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Posts Tagged ‘menu planning’

Today it’s cool out, and I’ve got some free time for cooking, though I’m also a bit scatterbrained. I was tired enough at lunchtime that I almost called for takeout instead of figuring out what to eat from our fridge – but then I came to my senses and remembered that a) I feel better when I actually cook things; b) we have a farmshare that needs to get cooked…. oh, and c) the takeout place we were thinking of calling seems to be closed today.

Since Pasta Pisa is excellent at of chicken/eggplant parm subs on really good bread, and since my search for protein that could defrost and cook quickly yielded some more of the humanely-raised local veal cutlets, I decided to make lunch be some locavore-inspired “veal parmigiana” sandwiches :

round white bread from the bakery down the street
melted Asiago cheese from the farmers’ market, made in Foxboro
a small quickly sauteed veal cutlet
slices of tomato from the farmshare
plus a little sage from the plant on the back porch

The rest of lunch was a quick sliced cucumber salad from a small cucumber and a half of another one that needed salvaging, and leftovers of the bean salad I made over the weekend. I purposely made the sandwiches on half a giant slice of bread, rather than using twice as much meat/cheese/tomato etc.

Meanwhile, since it was cool out, I also roasted some fennel using a simple recipe I’d made note of recently (coat fennel in olive oil, salt, balsamic vinegar, roast 15-20 minutes until starting to caramelize – done.) And stuck some barley into the rice cooker to cook till later.

So now in addition to having cooked something yummy for lunch, I can add to the fridge: 5 or 6 cooked veal cutlets of various sizes, a container of roasted fennel, and a container of cooked barley, all to become components of meals later in the week, in some combinations that will occur to me later when I think about what I feel like making for those other meals.

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On Passover, Jews have developed a complicated series of food practices that all stem from remembering the ancient Jews’ hurried exodus from Egypt by eating unleavened bread for a week. Our ancestors had to leave Egypt right away as soon as Pharaoh finally relented to free them from slavery (and in fact, he changed his mind and sent his army to chase them to the Sea of Reeds… so it was a good idea to hurry!) and thus we eat flat crunchy bread like they did, instead of fluffy bread that’s had time to rise.

Somehow, this has led to the idea that not only bread is what matters, but anything that in ancient times the rabbis decreed you could make bread out of – wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats – can only be made in the form of matzah, carefully prevented from leavening by being made with flour and water, shaped into flat wafers, and fully baked within 18 minutes before there’s any possibility of any rising at all happening.

And then, to add to this, someone had the idea that things that might fool your neighbor into thinking you were making flour out of it or eating something that looked like bread or like it was made out of flour should also be off limits – so Eastern European Jews also have avoided corn, rice, and legumes like soy and peas, since the middle ages or so.

All kind of interesting, but then we started getting creative in other ways – we can’t eat this food, but let’s come up with tricks to make it taste like we are anyway. Which isn’t entirely consistent with how rice and corn got on the “avoid” list in the first place, but oh well. There’s a long standing tradition of Passover desserts that are light and fluffy cakes made with things like ground nuts or coconut held up in a suspension of well-beaten egg whites. And you can bake with matzah, too, if you grind it up fine enough – you can buy it ground into “cake meal” which is as fine as flour. But since it’s already been baked, you’re reasonably guaranteed it won’t rise anymore. Plus, you can go to the supermarket and buy some rather awful processed food that looks like O shaped cereal or, but tastes like potato starch. Er. Yum.

Many years, I’ve been satisfied with just thinking of things I can cook that don’t have as many carbohydrates – maybe we’d have 2 vegetable sides instead of a vegetable and a starch. We do that when it’s not Passover too. There are plenty of tasty things to be made with matzah, too – I’ve got a crazy cheesy casserole, you can make something a bit like lasagna, and of course there are matzah balls, which I even eat like gnocchi outside of soup. A recent discovery has been that since the list of extra foods to avoid was made up in the middle ages in Europe, and nobody in medieval Europe had ever encountered quinoa before, it’s now every foodie’s favorite Passover rice pilaf substitute.

But particularly now that my child is old enough to notice what’s missing from our pantry this week (and to complain that she and her dad are being limited by mom’s adherance to dietary traditions that the rest of the family doesn’t even have to follow!) I’m thinking more about how to replace some of those things we’re missing on Passover without using crunchy matzah. So last night, we got out our hand-crank pasta maker, and mixed up a cup of finely ground matzah cake meal, 2 eggs and a yolk, 3 tbsp of olive oil and 2 of water, and turned it into a slightly fragile pasta dough. (thanks, <a href="http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Passover-Pasta-Primavera-242020"epicurious!) Fettucini like noodles took, oh, probably 45 minutes to work through the pasta maker in batches, and then 2 minutes in boiling water to finish. Meanwhile, I defrosted some pesto I made last fall, grated some parmesan, and dinner was all set!

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I’ve been defrosting a chicken from Chestnut Farm – all of our meat from there comes frozen, and we defrost it when we need it. (Well, a few days ahead of when we think we’re going to need it… but sometimes this doesn’t work out as planned!) Unfortunately, this means that when it’s possible to get the bag of giblets out of the chicken, they have already been defrosted. So we need to use them or lose them – and so far I had mostly opted for lose them. One chicken liver is not really enough to make a decent amount of pate.

This time, emboldened by a recent success with a larger rabbit liver that I turned into pate, I decided it couldn’t hurt to see what I’d get out of one chicken liver if I threw in the other unidentified bits too. I sauteed them up with plenty of salt and a little oil, then sauteed half an onion, and added a bit of water to deglaze the pan. I used a little mace, a little dried orange peel, and a little garlic for seasoning while I sauteed. With the stick blender, I blended up the giblets, onion, and liquid, along with a slice of turkey sandwich meat we had in the fridge to round out the flavor. I learned the extra meat trick from my mother-in-law, who always adds cooked chicken to her chicken liver pate. I hadn’t actually cooked the chicken yet – I guess that is why today’s planning lesson is to cook the chicken first and the pate later.

The resulting pate was not as amazing as one that is largely chopped chicken livers, and I think I could actually taste the deli meat flavor coming through a bit, too, so I’d definitely wait till I’d cooked the chicken next time. Our deli meat is not so locavore as much of our food… it comes in a vacuum pack at Trader Joes and purports to be responsibly, industrially raised. There was just enough pate to spread on two sandwiches for lunch, it was simple but flavorful – a lot more flavorful than just a slice of turkey would have been! A perfectly satisfactory use of something that I hoped not to throw away, and the protein source of one more meal for two adults to boot.

I wonder if I can get the farm to provide the giblets not stuffed inside the frozen bird, though. I’d still love to make a serious chopped chicken liver pate, with more than one liver at a time, someday!

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