Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Market dinners.

When I started doing most of my grocery shopping at various farmer's markets around Seattle, I had to rethink the way I ate, the way I planned my meals. I couldn't count on finding everything I wanted, so I had to learn to think about what I wanted to eat for the next week as I browsed the stalls, instead of having a fixed idea before I left the house. Kale and chard became a staple of my diet. (I haven't gotten bored yet, fortunately). Meat became an expensive luxury. (Not that it is cheap, in any case). Slowly I found myself eating increasingly vegetarian meals, augmented with eggs and small amounts of meat, except for those two weeks when I had to figure out what to do with three pounds of Mangalitsa pork. Dinners became simple one-pot meals based on pasta or brown rice.

Part of the fun of cooking is taking a variety of ingredients and mixing them up in different ways, or taking one dish and transforming the leftovers into something else, like the stir-fried pork served over rice and then chopped up and tossed with pasta, or the cold roast turkey covered in a cheesy b├ęchamel sauce and baked until golden and bubbly. It gets boring eating the same thing over and over again, and living alone, you can only divide a recipe so many times until the math leaves you dizzy and confused, slumped over on the kitchen floor in despair. I think my limit is three meals, possibly four, from a single dish, before boredom takes over.

Last night I browned some finely chopped onions in olive oil flavored with a little butter and lard, added sliced chanterelles, and tossed it all with handmade pappardelle (bought frozen at the Sunday market), flat-leaf parsley, and a generous handful of grated Grana Padano cheese. It was good, better than good, and would have been perfect except I felt the pasta had been rolled too thin and sliced too wide, which made it floppy and somewhat unwieldy. Tasty, though. And there were two more portions remaining, waiting to be transformed into something new.

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