One of the challenges of belonging to a CSA is all the cooking. Lots and lots of cooking. Washing, peeling, chopping, slicing, dicing, stirring and tasting. Which is great (especially, the tasting). Ever since I started cooking more from whole foods and less from mixes, boxes and bags, we feel healthier and have a deeper connection with this everyday experience (if we’re one of the fortunate ones in this world) known as eating.
It can take more time and energy than I’d always like to spend. When the hours of the day fly by and there’s still a rehearsal or a gig in an hour, opening the fridge and seeing all those veggies and then thinking about the myriad steps I’ll need to take before I can fill my belly with them can be exhausting. Even though my schedule is flexible and I tend to be enthusiastic, nay obsessive, about cooking with fresh ingredients, it can still feel like a bum’s rush.
Lately I’ve been inspired by Jules Clancy of thestonesoup.com and her emphasis on recipes that are 5 ingredients or less, yet still using whole foods. I’ve been learning that even though slow cooking is still my favorite path to wonderful, deep layers of flavors, it’s possible to prepare meals quickly with a more minimalist approach to ingredients that still satisfies my taste buds.
I’m mostly in the ‘aspiring’ phase right now – using more ingredients and taking a longer while to finish things up. I’m a dawdler by nature. But on the nights when I don’t have hours at my disposal — or even one — I’m starting to figure out ways to get the most taste I can out of what I have in less time.
Another thing I love about Jules’ recipes is that she constantly shows you how easily recipes can be tweaked by switching out individual ingredients to suit your dietary restrictions/preferences. It’s helped me think outside the recipe box and to see almost any recipe as a mere list of suggestions that I can play around with as I please.
The following is based on her Quick Sausages and Lentils. All I did was substitute dill for parsley and added chopped Swiss chard to lighten up the density of the sausage and lentils. The big revelation here was the combination of sherry vinegar and soy sauce to add that kind of intense flavor that Jamie and I both love. Yes, please. And super easy to put together. The sausage and lentils make this dish hearty enough for the end of a long work day. The seasonings make it mouth-watering and the greens balance everything out.
Swiss chard, Sausage and Lentils Fry
Slightly adapted from Stonesoup
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 cup cooked lentils, drained
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 bunch swiss chard sliced crosswise in thin ribbons
Dill, minced – 1 T
1. Add 1 cup of lentils to 2 cups of water in a pot, bring to a boil, take back down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or so until tender. Drain.
2. Over medium heat, crumble the sausage into a hot skillet and saute while stirring and breaking up clumps until any pink is gone.
3. Add the vinegar, soy sauce and lentils and cook for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the Swiss chard and stir it into the sausage until it wilts.
5. Add the dill and saute for another minute or so.
I served this up with roasted roots and garlic cloves and it was the perfect weeknight stress-free meal.
Ahhh, roasted roots. The weather’s starting to heat up here and soon I’ll practically abandon the oven until fall. In the meantime, I’m making the most of these underground jewels. Check out the Chioggia beets. These are heirloom beets from Italy and are the most beautiful beets you can get in my humble opinion. For heaven’s sake, they’re peppermint striped!
This pan included beets, rutabaga and some giant carrots – all slathered in olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper and dried rosemary.
I highly encourage you to try simplifying your meals. It’s so easy to drive ourselves crazy trying to put a good meal on the table. The thought is beautiful and important – expressing love and care through food. But the act should still be fun and leave you with a smile on your lips instead of a harried look in your eye. Happy eating!