I love flipping through cookbooks and sometimes I even make a grocery list and follow one of the recipes to the letter. But most of the time I just take a look around my kitchen and figure out some way to turn the random food I have into a meal. I’m sure there are many reasons why it’d be a good idea for me to do a bit more planning than I currently do, but I like the challenge of winging it. And I also love wandering around the farmers’ market and buying whatever looks great and draws me in, instead of sticking to a list. And the thing is, if you buy beautiful, high-quality ingredients, you can always throw together something tasty — and it’s a great way to discover some of your new favorite combinations.
This past weekend I was helping a friend move. We wanted to make something for dinner instead of heading to a restaurant, so I decided I’d just bring whatever food I had on hand and figure something out. Here’s what I gathered up from my kitchen:
I was eager to use up my potatoes because I’d just bought some beautiful leeks at the farmers’ market, and potato-leek soup sounded perfect for the very chilly evening on Saturday. So, the main meal was the potato-leek soup, seasoned with sage and thyme. We did pick up a few additional items to make the soup particularly tasty and creamy: white wine (great for drinking with dinner too!), organic, free range chicken stock (if you have to buy chicken stock, read the ingredients list carefully — there’s some scary stuff in some brands, even some organic “healthy” brands), & organic half-and-half (this soup was creamy even without the dairy, so you can easily skip it).
I knew the potato soup was going to be very filling, but I also knew we needed to balance out its heaviness with some crisp salad. And I knew that our salad needed to showcase one of my new favorite veggies: the watermelon radish. If you’ve never had a watermelon radish, ask around at your local winter farmers’ market and see if anyone has them available. Here in Seacoast NH, you can get them from Riverside Farm at the Wentworth/Exeter Winter Farmers’ Markets. When sliced, watermelon radishes look like little slices of watermelon. They taste sweet at first and finish with a perfect radishy spiciness. Really great stuff! Our salad was a chopped raw veggie salad of thinly sliced watermelon radish, shredded carrot, sliced celery and thinly sliced apple with a light dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper), served on a bed of baby salad greens.
So, we sat there in the mostly empty house, with a beautiful fire in the fireplace, and enjoyed a simple but truly amazing meal that basically created itself out of the available ingredients.
Next time you get overwhelmed or just stuck when it’s time to prepare dinner, start by gathering the ingredients you have on hand and placing them on the counter together. If you just look at them for a couple minutes, a dish (or two) will reveal itself to you. No? Still stuck? Then think about some of the dishes (food combinations) you’ve seen on menus at your favorite restaurants or in cookbooks you’ve browsed. Thinking about popular food combinations will help you pair up the ingredients on your counter. And really, what’s the worst that can happen? Sometimes these impromptu kitchen creations are surprisingly wonderful, and you may stumble upon a new favorite.
Here are the “recipes” (I didn’t write down anything, so these are from memory) for the 2 dishes I made on Saturday night:
Potato-Leek Soup with Sage & Thyme
Watermelon Radish – Apple Salad over Baby Greens
eat well. live well. be well. relax & cook creatively.