On the fly

I love Mark Bittman.  His book, Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express is a great reference when some days we don’t know what to cook for dinner.  It doesn’t have recipes.  What directions there are don’t have amounts.  Just general guidelines for what to put in but he leaves the amounts up to you, assuming that you have some idea what you’re doing in the kitchen in the first place.

So, what’s in the fridge? What’s left in the garden? How much time do we have? What are we tired of?  So, we cook on the fly.  Grab what’s at hand and mostly it works out.  Soup and/or salads are the easiest things to pull off this way.

Soups are incredibly flexible – you can put almost anything in and, short of over salting it or under/over seasoning it, the flavors get together and have a party.

Salads are similarly simple but different.  The ingredients individually stand out more and a misstep also stands out.  Balance and plate appearance are more important.

These are two dinners; one soup one salad.  Neither have measurements for the ingredients – that’s not cooking, that’s following a recipe.  Thank you Bittman.

Squash Soup

Carrots, a handful, chopped coarsely
Celery, one or two stalks
Onion, chopped
Garlic, to taste

Chicken broth or stock

Corn, fresh if available removed from the cob or frozen if not, a handful

Squash, the hard kind like buttercup, kabocha, butternut, hubbard, etc.  1/2 small or several cups but definitely more than any other ingredient

Curry powder, 1/2 – 1 T.
Cumin seed, ground

Shrimp, peeled, de-veined

Bread, cut into crouton shapes

Onion, large, chopped

Olive oil

Sweat the carrots, celery, onion and garlic for about 10 minutes.  Add chicken broth, corn, squash, curry powder and cumin.  Cook at low simmer until squash is tender.  Mash with a potato masher or chop in a food processor – leave somewhat chunky.

Saute shrimp over high heat in a little olive oil until colored (lightly browned around the edges) or grilled (but that’s going to take longer to set up).

Toss bread with olive oil and toast in oven at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown (this will vary with freshness and type of bread).

Saute onions in olive oil until richly colored – a dark toasty brown.

Add shrimp to soup.  Serve into soup plates and garnish with browned onions and croutons.

Garden Salad with Peruvian Potatoes with Olive Cream

This was based on a dinner we had in Madison at a Peruvian restaurant.

Mixed greens
Tomato, fresh and sliced thinly
Vinegarette dressing

Egg, one per salad

Potatoes, Yukon Gold is good, sliced about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick

Black Olive Paste in a tube or seedless purple olives (Kalamata are good) mashed
Cream
Red Wine
Cream Cheese

Prepare the greens for the salad and dress with the vinegarette.  Arrange on the plate with tomatoes.  Leave a space on top for the egg.

Saute the egg sunny-side-up in olive oil until slightly browned around the edges.  Baste with cooking oil to set the top.  Serve on top of the salad greens.

Slice potatoes 1/4″ thick and saute in olive oil until tender and light golden brown on both sides.

Combine olives with a little cream, more cream cheese and a little red wine to form a thin paste.

Arrange potatoes on plate and dress with olive cream.

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