Cooking with a Friend: Menu Planning on the Fly
Jennifer Maiser writes about locally and sustainably grown food. The Cooking with a Friend series chronicles her cooking and menu planning adventures with her neighbor, J.
Eight weeks into this project, menu planning is becoming a well-oiled machine. Normally, we chat about the menu via email late in the week and then parcel out the shopping list. To tell you the truth, I can't remember when we planned our menu this week. I have a feeling that it was sometime between trying out guest bartender Eben Freeman's amazing drinks at The Alembic and a late Saturday dinner at Nopalito. All I know is that I came home with a menu plan scribbled on a piece of paper and that the planning was quick, easy, and low drama.
Our menus seem to be taking approximately the same amount of time to make each week: between three and four hours. This week, I tossed cubed pork butt in salt, pepper, flour, and garlic powder, browned it, and then put it in the slow-cooker to cook all day Sunday. By the time we were ready to cook on Sunday evening, the pork stew was done and we only had a couple of dishes left to make.
J. spent most of her time prepping and making a stir-fried noodle dish. It required a lot of chopping, and she sat at the kitchen table for well over an hour prepping shiitake mushrooms, leeks, bamboo shoots, chicken, ginger, and garlic, which we combined with cooked chow mein noodles into a large, flavorful stir-fry. She didn't seem to mind the prep time, and I set about cooking our other dishes.
My favorite dish of the week was the white beans in tomato sauce. We used fat, runner cannellini beans from Rancho Gordo and modified a recipe from this month's Gourmet by using canned tomatoes and creating a slightly more soupy concoction. The onion, pureed tomatoes, celery and garlic combined with butter and Parmesan made for a delicious base for the creamy beans. Do try the recipe—it's probably going to be a regular in our menu planning. Once I get a better handle on our methodology, I will post an adapted version here.
I'm going to be gone next week, so we spent a couple minutes talking about what J. would eat next week. The good news is that for the past several weeks we've frozen a serving or two of a dish. I think she's going to be eating beef stew, tortilla soup, and a couple other delectable leftovers while I am in Southern California slurping my favorite noodles and eating my grandmother's refried beans and Chile Colorado.
Final Menu, Week 8
Pork tacos with cabbage
Wok noodles with shiitake mushrooms, leeks and chicken
White beans in tomato sauce
Roasted small potatoes
Cost: $28 each