Summer Uniform

There is little in life I love more than getting dressed in the summer.  It’s the one time of year I don’t spend hours in front of the closet, questing every wardrobe investment I’ve ever made.  My clothes are practically throwing themselves at me to be worn.

But of course, I tend to wear the same outfit over and over, all summer long.  A summer uniform, if you will.  I haven’t quite arrived at this year’s yet.  Here are the contenders:

OPBanana Republic Milly Shorts – You can’t get them online anymore, but check your local store.  Or check with Wooden Nickels, and she’ll hook you up.  These are so versatile, and look equally amazing with prints and solids.  I love them to pieces.

lillyLilly Pulitzer Coleman Maxi Dress – This is so flowy and so amazingly gorgeous, I can’t get enough of it.  This dress makes me want to buy a beach house, summer there, and breeze through the next three months, worry-free.  I would wear this to walk on the beach, shop for groceries, or drink cocktails with friends, as long as the sun and sand were my accessories.

maxiskirtGap Striped Foldover Maxi Skirt - I’ve been looking for a skirt like this for about as long as maxis have been a thing.  And this year, while trying to describe exactly what I wanted to Sous Chef Lauren, this appeared on gap.com.  Miracles happen.  It’s every bit as comfortable and versatile as it looks here.

summer saladWith a summer uniform comes a staple summer salad; one that you can make at a moment’s notice, and scale up for a crowd.  One that is best served with a cold beer in hand.  For me, summer is about inhaling three foods:  corn, tomatoes, and avocados.  With this salad, you can enjoy all three in one bite.  And with summer produce about to reach its peak, you can enjoy this multiple times a week if you’re so inclined.

To make an avocado corn side salad for 4, you will need:

  • 4 ears corn, boiled or grilled, kernels removed
  • 1 tomato, seeded and small-diced
  • 1 avocado, diced into bite-sized chunks
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 T chopped cilantro
  • salt
  • peper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and serve.  Yep.  That’s it.  If you wanted to make this in advance, you could do everything save for the avocado.  Slice that up just before you put the salad on the table.

1//2//3

What to Make When There’s Nothing to Make

In her last post, Deb of Smitten Kitchen put out a call to her readers, asking for their go-to meals.  This one, for me, is quite literally a go-to meal, as I will travel to this chain for my next bowl whenever the mood strikes.  It’s a ridiculously simple spaghetti aglio e olio that haunts my dreams.  The level of garlic is unrivaled.  And the other night I realized that there was absolutely no reason not to make it my go-to at-home dinner.  When do I not have spaghetti, garlic, red pepper flakes, cheese, and olive oil?  Answer: never.

aglio e olioAin’t she purty?

aglio e olio mealThis is one of those dishes that you do not need a recipe to make.  You barely need any ingredients, either.  If you’re comfortable in the kitchen, just add amounts that seem right to you.  If you’re still finding your kitchen footing, I’ll let you in on the amounts I love.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  While you’re waiting around, coat the bottom of a skillet with a thin layer of olive oil.  Once it’s hot, add several (3?) cloves of garlic, minced.  Saute over low heat, about 5 minutes, or until garlic browns.  Add a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Bring about 8 oz. pasta (about half a standard box) to a boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  Toss with garlic mixture, and add more olive oil if necessary.  This pasta works best if each strand is glistening with the shine of oil.  Top, per usual, with mounds of cheese.

A Two Bite Trip

The secret to coming back from a country where the food is infinitely better than that of your own homeland is to not touch anything remotely like that country’s food for at least a month upon returning.  The pasta in Rome was the best I’ve ever had.  I’ve eaten almost no pasta since December.  It’s a purposeful thing.  This way, when I do get back to my frequent pasta consuming ways, my daily doses of carbonara, cacio e pepe, and all’amatriciana are distant memories.

bruschettaWhen in Rome, I don’t know that I truly did as the Romans, but I did my darndest to eat like them.  And they are a people who love bruschetta.  As I am also a people who love bruschetta, this worked in my favor when we ordered our antipasti each evening.  After two months of being stateside, I was overdue for more bruschetta.

What I love most about Italian food–real Italian food– is that it’s a combination of the most basic flavors in the best possible way.  This bruschetta pomodoro has bread, olive oil, salt, basil, tomatoes, and garlic, and you can taste each and every element in each and every bite.  There’s an unrivaled brightness to this kind of cooking that always keeps me coming back for just one more bite.

