Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Food Overload

In the last week I made meals for 30 for our Schoolyard Greening Clinic and a full-blown dinner for 50 parents at the elementary school where I teach " food appreciation."

In between were meals for personal chef clients, breakfasts and school lunches for our 7-year-old and dinners to fulfill our policy (hope) of sitting down to the table as a family in the evening.

It seems the eating never stops. And when I look back on the week, cooking without letup crowded out everything else. There is also the cleanup that goes with all the cooking. The sink holds a stack of pots and pans waiting to be put away. I still have a 5-gallon bucket of sauerkraut (almost empty) sitting on the kitchen counter.

I am reeling from the sheer diversity of what passed through my kitchen.

Here, I make a small confession. I do subscribe to several food magazines. Occasionally there is something editorially worth the price of admission. But really what I do mostly is clip recipes. And the reason I clip recipes is not so much that I am dying to sign on to the latest trend as described by Food & Wine, but because the recipes remind me what season we're in and what ingredients I should be looking for at the store.

Don't we all need a little reminding sometimes?

For all their other faults, food magazine editors do a pretty good job of keeping up with the seasons, although you will occasionally find a tomato or a zucchini sneaking into a recipe in February. Secretly, I take a little devilish pleasure in counting the out-of-season vegetables that pass through the editorial screens.

I keep file folders of recipes categorized by month. Each time the postman drops off a new edition of Saveur or Martha Stewart Living, I breeze through it, tearing out the stuff that looks decent and filing it away under the appropriate month. When it comes time to planning meals for clients, I flip though the folder of the month for inspiration.

Besides strolling around my own garden, where the lettuces and mizuna and mustard greens are telling me we're well into spring salad season, this is how I know to be looking out for artichokes and asparagus and fava beans at the grocery.

Sometimes I even impress myself with the results. This week I made:

Orange marmalade duck breast with parsnip pancakes and Madeira sauce

Poached coho salmon with dill sauce

Celery root remoulade

Roast lamb and barley salad

Bulgur pilaf with spring greens

Endive salad with grainy mustard vinaigrette

Salad of greens from the garden

Just looking at the menus again is making me feel a little frisky, perhaps enough to lift me out of the food overload funk. I'm starting to have visions of artichokes.

There's a certain guilt factor involved in using artichokes trucked in all the way from California. Check that: a lot of guilt. Artichokes hardly qualify as local food. I bought a pack of artichoke seeds this year but never planted them. Maybe next year.

Still, after watching all those episodes of Mario trimming artichokes, I'm thinking this may be the year I truly get down with this strange thistle of a vegetable and see where it leads me.


Anonymous said...


I seek in anonimities cloister
Not he who ate the first raw oyster,
But one who, braving spikes and prickles,
The spine that stabs, the leaf that tickles,
With infinite patience and fortitude
Unveiled the artichoke as food.

Ogden Nash

GreatbIgvegchallenge said...

Artichokes were one of our early surprise hits with Freddie. He loved the whole mystery of stripping down the artichoke and dipping the leaves in butter.
We also found them great on a pizza. Chopped up hearts on a white-based pizza.