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Cathy Erway

Cathy Erway

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One In-Season Vegetable, Six Maddeningly Simple Dinners With Little Else

Posted: 04/16/11 11:56 AM ET

I'm tapping my fingers waiting for asparagus to arrive. It's like the night before Christmas, or worse, the early morning hours when you're not sure whether Santa's come and gone, or might shuffle in yet. So while we're waiting, I thought I'd rehash some of the simplest, most satisfying, no-nonsense ways to turn asparagus and other fresh produce that will soon arrive into meals. Because it'll be too nice outside to worry about it too much.

Plus, so many have asked how to make cooking with fresh produce more efficient, especially for one. What to do with leftover food? There is economy to eating locally and seasonally, when you consider how far you can stretch one bunch of produce. You can cook it throughout the week, and never get bored. All too often we're smitten by more things than we know what to do on a market trip, and end up letting some of our bunches go bad. Save yourself the time, money and head-scratching by focusing on one fetching ingredient at a time. I've practically lived off of all these techniques, or some variation of them, for quite some time, and they never get old.

What kind of vegetables will they work with? Well, asparagus, for one. Or zucchini, cut into discs. String beans, broccoli, or any leafy greens at all. My suggestion is to use these techniques with a vegetable you've never even encountered or cooked with before. An heirloom something-or-other. You'll make a new friend.

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With Pasta, Butter, Lemon Juice & Parmiggiano

Add a little chili flakes, garlic, fresh herbs and good olive oil to your taste, too. This meal not only makes a sure-fire comfort when you're alone in front of the TV, it works well as an elegant but simple dinner for company.

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Stir-Fried with Chicken Over Rice

For a long time, Chinese stir-fries with a cornstarch-thickened garlic sauce was the only thing I knew how to cook. Swap in beef (thinly sliced flank steak, I'd recommend) or firm tofu chunks for the chicken as you please.

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With Polenta and a Poached Egg

This quick meal can be made with with other quick-cooking grains (quinoa, couscous, even potatoes or oats) and any sauteed vegetable; it's the oozing egg yolk that ties it all together. There's something luxurious about that poached egg, and I just think it mushes really well with polenta.

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In a Noodle Soup

Most vegetables can be wilted right into the pot of noodles for the last minute or so that they're boiling. In that time, I like to mix a ladleful of the boiling water into a large noodle bowl, and stir in a few Chinese condiments or sauces (or miso paste, as in the link). Next, all the noodles, water, and veggies are transferred to their flavorful new "soup." It's an efficient way to cook the vegetable, as well as one of the most wholesome and lean techniques.

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On a Sandwich with Anchovies, Capers and a Hard-Boiled Egg

Salty, tangy, eggy and satisfying, this sandwich cannot seem to fail. This is what I'd most likely make if I were packing up my lunch to go.

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In Fried Rice with Everything (and Anything)

About as fun and easy as it gets to cook. Best made with leftover rice (because it's drier and sticks less to the pan), it can take any chopped-up vegetable and a scrambled egg. These days, I up the ratio of vegetables to rice so that they're nearly even -- why not when those are the best part?

Cross-posted from Not Eating Out in New York.

 

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