Polenta-crusted lamb recipe

I am a big fan of Dr Dan Siegel when it comes to child psychology. His book, Parenting from the Inside Out, was the first parenting book I read (before I got pregnant), and the foundation for everything else. He has a series of short videos online, and in one of them (you can watch it here), he describes the daily elements of a healthy mind for a child, which also apply to adults. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Sleep
  • Focus time
  • Play time, experience novelty and fun
  • Down time, calm/quiet, to recharge the mind
  • Connection time (with others and the earth, with generosity and gratitude)
  • Physical time, where we move our bodies
  • Time in, or reflection time, where we reflect on our whole emotional state, on how we feel inside ourselves.

It struck me as I jotted down this list, how a few of those get chucked out the window or neglected in our adult lives. I have often found myself with a few minutes of down time, feeling like I should be doing something, as if that time was wasted (and as a result of this antsiness, it is in fact wasted. Instead of letting my mind recharge, I burden it further with guilt and anxiety.)

This balance, which thankfully I am able to nurture fairly successfully in Pablo’s life, has been harder to find for myself, but having this list written out in my office, and on the fridge, is a great reminder. I noticed some of these can happen simultaneously, such as connection time and down time, or play and physical time, or play and focus time.

Of course, being the food lover and blogger that I am, I couldn’t help but think of the many many opportunities the kitchen and the table give us to practice these on a daily basis (sleep aside 😉

Looking at a recipe, separating an egg yolk from the white, thickening a sauce, shelling peas… focus.


Kneading bread, making butter, planting and picking… physical.


Having a picnic, dipping a piece of bread in a soft boiled egg, making watermelon balls with a scooper, experimenting with new flavors… play.


Washing dishes, peeling carrots, chopping rosemary and garlic… brain recharge, and time in.


Sitting down for a meal with loved ones, eating outside with the smells and sounds of nature, cooking over a fire, talking about the food we eat, eat mindfully and slowly… connection, and time in.


I suppose you get my drift here: cook good food and have family meals. It’s good for the body. And it’s good for the brain too. 🙂

So about this meal I’m sharing here…

… it starts with a morning of foraging (physical time, connection with nature) and learning to make wild mustard (more on that very soon!) and picking some sweet white clover (play time), which our foraging guide Pascal tells me will “rock my world” with sauteed potatoes. O how I love world-rocking food tips!


I stop at the store with Pablo and we bond with our favorite butcher Jamel who knows Pablo on a first name basis. Pablo chooses the orange cherry tomatoes he likes. We secretly taste an olive at the olive bar together. Love. Connection.





I get home and review my recipe. My mom starts the potatoes, I start the polenta. Connection, focus. Mix the flour, beat the egg. “This was a good day”, I think to myself. “I feel grounded, in the moment.” Quick time in. Dipping the chops, play; frying the chops, focus; photographing the chops, focus, play, physical given the odd contortions 😉 Pablo wants to take pictures too, and does a mini-puppet show while I take some shots, connection.


Sitting down in the backyard to eat a great meal together. Watching Pablo gnaw on the bone, freely dance around the backyard after the meal. Breathing. Connection. Down time. Recharge.


Writing this post at my laptop, thinking of how humanly rich,beautiful (and dare I say, cerebrally nutritious?) this day was, and how perfectly balanced, how I need more days like this, and less days of deadlines, exhaustion and stress. Time in. 


Even when I struggle to post to this blog as often as I plan (which may just have to happen this week again as we’re going camping this weekend…), this space gives me this precious time which otherwise falls by the wayside in the face of busy life, time to reflect, to check in with myself. That those reflections should interest other souls such as yourselves, kind readers, is a gift I had never expected. Reading and perhaps at times, relating to my ramblings, hopefully gives you a little time in, too.

I always knew cooking, eating and food blogging were good for my body and soul. But if it’s good for my brain too then… I shall keep coming back.


