We had some friends over this past weekend, and one of them was asking me about coming up with recipe ideas. I figured I would share a bit of how I cook on a regular basis in case it might be helpful to give any of you some new ideas (and hopefully to help you see how easy this whole home cooking thing can be!).
Since we try to cook and eat by the seasons and all, I try to let the seasons dictate our weekly menus. I typically don’t plan out the week ahead of time. I’ll be honest: I really enjoy food, and I have some pretty specific cravings when it comes to what I want for dinner. It’s like I’m permanently pregnant or something (or not, because that isn’t funny to joke about). Soo I find that scheduling things out a week ahead of time is typically a waste of time for me because I’ll have scheduled a frittata for a quick Wednesday night dinner, but then Wednesday rolls around and I don’t want a frittata for dinner. Instead, we have some loose formulas for the week that have come to work for us – it helps give me direction on what to make and prep for. This isn’t set in stone, but a typical week goes something like this:
|Wednesday||Something quick because it’s a work day for me. Our go-tos are taco night, frittatas, sloppy joes, burgers-without-buns, and big salads|
|Thursday||Something new because I’m home with the kids on Thursdays|
|Friday||Homemade pizza or stromboli|
|Saturday||Have people over (something new or adventurous) or go out|
|Sunday||Big batch of soup|
This obviously doesn’t work all of the time, but this rough framework gives me direction and freedom simultaneously. I think I would get burned out if I came up with something new every night, but I would get burned out faster making the same things all the time. Grant, on the other hand, could eat the same thing week-in and week-out for all of 2014, which is why it’s good that he married me because he will always eat leftovers even when the kids and I are completely sick of them.
After I have my formula, I base what I’m going to make on what’s in the fridge, pantry, or garden and needs to used up first. Eating on the Wild Side has actually influenced me in this way because Robinson (the author) explains how long various fruits and vegetables maintain their nutrients. So, for example, broccoli is outrageously healthy, but it loses much its superfood power relatively quickly (beginning within 24-hours of harvest, according to Robinson). Mushroom, lettuces, kale, spinach, Brussel sprouts, and asparagus face similar problems, so it is best to (from most desirable to least)
- grow your own of those varieties and eat them immediately after picking them
- buy them from farmers’ markets because the farmers tend to pick things the day of or day before the market or
- eat them as quickly after you buy them at a regular grocery store as possible
Read Eating on the Wild Side for lots more tips and tricks if you want to learn more.
Just to continue to play this out, today’s recipe came about because I had some mushrooms from the farmers’ market that I wanted to use up the day after I had bought them. I also had some cauliflower in the fridge from our co-op purchase the week before that was on the verge of looking a little sad. The day in question was a Sunday, and I tend to make soups on Sunday. Soups typically don’t require much hands-on time, so I can still spend time with Grant and the kids while the soup is cooking. An extra bonus is that we try to stay home on Sundays, so the soup cooking on the stove makes the whole house smell amazing. Because I had mushrooms that I wanted to eat as close to fresh as possible and because of my sad cauliflower, I decided to search around for a recipe that would incorporate both mushrooms and cauliflower as their main ingredients. Does that make sense?
So, first I looked in some of favorite cookbooks to see if there was anything that sounded good. In this case, there were lots of options that sounded good, but there weren’t any soups. So I went to the internets. I tend to start at food52.com, which is a sort-of community for home cooks, but with a bit more accountability than some of the other sites out there. I know I’m not going to find a recipe that calls for processed food stuff on food52, for example. If I have an ingredient that I want to use up, I search on food52 by that ingredient. In this case, I searched for “cauliflower mushroom,” so that I would pull results that included both of those ingredients. The search returned three recipes – all of which sounded delicious, but I either wasn’t in the mood for them or I didn’t have all of the ingredients (I did put them all in my “make letter” folder in Evernote though). If I don’t find anything on Food52, I typically try foodgawker.com next. It’s like Pinterest but only for food. The editors of the site only take submissions too, so it is definitely more selective than Pinterest in which anyone can pin anything. If that doesn’t work, I tend to just Google my ingredients and look around at what comes up.
In the case of this recipe, that’s what I did. I Googled “cauliflower mushrooms,” and Google returned 1.8M results in two seconds. The internet is magic. I clicked through to a few recipes and then found this one from Closet Cooking. I’ve used a few of Closet Cooking’s recipes before, so I knew he was reliable, and I liked his idea of using cauliflower to make a soup creamier without all of the actual cream (and I liked it even more because he still called for some cream in it!).
What did I miss? What other questions do you have? What’s the method to your madness in the kitchen?
- 1 medium-sized cauliflower, cut into florets
- 3-4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 6 green onions, sliced thinly
- 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 pound of mushrooms (I used crimini, but I imagine any variety would do)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 cup dry red or white wine
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (or milk)
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Dump the cauliflower into a large bowl. Pour a couple glugs (tablespoons) of oil over the cauliflower, add two of the smashed and chopped garlic cloves to the bowl, and salt and pepper the whole mixture.
- Spread the cauliflower onto a rimmed baking sheet and put in the oven for about 20 minutes (or until the cauliflower's edges begin to brown).
- In a large pot, add the remaining oil over medium heat.
- Add the whites of the green onions and sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and sauté for an additional minute or so.
- Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until the mushrooms soften and crisp up just a bit, about 15 minutes.
- Add the green portion of the green onions and cook for a minute more.
- Pour the wine into the pot to deglaze the pan. Stock would work just fine too if you would prefer not to use wine. I used red because I had a bottle open, but I think white would be the more obvious choice. Red wine gives the soup a "meatier," fuller flavor if that makes sense. White wine would be a bit crisper flavor.
- By now, the cauliflower should be done. Dump it into the soup pot, along with the stock.
- Bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat down to a simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Using your immersion blenderpuree the soup. Alternately, you can puree it in batches in a blender or food processor.
- Add the cream, stir, and remove from heat.
Adapted from Closet Cooking.