CSA Week #22 & #23: “A Soup Pot Made For Two” Edition
Green bell peppers
Eggs and honey
As soon as I saw that I had another turnip in the shipment, I took t-ster’s suggestion and ordered a Rada vegetable peeler off Amazon. By the way, sorry I rolled two weeks into one, because of Skepticon. The picture above is from week #22, but the list includes all things I got.
I thought, as this series winds down in the final month, that it might be a good time to start posts off talking about various issues that crop up. This week, I thought I’d talk about my own personal biggest struggle when it comes to home cooking, which is that the entire recipe-and-cooking culture of America is still geared towards the assumption that you’re cooking for a group of people, instead of one or two people.
If you’re doing a one-pot vegetarian meal of some sort, this is usually not an issue. If you’re just tossing stuff together, it’s usually simply to only put in as much as you’re going to eat. Or, if you’re working off a recipe, it will often say “serves 4 or 6”, the implication being that you’re eating more than one thing. So each person—if you’re two—can just have two servings and it’s gone. But that can get boring after awhile, and some times you want to have multiple things on a plate. What then?
Halving recipes is often just really unsatisfying for me, in some cases. Sometimes it doesn’t work—if a recipe calls for one egg, that’s hard to cut in half. Or, the ingredients are such that cutting it in half would make it hard to manipulate. Baking in particular can be hard to reduce. If you’re making a loaf of bread, it has to fit your loaf pan.
A lot of the time, it’s daunting to reduce an ingredient. Not only does the CSA shipment almost always have a lot of a certain kind of vegetable, but things like a block of cheese or a can of tomatoes are rarely sold in half-sizes. A lot of families don’t cook as much as they should because they’re pinched for time. But a lot of couples or singles don’t, because the culture of cooking favors families. It often becomes easier just to eat out.
What to do? In some cases with veggies, you can quick prepare them and use the amounts you need as you go—greens, anything you roast. Another option, of course, is to have leftovers and just eat them. I work from home, so that’s easy for me, but for people who go to an office, this isn’t off-limits.
The other thing is to try to get creative about using certain ingredients in multiple dishes. That’s one of my preferred strategies—if I buy cheese for X, I try to play a dish later that also uses cheese. I think sometimes people feel this doesn’t build enough variety in, but my feeling is that most restaurant and junk food has even less variety.
When I lived alone, this problem was even more daunting, but I learned to cope precisely because I preferred to spend my evenings hanging out in my kitchen. I didn’t have a TV, and so cooking and eating while reading stuff online was my major way to pass my spare time in the evenings. I got into the habit of making almost solely one-pot dishes, but living with Marc has encouraged me to introduce more variety to the plate.
What about you? How do you do you handle the “portions made for families” problem?
1) Still had a ton of pumpkin and butternut squash that I’d roasted in the fridge. Turns out four cups. I’d heard curry pumpkin soup was good, so I cooked some chopped onion with various spices that make up curry—cardamon, cumin, chili, tumeric, mustard, ginger, garlie—added 4 cups of the squash and pumpkin, then topped it off with 2 and a half cups of veggie broth. Simmered for 20 minutes, let it cool off in the fridge, pureed it, then reheated it.
2) Boiled a bag of black beans that I’d had soaking all day. Peeled and chopped beets, added it to the mix. Heated up the skillet to start a Bittman recipe, which is black beans with orange juice. I picked this, because I had orange juice leftover from making cranberry sauce. Put onion and bell pepper into the skillet, browned it, and then added garlic and cumin and then red wine. Cooked that off a little, and added the bean/beet mix, with some orange juice. Cut up what was left of my parsley into it.
3) Warmed up some cranberry muffins, served with a little cranberry sauce. The sweet was a nice counterpoint to the spice.
Time: About an hour of cooking, if you soak the beans well ahead of time.
I put the black bean mix in the food processor and pureed it a bit, thinking I’d use it to make veggie burgers later.
Dinner # 2
1) I had planned on making veggie burgers, but didn’t have any eggs in the first shipment! (I got them in the second.) Luckily, Bittman had a recipe for vegan black bean burgers that involved mashed potatoes, which happened to be what I was making to go with it. Saw that as a sign, and made the veggie burgers.