In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this very balanced meal, in more ways than one.

Polenta-crusted lamb chops with herbed potatoes

(Inspired by Idées futées pour inviter by Larousse Cuisine & Cie)

4 servings

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Age for babies: You could crust ground lamb patty with polenta for a 8-10 months old, potatoes and polenta are also great for 8-10 months old. A great way to introduce the flavor of rosemary, as it gets nicely absorbed by the polenta.

8 small double lamb chops (2 chops together, especially if you like them rare or pink, take individual chops if you like more well done)
4 tbsp spelt flour
salt & pepper
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 cup of polenta (I used this one which cooks very quickly)
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 cu p light coconut milk (You could just use 5 cups of broth, or mix broth and water, or regular milk. The coconut milk adds a nice subtle flavor though)
1 egg
3-4 tbsp olive oil


6-7 medium pink potatoes
3 tbsp duck fat (coconut oil and butter would do great too here)
Fresh rosemary, parsley or other fresh herb of choice (we used some wild sweet white clover I foraged that day, delicious!)

Start with the potatoes:

Wash and slice the potatoes (being organic, we left the skin on). Dry them well to avoid splattering.

Heat the duck fat over medium high, and add the potatoes. Cook, stirring often, until they turn golden. When they do, add salt, pepper, and the chopped herbs, and stir.

Lower heat to medium and cover. Cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring once in a while. When done, keep covered and warm until ready to serve.

Then the polenta: 


(Check cook times depending on the kind you get).
In a medium pot, heat the broth and coconut milk over medium heat.

Meanwhile, remove the stems from the rosemary leaves and chop them finely.

When it barely simmers, add the polenta gradually while stirring until it thickens a bit. With the polenta I used, it was about 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in the rosemary. Taste the polenta and add salt so it tastes just right to your tastebuds. Cover and set aside.

(*Note that I’ve also obtained good results just adding the polenta and cold liquids to the pan at the same time, and heating on medium, stirring often. Also, for the crusting of the lamb chops, you will need fairly thin polenta, so this is double the amount of liquid recommended for “regular” polenta as indicated on the package. It should be the consistency of a cream of mushroom type soup, or slightly thicker. You could also use the prepackaged organic polenta – in the shape of a fat sausage – that I’ve seen available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Then heat over medium with enough liquid to obtain desired consistency.)

Now the chops:

In a shallow plate, combine the flour with a pinch of salt and pepper.

In another, pour about half the polenta (reserve the rest to serve as a side, use more if needed). In another, lightly beat the egg.

Take each lamb chop, dip them first in the flour on all sides, then in the egg, then in the polenta.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and pan-fry the lamb chops on medium high, until crust is crispy golden on all sides. You may want to use a splatter screen, as the wet polenta will make the oil splatter quite a bit. We like them on the rare side, so it only took about 5-7 minutes for us. (Lower to medium-low once the crust is golden and continue cooking if you like it more done.)

Serve on a plate with some potatoes, a side of polenta, and romaine or butter lettuce in vinaigrette for some greens.

I love to wrap a bite of potato inside a lettuce leaf! The perfect bite 🙂 Pablo agrees.

Smoked salmon green bean rolls recipe

As a child, I learned about generosity through food. My
mother would cook simple things most days, but when we had company, when
friends came over for dinner, the meal in itself became a special occasion.

Growing up raised by a single working mother, with always a
bit of envy for other children who had large families (while they may have
longed for the solitude I enjoyed… because the grass is always greener on the
other side…), I placed tremendous value on having friends over for dinner. If
I didn’t have a large family of my own, I was determined to build one, a chosen
family. Nurturing, literally feeding those
friendships was of crucial importance to me.

 

And what better way to show gratitude and love, than a good meal?

Not
just a good meal, but the thought and effort that go into it. The true gift, is
the thoughtfulness of it.

I grew up learning that cooking a meal was a way to love,
and something to be loved for.

