Market Planning

June 13th, 2011 · 13 Comments · Rituals

There was a time in my life when Sunday meant sitting down with my Dinner Diary and mapping out a meal plan for the week. Like this line-up from June 14-18, 2004:

Monday: Fried Sole with Green Beans
Tuesday: Ravioli with Green Salad
Wednesday: Fajitas with Black Beans and Cheddar
Thursday: Curried Chicken with Apples
Friday: OUT (always in caps, always!)

I remember telling a food editor friend about my meal-planning system and her response was not the usual “Why again do you record this stuff in a diary?” but this: “Well what happens if you see a big shiny eggplant at the market on Tuesday afternoon? Are you going to just pass that up if it’s not in the plan for Tuesday night?” She said the word “plan” like she was holding a dirty diaper. (more…)

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Spaghetti and Spring Vegetables

May 3rd, 2010 · 4 Comments · Dinner, Pasta, Quick, Vegetarian

Until fairly recently, I had been an absolute slave to the written recipe, i.e.  it was a dealbreaker if the ingredient list called for shallots and all I had was an onion. If Everyday Food told me to serve the sausages with horseradish mustard and I only had grainy, then by God I went out and spent the $4.39 for the horseradish mustard. When I was 16 my neighbor hired me to help prepare and serve hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party, and not only did I incinerate the cheese puffs, but I stood there and watched them become more and more incinerated because the recipe said 15 minutes in the oven and it had only been 12.

If this sounds like you and you don’t like it, I have two pieces of advice for you. First: Have children. (What is parenting if not one long improv routine?) Second: Force yourself to cook only with what you have at the end of the week. Look in the fridge and the pantry. Then back in the pantry and the fridge…and see if anything comes to you. Pasta plus any vegetables (even those on their last legs) is the ideal default dinner. Last Friday I was fortunate to have a box of spaghetti, some asparagus, peas, and (yes!) even a shallot. And look, I managed to get it right.

Spaghetti with Spring Vegetables

1 pound spaghetti
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed at the bottom, and chopped into 1-inch pieces as shown above.
1 cup peas, preferably fresh organic (but thawed frozen will do just fine)
1 shallot, chopped
olive oil
1-2 teaspoons lemon zest
4-5 basil leaves, slivered
salt & pepper
freshly grated Parmesan

Prepare spaghetti according to package directions (make sure you salt the water). During last 2 minutes of cooking, throw asparagus and peas into the boiling water. Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat and add shallots.

Before draining pasta, use a slotted spoon to scoop up as many of the vegetables from the pasta water as possible, and chuck them into the skillet to finish cooking.

Drain pasta and add back to pasta pot. Toss with a little more olive oil, vegetables, lemon zest, basil, salt, pepper, and Parm.

Another pasta-veg dinner that ignited a frenzy on DALS: Fettucini with Brussels.

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