three oven recipe reviews

This morning, K found me making quenelles of leftover pesto and dropping them into an ice cube tray for freezing. “Why are you bothering with the tray,” he asked, “when you could just drop the quenelles straight onto a sheet pan and freeze them there?”

He had a very good point, so I switched over. (Once frozen, they’ll pop right off the pan and won’t stick to one another in the freezer bag.)

Anyway. Sunday did not bring the wintry weather that everyone had predicted, but I gamely stuck with my plan of oven cooking. After all, the more I cook on Sunday, the less I have to cook on weekday evenings. All of the following recipes are great for times when you’ve a couple of spare hours to man the oven (prep doesn’t take too long, so you can do other things while the food is in the oven… like attacking homework, however unsuccessfully).

I’d put off dealing with the beets for a while, but then I saw this recipe for roasted beets with a balsamic glaze and gave it a shot. It turned out surprisingly good; I had been worried that the balsamic would be too strong, but instead it went all sweet and tangy and complemented the beets very well. The orange zest was a nice touch. The only thing I’d change is that next time, I’d just go ahead and peel the beets with a vegetable peeler before roasting them. After roasting, the skins are so caramelized that it’s hard to tell skin from flesh, and I missed more than a few shreds of skin while trying to peel the beets.

This week’s paltry pound of spinach made a smaller version of the best baked spinach, and I gotta say, it really was the best baked spinach ever. I used Parmesan instead of Swiss cheese, vegetable broth instead of cream, probably halved the amount of butter, and the gratin was still sinfully, wonderfully delicious. I can’t wait until we get spinach from the CSA again — I might even ask if they can sell me a little extra. I kept sneaking bits of gratin from the baking dish, and finally had to force myself to package it up in lunch containers before I ate it all right there.

Finally, since the oven was going to be on for a while and we had half a head of cabbage left, I made a dish that’s turned into a standby: this braised cabbage with carrots and onions. The cabbage turns soft and picks up a lot of flavor from the broth. Goes very well with just a little bit of protein for completeness (leftover corned beef, in this case), and reheats nicely for workday lunches.

Didn’t get around to the potato and caramelized onion gratin, but we’ll try to get this pesky homework done first…