound familiar if you were in our workshop at Jubilee this February, though it’s more developed here. If you’re a subscriber, you can read it at Books & Culture’s website or in the print edition if it’s shown up in your mailbox. If you’re not a subscriber, well, shame on you. For Christians who want to actually thoughtfully engage with both books and culture with some depth, there is, quite literally, nothing else like it. (So subscribe!)

Mmm, green stuff

I am restricted mainly on this diet by the proportions of protein, carbs, and fat in the food. “In this case, too much protein at one meal is as bad as too much carbs or fat,” my doctor told me, and so I am looking for very precise numbers.

So I’m scouring nutrition facts and doing lots of mental math, and was happy to run across this recipe in January’s Real Simple, which works if I have some added protein. (I modified it slightly because it calls for Parmesan, which I cannot have, and fresh rosemary, which I did not have. I also used a little bit of rice pasta instead of soup pasta because I can’t have gluten. But not much. Very carby.)

I am eating the leftovers right now and dang, it is goooood. The onions and garlic give it excellent flavor.

Kale and White Bean Soup
Adapted from Real Simple, January 2009

Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 8

2 TB olive oil
4 cloves garlic chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 15.5-oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup small soup pasta (4 oz) [I used a very little bit of rice penne.]
1 bunch kale, thick stems discarded and leaves torn into 2-inch pieces (8 cups)
2 TB chopped fresh rosemary [I actually used a little bit of dried thyme, which is not the same thing.]
1/2 c shaved Parmesan (2 oz), plus 1 piece Parmesan rind (optional) [I skipped it.]
1 TB fresh lemon juice [Oops, I skipped this too, but it doesn’t need it.]
1 loaf country bread, warmed [And I cannot have this, but it would be a great accompaniment.]

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, celery, onion, 1 1/2 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the beans, pasta, kale, rosemary, 8 cups water, and the Parmesan rind (if using); cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the pasta and kale are tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the Parmesan rind. Stir in the lemon juice and sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan before serving. Serve with the bread.

Nutrition Facts: per serving (1/8 recipe) – 205 calories; 6g fat; 10g protein; 29g carbs; 5g fiber.

New Year, New Work

We celebrated the New Year sumptuously: games, pizza, and champagne with friends on Thursday night; a long, languid day of delicious food and old friends on Friday; a day spent at the Kandinsky exhibit at the Guggenheim, Cafe Sabarsky, and The Princess and the Frog with friends on Saturday; and church plus our favorite brunch spot on Sunday.

Tom went back to work very early yesterday morning. I worked too, but from home, and only kind of feel like I’m at work this week, since I have only two days in the office. But next week the semester starts, and so I am busily prepping materials for my two classes (one college writing class online, and two sections of the same research writing class in the actual classroom). The spring is a busy time, with several conferences and a lot of projects popping up, and so it’s important to be as organized as possible.

But all that organizing needs a respite, and so I have started recording the movies I watch along with starting the Fifty Two Fifty Two project. I haven’t finished a book yet this year, but I’ve gotten into Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, the 2009 Pulitzer winner, which our book club is discussing next Tuesday, and I’ve read the first two interviews (Dorothy Day and Truman Capote) in the Paris Review Interviews, Volume 1 – which is completely delightful. I tend to read a whole bunch of books at once and finish them all on the same day.

Last: my doctor put me on a fairly restrictive diet because, as it turns out, I have Stage 1 hypertension – nothing to get too worried about, but also something I shouldn’t have at my age. And so I’m off dairy and gluten for a while, and eating a very specific amount of certain things. I found myself re-reading Jenni’s article from Comment a while back.

I’ve become quite in love with cooking and good food in the last year or two, enjoying the cheese counter at the local gourmet market and baking homemade bread, but I can receive these things again when I am well. It is good discipline for me to experience some “fasting” along with my feasting, and I suppose, in that sense, that Father Capon would approve.

After the snow

Well, due to the snow and a few other contributing factors, we did not end up going to Phoenixville yesterday. And, hence, we are in New York today, spending some quiet time at home and at the movies before we plunge into the (good kind of) crazy that is Christmas with my family.