Lucky for me, these are only a two-bite comittment.

To make about 20, you will need:

  • 2 large cloves garlic, separated
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 8-10 basil leaves, julienned
  • baguette, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Put your broiler on while you start slicing the baguettes.  Place the slices on a foil-lined baking sheet and brush with olive oil.  Slice one clove of garlic in half and rub cut side on each slice of bread.  Broil 6-7 minutes, until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, mince the other clove of garlic, and combine it with tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Let the mixture sit for a few minutes so the flavors come together.  Spoon on top of toasts and serve at room temperature.

*Bruschetta make a lovely addition to any party spread, especially if the spread is not your own.  Prep the toasts and the toppings separately and store each in sealed containers (making sure the toasts are completely cooled before storing them).  Bring a platter and a spoon to your destination and assemble on the spot.  Maybe this is the answer to your next, “What can I bring?”

On Health

In the first week of 2013, whilst swimming in a sea of chocolate cookies, I managed to make some pretty healthy choices.  There were new smoothies.  And there were new salads.  I realized that I was eating whatever I wanted at 1/3 of my daily meals, and eating well at the other 2/3.  Not bad.  Now I just have to keep it up for 51 more weeks!  Oh, it’s not a resolution or anything.  Just, you know, a good idea.

saladI tried to recreate my favorite restaurant salad earlier in the fall, and I’ve been tweaking it ever since.  It took a little detour into Smitten-land and I love the way it’s turned out now.

To make the new and improved warm mushroom salad for two shroom-lovers, you will need:

  • 2 – 3 T minced shallots
  • 2 T white wine vinegar
  • 5 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • a bunch of arugula
  • 8-10 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I like creminis, which are baby bellas)
  • a couple sprigs fresh thyme (or a shake or two of dried)
  • Parmesan cheese

Place the shallots in a small dish and pour vinegar on top.  Let sit for 5 minutes, to slightly soften the onion flavor.

While that’s happening, heat 2 T olive oil and 1 T butter in a skillet.  When hot, add mushrooms, salt, pepper, and thyme, and stir occasionally, till mushrooms are cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Add remaining olive oil to shallot mixture, and whisk till combined.  Add salt and pepper and you have your dressing.

Place a bunch of arugula in two bowls, and top with Parmesan shavings.  Add half of the mushrooms to each bowl, and top with dressing.

Dig in right away.

Why Are We Here?

While I am certain I can’t help you with that question in a broad sense, dear readers, I can shed some light on why we’re here on this little blog.

Well, why I’m here.

evening sceneThe other day, a friend asked me why I started A Glass of Milk.  And I told her that I did it to keep track of all the recipes I was making.  They’re from cookbooks, other blogs, torn out magazine pages, and of course, family members.  So this was a way to round everything up into one little spot online.

But when I go back through my old posts, I realize there’s another reason.

grocery shoppingEven if I didn’t know it then.  I’m here so I can remember.  This blog now houses three years’ worth of memories.  Three years’ worth of birthdays and holidays.  And three years’ worth of everydays.  Three years’ worth of evenings where I didn’t feel like making a real dinner, so I made something appetizer-y instead.

This is one of those meals.

mushroomsIt’s every bit as memorable as the show-stoppers I pull out on the big days.  Especially when the juices are sopped up with some of this.

I made it after I heard Joy and Tracy talking about it on their podcast.  Joy mentioned that it was the perfect dish to bring to a potluck.  I had all the ingredients ready to go when I hosted a potluck of my own.  And then the whole making sure everyone had a full glass thing got in the way, and I never actually made it.  Till one random night when I didn’t want to make a high maintenance dinner.

Sure, you could make this and entertain a crowd of vegetarians, or gluten-free guests.  Or, you could make it for yourself, while nursing a bottle of wine, and wearing your fuzzy slippers, and swinging by the table for just one more bite as the evening wears on.  It’s your choice.

To make enough for a little gathering, or for one, you will need:

  • 1 pound cremini, or white mushrooms, the larger ones cut in half
  • 2 T capers, drained, rinsed, and chopped (I didn’t have these, so left them out)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 3 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 C chopped flat leaf parsley, although chives wouldn’t be too bad either

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Toss mushrooms with capers, garlic, and oil, and a pinch of salt and generous pinch of pepper.  Pour in an oven-proof dish and top with pats of butter.  Roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms brown, and sauce below is bubbly, 15-20 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice and parsley and serve immediately.

