Chorizo Roasted Potatoes

Choizo potatoes

I've instituted a Monday night ritual around here. I make dinner for my parents, and it's a highlight of my week. They are an appreciative audience--tired from work, happy to not be cooking and cleaning, and complimentary. This week, we had sausages, these delectable potatoes, and an arugula and ricotta salata salad. I couldn't believe how fast we polished off that mountain of potatoes.

I've had some moments of uncertainty lately. We are so happy to be in Bellingham and feel to the core that this is where we are supposed to be. But it's still transition. I always say that I'd rather help others go through transition than go through my own! In the middle of it, here are a few things (in addition to Monday night dinners) that have given me pluck:

  1. Seeing Jason Quick perform at Wyatt's daycamp. He's a one-armed juggler, therapist, and circus arts instructor  who lost his arm in an electrical accident when he was six. He learned to play games by himself, and he learned to never give up. I was so inspired watching him and so sheepish about how easily I give up on things just because the red carpet might not be laid out. I'll give you a silly example. We just joined the YMCA, and am notoriously clumsy and bad at sports. But they have a rock climbing wall, and I want to learn. And they have a racquetball court that looks fun. Don't let me get away with not trying those things just because I might not be excellent at them. 
  2. The new grocery store in town, The Market on Lakeway. When I walked in and saw their bulk spices, deli, and walk-in beer cooler, I almost cried. Everyone I know is getting little bags of Cyprus flaked sea salt for hostess gifts in the next year. (Or a link of chorizo. The real kind.)
  3. Taking an early-morning spin class at the Y, sweating it out with strangers and feeling exhausted afterward.
  4. Some coaching sessions with clients when I can almost see them growing right in front of me. There is nothing better than that.
  5. Meeting my childhood friend Sam's little girl, who stole my heart immediately.
  6. Late nights with Yancey, eating our way through a bag of potato chips and talking about spray foam insulation, window packages, and flooring options. Our house closed yesterday, and the sledgehammers are poised.
  7. A visit from Emily and Ricky yesterday and some time with Emily to talk about our friendship and how we'll navigate this new terrain.

And I haven't forgotten. Here's those potatoes.

Chorizo Roasted Potatoes
Heat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash 2 pounds small yellow potatoes. If they're on the small side, halve them. If they're bigger, quarter them. Put them in a large bowl with a couple big glugs olive oil, a generous pinch of kosher salt,  a teaspoon of cumin seeds, and a big handful of chorizo sausage coins. (Spanish chorizo--the cured, ready-to-eat, usually bright red sausage, available at good delis.) 
Dump the mixture onto your baking sheet, and bake for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and chorizo is crisped up. Mound on a platter, and garnish with a handful of chopped parsley and a handful of sheep's milk feta. And a little more salt.

Roast Chicken with Fennel, Olives, and Potatoes

Provencal Chicken

I'm in love with this one-pan dish. Roast some sliced fennel and halved new potatoes in your biggest roasting pan. Take them out after 20 minutes, dump your tomato-olive mixture in, set chicken thighs or breasts atop, and baste with a garlicky vinaigrette. It's definitely Autumn, friends. Time to get that oven fired up.

"But did you kids like it?" you ask. Ha. My best tips for picky children are here, but I've been thinking about this subject more lately. I have a friend who raised her son on good, homemade, real food. When he got into high school, the cool thing to do was eat fast food. That's what his friends did for lunch, after school, on weekends. It was isolating to bring lunch from home or be the dork suggesting a healthier alternative. He's now a recent grad, at risk for diabetes, and about to be making even more of his own decisions.

I've read some research lately that says kids don't just "pick up" on things because of their environment. Modeling doesn't take the place of explicit conversations. So I've been trying to talk with Wyatt about food. As you know, he absolutely loathes heart-to-hearts. He clams up, squirms, rolls his eyes, suddenly has to go to the bathroom. But I press on, saying things like, "It's my job to make sure you eat healthy," "I want you to have the energy to keep having fun," and other odious phrases. I've added this conversation to the ones about being kind, appreciating difference, not being afraid of failure, and other parental pontifications.

One of my favorite truisms: "Experience is the thing you get two weeks after you need it." Does that describe parenting or what? Talk about making things up as we go.  Poor Wyatt, subjected to provencal chicken and baked goods with nuts. The therapy fund is still there, but I sometimes steal from it to buy sharp cheddar.

Roast Chicken with Fennel, Olives, Potatoes, and Tomatoes
Serves 4. Adapted from Gourmet, again! I've noticed a new wave of grief over Gourmet's demise lately. Maybe because it's been exactly a year since the news broke and the last issue was published. This recipe is an example of why we're all still sad. The recipe called for breasts and I used thighs, my favorite cut of chicken. Whichever cut you use, I don't recommend subbing boneless, skinless pieces, as you'll miss out on all the delicious drippings that make the dish what it is.

2 medium fennel bulbs
1 1/2 lbs. baby red potatoes, halved
6 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
14 garlic cloves (about one large head), peeled
4 Tb. fresh lemon juice
8 chicken thighs or 4 chicken breast halves (with skin and bones, about 3 lbs.), rinsed and patted dry
8 plum tomatoes, quartered
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 1/2 Tb. chopped fresh rosemary

Put rack in the middle of the oven, put a roasting pan on rack, and preheat oven to 450.

Cut off fennel stalks and discard. Quarter fennel bulbs. Trim cores, leaving enough to leave layers intact, and cut fennel lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices. Toss fennel and potatoes with 2 Tb. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a bowl until well-coated. Spread evenly in hot roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mince four garlic cloves and whisk together with lemon juice, remaining olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Brush chicken with about 2 Tb. olive oil mixture and set aside.

