One-pan cooking

It’s really no secret that I don’t like washing dishes–I know some people say that they do, but I simply don’t believe it (I can kind of understand liking ironing, but…). It’s not as wv5220xthough I’ve never mentioned “one-pot meals” here and it’s pretty obvious that I don’t feel a huge need for recipes, but sometimes some guidelines are nice.

In perusing the internet I see lots of recipes that can be done in one pot–or maybe a sheet pan. These are so easily adaptable for single-serving cooking, use things that come in “chunks”,  and that it’s possible to buy in appropriate quantities.  For winter cooking I’ve got no problems using the oven as it simply contributes to heating the house. I’ve bought a one-quarter (9 x 13 inch) sheet pan to prepare for winter meals.

Summer is another matter–no oven use for this person.  I don’t want to add any extra heat, but cooking on a single burner would be within my limits (maybe actually doing it on an induction unit, too.)  Today, I found an article in Bon Appetit Basically that provided some guidelines for building a one-skillet meal that seems very amenable to improvisation–in other words a how to approach.

I’d suggest you take a look at the full article, but in summary:

  1. Cook your protein first. For quick-cooking things like shrimp, etc be sure to undercook just a tad.
  2. Add aromatics of your choice.
  3. Deglaze with your choice of liquid.
  4. Add vegetables; quick-cooking ones are best but that leaves a lot of options.
  5. Add pre-cooked grains if you wish.
  6. Return to protein to the skillet, to reheat if necessary.
  7. Serve!

If you do this in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet the cleanup is going to be really simple. Even better, if the skillet can also go in the oven you’ve even more flexibility in finishing off you one-skillet meal. (Tonight, my skillet will contain some good onion sausage and kohlrabi leaves with a few aromatics–onions and garlic.)

A son gôut!

Advertisements

Summer plenty

Walking through the farmers’ market we see an abundance of fresh produce. We cook and eat without thinking about the food waste between seed and plate. I’ve posted and reblogged articles about this issue: what has been done in other countries, tips on how not to waste food, making efficient use of leftovers, mindful eating, and grocery shopping for one, all with thoughts about food waste.

vegetable-chard IMG_0728This morning I read an article from Food 52 on kitchen scraps–with some statistics on food waste. This post gave a lot of recipes using those things that we often consider “scraps”–and some information on how long those (sometimes) impulsive purchases from the farmers’ market will last once you’ve gotten them into the kitchen.

This article has links to 125 (yes–one hundred twenty-five) recipes that focus on using that whole bunch of greens (even the stems) and things we often don’t consider for cooking and eating–radish tops, and even peels and skins of fruits and vegetables. We often discard the stems from chard and other greens when we cook the tender leaves but those stems are just as nutritious if treated just a bit differently–added first to the pot, or even used separately rather than discarded.

I’ve not tried all these recipes, but from my experience, the recipes from sources cited here are usually good. Even if you don’t use the recipes per se I think perusing them can show many ways that we can better use our food.

Õ¿Ó

On a related note, while we are enjoying the benefits of pollinators–honey bees included-Summer Harvest IMG_4487-those ladies of the hive are experiencing a decrease in the nectar and pollen that they can
gather–what we beekeepers call a “dearth” (scarcity or lack of something). We are eating and putting by the “fruits” of their work in the spring–and we don’t think about what is available for them at this time of the year.

I’ll be inspecting my hives tomorrow to see how much honey and pollen is stored. Most likely my ladies are consuming stored honey and pollen while awaiting the start of the goldenrod and aster seasons here in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. If necessary, I’ll be providing supplemental food (sugar syrup with supplements added) for them until the fall nectar flow starts and they can store honey and pollen for the winter.

I’m not planning a second harvest from hive Rosemarinus, or a first harvest from Salvia–they will get to keep all they produce from the autumn nectar flow to see them through the winter.

IMG_8902Feb hive

Ô¡Ó

What I learned in the kitchen

Source: What I learned in the kitchen

I found this while perusing the blogs that I follow (Cooking without Limits). If we were to follow these in the kitchen, cooking might cease to be frustrating, and something that we don’t want to do.

 

Make ratios work for you

It’s unfortunate that we’ve learned to view recipes as something to be followed rather slavishly.  That’s not the way cooking works since there are so many variables in ingredients available.  If we can get out of that habit, then we’ve made a huge stride in cooking for one.

I’ve talked about Pam Andersen’s How to Cook without a Book-which is based on using ratios in recipes.  Even more liberating from the slavish following of recipes are a number of books which really don’t give specific quantities at all or just suggest approximations of ingredients.  These can be easily adjusted if you pay attention to the proportions of the main ingredients or the ratios.

Cover of cookbook, I just purchased Michael Ruhlman‘s Twenty.  I found it a fascinating approach to cooking–it introduces you to the really important ingredients that you work with so often that you almost do not think about them–you take them for granted: like salt, eggs, water (yes, water!) and onions, to mention a few.  He presents recipes that will make you aware of how these ingredients actually work in the process of cooking–to help you understand them so that you can improvise!

Another great thing about this book is that even though the recipes may be for more servings than you want, ratios are given for important ingredients.  For example, in a recipe for “Traditional French Onion Soup”, he give a and “onion-to-liquid” ratio that he prefers for the main ingredients–7 or 8 pounds onions (which really cook down) to 6 cups of water.  That gives you the information you need to downsize the recipe.  Other ingredients are mostly “to taste” although quantities are suggested in the base recipe.  It’s wonderful when the recipes give you this kind of information; however, you can always look at the major ingredients in a recipe and come up with your own ratio.