 

Mashed Potatoes Are Good

I once gave Grandma Glass of Milk a card with this lovely catchphrase emblazoned on the front.

And as no Thanksgiving table is complete without a giant bowl, piled high with clouds of fluffy white spuds,

I will use this as an opportunity to let you know that using buttermilk instead of half and half,

would be perfectly acceptable.

*Grandma Glass of Milk’s mashed potatoes.

Thanksgiving Prep – Because We Don’t All Eat Turkey

And by we, I mean Wooden Nickels.

Should you choose to place a vegetarian dish on your Thursday table, let me offer this for your consideration.  It features a slew of fall flavors, from kale, to wild rice, to caramelized onions, all of which combine in such a way that you won’t mind going sans meat for at least a few bites.

I tried this for two reasons: because I heard tell that kale was packed with nutrition (and deep down, I knew that smothering it with 2 cups of Swiss cheese would help it go down easier), and because I’m vying to be the first person to conquer The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

If every recipe is as good as these first two, it’s going to be a glorious couple of weeks before I hang up my apron, and give my beaters a final lick.

To make Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions, and Baby Swiss for your holiday table, you will need:

  • 5 C cooked wild rice (from 1 2/3 C uncooked)
  • 3 T butter, divided
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 4 C stemmed, ribboned kale leaves
  • 2 C (8 oz) grated Swiss cheese
  • 3/4 C vegetable broth (if you’re not vegetarian and keep chicken broth around, that’s fine, too)
  • 1 C fine, dry breadcrumbs (though Panko sure did taste good)

Cook the rice according to the package directions, up to a day in advance.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, caramelize the onions.  Heat 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil in large skillet, over medium-low heat.  When hot, add onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until tender and sweet, and the most luxurious looking brown you could imagine, about 30 minutes.  You can taste one to see if it’s as rich as you like.  If not, keep cooking.  Add kale ribbons, cook 5 minutes, until they wilt a bit.  Stir together onion-kale mixture, wild rice, and 1 C grated cheese in a large bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.

Use 1 T butter to grease 2 quart baking dish.  Spread rice mixture into prepared gratin and pour broth over it.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over gratin.  Toss breadcrumbs with remaining T melted butter, salt and pepper, and sprinkle over cheese.

Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a little bubbly and beginning to brown on top.  Try and wait at least 5 cooling minutes to dig in.  Just try.

There are millions, MILLIONS, I tell you, waiting for someone who figures out a way for food bloggers to take appealing pictures of casseroles.  Millions.

Decadence

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is here!

And I’m heralding its arrival with a recipe that is so classically Deb.  It’s a regular dish, which you thought would taste like it always does.  You didn’t even really think, you just assumed it would taste like it always does.  Because it’s nothing new.  Right?

Wrong!

Because Deb has this way–and maybe it’s her insistence on trying a recipe again and again, until it’s just so–of taking a beloved classic you thought you knew, and making it better than you dreamed it could be.  This won a raving, “I usually don’t like alfredo but this is amazing” review from my husband.  And it made me realized that I’ve never like alfredo until now.  Oh sure, I ordered it when I was feeling particularly indulgent, as anything laced with that much cream and draped in a metric ton of cheese will taste decadent.  But it doesn’t necessarily taste good.  Deb’s does.

There’s just enough sauce to coat the pasta, not enough to leave a thick sludge at the bottom of your bowl.  And while you might read her suggestion to mix half whole wheat and half regular pasta as a thinly veiled attempt to make this dish healthier, I promise it only adds to the complexity of the final product (this promise is decidedly true because I normally hate whole wheat pasta).  But the highlight of it all is that instead of using fettuccine, or some other, strand-like pasta, Deb suggests shells.  I didn’t have those around, but instead, used another curvy shape with ridges.  This sauce folds itself around every bend in the pasta, and the bright peas tuck into each nook and cranny the noodles create.

What you luck out with is a decadent dinner that doesn’t leave you sitting on the couch, clutching your stomach for the rest of the night.

To make 2-4 servings, you will need:

  • 8 oz. dried pasta shells; Deb recommends using a combination of whole wheat and regular pasta.
  • 1 C cream
  • 1 C fresh shelled peas (but frozen will do)
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (something I don’t advise missing out on)
  • 1 C finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T parsley (though I was thinking chives might be fun, too)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta.  Cook according to package directions, adding peas about 1 minute before draining.  Reserve 1/2 C pasta water and set aside.  Drain pasta and set aside.

