December. When 24 weeks of CSA boxes comes to an end. Although I always miss the variety and convenience, there’s also a bit of relief. My freezer is packed. I’ve cooked a lot the last six months. And the holidays are always busy. I feel ready for simple meals. Plus, some meals that rely on serving leftovers. But, the farmers markets are still loaded with goodies. Just take a look at last weekend’s food haul:
Nothing new here for breakfast. A fresh baguette leads to poached eggs, bread, pears and coffee for a simple meal. With one special treat—raw Whidbey Island honey—a gift from friends who have their own apiary. The honey was given to us after we dined on sourdough pancakes made from their own starter. Now on my 2017 to-do list—the sourdough, not the bees.
Lunch was reluctantly saved from becoming dinner last night. Remember when I told you NOT to serve leftovers for dinner Sunday night. Here’s why:
I’ve been making this recipe since discovering it on The Global Table Adventure blog a few years ago. I often make variations but this time, I only changed the types of squash and cheese. It’s also good with a variety of veggies (and even cooked sausage, bacon or ham) in the filling. Corn and peas can be used frozen, but many other vegetables should be cooked first.
One of my distractions from November is due to a new feature idea I’ve been working on for kitchenlister. I want to combine flavor affinities, taste profiles and nutritional guidelines into a nice, neat package. The goal is to support impromptu cooking and encourage improvisation. I have some work to do before I have anything that’s usable for someone who is not me. But in the meantime, I’m testing out some of the ideas for my own meals.
Tonight we sautéed brussels sprouts, chestnuts, and apples with butter, leeks and garlic. The vegetables were seasoned with apple cider vinegar (salt and pepper are a given). We used the sauté as a topping for roasted sweet potatoes and finished the dish with blue cheese. The meal had a lot of beautiful colors as well as interesting flavors. But in all honesty, I think I liked it more than Matt did. So as I said … still refining that new feature.
I had a few Yukon potatoes that needed to be used. Plus one leftover sweet potato, a bit of the vegetable sauté, and some cooked leeks from dinner. Fried potatoes with eggs is typically a weekend meal. But I was up early and able to start cooking the potatoes well before breakfast. Time is what’s needed—there’s not a whole lot to actually do. Relying on leftover cooked ingredients also speeds up the process. If you don’t have this kind of time in the morning, fried potatoes are great reheated. A side dish for dinner can turn into breakfast by adding an egg. I cooked up an omelet using the last of the leeks and blue cheese.
Lunch was a piecemeal affair. So far, I can’t seem to resist that new honey so I spread it on some seeded baguette slices. This was followed by some of the breakfast leftovers. Really, my whole day was a little fractured. By the time I realized lunch was long overdue, I didn’t bother too much with it.
In an attempt to free up some space in my freezer (and my refusal to start a third vegetable scraps bag), I made vegetable stock. I’ve had a couple soups in mind lately—sunchoke, pumpkin, bean & kale—so I knew I could use it. Plus the effort you make for one large batch of soup produces lots and lots of leftover meals.
For the sunchoke soup, I tried a recipe from Vegetable Literacy. This cookbook is yet another by my favorite cookbook author, Deborah Madison. I followed the recipe using red onion, chopped celery from the freezer, sunchokes and garlic. I used baking potatoes instead of all-purpose because mine were getting flaccid. I knew that wouldn’t matter for a pureed soup. As an added bonus, russets make the soup feel creamier without adding any dairy. Oh, and if you’re new to sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes), it’s nice to cut them with extra vegetables. I love the flavor but if beans give you problems … well, you’ve been warned about sunchokes.
Hopefully that doesn’t scare you off because sunchokes are a winter staple. They are a delicious vegetable with a unique flavor. Although they are potato-like, sunchokes can be thinly sliced and eaten raw. Their flavor is both distinctive and compatible with many other ingredients. This soup turned out really well. It’s a good recipe, but more than that, I took every opportunity to boost the flavor. Here’s how:
- Leaving the vegetables unpeeled.
- Sautéing them on high heat.
- Salting at each step of the process.
- Adding extra flavoring ingredients, like dried herbes de Provence.
