So the New Year came and went and January seems to have gone with it. I didn’t get my act together for New Year’s resolutions, but I did adopt a new strategy in my (tiny) kitchen that should make for some interesting future posts, so I’m going to count that. Read on…
Here’s the thing. I’m gonna go ahead and say it. I hate winter. Especially now, in the heart of the doldrums of this wretched season. It’s gray, gets dark early and cold. My skin is uncomfortably dry all over and I’ve recently considered buying stock in Eucerin. It’s a borderline dark period in sports for me, with the college football season over and baseball not yet started (I’ve begun counting day the days til pitchers and catcher report to Spring Training– 23 til mandatory reporting and just two weeks til voluntary reporting–hallelujah). The Superbaugh Harbowl should be exciting, but that’s a one-time event and in France it starts a little after midnight. Oy. Normally, scrapbooking would be a great indoor activity to beat this harsh season, but all my supplies currently live in storage 🙁 I can’t do anything I enjoy, like be warm, or enjoy the outdoor markets.
And then there’s the food. Winter meals completely stump me. Fruits and veggies are amazing in every other season. Except winter. Bah.
I’ve been doing the weekly menu planning (read: scouring the interwebs for things that look delicious) every Monday since we moved here. Because Dave is at school all day and I’m not, I make an effort to have a dinner plan ready, or the meal started, when he gets home. I’m not saying this happens every day, but I’d like to think I’m pretty consistent here. Because after listening to a 4-hour lecture on anthocyanins, the only thing one wants is a beer, not to think about what to eat for dinner.
But in planning the dinners in the last couple weeks of our winter season, I’ve been stumped. We consider ourselves on the “college student budget” so I try to make meals that are what I like to call “cheap and elegant.” And with leftover potential for Dave’s lunch the next day.
Calling back to my own college experience at UC San Diego, my life consisted of beef, chicken, pasta, salads, macaroni & cheese, Top Ramen and Mexican food, like any good college student. Which would be fine here except that Dave doesn’t eat red meat or pork, there is no Mexican food as I know it in this country, we’re trying to cut down on carbs/cheese (we are fully aware of how masochistic that last one sounds for people living in France) and it’s too cold for salads in winter. That leaves chicken and we’ve adopted beans.
That gets boring fast.
Inevitably, Dave and I battle over vegetables. Dave could live off them. I think they are excellent. As a side dish. With my steak and potato. Le sigh. In any other season, I wouldn’t fight him so hard, but I just am not enthused by winter vegetables. Yet I press on. Enter my new adopted cooking tactic.
I’ve decided that each week, I will seek out one new vegetable with which I’m not familiar or have ever cooked. The produce selection in France will make this easy, since it’s NOT California and year-round produce isn’t really a thing. *And I’m not saying the Weekly Veggie will be the whole meal, but I will incorporate it.
(*Disclaimer to Dave.)
The first Weekly Veggie I went with was turnips. I found a recipe for lemony garlic roasted turnips, which had basically the same ingredients as a particular chicken recipe I make, so that was easy. The verdict: I can see the potential in turnips as a flavor receptacle, but lemon is NOT that flavor. We’ll try that again another time.
The next Weekly Veggie I went with was eggplant. I had actually eaten eggplant before (but it was coated in cheese, marinara sauce, etc. so it was delish, naturally) but I had never cooked it. I actually made eggplant twice that week. This could be something that I see incorporating into our meals. The first time, I made Saucy Beans with Eggplant (which is just fun to say). It was essentially beans in a tomato-garlic sauce with sauteed eggplant (the eggplant may or may not have had a breadcrumb coating.) It was easy and tasty for a quick weeknight meal. The second time, I sauteed eggplant, red bell peppers, onions and zucchini with some salt and pepper and loaded the veggies on a crostini with goat cheese. That was also tasty. So far, eggplant trumps turnips.
This week we’re going for parsnips, roasted with rosemary. And turnips, because they get another chance.
In other news, I don’t know how I managed to make this post so long.