Simply perfect. Single-serving cooking can be fun, creative, fast, healthy and delicious. As a result of a too-meager lunch, I returned home from work terribly hungry, yet with not a lot of time to get a meal in before I went to meet friends for an evening of Julie and Julia (My Life in France is a great book, and Meryl Streep delights me), I need a quick, delicious dinner. Sliced CSA onions and peppers quickly fried in a skillet with a left-over soy chicken patty, tossed in an whole wheat tortilla alongside fresh tomatoes, avocado, cheddar, and some chunky tomatillo salsa I made a few weeks ago.
Since my various heirloom tomato plants have all decided this year to either get the blight or under-produce, I ordered 20 pounds of roma tomatoes from the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA for canning. They arrived with the rest of my CSA delivery, in a very strong box. Growing up in Indiana, a least a couple of Saturdays a year were spent over the hot stove, cooking down tomatoes and filling the pressure cooker. I’m terrified of pressure cookers, so I make my tomato sauce in a water bath on the stove.
I hate unnecessary cooking steps, and I’ve got no problem with seeds and skins. The idea of having to remove them either through a Victoria Strainer or a food mill is enough to make me entirely uninterested in canning tomatoes. Instead, I just quarter them, throw them in the blender, and turn them into sauce, which goes straight into the pot to cook down. I leave my plain sauce a little thing, since it reduce someday in the future when I’m cooking with it. A splash of lemon juice, into the jars, and into the hot water batch for 30 minutes.
I made two separate batches and canned them one after another. The first, plain tomato sauce. The second (pictured above) a thicker sauce full of onions, heavy on garlic, and with just a bit of basil. Can’t wait to open up the jar in the middle of winter and fill the kitchen with heady garlic fragrance.
When the CSA arrives, I often scramble to find a way to use as many different vegetables for dinner as I can. As the week goes on, we tend to be home less, and cook even less than that, so I try to make a big dent in our produce as quickly as I can. I threw this spicy tomato tempeh from Simply in Season together for a quick dinner. Onions, bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, and I threw in some leftover mushrooms. Add tempeh marinated in a soy paprika sauce, a splash of balsamic vinegar, sides of rice and salad, and you have a very filling, very veggie meal.
I love jalapeno poppers, but when I suddenly had a surfeit of peppers at home, I just couldn’t bring myself to deep fat fry them. In fact, I can almost never bring myself to deep fat fry anything. But these ended up to be just as delicious, if not more so, because I used fresh, organic jalapenos and quality ingredients. Instead of trying to keep the peppers intact, I just sliced them down the center (the longways) and scraped out the majority of the seeds and vein. In a small bowl I mixed together about 3 ounces of goat cheese, and added to it another ounce of crumbled blue cheese. After dipping the stuffed peppers (carefully) in a beaten egg, I rolled them in breadcrumbs that were almost entirely cornbread, with just a little wheat thrown in. Straight onto a greased cookie sheet and into a 375 degree oven for a half an hour. I even made them in my giant toaster oven, so that I didn’t have the heat up the kitchen! Honestly, delicious.
Lately I’ve been loving cold grain salads with fresh vegetables. For this salad I boiled some of the red Incan Quinoa that I like, and added to it fresh heirloom tomatoes, green pepper and corn cut right off the cob. Just a dash of olive oil and some fresh lime juice, and this became a delicious cold salad full of grains, proteins and vegetables. The recipe was loosely based on that of the “stoplight salad” (red, yellow and green vegetables – get it?) from Simply in Season, which I’ve been turning to lately when trying to figure out how to quickly use as many seasonal vegetables as I can.
I know that’s it’s too hot to cook soup. But last night, I did it anyway. We are absolutely swimming in tomatoes (such a lucky problem!) and I had leftover corn and squash from last week’s CSA to use. This is a simple, basic chowder recipe from a Simply in Season, a cookbook I’ve been using a lot lately since it focuses on healthy, seasonal recipes. While their recipe is for a zucchini chowder, I had yellow squash and patty pans. No problem! I substituted rice milk for evaporated milk, and cut the cheddar in half. And it was wonderful. Full of corn and tomatoes and squash and onions and fresh herbs in a light chowder broth. By the time my roommate Dr. Lee’s delicious tomato pie came out of the oven, we were already stuffed!
Perhaps you’ve noticed that it’s too hot to cook. But I wasn’t going to let my beautiful swiss chard, soon to wilt, go to waste. I made this quick salad with bulgar (or cracked wheat) that is an easy-to-cook whole grain. Much like couscous, you just have to cover it with hot water and let it soak until it gets soft (between 15 and 30 minutes). I lightly fried the chard stems with garlic and olive oil, then add thinly sliced chard leaves and a little white white to soften them. Baby heirloom tomatoes sliced in half, a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar, half a handful of fresh chopped parsley, and a sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese, sea salt and fresh ground pepper and I was ready to eat. I suspect the salad will be even better for lunch tomorrow, after it has had time to chill in the refrigerator.