My tea of choice tonight is the rooibos chai. My wonderful wife has just recently gotten hooked on Good Earth Sweet & Spicy tea. I have been drinking it for years and she just finally tried it. It is a black tea loaded with cinnamon and other spices, and it is rather addictive.
There is something nice about being in a couple where both people cook well. Namely, leftovers. In our society, leftovers have gotten a bad name. As a kid, we dreaded leftovers, but that was only because dinner was never that great to begin with. Not the case for us.
Tonight was leftover night. In this case, the featured performer was my spaghetti and meatballs from last night. It was delicious last night, and for its encore performance, it lost very little in translation. If anything, the flavors had time to meld and mellow and really soak into the angel hair pasta. When paired with garlic bread, it made for a satisfying and enjoyable meal on a night when cooking was not otherwise on the agenda.
In the days before chronic fatigue, making spaghetti was a substantial task. While we never made sauce from fresh tomatoes, we did start with plain, canned, organic tomatoes and tomato paste and went from there. We would add fresh onions, peppers and mushrooms sauteed in good extra virgin olive oil. We did all of the spicing, and we let the sauce simmer and sit for hours. We wouldn’t even try it if we had less than three or four hours. Sometimes I would even make fresh pasta. That was a real treat.
While on rare occasions I might still be able to do the full treatment, I now have to make compromises most of the time. The process may be simpler, but I go to great lengths make sure the food is still pleasing to the palate. Yes, I am afraid a huge compromise is using a bottled sauce to start from. That said, I get good bottled sauce. Not everything in the supermarket tastes like Ragu or Prego. If you are careful, do your homework, and pay a bit more, you can find sauces now that will at least give a good base from which to work.
Last night I started with DelGrosso’s marinara. It is in the medium-high price range, but I bought it on a buy-one-get-one deal which makes it much more affordable. My grandmother would be proud. To the marinara, I added good ground round, meatballs, mushrooms, olive oil (extra virgin), pepper and come cayenne for a kick. The meatballs were not made by me either, but our supermarket makes good ones in the meat department, so I let them. The result was remarkably good.
Part of having this disease is planning for days like today. When I cook, I seldom cook for one night. As long as I am cooking, I make enough for two or even three nights. A lot of the dishes I make lend themselves to large batches: chili, chicken soup, vegetable soup and even spaghetti. If you remember back to my post about grilling a couple of weeks ago, you know that I cooked enough for two meals and a couple of lunches.
The alternatives to cooking are not very attractive. Yes, some nights we resort to something from the freezer or pizza delivery. We do our best to minimize those occasions, but they do happen. Living in a small, beach town, our food delivery options are very limited and not very good.
I would like to circle back to something I said at the beginning. I implied that my mother was less than a good cook. While this is true, I don’t believe she would be terribly offended by my mentioning it. She was the first to admit that she wasn’t very good in the kitchen. When you consider that for most of our childhood she was a single mother raising three kids, cooking was a necessary evil for her and not a creative outlet. Her priority was to get us something nutritious and filling, and it had to be quick and easy because she just didn’t have the time for anything else. I do have to give credit where credit is due. Many of my comfort food recipes started life as her recipes although I am not sure she would recognize them any more.
I hope you have the time to celebrate food.