- Using homemade stock. You won’t believe the difference this makes until you try it.
- Letting the soup simmer for at least an hour.
- Finishing it with a splash of vinegar. Many people think of lemon juice as a last minute flavor enhancer. Vinegar works the same way and is easier to keep on hand for quick use.
- Finally, taking the extra few minutes to garnish the soup. In this case, with pumpkin seed oil and chopped hazelnuts. Oh and the seeds that fall off my baguette every time I cut it (mostly fennel, sesame and poppy seeds).
- Serving the soup with one of the best cheeses ever doesn’t hurt either 🙂
That list may look long. I’m convinced if you always do those steps, your soup will be delicious.
My whole-milk, plain yogurt–with–stuff–on–it breakfast staple:
Guaranteed to be more nutritious and tastier than the store-bought, flavored stuff. Yes, it takes more time. Eight minutes to be exact.
My guess is when most people invite friends over for dinner, they plan a menu, go to the grocery store, and perhaps start cooking a day or two prior. All this is way too much work in my mind. If I did it this way, I’d never invite anyone over. Few people cook for themselves on a daily basis so you don’t need to make something special. A simple and tasty meal made from scratch will be appreciated. So leftovers it is …
But I did try to make it seem fancy with a soup extravaganza!
Oh, and you don’t have to tell your guests you’re serving leftovers. I did. But I like to brag about weird shit like that.
I didn’t plan this fancy-looking dessert for company—it just worked out that way. (Cook frequently; invite friends over often; it’s bound to happen sometimes.)
For those of you looking for a simple yet impressive dessert, let me introduce you to pavlova. The formula is simple: meringue base, whipped cream layer, and artfully arranged fruit. Meringue has the reputation for being difficult. It isn’t. I actually chose to make this dessert because I had egg whites lingering in the fridge for too long. This was the easiest thing I could think of to make! I actually made the base on Tuesday night. When Matt confirmed that some of his co-workers would be joining us on Wednesday, I decided to save it. By save it, I mean I let the meringue sit overnight in the oven after turning it off. And 24 hours later, it was still fine. Whip some fresh cream and slice the fruit. Dessert is done.
I saved a little of the cooked sausage instead of adding it all to the soup. I also washed the green chard with the kale the night before. So my ingredients were ready to go in the morning for this quick breakfast.
Since we were going to the company holiday party this evening, we planned to eat a bowl of soup early before we left. So lunch was just a simple fruit-and-nut snack.
Must have been a good party because I can’t remember what we had for breakfast the next day. Hmmm … perhaps, coffee. Yeah, definitely coffee. Black.
I do remember dinner though! I’ve written about creamed cabbage before. This time I braised it on the stove and stirred in the last of the cream at the end.
And what to do with leftover cooked cabbage? Okonomiyaki-inspired omelet, of course! I’ve often heard this Osaka specialty described as Japanese pizza. But it tastes nothing like pizza and actually reminds me of a frittata. So an omelet is not much of a stretch. I did add caraway seeds and a little cheese, however, neither of which are very Japanese.
What’s With All The Mandarins and Pomegranates
Yes, that’s a lot of the same couple fruits. A 5-lb box of mandarin oranges and two whole pomegranates. And no, they aren’t local. But winter is the time for these seasonal treats. And this is quite possibly the only ones I’ll eat for the year. So enjoy! And speaking of, the best way to enjoy pomegranate seeds is to peel and break apart the whole fruit. Preferably in a large bowl of water unless you want your clothes stained red. Then scoop out the seeds and refrigerate for easy use. Sprinkle on everything. Literally, I think pomegranate seeds do actually go with everything. For instance, this simple dessert:
WHEN YOUR MEALS ARE THIS GOOD, YOU’RE NOT SHY ABOUT SERVING LEFTOVERS TO COMPANY. IF YOU’RE AS EXCITED ABOUT INCORPORATING LEFTOVERS INTO YOUR ROUTINE AS I AM, WHY NOT GIVE KITCHENLISTER A TRY? START A FREE ACCOUNT NOW.
If you’d like more information about any of these winter meals, leave me a comment.
Read more about my “Week in Review” posts.