Friday, February 22, 2008

Icebox Experiments: Baby Tapas

I have been traveling for work until the night before last, and my heart broke with longing to see Belle. I rushed home from the trip keen to see the baby—but also to make her dinner. Apparently in my four days away she had a high starch, low diversity diet. There were vegetable offerings (green beans and rice were dinner last night), but nothing drew her in. Spoiling by her grandparents was a likely contributing factor in her disinterest in dinner, but my husband also mentioned that he finally understood the difficulty and thought required in creating dinner each night.

I wasn’t here to do grocery shopping this weekend, so when it came to making dinner, I just pulled anything from the fridge. I also wanted to spend as much time with the baby as I could, so I tried to figure out something fast. Dinner was started and completed in the 1 hour of naptime. I took out the random assortment of veg from the fridge and couldn’t really think holistically enough to create a unified meal. I knew that I wanted to do stuffed butternut squash. Veganomicon has a great chapter on the mix and match vegetarian dinner. As they say, and I paraphrase, bring the side dishes to the fore—or elevate them to be the meal.

I also knew that I wanted something fun. We had family friends who did theme dinners—fondue night, Mexican night (more Pancho Villa knock off than Bayless), dessert-first night. I loved the idea of having dinner party style meals within the family, where the action of the meal is part of the experience of the food. This is not to say that I plan to be the mother in the movie Mermaids, who only makes appetizers for dinner. The abnormal every day becomes the normal—but when the appetizer night punctuates square meals…

I have never been to Spain, so I only know tapas as the urban small food phenomenon that exists in the States now. While my husband enjoys Spanish (Spain) food, he always feels hungry and cheated for money when we have gone for tapas. Instead, I have had a few tapas parties from Jose Andres' book and Penelope Casas' book. They are a wonderful excuse to lavish olives, pimenton and chorizo on your friends. Of course, Americans as we are, these parties end up with a group of people seated around the table displaying the food, usually the girls, and then boys in the other room, sending someone back and forth to replenish their rations. At least the food is good.

We ended up with purple carrots steamed and then dressed with pomagranate molasses, mushrooms sauteed with garlic, pears sauteed in olive oil and dressed with balsamic, kale sauteed with garlic, tomatoes, red pepper and macaroni. (This dish was heavy on veg and light on pasta. It could easily be made in the reverse and then call it macaroni with kale, garlic, tomatoes, etc. It is sort of like the difference between the blue-green crayon and the green-blue crayon.)

Now, this is all slightly early for Belle. We are just working on spoons. But, I decided to break the rules and have a meal where walking is part of the eating. I made 5 small dishes and poured her a glass of soy milk. (*Note: she did not get the glass pictured, but instead an unbreakable sippy.) The one thing about babies is that promenading in between bites of dinner is their natural state. So, we snacked and ran and snacked some more. In the end, the stuffed squash and sautéed pears were both very successful. The mushrooms were not so loved, but there is time for all tastes.

Stuffed Butternut squash
Roast at 425
1 small butternut squash that has been rubbed with olive oil and pimenton

Sautee in olive oil
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup shitake mushrooms
1/4 diced red peppers
black pepper and salt to taste

After the butternut squash is tender, add the rice stuffing and top with vegan mozzarella cheese and then broil quickly

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