But it’s just as well. After church yesterday, Tom and I walked down through Soho to the wonderful Cafe Gitane, where we feasted on spiced couscous with bits of eggplant, peppers, chicken, and who knows what else, spicy lamb sausage, toast with roasted red peppers, and mulled wine. We came home and spent the evening playing a video game together (fairly rare in this house) and then watching Heartbeat Detector, which was not nearly good as I’d hoped, compounded by the fact that Netflix was streaming it jumpily, and the sound became increasingly disconnected from the visual – not as huge of a deal for a subtitled film, but still annoying. But we ate cheese that we had planned to bring with us to PA and had a lovely time of it.

We are both “off work” for the next two weeks – I’ll be doing some things from outside the office and working on a piece for Paste, and Tom is off, but not getting paid, which makes it a bit less satisfying. We head north on Wednesday and should be back on Monday, mid-day. A much-needed end-of-the-year break.

New York is for Good Food Lovers

One of the things I like most about living in New York is that many people at least pretend to care about what they eat on a daily basis. Brooklyn is locavore central (which may seem ironic if you haven’t been here), but even for those who never cook for themselves, good options are everywhere. All chain restaurants are required by law to put calorie counts next to their food choices (which was a huge shock at first, though I’ve noticed calories going down over the last year – smaller portions?). Every deli seems to have a tossed salad station now, made to order on spinach or mixed greens. Practically every burger joint worth its salt has taken to using grass-fed beef, and proudly proclaims the news on the menu.

But what made me think about this today: I passed one of those little generically Italian pizza joints on University Place, near NYU. They’re ubiquitous and always called “Gino’s” or “Papa Somebody-or-other’s” or “Luigi’s.” Fluorescent lighting, tiny place with room for one line, the sort of place you expect enormous slices of greasy pizza and a can of Pepsi for $1.50.

But outside was a sandwich board proclaiming “We make whole wheat crusts and use organic vegetables!”

Only in New York.

Brunch in September

Since the beginning of 2009, and with only a short break in July and August, we’ve held a roughly-monthly brunch at our apartment on a Sunday afternoon. I cook, and people sometimes bring things, and we’ve had as many as 24 people show up. (Our apartment is a 500-square-foot studio, so that is always cozy.)

Yesterday it was raining out, so the group was smaller but more varied, with about half the people never having been to brunch before. Here’s what I made:
• A crockpot roast. (I got a nine-pound pot roast, browned it briefly in a skillet with a little oil, then put it in the crock pot with two cups of water, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and cooked on high for six hours. It was fabulous.)
• Egg noodles to go with the roast.
• Jamie Oliver’s squash soup (sans croutons, for time’s sake).
• Jamie Oliver’s mushroom bruschetta (though I made lots of substitutions with the herbs because I only had rosemary and sage, and I didn’t make it into a creamy sauce at the end).
• Real Simple’s chickpea bruschetta (totally fabulous and really easy).

I also got a few parbaked baguettes and ciabatta and set out some raspberry peach champagne jam from Stonewall Kitchen and a pear jam from the farmer’s market. I purchased a rather stinky Camembert at Murray’s on my way home. Attendees contributed various wines, Peche Lambic, champagne, yummy cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting, and two tiny fruit pies from Rocco’s.

Cooking for a large crowd isn’t much more difficult than a small one – even if you have severely limited space and modest resources. And people are nearly ecstatic to walk into the apartment and smell a roast. No one makes roast anymore. And why not? It’s easier than making macaroni and cheese from a box.

A Homemade Life

Mary Hawthorne at the New Yorker‘s “Book Bench” blog talked a little today about Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life.

Wizenberg, of course, is the author of the highly-acclaimed food blog Orangette, which boasts great recipes and food photography – two of my very favorite things. And incidentally, I bought A Homemade Life a month and a half ago, but only got around to reading it on Tuesday. I don’t really read food memoirs, but this was a good read. I finished it in an evening – it reads fast if you don’t stop to read all the recipes, too – and though some of it’s the kind of food I’ll never really make (much heavier on baking and creamy things than I am) it was a sweet homage to Wizenberg’s family, especially her father, who died of cancer, her mother, and her beloved husband, as well as numerous cities she’s lived in.

That’s the very best kind of food book, with a good heart and no real agenda. It would make a fabulous gift for the cook (or eater) in your life.