Continuing my retrospective of the last 500 posts, these are some recipes that are among my favourites. Because I like to try new dishes, a recipe has to be special for me to remember to make it more than once.
If you cook for one or two people, it can be difficult to incorporate sufficient vegetables and retain variety. Sometimes I like to buy several different types of vegetables and try to make multiple meals out of the same ingredients while still providing variety. This is what I did with the last few posts. I purchased 5 tomatoes, a Savoy cabbage, a bag of carrots and a box of chestnut mushrooms. From these ingredients I made cabbage soup, cabbage rolls, and cabbage stirfry, although I did not include the tomatoes – which I had already used up – in the stirfry. Of course I incorporated other ingredients, such as onions, ginger, garlic and seasoning, but these are all ingredients I keep on hand. As you can see, the three dishes were visually distinct, and the flavours were distinctive as well.
I enjoy presenting myself with this sort of challenge, instead of my usual approach of making a few different curries, each featuring one vegetable, and eating them in different proportions for a few days.
When I got back from a trip I was too tired to put a lot of effort into making meals. I just set some beans and chickpeas to soak, and the next day I pressure-cooked them and also cooked a bit of quinoa, then put both in the fridge for later. With these ingredients I made four different meals:
Together with berrry salad (lunch) and cucumber with feta (lunch), this gave me three days of variation and enough food for the rest of the week. Of course I used other ingredients: kale, tomatoes, tortilla chips, lettuce, sweet peppers, feta, blueberries…but it all fit in one over-the-shoulder shopping bag. Just start with some versatile ingredients and it’s easy to come up with half a dozen different dishes with minimal effort if you have a few things in the pantry, fridge and garden (pasta, corn kernels, olives, spices, cheese) as well. Aside from the taco salad and nachos, there weren’t similarities in flavour, either.
I know I’m posting a lot of desserts! I didn’t abandon my healthy diet, but this summer I brought desserts to a number of gatherings. Since I enjoy baking it’s always fun for me to make desserts without the need to eat much myself. I generally have quite a few posts queued so although summer is now winding down, most of these desserts were made during my busy summer baking season (which is why the fruits featured are now out of season).
To make the cobbler I simmered the rhubarb in a little water with sugar and vanilla extract until it was soft, then thickened it with tapioca pearls. The topping is a sweet baking powder biscuit dough using unbleached flour. I rolled it out and cut it with cookie cutters, then layered the shapes and sprinkled it with sugar before baking until the dough was cooked.
When I find a recipe that looks interesting, I make a copy of it and add the URL or other source, and then file it away. I distinguish between recipes I’ve tried and recipes I haven’t tried because sometimes I’m in the mood to cook something new and other times I feel like browsing familiar recipes.
This weekend I tried a recipe which has been waiting a long, long time for me to try it. How long? Well, it was posted by someone with an AOL address. I’m not sure why it took me so long to try these spiced apples, which I served with a bit of vanilla vla (Dutch pudding).
I don’t always prepare my ingredients before I begin cooking, but there are some circumstances where I find mise en place invaluable: when I’m preparing an unfamiliar recipe, when the dish requires sensitive timing, or when I’m cooking many different things at once. Since I started doing all the weekly cooking on one day, I often prep four or more different dishes at a time. It’s simply easier to chop all the onions, garlic and other ingredients at the same time, rather than to prepare one recipe at a time.
Today I had the ingredients for four dishes spread out on my table, and after I’d cooked a few things I added the ingredients for two more. I also made lunch in the midst of the cooking. A fairly simple dish like okra fry isn’t confusing on its own without mise en place, but it does require ingredients to be added fairly rapidly and I was cooking it at the same time as a chickpea curry.
Whereas I wouldn’t want to attempt something with as many components as this vegetable curry without getting everything ready in advance!
Most of those containers have multiple ingredients, like the one in the right foreground, which is a cashew nut, poppy seed and melon seed paste. Although it may seem like a lot of dish washing, I find that if I have a minute or two between steps in the recipe it’s just the right amount of time to hand-wash a couple of bowls. Mise en place both makes me more productive and reduces errors….even if the end result does sometimes make you wonder why you can’t just dump everything in the pan at once!