A way to say thank you. For being in my life.
For loving me.

I never ever take that for granted. It is too precious.

And how beautiful it is, to give a moment of pleasure to
those we love.

A scrumptious bite. A subtle flavor. A burst of sweet.

Preparing a meal for someone, is giving a bit of oneself.

It
is an act of love, of friendship. It’s a hand extended out. Open arms. And a
plate.

To this day, shared meals remain the cradle of our
friendships.  A way to cherish my loved
ones. To put my cooking where my heart is, if you will.

And I am thrilled Pablo is bathed in this. The kitchen, the
dinner table are such rewarding places to learn what generosity means. What
loving and sharing mean. They are what makes us feel full in life (pun intended). It goes so much further than sharing a
toy at the playground, doesn’t it? And what a thrilling, rich feeling it can
give us, this gift of self, this gift of good food.

So… since today is a celebration of love, like every day,
I will cook for my loved ones, so we may share a meal, yet another precious moment of
togetherness.

And for you… I have a simple, yet flavorful bouquet of sorts…

This easy recipe makes for a festive appetizer, and a fun finger foods for kids of all ages (Dipping is so fun it makes the food taste better in and of itself!) It’s a nice mix of textures and colors. You could even make them the night before and have a couple for lunch on the go.

Smoked salmon & green beans rolls, with a grapefruit dipping sauce

Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes des Légumes du Potager, by Valérie Lhomme

 

Serves 4

Prep time – 20 mn

Cook time – 5 mn

Age for babies – 10-12 months with very little dressing, baby can pull the roll apart and munch on the ingredients.

1/2 lb fresh green beans (the smaller haricots verts if you can find them)

8 small slices of smoked salmon or lox

A handful of sunflower sprouts (can be radish sprouts, or other sprouts of choice)

4 circles of rice paper / spring roll wrappers*

(*Note: You could use scissors before softening the rice paper to make squares instead of circles, which might make the rolls easier to roll and the end result more even and prettier to look at. Didn’t occur to me to do that until just now, so I winged it with the half circles)

 

Dressing:

Juice of half a grapefruit

Juice of half a lemon

5 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 drizzle of honey

Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the ends of the green beans, and plunge them in the boiling water for 5 minutes.

Drain them and pour ice cold water over them right away to stop the cooking. Set aside.

To soften the rice paper: Place one circle of rice paper over a damp towel or cloth, place another damp cloth over it, place the 2nd circle of rice paper on top, and another damp cloth on top, and so on with the 4 circles. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, until soft.

Cut the rice paper circles into half circles.

Place one half circle, round side up. Place one slice of smoked salmon along the edge. Place a few green beans (cut them in half if they are too long), and a few sunflower sprouts on top.

Then from the side, roll the rice paper wrapping the beans, like a spring roll. If you want very even ends, you can cut them off. Or crumple up the rice paper on one end like a little bouquet.

Repeat with all 8 rolls. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the dressing, combine all ingredients in the blender and mix to obtain a very smooth dipping sauce (it will be thin – if you have leftover, this also makes a great salad dressing for greens like mâche, baby spinach or watercress).

Lemon pork loin recipe

This is one dish my mom often cooks in summer and it is awesome because you can prepare it in advance and enjoy it cold as a cold roast or thinly sliced in a sandwich with a bit of lemony mayo. Also, the lemony taste makes it light and perfect for the summer.

