Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Everlasting Meal

There's one book that's stood out to me in reviews this month, and after reading an excerpt I purchased a few copies to hand out to various extended family members who I still exchange with: An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler, is a sort of cookbook, but more a collection of beautifully crafted essays harkening back to her biggest inspiration How to Cook a Wolf by M.K. Fisher, a book that explored rethinking  the meaning of food bounty during times of rationing.

I've only made my way through the first half of the book (hanging off every word), but I can already tell that this will be one of those books I keep nearby and reach for often, just as I do Simplicity From A Monastery Kitchen (which I realize I borrowed from my mom something like 7 years ago)... I have grown to adore this monk who writes about lovage the way others write about love.

For Tamar, first thing's first: boil a pot of water and make it salty. Once you get that going you'll figure out what goes into it. Second: Purchase and roast loads of in-season vegetables at the top of your week. Save all cut stems, onion peels, cores, leafy tops, and other produce castings. Save the water from the vegetables and pasta you boil, and use it as a base for  soups.  Pickle onion peels and beets and toss them on top of frittatas, another great template for re-imagining the cycles of cooking that build on one another. I cook in a pretty judicious way anyhow, and am fairly creative with leftovers, but keeping cooked rice on hand for no other reason to know that someone will, at some point, be hungry, seems quite clever, if not like obvious common sense. Old rice makes the best fried rice, and fried rice is perfect for those odds and ends, and while you're at it, take the old rice/ polenta/ pasta, and make a curry at weeks' end out of the mish-mash. Make these things the center of your meal, and get creative about salads, which of course are not always made from "astronaut bags of lettuce."  I hate making salad, so therefore I don't eat enough of it. However, tonight I grabbed an apple, two little pears, and a sad, spare stalk of celery. I chopped up everything and tossed it with cracked pepper, rosemary vinegar, and good olive oil. To brighten it, I squeezed on it lemon juice and tossed in a handful of chopped parsley. I think Adler would approve of this; even more for saving the vinaigrette which fell to the bottom of the bowl, which will spruce up rice at some point in the next day or so.

So it looks like one of my copies will be hanging back with me. I might replace it with two more to give away before the week is out.

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