Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Yenta Answers Your Questions

Dearest fabulous RFML readers, 

What a warm welcome! I’m thrilled to be part of the Mommyland family- and promise to live up to all of the expectations you have of a good Yenta... Big hair, big boobs, big mouth.  Since you can’t see me, you’ll have to take my word that I do indeed possess all three qualifications.  Like Lydia mentioned we go way back to high school cheerleading, and I’m pretty sure that the three aforementioned attributes are what got us onto the squad in the first place since I don’t remember being able to complete one cartwheel between the two of us.

[Editor's Note: I could do a round off. Does that count? xo, Lydia]

Let’s get down to business, shall we?

First, the issue of the garlic press. I certainly got a rise out of a lot of you with this one…

Let me just put my cards on the table- I’m against all unnecessary gadgets that take up valuable drawer space.  I’m equally against tools that perform a task that can be done just as easily with a knife or your hands.  And the last reason… have you ever see Julia Child, Morimoto or Bobby Flay whip out a garlic press? No, because they are the real deal.  Say it with me now…  “I Am The Real Deal.”  With a little help from the Yenta, you will soon be much more confident in the kitchen and won’t be needing any cute gadgets!

Ok, let’s put that one behind us.  I know you are still going to use your garlic press, but I also know the next time you do, you will feel a little Yenta guilt…

I have chosen five fabulous questions to answer this week- and hopefully in doing so will address some of the other issues out there.

1. The Koenig Family wrote that they are afraid of fish! Trust me; the fish is MUCH more scared of you than you are of it.  Does that rule apply to fish or just spiders? In any event, nothing to be scared of when it comes to preparing fish. I find that if you know how to cook a chicken breast, you are halfway there.  You could take shrimp, cod, haddock, tilapia or swordfish and sauté gently in some olive oil, a bit of butter (just a bit is okay), some onions, peppers and tomatoes.  Throw in a few chopped olives and some capers…    Easy Breezy! Dinner is served.

2.  Q:  Kate wrote:  “I want to learn to eat greens. I mean, like collards and turnip greens and all those things you generally walk right by in the grocery store. There's a whole SECTION of greens. It's between the celery and the bell peppers."

Swiss Chard is even sort of pretty.
Kate- this was perhaps my favorite question! The grocery store is my mother ship.  I realize I may be in alone in this next statement, but grocery shopping is a relaxing and exciting experience for me.  I fully understand that this is NOT the case for most people.  It’s no coincidence that the wheels on the shopping carts are cockeyed and broken…   I see people taking intense aggravation and frustration out on those poor carts.  Hey Lady- it’s not the cart’s fault that you are overwhelmed by the 17 different varieties of lettuce.  But…  I digress.

The best way to try out some new leafy greens is to dive right in! I recommend starting with Swiss Chard- similar to spinach but with a little more sex appeal.  As with ALL greens, wash thoroughly.  The quickest way to ruin a bite of greens is a mouthful of dirt and grit.  Wash, wash, wash… use a salad spinner if you have one! (Yes, I approve the Salad Spinner!) Remove the leaves from the stalk and rip or cut into large bite-sized pieces.   (Don’t discard the stalks- add to the onions and garlic in recipe below and sauté before you add the leaves.  Why waste?)

A good all-purpose recipe for greens is to sauté a bit of minced garlic and minced onion in olive oil-(not Extra Virgin), put the greens in the pan, let wilt, toss, sprinkle with salt and pepper – done.  The whole process takes less than 5 minutes. 

Other greens worth trying:
Broccolini: The Angelina Jolie of Broccoli.  A little skinner and much more elegant than short and stubby Broccoli.
Kale: Is like Diane Keaton’s style...  we’re not sure what to make of it.  Is it just for decoration or can you eat it? Yes, you can! Can be eaten cooked OR raw.  Check out the recipe for
Whole Meal Salad.
Mustard Greens:  Kind of like the hot chic on Modern Family- a little nutty and a little spicy.
Arugula: Meryl Streep. A winner. So versatile.  Raw in a salad, cooked with pasta, on and on…
Beet Greens:  Julia Roberts.  Classic, timeless and will always make you smile.  These greens are best sautéed in a bit of butter, salt, pepper and if you are feeling fun, add a bit of orange zest.  Beets love orange.

That should get you inspired next time you wander past the Leafy Greens section in the produce department.  Also, keep in mind that all of the above are busting with vitamins and fiber! SO good for you! Go get em’ girl!

3.  I loved the questions about Quinoa from Abigail and MK. On my blog The Oy of Cooking, I've said that there is NO way to enjoy Quinoa.  Well…  I take it back.  I have found a way. Not unlike how many of you said you have to “hide” veggies in your children’s food, hiding the Quinoa is how I have learned to enjoy it.  

I’ve discovered that  if you create a salad using Quinoa with Brown Rice and Wheat berries*, you will actually build a dish with many textures and flavors – add some chopped nuts, some minced dried fruit and an orange/honey dressing.  It will almost be as decedent as granola, but without all the fat.  You can go savory as well – use the same three grains and add diced red onion, some black beans, some shucked corn kernels, cilantro and a red wine vinaigrette.  Serve warm or cold…

The mystery of Quinoa… solved.

These are cooked wheatberries.
[Editor's note - I had to ask The Yenta what the hell wheatberries were. Also? I happen to love quinoa but the rest of the family hates it. - xo, Lyd] 

Lydia, wheatberries are darling little grains that have a nutty taste and popcorn like texture.  You can add that description and these cooking instructions: In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the wheatberries for 1 hour, or until they are tender, and drain them.  Run under cold water to stop cooking and bring temp down.

4. Wow, a LOT of questions about how to get your kids to eat vegetables… 

A few summers ago my sister-in-law was having this exact issue with her two little ones.  She did something genius that had her kids do a complete 180 in the veggies department… They planted a garden.  The kids had to take care of growing cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, string beans, peppers and so on and so forth…

Because they had planted the seeds, watered them, watched them grow, picked them, helped to cook them… they were naturally curious to taste them!  Hasn’t been a problem since.  In fact, the kids have become much more adventurous in their eating… a few months ago we went to an Italian restaurant and MJ’s (5) eyes lit up when I ordered grilled Octopus.  He tasted it, and LOVED it.  Every time I see him now he asks if I brought an Octopus with me.  Yes, I did… its right here in my purse.

But another idea that doesn't take quite so long is to have the kids pick out the veggies in the store…  Let them choose a couple of new things to try each time they go. Have them put together a little pre-dinner crudité with the veggies they picked out and some ranch dressing or some hummus. Dip is good.

5. Anonymous wrote that her rice is Globby… 

Cooking rice: NEVER STIR and you will never get globby rice again.  The basic recipe for rice is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water or stock.  Also, rice goes in the pot with cold water- not boiling.  Follow these directions: a bit of fat (oil or butter) in the pot, add rice, stir until rice is coated in fat.  Add water.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover for approx. 20 minutes.  DO NOT STIR.  Taste rice to test for doneness.  If the texture is where you want it, remove from heat and fluff with a fork- never a spoon.

That’s a basic recipe- now go ahead and add all the flavors and ingredients you desire.

I hope you have found the info useful and I look forward to many more questions next month! Leave your questions in the comments section. Lydia has already asked me why convection ovens are supposed to be good. In the meantime, you can follow my weekly blog The Oy of Cooking and join the Dish with the Yenta… Facebook page for updates! 

Laura P. Lyons
Dish with the Yenta…
Because everybody loves some good dish…

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