I’ve been working through a new system of shopping and cooking, which I’ve tested through its early stages before writing about here. Three weeks ago we started ‘real’ school (the kind with the 7:45 tardy bell), so we needed to overhaul our methods to prevent chaos and confusion. My only problem was that I tend to resist making grocery lists and planning weekly meals… ugh, repetitive chores that take the spontaneity and joy out of cooking. What I needed were some basic concepts to fall back on, which would provide a framework for the week while allowing some invention and food cravings. Here’s what I came up with:
Saturday night: Go grocery shopping. Yes – my list begins with something that defies all normal concepts of fun. If this doesn’t bother you, read on.
Sunday: Make soup. Since I tend to be home in the afternoon, there’s plenty of time to chop and stir a big pot. The smells are great for a lazy afternoon. And leftovers are perfect for Monday / Tuesday lunches.
Monday: Roast. Note: this does not have to mean slab of meat. My favorite so far was a combination of crispy fish, zucchini & tomatoes. Then again, that hunk of pork shoulder in a sugar fennel marinade wasn’t too bad, either!
Tuesday: Salad / leftover roast. While I need to cool off and have some veggies, the guys can still have their meat. For the salad we’ll keep some usual ingredients on hand: arugula, chickpeas, cucumbers, walnuts, avocado, kale, olives, etc. It’s meant to be easy, since Tuesday is the new Monday in terms of brain fry.
Wednesday: Farmers’ Market. We’ve consistently missed visiting our FM for the past few years due to busy schedules, so I wrote it into our week. The general idea is to let the seasonal produce speak to me, and improvise something good.
Thursday: Square meal. Ideally, I would cook the farmers’ market meat that has thawed over night, or run to Quality Seafood for something fresh, and pair this with two other simply cooked produce. In reality, we are still eating leftovers from the Monday night roast, or going out after a busy day. But I like the square meal concept.
Friday: Free night! Go out, have some fun! Last week we went to Hillside Farmacy and had some truly delicious charcuterie, sweet potato coconut soup and herbed gnocchi on their starry-skied patio. It’s good to get some inspiration from other chefs now and then!
The recipe below was inspired by the butternut squash I picked up at the Farmer’s Market. It paired spontaneously with tofu & kale, both healthy, robust staples that hold up well in the fridge. We’re on the cusp of fall, so I loved the introduction of the sweet nutty squash, but leaned back toward summer with a spicy chile-lime marinade and dressing.
Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash, Tofu & Kale bowl
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, cut in half and seeded, and cut into 1/2″ slices
1 package tofu, cut into 1″ cubes and dried on paper towels
curly ‘red russian’ kale, sliced into ribbons & roughly chopped
handful shaved dried coconut, unsweetened
1 clove garlic
1 tsp pasilla pepper powder
1/2 tsp chipotle pepper powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 cup red quinoa
1. In a saucepan, cover quinoa with 1″ water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until you can see the little curly-q’s and the grain is tender. Drain and let cool.
2. Preheat oven to 400. In a mortar, mash the garlic with the salt and then chile powders. Mash / mix in the oil and taste for seasoning. Place the butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet and brush generously with one-third of the oil mixture. Cook for 10 minutes.
3. Add the tofu cubes to the baking sheet with the now heated squash. Brush tofu with chile marinade; roast everything for another 10 mintues.
4. Toss kale with a tablespoon of the marinade and add to pan… cook a final 10 minutes (30 minutes overall cooking time).
5. You should have about 1 tsp marinade left. Whisk in the lime juice and agave nectar. When the roasting is done, combine the squash, tofu and kale in a bowl with the quinoa and toss with the dressing. I think this would be great with diced avocado, or a few pepitas for texture.