I just couldn’t sit still Monday. Do you ever have those days? With the rain I put off talking the dog on our daily two-mile walk but I still wanted to do…something. Something active, not like going to the gym active (which is fine since I don’t belong to one, anyway). Something like spending the entire day chopping, dicing, slicing, shredding, browning, simmering. In a word: nesting.
I rummaged about in the fridge and pantry, and came up with this plan: make two giant pots of soup, a garden’s worth of pesto and, while I’m at it, little GG’s favorite pasta. Suddenly my counter was covered in bowls and carrot shavings, a scaled-back mise en place strategy employed by chefs and deranged home cooks. By hour seven I was questioning my sanity and was more than ready to tuck into a lovely bowl of GG’s pasta and a comforting glass of wine followed by a rousing game of princess pony squinkies.
There is a reason for my madness (in case you were wondering). Lately, I’ve been harboring the fantasy of cook once, eat all week. I picture myself puttering around the kitchen on a Saturday, prep bowls and sharp knives at the ready. I’d roast meat, simmer fish, sauté some vegetables and voilà! Dinners for a week.
Soups are one of the easiest make-head meals – make a batch, freeze. See? Easy breezy. But for true diversity, I’ve got these three plans pinned to my kitchen corkboard:
- Cook Once, Eat for A Week: This feature by Women’s Health claims just $28 worth of groceries can feed you for a week. The plan details a week of dinners based on making a simple roast chicken on Sunday and working your way through the left overs for the next four days. That’s an awful lot of chicken in one week, but the recipes are definitely creative: polenta, panzanella salad and lettuce cups are on the menu.
- Prep Once, Eat Healthy all Week from Self Magazine includes a handy shopping list which, while long, is well organized and filled with easy-to-find ingredients. The menu ranges from eggplant pizza to vegetable curry with fish and chicken tossed into the mix; I love the variety. Even the prep steps are broken down into manageable portions.
- “Perfectly Prepped,” a feature in Whole Living’s October 2011 issue, is the one that got me started on the notion of cooking once or twice a week. Ronna Welsh of Purple Kale Kitchenworks outlines her plan based on creating 12 staples, including proteins and grains, which serve as the foundation for 20 different recipes. I’m not able to find the feature online, but if balsamic-poached figs, golden raisin vinaigrette and caramelized onion jam paired with roast chicken and poached salmon have your mouth watering, try hunting down a copy of the October 2011 issue. And check out Ronna’s blog and cooking site for more inspiration. I have her weekend workshops on my wish list (if only I could get her to San Diego!).
But enough dreaming for one day. If you’re ready to stock your freezer with basics created from pantry and produce staples, take a look at my Chicken & Barley soup and my Vegetable Barley soup. And if you’ve got basil and any kind of nut on hand, you posses the makings of a fine pesto.
The pesto I whipped up, which took to freezing just fine, came about because I have oodles of shelled pistachios on hand to make pistachio brittle from Maman’s Homesick Pie, A Persian Heart in An American Kitchen by Donia Bijan (P.S. love love LOVED this book!). A quick Google search for “pistachio pesto” turned up this recipe by Lidia Bastianich, which I tweaked a bit to use the last of the pine nuts languishing in the back of the fridge. (And if you want even more pesto ideas, take a look at my date-night, no-garlic arugula pesto, and be sure to read Lidia’s comprehensive pesto post, here.)
So while my fridge is bare, my freezer is stocked. All that rainy day energy put to good use, yes?!
- 2 ½ cups fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- ½ cup pistachios
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Zest of one lemon
- ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
- Salt, to taste
- Add the basil, parsley, garlic and nuts to the bowl of a food processor and cover. Pulse once or twice to combine, then slowly drizzle the olive oil through the spout of the food processor, stopping every once in a while to scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed.
- Pulse until smooth, then taste. Add a pinch of salt if needed before adding the lemon zest and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pulse briefly to combine.
- Serve over pasta, chicken or fish, or freeze immediately.