Friday, February 6, 2009

The Frugalista Imperative

OK, since I seem to have earned the moniker "frugalista", I am going to start sharing some of my less planned meals with you. You know, the ones that get made 30 minutes past when everyone is asking "what's for dinner." The ones where I have to look at the contents of the fridge as if it were one of those exercises in creativity ("you have a sheet of paper, a roll of tape and a pair scissors. In 30 minutes, can you build a bridge that will support a book?")

So last night was one of those nights. I had thought we'd have the leftover oxtail stew, so I didn't defrost anything. But my sweetheart helped himself to some of the stew for lunch--now that he's working from home I have little control over what he fixes himself, try though I might to influence his choices. And I can't really get away with feeding him the same thing again for dinner--not if I have other options. This called for regrouping, but instead I sat at my computer and ignored the impending disaster until around 7pm. Yeah, very late. Too late to work much magic.

Finally, after being asked by one too many kids what would be for dinner, I peered tentatively into the fridge. I was looking for a couple of small lamb steaks I remembered, that I was hoping were shoved into the back. They were there, untouched--ok, a start. Some leftover mashed cauliflower with garlic, some other fresh vegetables, but how to make the whole thing hang together? There wasn't much meat, and though there were plentiful veggies, that would not impress my carnivores one bit.

In the end, I turned the meat into carnitas by cutting it into 1/2 inch cubes and frying until they were really brown and crisp. I mixed a couple of eggs and a handful of coconut flour into the cauliflower puree (one 1/2 cups maybe) and fried dollops of the mixture in a cast iron pan greased with lard--they brown like pancakes but are a bit firmer.

The broccoli was steamed in florets, and I tossed the green pepper strips on top at the end, to soften them a bit. These were piled in a serving bowl, surrounded by artichoke leaves (from the one leftover cooked artichoke I found somewhat forlorn in the fridge) and topped with a basket of sweet cherry tomatoes. Even the veggie haters had to admit it was pretty. The veg were served with a garlicky mayonnaise on the side. And, as always, there was kimchi and water kefir (my kombucha is taking forever in this cool weather).

It wasn't the most elegant or coherent of meals, but it was nourishing and satisfying. Nothing was wasted, we had fun dipping veggies in copious mayo, and we topped it off with Florida strawberries (hard to believe, but they're in season!) and raw cream.

Easy Garlic Mayo
1 egg
1 garlic clove
1 cup of oil (I used 1/2 olive, 1/2 cold-pressed sunflower)
Sea salt to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

In a blender, blend the egg and garlic for 10-15 seconds. Start pouring the oil in the thinnest stream you can manage. Some blenders have a smaller hole that makes this easy, or you can keep the lid partially covering the opening; in any case be careful of splattering, or you will find mayo on the underside of your cabinets the next day. As you pour, you will hear the mayo thicken; it will sound like the blender is choking. At this point you can add the oil slightly faster. When it is all incorporated, add the sea salt. I may have used about 1/2 teaspoon, but I didn't measure. I taste it! Start with a bit, you can add more if you need it. Add the lemon juice, being careful to avoid the seeds, as they are bitter. Blend to mix in the salt and lemon. That's it. Now you don't have to buy mayo ever again! Leave out the garlic to make the plain stuff. Add a bit of honey if you are used to those sweet brands.

I won't say that homemade mayo is cheaper than the regular boughten stuff, because I have never costed it. I do know that it is cheaper than the commercial mayo of equivalent quality, with no additives and using real food ingredients. And it tastes better, is better for you and you have no jar to throw away in the end.

This morning my husband commented that most of the makings of that meal would have gone to waste in many homes. Everything was in our house in bits and pieces, some of it salvaged because I am unable throw anything away, some of it purchased to be part of my usual staples. It was the perhaps the mayonnaise that was the glue that held the meal together, as it added flavor, the satisfaction that good fats give, and something to physically do.

Or maybe it was just the Imperative of the Frugalista that made it work. Either way, they ate it. And that is a thrifty Real Food victory.


Anonymous said...

That's awesome; I love your creativity! I'm still fairly new at the wife/homemaker thing, so I'm in the learning stages of how to make something out of 'nothing.' It's a dying art, for sure!

Erica said...

Hi @farmmaid!

I love your idea of mayo. I have not had any mayo in a long time after giving up soy. I will try your version out. Thanks for the recipe!

@realfood2health on

Kathi said...

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one with a husband who helps himself to what I was planning for dinner and ruining my dinner plans!

Justine said...
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