In these challenging times, our resident writer Deborah DeBord reminds us that meals at home don’t have to be boring. With simple ingredients that you might already have in your refrigerator or pantry, food that’s not only nourishing but downright delicious and creative can be concocted with a few simple tricks and techniques. As we all know, food gives us not just sustenance but comfort, and we mustn’t scrimp on that in these trying times.
Be safe and stay well.
Dancing in place during this spate of days, we find that mindful kitchen rhythms are more important than ever.
This time of year typically sees our freezers, fancy pantries, and drying closets on the skinnier side as we anticipate the upcoming abundance of harvests. The cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers, and pasta sauces were yummy, but now they’re only a wisp of a memory. There are a few jars of chutney and the last of the fire-and-ice pickles. The remaining garlic and onions are serviceable, but few in number.
We won’t suggest that you try to follow what we did this week as if it were a recipe, but to glean a sense of using what you have in such a way as to get the most from it all, in a variety that pleases.
So, what’s for supper at Belly Acres?
First, we survey the landscape with an eye toward full use, rather than viewing what we have as paucity. Then we rustle up some creative thought in the form of a good old-fashioned brainstorm. We take ideas of favorite standards and substitute ingredients like crazy.
Our early pop-up stand at Aspen Moon Farm has set up an excellent procedure for harvesting and delivering produce, complete with online pay schemes and ample six-foot walk-up delivery. We took home parsnips, carrots, spinach, eggs, and cornmeal that had been roasted and ground on site.
For the first night, we roasted chunks of parsnips and carrots, spritzed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, in a 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes. In the meantime, we steamed a mighty wad of spinach over a quick hot water bath and measured some brown rice into a cooker, along with a hefty pinch of truffle salt and a few bay leaves. Thinking to give the roasted veg a little intrigue, we reduced a few spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar in which we had macerated farm raspberries from last fall and added a bit of butter and maple syrup. Bringing this mixture to a boil, we removed it from the heat immediately to meld the flavors. Then we served the rice topped with the roasted veg along with a drizzle of the vinegar reduction. The spinach wanted just a brief scatter of gomasio (coarse salt and toasted sesame seeds ground last winter). The result was a satisfying, generous meal.
And for the next supper? We’ll purée the leftover roasted veg with a few drops of the vinegar reduction and then make an ordinary pan of cornbread with the extraordinary cornmeal and eggs from the farm. While the bread is baking, we’ll start a sauté of some cubed apple, a minced shallot with its minced garlic sister, and their shredded gingerroot cousin, combined with an herb straw from the freezer (this is olive oil and minced herbs frozen in itty-bitty packets last summer). Once it all seems aromatic and tender, we’ll add some torn spinach for a quick stir-fry. If it seems dry, we can always add a splash of chicken broth from the carton. And we’ll consider a few drops of tamari (a Japanese sauce made from fermented soybeans).
Another brilliant meal. That leaves us with plenty of long-lasting roots for the days to come.
And since we crave satisfying the sweet tooth in times of perceived restriction, we are dreaming of a moist cake, using the carrots and eggs scored at the farm. Shall we go on a walk over the river and through the forest first? A joyful afternoon of baking is in our future while listening to a good book on tape. Alternating a compelling movie with a challenging crossword puzzle rounds out the evenings.
With one quick trip down the canyon and no physical contact, we have created some very tasty eats, have supported our local organic farm, and have mindfully used items we had on hand. Find your own way to navigate these surreal times, share your experience with others, and be well.
—Deborah DeBord, Ph.D.
author of Picked at the Peak