Thinly slice remaining 10 garlic cloves lengthwise. Transfer to a bowl and toss with tomatoes, olives, rosemary, and 2 Tb. olive oil mixture.

Remove roasting pan from oven, add tomato mixture, and stir to combine. Put chicken skin side up on top of vegetables and roast for 15 minutes.

Brush chicken with remaining olive oil mixture. Continue roasting until chicken is just cooked through, about 20 minutes more. Serve chicken with vegetables, spooning juices over chicken.


Potato and Green Bean Salad with Loads of Herbs

green bean salad

There are lots of days when I think, "My life is a piece of cake." Then there are others when I stand outside myself and observe, and I think, "!#$%*. I'm exhausted." Today was one of those. One of my biggest pet peeves is when we use the phrase, "I'm so busy!" as some kind of currency that validates our importance, even our very existence. So I'm not into that. All the things I'm doing I have chosen. BUT (you knew this was coming), sometimes I wonder at the extraordinary amount of presence, energy, and coordinating prowess it takes just to live one day in the year 2010. Congratulations. You and I are still here at the end of another day.

And my garden is still growing. I've been a little mum about it this year, but my sweet little plot is thriving. Kale, two kinds of arugula, radishes, spinach, hot peppers, tomatoes, carrots, bush beans, romaine, herbs. My relationship to it has grown healthier over the 4 years I've had it. It used to be that when something got neglected or overgrown, I would either ignore my whole garden for the rest of the summer or rip the imperfect object out. (Lord! Someone take that girl aside and talk to her!) Now, I'm discovering that five minutes of weeding or pruning  goes a long way. I don't need to devote tons of discrete time to it. I just need to notice and engage periodically. Tons of lessons and metaphors in there.

Today, I looked closer at my beans and saw the overnight bounty. Since the beans are exactly similar in color to the bush, I've found I can miss the moment. Really, what is better than reaching down, finding that long, soft pod, and pinching it off?

This (or some version of it)  is my go-to salad for summer potluck and BBQ's. (I said that about this salad, too. I'm allowed to have two.) The potatoes make it hearty and gluten-free, the green beans make it crunchy and beautiful, and the olive oil dressing satisfies the mayo-haters of the world. (God bless 'em, I just can't relate.)

Wherever you are tonight, I hope something in your life is growing--your garden, your children, your sense of purpose or the amount of time you spend focusing on beans instead of weeds.

little gardener

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Loads of Herbs
Serves six as a side dish. There are lots of other things you can add to this salad--toasted walnuts or pecans, feta, chevre, thinly sliced red onions. VERY IMPORTANT: Don't toss salad with the dressing until right before serving, as the beans will react with the lemon juice and turn brown if they sit too long (like more than a couple hours).

2 lbs. small, tender potatoes (I used some darling little Yukon Golds from the market)
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
2 large garlic clove, minced
zest and juice of one large lemon
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Couple handfuls of fresh herbs--I used oregano, lemon thyme, and mint

Wash and boil potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool.

Blanche green beans until just tender--1 minute if they're very thin, 3 minutes if they're beefier. Immediately drain in a colander and run cold water over them so they stop cooking. Don't space out here. Mushy green beans will wreck this salad.

To make dressing, combine garlic, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper. Whisk olive oil in a stream until emulsified. Dump half your fresh herbs in and whisk a bit more.

Right before serving, combine potatoes, beans, and dressing, tossing gently with your hands. Scatter remaining herbs over the top and serve at room temperature.

Roasted Potato and Lemon Pizza

potato pizza

At first bite of one of our pizzas, I say, with drama, "Mmm. If I had ordered this pizza in a restaurant, I'd be freaking out right now." At this point, Yancey and Wyatt exchange meaningful glances and sometimes roll their eyes. The funny thing is, every time I say this, I think I'm saying it for the first time. Even after writing this, I'll fall into the same amnesiac rhythm, I'm afraid. (This, by the way, is one of the best reasons to make new friends. They haven't heard all your tired phrases, exclamations, and stories. I exploit this to the fullest.)

But if there was ever a reason to bore my family with repetitious praise, it's this pizza. I really, really, really mean it this time. I do menu-plan, as I've mentioned before. But most the time, if "pizza" appears on my scratch pad, I have no idea what will top it. Enter The Leftoverist. Coming home from LaConner, I found four red potatoes in the vegetable bin. Plus my standard cheese drawer, the herbs outside my back door, and whatever lemon I can find knocking around. It's an emergency with a capital "E" if I run out of lemons or limes around here. Code Red. Get to MacPherson's immediately.

Here's to new friends, old friends (please--laugh at the same old jokes occasionally to keep us around), summertime, and scrounging in the fridge.

Roasted Potato and Lemon Pizza
Remember--this pizza crust I'm directing you to makes enough for one standard jelly roll/cookie sheet PLUS a smaller quarter sheet. So you'll have some dough left over.

Recipe and instructions for this pizza dough

4 medium red potatoes, sliced as thin as you can--or about 1.5 c. of 1/8" thick slices
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
olive oil
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced (I used a mandoline)
1 c. shredded whole milk mozzarella
1 c. shredded parmesan
handful fresh lemon thyme, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 425. Toss potato slices, garlic, and onion with a big glug of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roast potato mixture until everything is just tender, about 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Turn oven up to 500. Press dough into your baking sheet/jelly roll pan, and scatter mozzarella over. Top with roasted potato mixture, sliced lemons, then parmesan. Bake until crust is golden and top is bubbly, about 15 minutes. (Make sure bottom of crust is golden--might be 5 more minutes depending on your oven.)

After you take it out of the oven, sprinkle the fresh thyme and a fresh grinding of pepper.