I’m sure you don’t lose sleep wondering how I come up with topics to write this blog. I do cook almost daily, except for those days when I’m overtaken by an overwhelming exhaustion brought about by the daily drag of being continually self-directed. Time is spent with writing and/or editing as a means to keep my brain alive and active. Then there are the zooms that have taken over our lives; they are part of my most recent investment in life-long learning. The crafts that have always been part of my life are a case of “when the spirit moves me;” that portion of my creativity can’t be scheduled or forced.
I write to-do lists; usually a weekly list of what is calling/waiting for me to do. I also have a small, bound calendar booklet where I keep a frequently up-dated long-term list of everything that is waiting in limbo. This must be a form of control or perhaps an attempt to remain in control. Included is a list of what to blog about, ideas associated with those cooking explorations, forays into crafts, observations on my escapes from the house, recollections of past travel, and musings about museums.
Over the past many months, I’ve been fortunate to participate in regular or periodic food distributions held in or near our neighborhood. Through this activity, I’ve established a loose link of acquaintances with whom I share information about upcoming “give-aways” and recipes for the bounty we take to our respective homes. Cooking lagged for a while recently. For the two and one half months when daughter and I worked at the theater, my own cooking decreased … dinner was not easy when our report times were either 5:00 or 6:00 pm. I now (fortunately) have a backlog of food in the freezer that needs to be addressed, eg. eaten. Another, albeit list, from periodic inventories of the refrigerator, pantry, and freezer helps to know what we’ve got.
What follows is a selection of “Foraging in the Fridge,” meals that specifically make good use of the food foraging and gleaning outings. Three recent meals that Constant Companion and Daughter enjoyed were a not-so traditional chicken soup, a vegetable rich tagine and a polenta/tomato tart.
Chicken soup, that’s an easy one, but as my pantry is a repository for orphaned vegetables it was something different. Ingredients of course chicken, onion, and added were butternut squash, string beans, chayote squash (or chocho, as I learned to call it during my sojourn in Jamaica), onion, and lime juice on the side. It was a nice variation of my normal chicken soup.
For the tagine I foraged again: beautiful little eggplants, butternut squash (in place of a more traditional pumpkin), baby carrots, and a jar of chickpeas (I think ten more are still in my depression era pantry!). Added to this were condiments: garlic, onion, and preserved lemons. A package of boneless beef ribs was pulled out of the freezer. Served with potatoes on the side …
For this recipe, cut the meat into bite-sized chunks and brown in oil. When browned on all sides, remove meat. Add a bit more oil and cook chopped onions til transparent, add garlic and chopped carrots. At about this point, add spices – cumin, ginger, coriander, and lightly fry in the oil to bring out their aroma or “bloom.” Next add chopped squash and chopped eggplants, and chickpeas. Return meat and juices Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1-2 hours. You can top it with chopped parsley or cilantro if you have either.
A polenta tart with cherry tomatoes was an excellent choice for a meatless dinner the other night. For a number of years either alone or accompanied by Constant Companion and Daughter I’ve participated in the annual Florida Folk Festival held at Stephen Foster State Park in north Florida. One of the participants at the permanent pioneer village always demonstrates making cornmeal, which he gives away. Several packages are nestled in a corner of my freezer.
The polenta tart with cherry tomatoes with lots of fresh basil is another recipe downloaded from an internet newsletter, probably The Kitchen – https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-polenta-and-roasted-cherry-tomato-tart-recipes-from-the-kitchn-194262.
Another time, polenta was paired with sautéed mushrooms and our old staple, Mom’s broiled chicken.
I’m getting hungry now and the unwritten lists are swirling in my head … maybe we’ll do the polenta tonight, with a freshly roasted package of cherry tomatoes gleaned last weekend, along with some left-over kale finished with poached eggs. More cooking from the fridge is sure to follow. In the meantime, I’m getting off track. Today’s to-do list is calling my name!