2) I was also out of yeast, but I did get honey in the shipment, so I used the Bittman recipe for quick whole wheat bread, using honey instead of molasses.
(Note: while potatoes were boiling and bread was baking, I peeled the beets, put them in foil and tossed them in the oven with the bread to roast them. I’ve just been using them as a replacement for tomatoes, not that tomatoes are becoming scarcer and more expensive. But this only works if you roast them until they’re soft and sweet like a tomato.)
3) Made the mashed potatoes, adding a cube of pesto to the milk and butter mixture before I added the potatoes. Obvs, I actually made the veggie burgers after this. By the way, it’s good to let veggie burgers, after being shaped, sit out for a few minutes before you cook them. This is a good time to wash dishes.
4) Steamed broccoli, which was served with a little spray-on dressing. Just so there was something not-heavy on the plate for contrast.
Time: An hour and a half, though if you don’t make your own bread, it’s probably an hour.
Soundtrack: Devo, Vivian Girls
Leftovers: Two burgers, tons of potatoes.
I had a lot of veggies I had to use quickly, because I was going out of town. And I had no time, really. So stir fry it was. After pressing the tofu for an hour while I did work, I chopped up the radish, the bok choy, the green peppers, and an onion. Put the rice in the cooker, and then started by pan-frying the tofu. Once I’d browned it slightly, I dumped all the chopped veggies in with salt and pepper. Added garlic, chili powder, and ginger. Added soy sauce and rice vinegar. Then enough veggie broth to make it a little wetter, and it was good to be eaten with rice. No picture, as in my pre-travel frenzy, I forgot to take a picture of anything but the tofu getting firm in the pan.
Time: As long as it takes you to cook rice.
Soundtrack: Beastie Boys
I had to clear a bunch of counter space in a hurry, so I took the two pumpkins, two acorn squash, the garlic, and bunch of beets I had, cut them up and roasted them. I had a ton of pumpkin, enough to fill a giant mixing bowl and a Tupperware container. Seriously, this is just the mixing bowl’s worth.
Soundtrack: Kanye West’s awesome new album.
I hadn’t made risotto in a long time, and I had that pre-roasted acorn squash, so I thought I’d go for it. I made this recipe, minus the bacon and chard (since I didn’t have any), but I added way more lentils and some more squash and apples (the peeler recommendation worked!), since I had plenty, and this was a one-dish meal instead of a side. I didn’t have shallots, but I had an onion with a lot of brown spots, so I cut them off and there was enough good onion left to equal the shallots.
Time: 45 minutes, or however long it takes for the risotto to cook. If the squash is already done, there’s not much prep time.
Leftovers: Enough for two lunches for me.
1) Made this turnip and sweet potato gratin with a few tweaks—what was left of the sage instead of tarragon, and some grated cheddar on top instead of the parmesan.
2) Cooked up some lentils with a Goya packet, so there was some protein involved. Tossed a couple of chopped roasted beets on top when served.
3) Steamed broccoli.
Time: An hour and 15 minutes, most of it just cooking time. I was able to do dishes and record some of my podcast while it was going.
Leftovers: Some of the gratin, which I mixed with lentils for breakfast food.
Some friends were having a Thanksgiving dinner, so I made pumpkin dip from this recipe, except, since I was using actual roasted pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin, I used 3 cups of pumpkin. And I cut the sugar in half, but it was still plenty sweet. Served with crackers.
Leftovers: We didn’t bring enough crackers, so there was tons. I used it as a spread on toast and sandwiches. I was particularly pleased with this apple and pumpkin sandwich.
1) Cut up some potatoes. Put them in a Tupperware container with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, put the lid on and shook it around until they were coated. Put them in a baking pan and cooked for about 45 minutes, turning them periodically. It’s like fries, but healthier and more potato-y. Served ‘em with all-purpose seasoning and mustard for dipping, due to that being my weird habit.
2) Took some more roasted pumpkin (I had a ton, as I said), and made roasted garlic pumpkin soup, using this recipe. I added an onion and the chickpeas she recommends, but didn’t use the coconut water. Served with parmesan cheese, as were the potatoes.
Time: One hour, mostly unattended. I did the dishes while this all cooked.