Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You learn something new every day...

Who knew that it makes a difference whether you cook your beans with the lid on or off?

Not I... at least not until today.

This is why I'm hot

This is why I'm hot, I don't got to rap
I can make a mil saying nothing on a track....

That's kind of how I feel about weeknight dinners sometimes. Ok maybe minus some of the boisterousness, plus we always need to do some work... But the point is that it's possible to put out banging meals on a weeknight with very little effort, which is almost the same thing as making a million dollars for not saying anything....

Anyways what I want to talk about here is always having semi-prepared foods around. No I don't mean packaged stuff you buy from Trader Joe's, but items that you partially put together on weekends or whenever you have time or feel inspired, then keep around in the fridge. This allows you to cook meals in 20 minutes that taste like they take hours. This is the key to making killer weeknight dinners.

Here are some things you'll often find in our fridge and freezer:

Marinated veggies: Blanch or roast veggies like carrots or peppers. Cook them until barely soft, then put in a jar with salt and cover with olive oil. If you're feeling fancy add a little vinegar or a clove of garlic. These are great additions to sauces.

Pesto cubes: at the end of the summer when we rip up our basil plants we make a huge batch of pesto, then freeze it in ice cube trays. A cube of this stuff can do magic to many dishes, or just be used with pasta.

Stock cubes: homemade stock, frozen in ice cube trays, are crucial. Thinning a sauce? Deglazing a pan? This is good stuff to use.

Marinated tofu: you'll find it a lot easier to make tofu tasty if it's already marinated in your fridge.

Cooked beans: I guess you could just stock canned beans, if you don't mind your beans mushy and metallic tasting. But the dried ones are so much better (and not as much of a hassle as many think; more on that in a later post). I like to cook them until they're just barely tender to allow for better control over their texture when I'm using with them later. This is a great habit to get into on sunday afternoons: prepare a pot of beans to use throughout the week.

Cooked grains: whenever you cook some grains, why not cook twice as much as you need? Keep the rest in your fridge, and it's ready to go for next time.

Chopped up leftover meats: let's say you do some grilling on the weekend, and there's a couple of chicken drumsticks leftover. Take the meat of the bone, chop it up into little bits, and keep it around. Now it's ready to go into stews, soups, sauces, frittatas, whatever...

There's plenty more options of course. Anything you use that's not on the list? Hit up the comments!

Now to come full circle, I'll leave you with this pretty hot remix of the song quoted at the top: