I was supposed to make cassoulet.
After a long day at work I came home, took care of the animals, had a cup of peach tea and read Saveur, then generally bitched about dinner to myself. Should we order in? Thai sounded good. What about the Thai food was appealing? Well, I didn't have to cook it, but beyond that it sounded fresh somehow, light and full of veggies. We'd been eating beef bourguignon for a few days and it was delectable, full of layers of butter just like Julia makes it. But cassoulet on top of beef bourguignon? It was too much heavy stew, even in these dark Seattle days of grey and cold.
Mark Bittman wrote a piece about cooking with what you have, and one quote rang out to me: "I'd choose what seemed most appealing and figure out what to do with it when we got to the kitchen." This is how I love to cook--to create.
Don't get me wrong, having a meal plan is sensible. It allows us to plan for the week ahead and have all the ingredients we need. We have a weekly meal plan. Sometime I even follow it.
But more often than not, I use it as a guideline to create new dishes, some of which work and some of which flop horrendously. I cook nearly all our meals, but I don't want to be bored by it. I want to be inspired!
Just thinking about making something other than my lovely cassoulet got me moving. What's in the fridge? Vegetables were calling to me, fennel and zucchini and green beans. We ran out of vegetables the week before so I over-bought to compensate, and I could really cook as many as I wanted!
I started with honey sesame roasted green beans: a little honey mixed with sesame oil, tamari, and chili flakes baked at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes and garnished with sesame seeds. What's next? Chopped zucchini and fennel in a bit of olive oil and sel gris, roasted for 15 minutes at the same temperature.
Now I needed a protein source. Eggs were the obvious choice because the rest of our meat was frozen, and since I had the oven on I went with a modified version of Herb Baked Eggs by the lovely Ina Garten. Dried basil and oregano, fresh garlic and parmesan. Soy creamer and real butter. Two eggs instead of three. I over-cooked the dish, but I learned my lesson and will make it properly next time. I rounded out the meal with a freshly sliced Asian pear that has been hanging out on our front porch in a box of apples we brought home from Eastern Washington.
I don't have pictures of this meal. We ate at 8 o'clock at night by candle light, chatting and laughing about our long days. I wasn't thinking about working or blogging. I was eating spontaneously prepared, slightly over-cooked eggs and loving every minute of it.
Oh, I will make the cassoulet. Nothing goes to waste here. But this night, I got to create, and those are the meals I remember.