For anyone just dropping by, I’ve taken a vow to stop wasting food, and I’m doing a weekly series where I track how that’s going and give a recipe. This week: no-waste food tip #2 (sharing); my grocery shopping (much better than last week!); and a recipe for polenta with vegetables and eggs.
No-Waste Food Tip #2: Sharing is Caring (about food waste)
Since I batch-cook and typically plan to eat most meals four or five times, a frequent downfall of mine in the past has been figuring out that I actually *can’t* eat whatever I’ve cooked that many times in a row. The last serving or two has frequently languished in the back of the fridge until I give up and throw it out. It turned out that last week’s chickpea recipe, while delicious, was not a thing I could eat for five sequential lunches. I also got invited to attend a lunch event on Thursday. So, on Wednesday I texted my friend who works two floors down to find out if I could feed her. (She’s vegetarian, so luckily so was the recipe.) She said yes, I brought down the two servings I’d packed, and we had a little picnic in her office. Result: no wasted food; one very happy friend (who as luck would have it had forgotten her wallet at home that day, too!); and I got a social hour and the warm glow of doing something nice for someone.
Weekly Grocery Shopping Report
We have an exchange student from Europe working in my department this semester. She arrived a few days ago and I offered to take her grocery shopping with me on Friday night. She was pretty overwhelmed by the big grocery store near here (sort of Walmart-like) — “there’s just so much!” — and it made me resolve to make it through this no-waste year all over again.
brown sugar, $.99
Steel-cut oats, $2.99
Total with tax: $17.34
Parsley, $1.50 (this is a lot, but the grocery store didn’t have any)
French green lentils, $1.94
blackberry & oatmeal scone, $1.99 (I guess I should really figure out how to make these and just do it myself. They are so delicious and I’m a little addicted.)
Total with tax: $12.81
Fingerling potatoes, $2.00
Grand total: $37.65
This is good; I spent every dollar I had in my wallet by the end of last week, leaving me with only $60 for this week before I take out more cash for February. A $20 and some change ought to do it for coffee, the movie I’m seeing, and anything else small that comes up.
Polenta with Vegetables and Eggs
This is a very flexible, peasant-food “recipe” which you can adapt with whatever vegetables seem good to you. It makes a huge difference to have real, honest to God, authentic balsamic vinegar; if you don’t have the real thing, I wouldn’t bother. You can use tomato sauce instead, or make some kind of pan sauce with the vegetables, say with some wine. I’m going to have this for several dinners this week and will pre-make everything but the eggs; to serve later, heat up bowls with polenta and vegetables in the microwave, then drizzle on the vinegar and top with a just-fried or poached egg.
Coarse cornmeal (about 1/4 cup per serving)
a little butter and some salt, maybe parmegiano cheese if you have it
Shallots, mushrooms, and carrots (or whatever you like)
Eggs (one per serving)
1) Make the polenta. I do it this way because I like a slightly loose, richer polenta, but if you have a family recipe, by all means go for it. Stir in the butter and, if using, the cheese towards the end. You can also let people add their own cheese as they serve themselves.
2) While the polenta is cooking, dice your vegetables. With the shallots and carrots you’re going for fairly small pieces; mushrooms I generally cut into quarters. Saute them in a little olive oil, starting with the carrots and/or other hard vegetables and ending with the quicker-cooking mushrooms, although honestly, I often just toss everything in together and it usually works out ok. Anyway, you want them browned and delicious. If they get there before everything else is done, no worries; just leave them in the pan and before serving turn the heat back on for a while until they’re hot hot hot again.
3) It helps to have two people for this step if you are serving guests (if it’s just you, it’s less complicated.) For a group, person #1 will fry and/or poach the eggs, while person #2 will assemble dishes. If you’re flying solo, you can either pre-assemble a dish with polenta topped with vegetables and a drizzle of balsamic (bonus: allows you to use the vegetable pan to fry your egg) or get the egg in another pan and assemble your dish while it cooks (dangerous if you are a nervous cook and prone to forgetting/dropping/overcooking things, but this is what I usually do myself because I like everything to stay *hot*.)
So anyway, aside from logistics, that’s what you’re doing: making an egg, which I prefer sunny-side-up but you can really make however you please (I suggested two ways with a soft yolk because the polenta is hot and you can break the yolk into it and it’s fantastic) and draping it on top of the rest of the food. It’s really, really, really good.