Put pot back over heat and add cream.  Bring to boil and let simmer about 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced.  Add butter, and stir till melted.  Season the sauce with salt and black pepper.  You want enough pepper that you can taste it in each bite.  I promise that’s not a gross thing.  Add lemon zest, and 3/4 C Parmesan, and stir till combined.  Add pasta and peas back to sauce and let the whole thing cook for 2 minutes, until sauce has thickened slightly.  Add pasta water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce if it’s too gloppy.

Place pasta in serving bowls, and top with more cheese and herbs.

When Salad is What’s For Dinner

Then you have no excuse not to make your own croutons.

Especially when there’s that extra loaf of farmers market bread that the bread guy gave you because he had it and it was so good he wanted you to have it too.

In fact, whether salad is what’s for dinner or not, you can whip up your own croutons in less than 10 minutes whenever there’s day old bread lying around.  Store them in an airtight container, and they can sit for up to a week.  Sprinkle them on soups, salads, and the like.  Or just keep snitching them out of the bowl on the counter where they live.

Homemade croutons are not like the kind from the grocery store, coated in garlic and onion powder.  I love those.  But garlic isn’t supposed to be powdered.  Thus, these are better.  Because they are infused with the flavor of real garlic.  And when you sprinkle sea salt over them.  Well.  Then they’re just about perfect.

To make a batch of croutons, you will need:

  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • sea salt (kosher would work as well)
  • day old bread, cut into 1/2 to 1-inch cubes

First, a note.  Some people believe in cutting the crusts off their bread before setting about to make croutons.  I am not one of those people.  If there is a step in the kitchen that can be eliminated without disastrous results, I’m likely to eliminate it.  The choice, dear readers, is yours.

Set a large skillet on a burner.  Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom in a thin layer.  Heat olive oil and garlic cloves over medium to low heat, till olive oil starts to bubble around the cloves.  Let simmer this way about 5 minutes.  You’re infusing the oil with the flavor of the garlic.  You can give things a stir if you feel the need to be more involved in the infusing process.  Remove the garlic and discard.  Add bread to skillet.  At this point, you want to crank up the heat if it was on low.  Medium should work well here.  Stir the bread around the skillet, turning the cubes so they brown on all sides.  When things look nice and golden, and most of the oil has been absorbed, remove croutons and transfer to an airtight container.  The amount of salt you want to use depends on how many croutons you’re making.  I had about 1 1/2 – 2 C croutons, and I sprinkled a generous teaspoon of sea salt over them.  I sealed them in tight with a lid, and gave things a shake to coat.  If you’re new to recipes that tell you to salt to taste, here’s the part where you take out a crouton or two or three and try them.  Not enough salt?  Add another half teaspoon.  Keep them sealed in that container till you’re ready for dinner.

As I Write This

I don’t know whether I have power.  I don’t know whether Frankenstorm wiped us all out.

Future Jennie?  Can you hear me?  Are you safe?

Future Dear Readers?  Do you have power?  Are you in need of a soup recipe?

I hope you answered yes to both questions.  I hope I answered yes to both questions.

Because if you can get chicken and barley soup on the table tonight, you win.  I’m a total sucker for barley in soup, and this is the best I’ve had.  That should come as no surprise, as it hails from Dinner, a Love Story, which if you’re not reading, and you haven’t bought the book, then Dear Readers, I just don’t know where we stand anymore.  Jenny and Andy write about dinner, and their family’s life, in a way that makes you feel like you could create something special for your own nearest and dearest, too.

And that always starts with dinner.

To make chicken and barley soup to ride out the storm, you will need:

  • olive oil
  • 1 lb, bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (white meat, dark meat, or both)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 C carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 C celery, chopped
  • 1/2 C red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 4 C chicken stock (veggie if that’s how you roll)
  • 1/2 C uncooked barley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pat chicken dry with paper towel, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Cook on baking sheet 30 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in skillet.  Add onions, carrots, celery, and bell pepper.  Saute till veggies are soft, 10-12 minutes.  Add stock, bay leaf, and thyme, and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, add barley and let things hang out for 25 minutes.

While you’re hanging around, peel the skin off the chicken, and use two forks to shred the meat.

Add chicken to soup, and let the flavors come together for another few minutes.  Serve with a huge slice of crusty bread.