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Archive for August, 2009

45-minute meal

I almost picked up some sort of prepared food on my way home, because we didn’t have a lot of time; we had another event to go to in the evening, and I would only have about an hour and a half at home. I knew we had a solitary squash, most of an onion, a tomato, a green pepper… and then I remembered that we had a lot of eggs.

K loves his meat, but we manage a meatless meal at least once a week. (As the Washington Post pointed out, going vegetarian is also good for the environment.) I turned on the radio and started reducing vegetables to small dice. Fritattas are easy; I was sure it would take less than 30 minutes to make.

Apparently I’d never actually bothered to time the ordeal before. Reducing two potatoes, one large squash, one wilted green pepper, and the better part of an onion to small dice took half an hour all by itself. Oh, and mincing two cloves of garlic. I’m no professional and I’ve never gone to culinary school; my knifework takes time. At least, with the radio on, I wasn’t bored.

I used my mom’s time-saver for cooking potatoes; once they were diced, I tossed them with olive oil and stuck them in the microwave for a minute or two. Potatoes always seem to take forever to soften on the stovetop, so the microwave really hurries things up a little. The onions went into olive oil and a pat of butter; once they were soft, I followed up with the garlic, then the squash and green pepper. The cooked potatoes joined them once everything was soft. Then I scrambled some eggs with milk, added shredded cheese, and poured it into the pan —

— and realized that I’d used a nonstick pan, which couldn’t go in the oven. Fine, not a frittata; it would be a scramble. K came home just as the eggs finished cooking, and I served it with sliced ripe tomato sprinkled with coarse salt, pepper, and basil chiffonade. Total time: 45 minutes. Dishes from prep: two knives, one cutting board, one pan.

All right, Rachael Ray has me beat by a solid 15 minutes. But it made a decent dinner, cleanup was easy, and there was plenty left to pack for lunch the next day. Frittatas (or scrambles) are a tried and true way to use up random vegetables, and emptied our produce drawer just in time for tomorrow’s CSA pickup.

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Free wifi in the airport gave me access to Michael Pollan’s latest article, a screed addressing the sad lack of cookery in American households.  Apparently the vast majority of my compatriots have empty refrigerators and freezers full of TV dinners, and they sit down to said TV dinners in front of the television to watch serious culinary TV like Food Network and Top Chef.  Oh the irony.  It seems people just don’t have the time to make dinner from scratch any more, Rachael Ray or no Rachael Ray.  Who wants to make a 30-minute meal when one can pop a box into the microwave and have dinner ready in five minutes?

A central theme of Pollan’s article is that dual-income households just don’t have the time to cook any more; when both spouses work, people would rather spend their limited off-work hours away from the kitchen.  Rereading the Julie/Julia Project merely cemented that theme; the hapless couple ate at ten or eleven at night, and still had to do the dishes afterwards.  “We manage to eat home-cooked meals on a two-income household,” I said to K.  “I mean, it’s not like we have kids or anything, but I don’t think it takes too much time.  Does it?  I should keep a blog.”

Hence, this blog.

It figures, though, that after being away for the weekend and spending the better part of the day in either airplanes or airports, neither of us really felt like cooking much.  I dug out some leftover curry beef and rice for K, and he put some frozen White Castle sliders in the microwave.  I shucked and boiled some corn, and called it an evening.  So much for our home-cooked meals.

(Even the boiled corn didn’t work out.  I like to put the corn in the water, bring it to a boil, take it off the heat, leave covered for 10 minutes, drain, and eat.  Simple.  Instead, I sat on the couch with the laptop and belatedly realized that that bubbling sound I had been hearing was water boiling.  I immediately ran over and took the corn out.  Who knew how long it had been in.  Fortunately it hadn’t yet overcooked to the gummy stage.)

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