Inspired by Mark Bittman’s recent column on 101 great salads, I’ve set out to do some Fridge-cleaning-out before our move North. I hope to employ a system my chef-friend Michelle calls Kamikaze cooking.
That is, I’m trying my hardest to create some edible meals from the food that’s been lingering near the back of my shelves and in my freezer . . . without, in theory, buying more.
The process is humbling — a reminder of how much we want and waste.
Does a family of four really need five cans of canellini beans? Three half-bags of lentils? Five stalks of rhubarb (but no companion strawberries)?
Fish sauce and flax-seed oil? Really?
I know I’m being my mother’s daughter when I insist on freezing little baggies full of recipe surplus ingredients — partial cans of adobo sauce, tomato paste and coconut milk. Did I really think I would remember, five months later, what that crap actually is?
But back to Bittman, the New York Times blogger/columnist who presumed to know “How to Cook Everything” in his bestselling cookbook. I’ve been a fan ever since I made his crazy-simple cabbage salad. Bittman focuses on simple, seasonal and fresh — not the stuff of year-old lentils.
Nonetheless, his ability to take disparate ingredients and turn them into something you crave for weeks on end is amazing. That blueberry/carrot/sunflower-seed salad, for instance. And that tomato/basil combo where you take a crusty grilled cheese sandwich, cube it and let it pinch-hit for the croutons. And that peach-tomato-red onion number. I haven’t tried these latest Bittman creations yet — they definitely require another trip to the store — but, seriously, I can’t wait.
Tonight’s dinner involved a salmon I scored two of during a half-price sale at Kroger last month, baking one and freezing one for later. I placed the fillet in a Pam-sprayed baking dish, slathered a healthy layer of brown mustard and then honey, mixing the condiments together with the back of a spoon. I topped the fish with a healthy sprinkling of Panko (Japanese bread crumbs), which had been sitting in the pantry so long I don’t even remember why I bought it.
I got Tom to peel the potatoes, which is my wifely right, in preparation for my favorite mashed potatoes, which used up most of an already opened block of cream cheese and was heavy on the horseradish.
For salad, I pulled a handful of cherry tomatoes and a cucumber from the garden, added some walnuts and a huge handful of blueberries picked by my husband, his mom and sister yesterday at Crow’s Nest Farm in Blacksburg.
I used up my last 4 cloves of garlic for the dressing, which I’ve adapted from a recipe in an old Junior League of Colorado cookbook: Boil cloves in water for 10 minutes, squeeze the soft garlic into the food processer. To that, add: the juice of 1 lemon, a tsp. or so each of mustard and Worcestershire. As you whir, stream in olive oil (1/2 cup or so), which will net you the world’s most fantastic lemon-garlic vinaigrette — enough dressing to last you the next two suppers. (Just don’t let your husband mistakenly toss those dressing leftovers down the sink when he does the dishes. . . which, seriously, since you cooked, I hope he does.)
With just three weeks to go till the moving truck arrives, I don’t want to throw this stuff away, I definitely don’t want to move it and let’s face it: I’m cheap. So. . .
Favorite canellini bean recipe anyone? Ideas for the bat-sized yellow squash Dan insisted I bring home from his garden? Where are Ian’s lovely eggplants when you need them (roasted, in Amy’s Moroccan chicken stew recipe)? Is there a good home out there willing to adopt a $15 bottle of organic flax-seed oil?
I’ll throw in the fish oil as a bonus, for free. Maybe even the smidge of red curry paste from my short-lived love affair with Korean chicken noodle soup. Come to think of it, there’s a pack of rice noodles in it for you, too.