Cooking For One: Veggie Bounty
DISH: String Beans a la Marc; Parlsey Zucchini; Sweet and Sour Cabbage Salad
TYPE: Summer’s Offering Lunch
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Vegetables
I’ve always loved the lunch buffet at City Bakery, on 18th Street, for the sheer vegetabley-ness of its offering. At any given lunch hour, you can heap creative, market-fresh salads, sautés, and greens onto your plate to your heart’s—and your diet’s—content. Sure, it’s overpriced, but it’s incredibly convenient, and keeping so many different vegetables in so many different preparations in your own fridge would be a giant pain.
Or would it?
I’ve been finding that if I buy relatively small quantities of a variety of veggies at summer’s overflowing farmers’ markets and farmstands, and then cook each into its own particular dish, stored in its very own tupperware container, by the end of the week all the containers are empty and I feel like I’ve eaten a buffet-worthy assortment of foods. I find it more satisfying, when cooking for just myself, than making one huge pot of something and eating it ad nauseum (not literally) for an entire week.
When venturing to create a satisfying vegetable “buffet” at home, there are really only a couple of guidelines to follow:
•Don’t buy too much of any given vegetable. This will prevent you from overdosing and from boredom.
•Vary the texture of the preparations. Make slow-cooked string beans and long-simmered cabbage. Make some dishes that are best hot and have others room temp or cold.
•Mix and match! Have a little bit of string beans, a little bit of cabbage salad, and then a little more of the string beans. Add some bread and maybe a little cheese, and you’ve got a meal.
•Limit each dish to a couple of veggies—no more. While hodgepodge vegetable stews are certainly delicious, it’s more exciting to pick and choose from several containers of simpler dishes.
•Remember your veggie buffet when you’re trying to think of side dishes to complement another you’re making for yourself or for others. They’re especially good to round out a small portion of something kind of heavy, like a grilled cheese sandwich.
Anyway, below are the three creations I came up with last week. Who knows what’ll transpire with my next vegtable purchase?
From my kitchen, where the buffet is personalized, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
String Beans a la Marc
Makes 3 servings
Recently, my friend Marc was gleefully telling me about his favorite simple dinner: freshly cooked pasta tossed with minced garlic, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and butter. The key, he said, was using both the butter and the olive oil. While he was talking, I could almost taste the deliciousness of the two fats. The next day, instead of pasta, I tossed my string beans in just this combination.
1/2 pound green beans
2 cloves garlic, pressed*
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
scant 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
*if you don’t have a garlic press (like me), mince the cloves of garlic very finely. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt over the minced garlic and go at it again with your knife, using the salt’s grittiness to really break up the pieces.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Trim the vine end off the string beans, or trim both if you prefer them like that. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water, then add the string beans. Boil for about 6 minutes, until the beans have lost their raw taste but are still firm. Drain.
Immediately toss with the butter, olive oil, garlic, pepper, and Parm. Serve hot or at room temperature.
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large clove garlic, chopped
3 medium-sized zucchini
1/2 cup of parsley, finely diced
1 teaspoon butter
salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic softens and turns slightly brown. Add the zucchini, raise the heat, and stir fry until the zucchini have wilted. Sprinkle with salt and hot pepper, add the parsley and butter, and serve. This is great eaten hot right away, but it’s also good straight from the fridge.
Sweet and Sour Cabbage Salad
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/2 large cabbage, shredded
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cucumber, cut into thin half moons
Combine the vinegar, water, and salt in a small saucepan with a tightly fitted lid. Add the onion and cover. When you can see steam coming out through the lid, 2-3 minutes, add the cabbage, stir to mix, put the cover back on, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, until the cabbage is quite tender. Stir in the sugar and cook for another 5 minutes.
Off the heat, mix in the cucumber slices. Cool to room temperature, then refridgerate until ready to eat.