Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Culinarily dull weekend

Proof that the world maintains its own balance - this weekend was a culinary near-washout, which I guess is only fair given the splendors of last weekend. Friday night I made Nigella Lawson's watermelon salad (watermelon, lime juice, black olives, feta, mint, parsley and red onion), which was great, and a fine steak from my stash, which survived my overcooking with some flavor intact. I always screw up great steaks. Sigh. Then I spent to weekend at a friend's house, so lots of pleasant, but not noteworthy, suburban barbecue fare. I returned to a fridge full of limp vegetables.

Now is the time to confess the dark side of the CSA program. A farm share is a commitment. If you go away for the weekend, if you get a hankering for pizza out Friday and Chinese buffet Saturday and someone invites you for dinner Sunday, if you work late every night for a week, the vegetables will still be there, slowly rotting, reproaching you every time you open the door for a beer or some leftover chow mein. Every lunch hour cheese sandwich will feel like a failure when you know there are salad makings slowly turning inedible in your fridge. Be warned.

What is usually needed in the case of produce neglect is a big cook-up, a ratatouille or vegetable soup or something that will enlongate the lifespan of your vegetables, and possibly fill up your freexer. This, of course, also requires a night of cooking. After a weekend of carousing, I would rather rent some episodes of Six Feet Under and collapse on the couch with the cats, so a hefty dose of guilt is needed to force me into the kitchen. Thank the gods I was raised Catholic and have guilt to spare.

So last night I made a great big salad for today's lunch, and I also baked calzones. Calzones are actually a good weekday cooking choice. The Shaw's down the street sells an acceptable pizza dough with ingredients that are readily identifable as the makings of pizza dough (flour, water, salt, yeast, shortening). On the weekend, I would make the dough myself, but we're competing with Ruth, David, Brenda and Claire here, so we're making things easy for ourselves. I made two fillings. First I mixed some grated Parm and black pepper into some ricotta and put it aside. Then I sauteed some onions, put half aside. To the other half I added some steamed spinach and chopped dried-and-reconstituted wild mushrooms, plus thyme, oregano and pepper flakes, cooked a few minutes more. Mixed that with half of the ricotta misture, and that was one filling. Then I sauteed some sliced yellow squash, added that and the rest of the onions to the rest of the ricotta mix, along with a bit of chopped sundried tomato and the rescuable part of a bunch of basil on its last legs. That was filling number two. The dough had come to room temp by this point, so I made the calzones and threw them in the oven, then made a basic tomato sauce with some garlic and a can of tomatoes, a few spices, some olive oil. I ended up with six enormous calzones, enough for dinner and two lunches for both my boyfriend and myself.

Calzones are a great way of using things up, because they will take just about any filling. A bit of ham or sausage would have been nice if I had any hanging around, or some olives. I used up a goodly bunch of vegetables, and so tonight all I have to do is cook some carrots and wax beans and I'm home free.

This farm share stuff can be work.

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