Ingredients

  • 2lb pork loin
  • 4-5 lemons
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

  1. All you need is pork loin (about 2 pounds), the juice of 4 or 5 lemons, a bit of olive oil (better if extra virgin), salt and pepper. This dish is best made in a pressure cooker, but you might use a regular pot.
  2. First season your pork loin with salt and pepper, just rub a bit of salt and pepper on both sides of the loin, then put the loin in the pressure cooker or the pot, add the juice of the lemons and a spoon or so of oil. Put the lid on and turn on the stove. If you are using a pressure cooker you should cook it 30-40 minutes from the whistle, for the regular pot it probably needs a hour to a hour an a half. When it’s done cooking, let the steam out and let the meat rest in its juices until is lukewarm or even cold.
  3. Serve lukewarm or cold, slice as thin as you can (use a slicer if you have one) and put on a plate with the juice from cooking.
  4. If you think it might be too sour for you or some of your guest, place juice in a separate bowl. The meat itself is going to be only slightly lemony, the real punch is in the sauce.
  5. This dish keeps well for a day or two in the fridge, so can be prepared in advance and is perfect for potlucks, pic nicks and the like, or simply to make ahead for a busy day.

Italian meatballs recipe

Today I am cooking meatballs. A coupe of days ago I was seeing Tyler’s Ultimate on the food network and he was tackling meatballs, and I decided I was going to make some as soon as possible. Now I do meatballs my way and they are a little different every time, so I use any meatball recipe only as an inspiration. The secret however is to always add enough breadcrumbs to make them fluffy. That’s how I did them today.

Because meatballs are so Italian, I posted it on Manu’s Menu event for the 150 Years of the Unification of Italy.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • vegetables (zucchini, onion, carrot)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 to 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cans of tomatoes
  • salt
  • pepper
  • EVOO

Directions

  1. First I diced a zucchini, a small onion and 2 carrots. I sauteed them in a bit of oil starting from the onion and adding first the carrots and then the zucchini. I salted them and cooked them for about 5 minutes, basically until they were all soft.
  2. In a bowl I combined about 3/4 pounds of minced beef, 3 eggs, salt, pepper, the veggies and enough plain breadcrumbs to make the mixture relatively dry but still very soft. I then formed into 12 balls the size of a golf ball.
  3. I rolled the balls in some plain breadcrumbs and then pan fried them in about 1inch of olive oil. When they were nice and crispy I took them out and put them on paper towels and pat them to eliminate the excess oil.
  4. I then warmed up some tomato sauce (about a can and a half) and put the meatballs back in for about about an hour.
  5. I just had one and was pretty good! Waiting for my BF to eat them all!

Oven-baked eggplants two ways

The other day I bought some eggplants at the farmers’ market. I love eggplants and one of my favorite way of cooking them is to roast them in the oven: when you cook them this way they get kind of a smoky flavor, which makes oven-baked eggplants the main character in any meal. As you will see I use the roasted eggplants in two way: one as a vegetarian entree and one as a pasta sauce.

Oven-baked eggplants twoways

Ingredients

  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 spoon capers
  • 1 small onion
  • 5 dried tomatoes
  • 1 spoon tomato paste
  • salt

Directions

  1. I cut 2 eggplants in half lengthwise and then made some cuts in the flesh without slicing all the way through the peel. These helps cooking the eggplant evenly. Then I placed the eggplant sliced side up in an oven dish and seasoned them with salt, pepper, oregano and a lot of olive oil. I placed them in the oven preheated at 400F to roast for about 40 min to 1 hour depending on the size of the eggplants (mine were pretty big).
  2. In the mean time, I chopped up a couple of table spoons of capers a small onion and some dried tomatoes. I sauteed this mixture in olive oil for a couple of minutes and then added a table spoon of tomato paste. Seasoned with salt and added a bit of water so that the mixture could cook without burning.
  3. 10 minutes before eggplants were ready, I spread the mixture on the eggplants and then covered them with some aluminum foil. I put everything back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
  4. Now as I anticipated I used the baked eggplants in two ways. One eggplant I ate like this as a vegetarian entree and out of the other I made a pasta sauce. For making the pasta sauce, all you have to do is put the flesh and seasoning of the eggplant (about 1 eggplant every 3 people) in a blender with a lot of olive oil and blend until you have a smooth cream. Use this cream as a sauce for some short pasta like rotini or penne. If you want you can add some basil, blak pepper and grated romano cheese.