Monday, September 14, 2009

Decade 5: Musing

The Goals.

Yes, the goals of CT.

I wrote about them here. But, more accurately, I should say, I pretended to write about them. What I wanted out of CT had really nothing to do with changing my cooking: what I really wanted from CT was something to support my weight loss efforts. I was in trouble, though, with the very first assignment. Drooling over cook books with elaborate methods and exotic ingredients did not help me in the least. But, through reading fellow participant's blogs (Kerry, I actually haven't thanked you but yours is one which has helped this metamorphosis in my thinking) I have learned so much.

The education I have received about eating and cooking has been amazing...and I now have real honest to goodness goals for myself, my family, our budget and our food.

BUT, before I chew on all that, let's take a much smaller slice of the problem, first, ok?

I plan suppers around the following formula I learned from my grandmother. A "dinner" (whether prepared and consumed at noon as she and my grandfather did or after 5pm) should be made up of a hunk of meat, vegetables (translated, usually into "something green") and something starchy--usually potatoes. In my household, that starchy something has been expanded to include pasta, (though not much, because I always think it has to have a sauce and I'm just not into making a fourth thing), rice and potatoes. Yeah, I know. Not very exciting.

Enter, stage left, Bittman. Yes, again.

He has a whole page on cooking "Whole Grains without Measuring." And here the "starch" options are greatly expanded: brown rice, quinoa, barley (any type), oat groats, buckwheat groats, steel-cut oats, millet, cracked wheat, hominy, whole rye, farro, kamut, or wild rice or wheat berries.

Now, some of this I've never even heard of (farro? kamut? oat groats?), some I've heard of but don't quite know what it is and have never seen (wheat berries, hominy, millet, whole rye), and some I have (buckwheat, barley), right here at home, waiting for me to do something with it other than what I had had planned (whatever that may have been, though with the buckwheat it was most certainly Tabbouleh).

Then, of course, there's a whole page of the green coloured "side-bars" detailing "what to do" with them. I love it. I just love it! The versatility combined with the basics is like getting the little black dress and then going any direction you want with the proper accessories. It's wonderful.

And this, without knowing it, is exactly what I was looking for. In my original post I'd mentioned wanting something for those nights I "don't want to cook." Well, the key to that, I've learned, is to make lots of food when I make it, so that "left over" night is a built in non-cooking night for me. As well, I've decided to make a pot of soup every week: something for lunches, yes, but also something to serve when I don't feel like cooking. We needed more variety in our dinners--as well as simplicity. And, with Bittman, for now, anyway, I've found it.

So, for tonight's supper, I'm going to boil up some of the barley we have lying about with a bit of zucchini and broccoli mixed in with Olive Oil Drizzle. Supper itself is Crock Pot chicken stew: chicken breats with onions and carrots bathed in chicken broth, apple juice and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar). I made the juices into a sauce with some flour and water and a great deal of reduction.

added later--

Here's the Barley:

I cannot believe how good that barely was. I chopped and steamed some broccoli while I sauteed some onion and zucchini in olive oil. The barley still had a lot of liquid, though it seemed done, so I put it into the frying pan and added the broccoli, now chopped into infinitesimal, non-noticeable little bits. (I don't like broccoli). I doused it quickly with a splash of olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the pan, then added a few squirts of lemon juice. Since I now had two of the three components for the "drizzle" on my barley, I went ahead and added some dried parsley. It still needed "something" so per Bittmen's green coloured side-bar alternative suggestions, I added a pinch of oregano. It was perfect. Even the kids liked it, though my daughter called it "spicey." I made 1/2 cup raw--about what I'd make for rice--and I barely had any left over. Too bad. I was looking forward to putting it in the frying pan tomorrow and frying an egg into it for breakfast!


drwende said...

This is so cool! Good for you!

lauralynne said...

That barley looks good! For me, one of the best things about CT has been the freedom to stop knowing what I know and look in a different direction. And, actually, my "knowledge" had very little to do with the cooking so much as the organization of the rest of my life. Once I let that part go, I am totally happy back in the kitchen.

So, good for you for finding your Zen and also a Culinary Icon.

Anne (in Reno) said...

It looks like you've found a really useful formula! And there are SO many good grain options floating around these days! Congrats.

And also have you read his Bitten blog on the New York Times website? It is full of useful stuff and I can't remember if I've recommended it before.

scb said...

Way to go, Alana! This is so great! Sounds like there's lots of yumminess ahead for the Family of Alana, and lots of happiness ahead for the Alana of the Family!

Well done.

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