I think a lot of food bloggers cook as much for their blogs as they do for themselves; it’s understandable, since basking in the glow of validation that we receive from complete strangers all over the world is addictive and we all love attention. But what I enjoy most- especially these days, when I simply do not have the time to indulge in the complex cooking that most gratifies me- is the simple, ongoing mixture of experience and improvisation which generates home cooking and then uses the leftovers in subsequent meals. In this way there’s minimal waste (and what there is goes in the compost) and a perpetual challenge to repurpose and reinvent the remnants of earlier meals in such a way that nobody gets bored with them- because then they just turn into biohazards in the back of the fridge.
Documenting the organic process that tries to utilize equal measures of freedom and frugality is one of my main goals here, since the accrued richness and depth of stews and sauces that linger for days in the fridge are one of the easiest ways for the home cook to arrive at a depth of flavor which many restaurants only wish they could achieve. The combination of what is available- ideally from the garden, or inspired by a craving- with what we have loitering on hand, ready to be transformed- is the happy place where efficiency and inspiration overlap. And lately, since I have so little time for more ambitious cooking, it’s this rhythm that I’m trying to sustain.
Recently I had a hankering for a good vegetable tagine. So I soaked chick peas in the morning, then put them in water to simmer a couple hours before dinner time. Separately, I gently cooked cauliflower, carrots, onion, and raisins in a cumin-heavy Moroccan spice blend, adding the chick peas once they were ready, and then serving all, with copious cooking liquid, on whole wheat couscous. I used to eat couscous all the time, during and post-college, since it was so fast and got all silky with a little olive oil.
A few days later, once again short on time, I chopped up a sweet potato, more cauliflower, and a bunch of curry spices to tug the flavor from North Africa to South Asia, simmered them in the leftover tagine, then dumped it all in a baking dish and covered it with the second half of the tart crust which had been waiting helpfully in the freezer since the onion tart. The pot pie was just what we all needed on a chilly evening, though it seems now that the cold is finally ceding the season to the sun. Elegant it surely was not, but comforting and nutritious it most certainly was.