Saturday, October 24, 2009

Apologies

Thanks to all of you who emailed me during the month of October. I apologize for unexpectedly leaving you at the Sunday dinner table, but want you to know that I am well and hope to be back to blogging soon.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday dinner

The weekend allows for more time in the kitchen, so for Sunday’s dinner I decided on the pork chops with carmelized onions on a bed of whipped squash. While this is a not a typical French dish, it is typical of the kind of meal you might eat at a French bistro.

The ingredients are simple and spare:

4-6 pork chops, bone in or boneless, room temp and salted
3 medium size yellow onions
1 acorn squash
Olive oil
Butter
Salt and pepper
Nutmeg

Cut the squash in half, sprinkle with salt and arrange the squash, inverted, in one layer in a buttered baking dish. Bake the squash, covered with foil, in the middle of a preheated 375°F oven for 1 hour. When it is finished baking, allow the squash to cool. When the squash is cooled, scoop it out, add butter to your taste, a pinch or two of nutmeg, and mash it. You could also use a food processor, but I like to keep it simple. You can keep the squash warm in a slow oven while you prepare the chops.

Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed skillet—a pat of butter and a teaspoon of olive oil per onion. Thin slice the onions and put them into the heated skillet. I like to salt my onions, to bring out the flavor, but it isn’t necessary. The key to caramelizing onions is to slow cook them—about 30 minutes. This releases the natural sugars which caramelize and give the onions that rich, sweet flavor.

When the onions are caramelized, remove them from the skillet, add a bit more oil and butter then add the pork chops. The key is to brown the chops on the outside and cook them through without burning them.

While you can serve the chops, squash, and onions side-by-side on a plate, I prefer to plate the chops in a rimmed shallow bowl on a bed of squash, then top with the onions and a sprig of fresh thyme. This evening I served an inexpensive Shiraz, and for dessert, fresh grapes.

The ingredients were fresh and the cost of the meal came in at around $8.00, which delights my frugal French side

Next post: Monday dinner

Que vais-je cuisiner?

So, what do I have in mind for these ingredients?

The Italian sausage will make its way into a pasta dish as well as an egg dish as will the asparagus, and a few of the onions and tomatoes. The onions and tomatoes will also combine to help create a base for a meal of braised chicken. Onions will be the main ingredient in a galette, and will marry well with acorn squash and pork chops. With the help of the pasta sauce, eggplant become a fragrant parmesano. And the apples and grapes will create simple desserts.

But more essential than the food I purchased are those items in my pantry and fridge. I've said before that a well stocked pantry is the backbone of my kitchen. A well stocked pantry allows me to create meals from any ingredients, whether I buy them at the farmers market, Whole Foods, Costco, or my neighborhood chain grocery store.

Are you interested in the meals and recipes?

Next post: Sunday dinner

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Qu'ai-je acheter?

Even though I shop almost daily, I create meals around what is on special, what is in season, what is one sale; shopping at my neighborhood chain would be no different. So, what did I buy at my local Safeway?

I decided to take advantage of the following circular specials:

1 package of Safeway brand Italian sausages @ $2.99 per package
3 pounds of chicken thighs, skin on @ $2.99 per pound
2 pounds of boneless pork chops @ $3.99 per pound
1 box of Safeway brand penne pasta @ $1.00 per box
1 box of Safeway brand linguine pasta @ $1.00 per box
1 acorn squash @ $.99 per pound
1 eggplant @$1.79 each
1 pound of green asparagus @ $2.99 per pound
4 pounds of vine ripened tomatoes @ $.99 per pound
1 bag of yellow onions @ $2.99
1 jar of Bertolli pasta sauce @ $2.50 per jar
2 Honey Crsip apples @ 2.49 per pound
2 pounds of red grapes @ $3.99

How much did I spend? $43.31, which left me just enough to buy bread for the week. Knowing what I had at home in my pantry and fridge--eggs, cheese, butter, olive oil, chicken broth, rice, garlic, flour, white and brown sugar, wine--I was confident I could create seven delicious dinners (with leftovers for lunch!)

Next post: Que vais-je cuisiner?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

To market, to market . . . again

Earlier this year I posted a series on daily marketing and planning meals day-to-day. I enjoyed writing the series and it garnered great comments from readers.

But a friend recently made the point that, while daily grocery shopping may work for me, most families plan menus for the week, do a weekly grocery shopping at a chain store, and don't shop the farmers market. Families scour the weekly food circulars, shop for what is on special, and plan their meals accordingly.

While this may not be the French way, it is an American way, and a cultural difference. But does that mean that shopping supermarket specials can’t yield delicious, healthy, seasonal meals?

I decided to take a close look at this week’s grocery circulars and challenge myself: using only the products on special, and staples from my fridge and pantry, I planned to create a week’s worth of meals using fresh ingredients, for a family of four. To further challenge myself, I wanted to do it for under $50.

So, armed with my Euro shopping trolley and my French attitude toward food and grocery shopping, I walked to the Safeway.

Next post: Qu'ai-je acheter?