This book stresses “thinking about food”–and that does not mean looking at the recipe that has 20 ingredients, and dreaming about how nice it would be to make that, but it serves 16, and….  Techniques that are basic to many recipes are presented–some of them are basic ingredients–to help you understand the why and the wherefore of the ingredients.  That is the key to improvising.  The other important thing stressed: think!  Once you understand ingredients, you can adjust the recipe, you can improvise.

This is a book that I’d recommend highly–at least check it out of the library and read it–it just might give some food for though, and open some doors to make single-serving cooking easier for you.  I’d also suggest checking out Michael Ruhlman’s website for other good information for the home cook.

I do love science….

I’ve always been prone to analyze things, to want to understand the WHY behind what’s going on.  It’s not surprising that I view cooking as an applied science and like data.  That’s one of the reasons my favorite cooking magazines are Cook’s  Illustrated and Cook’s Country. (Nope, no affiliate program or anything like that–just my personal preference.) I particularly like the experimental data about what works and what doesn’t–and the same for kitchen equipment, supermarket products. What’s not to love about realistic data about how that piece of equipment is going to survive if you drop it?  Or how easy it really is to clean and reassemble?

I was just browsing my latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated–yes, the hard copy one, and I found a section titled “Common Cooking Myths, Debunked”.  If you’re not a subscriber, this is still worth reading–check the library or the magazine stand in your local grocery store.  The debunking includes information on which part of the tomato has most flavor (supports my predilection for NOT seeding and peeling tomatoes), where the hottest part of the chili pepper really is, among other myths that seem to float around amongst cooks. Understanding the how and why of cooking makes improvisation so much easier–which in turn makes cooking for one so much easier since you don’t have to depend on recipes nearly so much.

Another feature of these magazines that I like is the equipment review–I’ve just been researching portable induction units, since I’ve decided that is going to be my birthday present from Frankie (the cat) to me this year–seems a great idea for energy-saving–must be cooler than having a gas burner on for the time it takes to cook dried beans–which is something I’m inclined to do in the summertime; they make such good, hearty cool meals. I’ve read the Cook’s Illustrated reviews so now I’m ready to go shopping, with their review in mind–especially since no manufacturer knows about the reviews until after publication of the results.  (OK–I sound like I’m selling something–sorry!  It’s just enthusiasm of an inquiring mind!)

Cooking monkfish

TGIEOT—yes, that’s a bit more than TGIF!  It’s end-of-term.  The Spring term was the school term from hell, starting right at the end of Fall term!  Over the winter break I had unexpected course preparation to do for two online classes—switching from Blackboard to Sakai—for content management.  Top that off with an ongoing indexing project, and it’s—well, let’s just say it left very little time for cleaning, cooking, or writing!  Then, add to that a hard-drive failure for my computer….but it’s over now.

I’ve taken some time to work on revising the on-deck herb garden since I had plants that needed to go into their home pots, and a couple of days to do nothing but have quality time with the cat.  All that has left me yearning for some relaxation time and some really good food—cooked by me.

My day was absolutely made when I got my email delivery of the “Fresh Catch” specials from my local Harris Teeter this morning: they had monkfish! In terms of favorite fish, that’s right up there with Chilean sea bass for me.  Needless to say, I scarfed down my morning coffee and headed right off to HT.

fennel, leeks and garlic ready to roast

fennel, leeks and garlic

Supper this evening was roasted monkfish, with roasted fennel with leeks, garlic, and a dash of red pepper flakes, with a nice un-oaked chardonnay.  The fennel was an in-store, spur of the moment thing since it looked so gorgeous.

Even though it is warm this afternoon, I opted to cook in the oven because I wanted roasted fennel as well. I’ve done monkfish in hobo-pack style before but I thought I’d try roasting it this time and see if I couldn’t have a one-pot dinner.

monkfish

monkfish

I’d seen a post by Edward Schneider in Mark Bittman’s NY Times column (Diner’s Journal) about roasting monkfish, and the differences in monkfish on both sides of the Atlantic. After reading that I salted my monkfish for about an hour, and then roasted it.  I did manage to make a one-pan meal out of it. Since I had to allow about 40 minutes for the fennel to roast, I started that first.  After about 15 minutes, I laid the monkfish on top of the leeks, pushing the fennel wedges to the side, and popped it back into the oven for about 15 minutes.  I used very simple seasoning on the fish—olive oil and salt before going into the oven, and nothing for than fresh-ground black pepper and a pat of unsalted butter after it came out of the oven. So very simple—so very good, and even healthy.

(The only thing I wish I had done differently would have been to add some sweet red (or orange or yellow) bell pepper with the fennel. A glass of un-oaked chardonnay complemented the meal very nicely.)

IMG_7553

Adding to panzanella….

dark purple eggplant

Black beauty eggplant fruits

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t said much about one or two of the prominent summer vegetables–eggplant and summer squash. Well, here’s something that looks like it would be a good use of the ubiquitous eggplant that I’ve ignored except for baba ganoush and caponata. I no quarrel that eggplant nutritious, inexpensive, and the like.

I’ve already posted about another summer favorite of mine–bread salad or panzanella so I was pleased to see this recipe for a bread salad using grilled eggplant.  This kind of salad is so easy to fix single-serving amounts that I wanted to pass this along as another way to make use of a summer vegetable.  The image below was included with the recipe on the website Chow.com.

bread salad with grilled eggplant closeup