Sunday, April 6, 2008

Less Top Chef, More Cooking

I don't eat a lot of take out, but I do eat a lot of frozen meals for convenience, portion control, and variety. When I cook, I tend to cook large meals but since my husband rarely eats leftovers and sometimes has nighttime obligations, I will end up eating my dish four times in a row.

For the last few weekends I've been trying to cook things that I can recombine into other meals. For instance, three weeks ago, I marinated some chicken in garlic and chili pepper and grilled it up for burritos, or to go over rice, or to make a flatbread sandwich, or to put over salad. Last weekend, I made some ground turkey, spiced half of it Italian and the other half Mexican, grilled some peppers and onions. Throughout the week, I put some of it in burritos, some in pasta sauce, some on a flat bread pizza.

Today, in addition to a scallop stir fry with cabbage, onion, and carrot, I used the last three ingredients in an Asian chicken salad with some leftover ground turkey, fish sauce, and mint (as I type this, I realize how weird that combination of flavors sounds, but it's good, I swear--it originally called for shreaded chicken and it's similar to larb, a Thai specialty). I also tried to recreate the spicy pork (carnitas) at our local taqueria for some burritos; tastes alright but I should have researched for recipies on the internet instead of just guessing.

I like to cook elaborate meals but I can't do it all the time. Even cutting out TV, I still don't have the time to cook dinner from start to finish every day (Rachel Ray's famous 30 Minute Meals don't count washing pots, pans and cutting boards). So precooking meat and vegetables over the weekend this gets me a little head start during the week.

For snacks, I bought some hard, aged Monterey Jack cheese. I had heard that during WWII, it was used as a substitute for Parmesan and was curious. It didn't disappoint: not as hard or sharp as Parmesan, but still firm and tangy.

Out of curiosity, looked up hard Monterey Jack on the internet and stumbled upon Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, featuring foods that are endemic to America. I first heard of the Slow Food movement when I read James Gleick's Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything. In short, Slow Foodies turn their backs on all facets of the industrialization of food, from big agriculture and animal husbandry, to the delivery of those foods in the form of Big Macs, for environmental and societal reasons.

While it's easy to say I won't eat at McDonalds, I don't think I can give up all manufactured and processed food I buy at the supermarket, if only for convenience and cost. But having just read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma last month, I have been thinking about the broader implications of what and how I eat lately in a way I never did--as a decision that affects the fate of the planet. Lest I start sounding too highfalutin, though, what really kicked off my cooking was leafing through a copy of The Abs Diet my husband left lying around--having some easy-to-assemble, fiber and protein rich food seems to be a good idea.

If anyone's been following my posts and wonders why it started sounding like a foodie blog, not a TV blog, I'll just say that I started this not just as a commentary on my relationship with video-based entertainment, but also to document what else I might start doing if I stopped watching TV. Cooking, reading, and thinking happen to be a few of those things. I'll still watch Top Chef on Hulu, but I'll try not to let that get in the way of actually cooking.


Elizabette said...

"For snacks, I bought some hard, aged Monterey Jack cheese. I had heard that during WWII, it was used as a substitute for Parmesan and was curious. It didn't disappoint: not as hard or sharp as Parmesan, but still firm and tangy."

The cheese you used wasn't left over from WWII, was it? I guess it is true that age is relative...

steadof said...

Hi, no, this was only aged 6 months. I'm pretty sure you were joking but your question made me wonder how long cheese can be aged. A quick search indicates some cheddars are aged 6 years, maybe even as long as 12. There was a post on Yahoo Answers when you look up "aged cheese oldest" that says that mentions a ricotta found in a bombed out WWII era house that was still edible--and good. But they ate it only 10-15 years after WWII. I bet if there was a 70 year old cheese, it would be really expensive!

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