Monday, January 18, 2010

Cook What You've Got Challenge: Day One

Day one of the throwdown that my fellow personal chefs and Facebook friends have embraced with enthusiasm.  In addition to donating our budgeted grocery allowances to Haitian relief efforts, local food pantries across the country will benefit from the purging of a group who have probably more than the average amount of items - personal in-home chefs.

We are also discovering, that despite the vast universe of delicious and tempting sounding recipes, that a terrific, flavorful, wholesome meal can be created from the tidbits that tend to accumulate in pantries, refrigerators and freezers nationwide. 

Ironically, I wasn't sure I was even going to cook for myself this evening.  It's rare that I have a dinner gig on on Monday evening, but this evening I cooked a special anniversary dinner for a couple who received my services as a Christmas gift.  He has cancer, that sadly, is now terminal, and she just had a knee replacement last week.  They were celebrating 46 years together. 

I cooked and served their meal.  He apologized when I served the entree that he didn't have much of an appetite these days and didn't want me to feel bad if he didn't eat very much.  I told him not to worry, I'd be happy to save any leftovers for another day.  I actually made twice as much food as I normally would and left everything for them to have tomorrow.  They were too full for dessert and saved it for later.  She was nearly in tears when she walked me out and told me that that was the most he had eaten in a long time.  I was almost in tears myself. 

Driving home, smelling like the meal I just cooked, with a car full of dirty pans that needed washed, I wasn't hungry at all.  I was leaning towards cereal for dinner.  But I had unearthed a single fully cooked serving of panko parmesan crusted chicken and a package of roasted tomato sauce from the freezer yesterday.

When the tomatoes were plentiful in the garden and the CSA, I roasted a bunch with some garlic and herbs, then pureed them - skins, seeds and all, and froze them in quart bags, flattened.  I see the bags every time I get out an ice cube.  It's kind of like saving the 'good' bottle of wine for a special occasion.  That never seems to arrive.  Until today.

Once I regained my appetite, I put on a pot of water to boil, for a half box of whole wheat penne.  Which I have to say, I just don't dig the texture much.  I plunked the sauce, which was mostly thawed into a saucepan to warm.

On my dairy shopping trip I got some fresh ricotta at the West Side Market.  So I tossed in about 1/4 cup along with a couple of leaves of chopped basil.

Salad was some romaine that I chopped and cleaned over the weekend with a garlic vinaigrette and a few shaving of parm.

So day one, I used an open box of whole wheat penne, some fine garden roasted tomato sauce, and a chicken parm cutlet.  And I still have leftover sauce and pasta.  Stay tuned.  

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