Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Very Scrappy Dinner

So, I thought I would post a picture of what I (and the roommate -- yes I feed her. It helps her tolerate my late nights) had for dinner last night. No recipes, just a picture and a list of ingredients. Why? Because I feel like people overthink food. Dinner doesn't have to be this big "thing." Of course I believe that we should take note of how blessed we are to have the opportunity to eat well every time we sit down to a lovely meal. That's not what I mean.

I think that many of us have this rigid idea of what a meal should entail -- that certain vegetables perform certain tasks, that there should be exactly this much protein to this much starch, that sort of thing. For example, too many people think of vegetables as a side player to a protein, or they think that beans go with rice and tortillas.

The best meals come, at least for me, when I "Iron Chef" it. That's how I refer to the act of cooking with whatever the heck I already have. Since I started getting the CSA boxes from Green Hill Urban Farm (, I've been doing that more often. It's an awful lot of fun to spread a rainbow of seasonal produce across the counter, stare at it for a few minutes, and come up with something fun to make with it.

It doesn't take much to be creative with food, just a fairly well-stocked pantry. A few whole spices and a mortar and pestle, a couple types of oils and vinegars, and a good selection of dried beans and grains should supplement any assortment of veggies to make a fine Iron Chef-style meal. Oh, as always, I highly recommend making and freezing your own chicken stock -- such a great thing to have on hand:

Thinking creatively about food helps to avoid waste, too. Instead of rushing out to buy a bunch of stuff you don't need to make dinner tonight, look in your fridge and see what needs to be cooked. Do you have scraps of 6 different vegetables sitting in your fridge about to turn into compost if you don't do something with them? Well, sounds like soup waiting to happen! Or, perhaps a really eclectic vegetable "ragout" over quinoa, like in that picture up there.

The ragout came about after I surveyed my very modest pea harvest from this spring. Not enough to be a major feature in a dish (man, I've been dreaming about spring pea risotto. Oh well). So, I chopped up some baby chiogga beets, purple broccoli, fennel and chard from Green Hill, some baby golden beets, oregano, snow peas, English peas and pea shoots from mine. I sauteed some red onion and garlic, threw in the veggies, then added chopped tomato, chicken stock, white beans, a touch of rice vinegar and some extra Theros olive oil. Covered it, steamed it all for a bit, then served it over quinoa. Probably would have been pretty awesome with some Moroccan spice added to the mix, but salt and pepper was just fine as well.

So basically, this post is meant to encourage several things:

1. Try not to waste food. Visit this link for some interesting stats on poverty and food waste in America:
an excerpt:
Almost 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in America each year. 700 million
hungry human beings in different parts of the world would have gladly accepted
this food.

2. Be creative! There are no real rules beyond keeping your food safe for people to eat.

3. Consider planting a garden. It's amazing how far you can stretch your food dollar when you can supplement your meals with things growing right in your yard. Saves on fuel if you only have to travel 20 feet, too.

4. Keep your pantry stocked with spices, dried grains and beans, and other non-perishables. They make your life so easy.

5. Consider supporting your local farming community by joining a CSA .

No comments:

Post a Comment