It's Almost Lunch Time

It’s the time of year that I start to get itchy about school lunches, and so far my anxiety and panic have not set in. In some ways I think I have the system down:

• I have some good fast stand-bys for quick lunches I could pack in my sleep (hummus, bagel, fruit, cheese sticks, chocolate milk).

• I’ve finally learned that I can actually put a lot of the lunch together the night before. That took years. Really.

• My girl started to pack her own lunch during camp this year. We shopped together to make sure we had foods were nutritious and that she enjoyed, and she packed what she wanted to eat from that selection.

One trick over the colder months is to make sure you have a small, wide-mouth thermos for hot soups and beans. Big pay off with the thermos.

Lots of people are talking about school lunches these days. I hate to give a shout out to Whole Foods these days because the CEO is just being a dimwit, but I found a nice flyer there with a great list of foods for lunch. It helped me think of using jicama, snap peas, and green beans and making wraps from whole grain tortillas. That made me think of the Levant sandwiches I used to get at La Mediteranee in Berkeley: basically cream cheese and cucumber with some herbs and lettuce rolled up in levan bread like pin wheels. Those would definitely go over big with my girl.

Our president is talking about school lunches too. I saw Obama interviewed by an 11 year old Damon Weaver, and he is ready to make a move about school lunch. He made similar points in a health care strategy meeting today.

So far, so good.

Thanks to Aubrey's Antiques (aubreysantiques.com) for the lunch box photo. That was the one I wanted when I was a kid.


Dinner (mostly) from the Farm

Today is the My Girl’s last day at Farm Camp at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, and it’s been a good two weeks for both of us. She’s learned about organic foods and composting, gone on hikes, and even prepared a meal in the Blue Hill kitchen. I’ve been able to shop at their amazing Farm Market, drink my weight in iced coffee, and get the sense that all is not bad in a world that create this kind of farm heaven. We’ve been splurging on fresh eggs from the farm, making an amazing egg salad last week and then a frittata (we red and blue flesh potatoes from the farm). Dinner came from the farm last night too.

It was a strange thing to be looking at the little piggies at the Stone Barns farm, knowing we were going to be having ham from there for dinner. I don’t know if I’m good at compartmentalizing or rationalizing: I’m eating dinner that came from the likes of you, little piggy, but it’s not you on my plate. Plus, if I am going to have some pork, how much better to know that the little critters lived a life of trotting around in the woods and rolling in juicy mud.

Once the ham steaks were decided upon (and they’re so easy, you just basically just have to heat them up), I knew that I wanted some kind of apple thing with them. It’s summer and too hot for applesauce, so I decided upon a slaw. My girl and I did this part together: washing the cabbage, fennel, and apple—then slicing them all into thin strips. We made a dressing out of Bittman, which we cut down for our small group: 1/2 C mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon maple syrup. We mixed it all together, making sure we had a nice ratio of veggies and dressing and then let it sit to wilt and mingle in the fridge for an hour.

Evan grilled some more of that delicious light green oval-shaped zucchini they’ve had at Stone Barns, and My Girl whisked up a vinaigrette for the purslane salad, a green I had never heard of until the other day. It’s labeled as both a weed and a “succulent herb” full of good things for the body. It makes a tender and satisfying salad, little bunches of greens like watercress. I got a beautiful bag at the farm market when I picked up my girl from camp, but I’m afraid it’s the same vigorous plant that I’ve trying to weed out of our raised flower bed.


When Summer (or the Upper West Side) Gives You Lemons...

Summer in the city used to mean having an Iced Cappuccino with Chocolate Italian Ice at La Fortuna on West 71st Street. That a hardware store now occupies that site is very sad indeed, the only consulation being that it is a small business and not a big chain. I still mourn the loss of that place, and I’ve come to realize that the New York that you encounter when you first arrive becomes permanently etched as the way New York is supposed to be. So there shouldn’t be a Brooks Brothers on my old corner. That’s supposed to be a Chemical bank. But of course, if I had gotten there a few years earlier I would have longed for the space to be a car show room.

And Hadleigh’s is supposed to be a few blocks down on Broadway. That was the place to go to choose chocolate to sneak into the movies or Lincoln Center. It was the place to sit outside and have a paper cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll on Sunday morning. Hadleigh’s has been gone for a few years too, and it has been replaced by something more appropriate to the new neighborhood: Bar Boulud.

My friend Amy and I decided to stop there after a matinee the other day, and we indulged ourselves with a decadent cheese plate for lunch. Your first look at the platter makes you think that they might have made a mistake, no, we didn’t order the mouse meal (something they would have at Alice’s Tea Cup). But when you start in on the cheese you find you get nicely fed.

This is a long story to tell about their lemonade. They had two specials: basil and rosemary lemonade. They infused their simple syrup with the herb, then added the lemon juice. You poured in your own Pelligrino. It was like an herbal citron pressé, and perfect for a warm summer day.

I made some at home yesterday, just as described. I picked some rosemary, muddled it with a mortar and pestle, wrapped it up in cheesecloth and then let it simmer with the sugar and water.

The rest is just lemon juice and bubbly water to taste. Perhaps it will become a new summer tradition, she said with just a small amount of uncertainty.

Thanks to Jim in Times Square for the UWS photo from his flicker page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jim-in-times-square/2259528804/


So Far, So Good

The cooking en famille experiment continues, and I’m cautiously optimistic about how things are going. Last night’s meal of roast chicken and an assortment of veggies worked well. My girl and I did the beets together, cutting off the greens, washing them well, and putting them in a pot of shallow water to braise (it was too hot to roast). Then we sorted through the greens and had a pot ready with those as well.

Evan was in charge of the chicken, and then had the idea of grilling the rest of the loaf of bread while the roasted chicken rested. I had an adorable pale green squash that would be easy to grill, so I sliced that up, doused it in oil, salt and pepper, and put that on with the bread. We put some goat cheese in with the cooked beets after they’d been skinned, then simmered down some balsamic vinegar for a sweet and tangy glaze.

Dinner came together like a waltz, except for when the bee flew into the kitchen. Huge distraction, a bee buzzing around your kitchen, so some of the bread was well done.

Dinner was wonderful, and I invented this little taste sensation: grilled bread, spread with fresh goat cheese, topped with a slice of grilled zucchini, and topped with a few sprigs of thyme. Oh my.