Cooking meals on a daily basis can be daunting or it can be relaxing depending on your approach. I recently discovered the book The Kitchen Ecosystem. Author Eugenia Bone helped me see why it might be easier for longtime cooks to prepare daily meals while the same task could be stressful for the occasional cook.
Having Stuff on Hand
One crisper drawer in my refrigerator is devoted to my cooking basics: celery, carrots, parsley, cabbage, lemons, and apples. With the stocks in my freezer and the onions and garlic in my pantry, I have the beginning of many soups, stews, braises, and salads.
The Kitchen Ecosystem is arranged by 40 common ingredients. For each one, the author provides recipes for dishes that star that ingredient and follows with ideas on what you can make to add to your pantry with not only the leftovers, but also the scraps. (e.g., Who knew that apple peel stock could be handy to have when you need a bit more pectin in a jelly or jam?)
Preserving foods by fermenting, canning, and freezing are part of the author's repertoire. But even if you're not ready to make your own sauerkraut or can chicken, you can make stocks to freeze and prepare a dish that will let you turn the leftovers into a sequence of meals.
Tired of Leftovers?
If you or your family quickly tire of the same food after a day or two, think about preparing a basic version of something and then creating variations on a theme. I do this all the time with chicken soup. I’ll make a big pot of simple chicken soup and then serve it at future meals with different starches like rice, pasta, noodles, dumplings, barley, grains, cubes, etc. In the photo above, I used polenta cubes.
Whenever I have leftover, falling apart, tender meat from a pot roast or braised lamb shanks, I’ll shred the meat and turn it and the braising liquid into a chili by adding beans, chilies, and seasoning then simmering until the flavors blend.
When I make chicken soup, I use enough chicken to have extra poached chicken. This can become the curried chicken salad you see above. That's a cool, crisp, spicy change of pace.
Every few weeks, I make a big batch of homemade dog food for my Westie Poppy. The recipe I use calls for a wide assortment of vegetables and there’s always half a cauliflower, half a cabbage, and a few other things left when I’m done. These become a soup for the human members of the family. One version is the cabbage and kielbasa soup shown below.
If you shy away from buying a whole head of broccoli, cabbage, or cauliflower because you’ll only eat part of it and waste the rest, consider soup on day two. It can be vegetarian or you can add meat or sausage to the mix. You might even consider making the soup on one burner while you’re cooking the meal that will have cauliflower as a side dish on the others. Most soups taste better on day two when the flavors have had an opportunity to harmonize.
What's on your Food Lover's shopping list?
Words: Penny & Ed Cherubino
Photos: ©2016 Penny & Ed Cherubino. Cover art courtesy of the publisher, Clarkson Potter.