Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekly Menu - January 22

I'm not sure I'll keep posting this, but I've had a few people ask me the kinds of things I cook and how I decide what to cook.

For me, if I don't put a little thought into what I'm cooking, I'll end making garlic and oil pasta 5 nights of the week. On Saturday night or Sunday morning, I pull together a general menu for the week, naming a recipe and listing out main ingredients. I try to cook something new every week, I try to make half the dishes vegetable based. Having a menu makes me look at what's on my shelf in the pantry and try to use up stuff I already have on hand.

This is what I cam up with this week:
Sunday Dinner w/friends
Monday Fennel-Rubbed Pork Pomegranate molasses, tangerine, shallots, butter, red wine vinegar, pork tenderloin, fennel, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, couscous
Tuesday Fish-Fragrant Eggplant & Tofu Eggplant, chili bean paste, soy sauce, black vinegar, rice wine, sugar, garlic, ginger, cornstarch, Szechuan pepper, tofu, noodles
Wednesday Pasta in Tomato-Beer Sauce Capers, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, red onions, chile flakes, gherkins, bock beer, canned tomatoes, olive paste, pasta
Thursday US Senate Bean Soup Mayacoba beans, ham hock, onions, potatoes, fennel, parsley
Friday Black-eye Peas and Bulgur Bulgur, black-eye peas, canned tomatoes, red onion, walnuts, spices, sausage, potato, sambal oelek
Saturday Braised Black Vinegar Chicken Chicken thighs, shallots, ginger, dried chilis, scallions, Shiitakes,black vinegar, sweet soy sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, salt, water, rice
Sunday Goan Beef Curry Cardamom, fennel, cloves, cinnamon, fenugreek, black pepper, cumin, onions, garlic, ginger, tri-tip strips, turmeric, chili powder, coconut milk, potatoes

As you can see, I'm not yet into a meatless diet. The soup on Thursday got cooked over the last few days and was lunch today. It will taste even better on Thursday and provide plenty to freeze for another meal. The Fish-fragrant eggplant will get served with some kind of noodle. The sauce for the pasta on Wednesday is a new recipe and is simmering in the crock pot right now to allow flavors to develop as well as be heat-and-eat on a weeknight. The Black-eye peas and bulgur and the Goan beef curry are also new recipes. Hmm, so is the fennel rubbed pork. I meant to have that for tonight, but friends asked up over for dinner, so it's bumped to Monday.

So, three recipes with meat, four new recipes, four that have been/will be cooked in a slow cooker (Pasta in Tomato-Beer sauce, bean soup, Braised black vinegar chicken, and Goan beef curry), three with legumes, and all with a lot of flavors.

The cost of each dish as a whole to cook comes out to:
  • Fennel rubbed pork - $5.75 - serves 4/$1.44
  • Eggplant & Tofu -  $2.60 - serves 2/$1/30
  • Pasta & beer-tomato sauce - $6.00 - serves 4/$1.50
  • Bean soup - $7.00 - serves 6/$1.16
  • Black-eye Peas & bulgur - $4.01 - serves 4/$1.00
  • Black vinegar chicken - $3.03 - serves 2/$1.52
  • Goan beef curry - $8.53 - serves 4/$2.13
Why do I list the costs of things? A few reasons. One, I want to emphasize that meals cost money and the lower your income, the more they cost relative to everything else. I also want to show where and why costs are what they are. Beef is expensive, dried beans are not. Home cooked meals are not necessarily cheaper than low-cost fast food meals - none of my dishes come in under $1.00 per serving and I'm not trying to calculate cooking and clean up costs or the cost of shopping.

I also like to emphasize that, except for the Szechuan peppercorns, nothing I buy is "organic" or a specialty food product or otherwise different than what can be obtained from a local grocery store. Some of my Asian condiments come from Ranch 99, an Asian supermarket chain in southern California. The peppercorns come from a gourmet cookware store, were outrageously expensive, and I won't buy them there again. I don't shop Whole Foods ever.

Food is political because it is used to identify insiders and outsiders, who belongs to the tribe and who does not act within the proper social norms. It takes work to make it both delicious and affordable.

We need to think about our food.



CMike said...

I know I should expand my menus beyond black-eyed peas and chickpeas so thanks for the heads-up in your last post about Mayacoba beans. Just curious, how much time do you spend preparing a meal and, except when you put a pot on, do you devote yourself to that single task while you're at it?

Do you maintain a steady supply of beans you've sprouted on hand? Might be more trouble than it's worth but I'm thinking about getting the mesh jar lids to do that.

Anglachel said...

Hi CMike,

I keep meal prep to a minimum. If I'm doing a stir fry, like the eggplant and tofu, the biggest job is chopping up the vegetables to be small and even so they cook quickly. The pork I cooked tonight took about 20 minutes of prep for everything, and then cooked in the oven for another 20 while me & the Spousal Unit chatted about our respective days.

I try to cook things that take some chopping and a little browning, then cook unattended. 20 minutes is about my maximum time and on weekends we do the cooking together. I end up doing a fair amount of food prep on the weekends so that dinner during the week is quick to pull together. For example, last weekend I cooked a bunch of polenta in the slow cooker all day, poured it into pans to cool, then used it in place of noodles in a mid-week lasagna.

I don't sprout beans. I just soak to soften and cook them. I do like to try to vary the kinds of beans/legumes I cook. If you can get your hands on fava beans, give them a try. They have a very earthy, rich flavor that you'll either love or hate. I love them. I have dried favas I put in the slow cooker, canned favas for making quick salads, and in the summer fresh favas that I'll eat right after boiling them with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and olive oil. Black beans are also a big favorite around here.