by Cynthia Graber
I'm having a love affair with my freezer.
It's been going on on throughout the winter and early spring. As I worked my way through the winter CSA, I could also dip into frozen stocks of pre-made food that I'd frozen and nearly forgotten. Smoky, creamy butternut squash soup. Spicy carrot soup. Bags of frozen kale, to be quickly defrosted and sauteed with olive oil and spicy pepper. Blueberries to melt down and mix with yoghurt and cardamom.
Last night this love affair was revived. I'd just returned from two weeks out of the country. In addition to the gustatory thrills of dining in Spain, I sampled some of Sweden's culinary offerings - which, for me, were mostly limited to herring, multiple times a day, and cardamom buns (often multiple daily servings as well).
Tasty, sure, but a girl can't live on herring and cardamom buns alone, and Swedish dining is somewhat lacking on the vegetable front. So my lovely cousin J., an accomplished scientist working on her post-doc, as well as an accomplished cook, prepared many of our meals.
One night she made her version of pisto manchego, a recipe she'd culled from the New York Times. It consists of a base of summer squash, tomatoes, and garlic, on top of which you simmer eggs until just barely set. (For those of you familiar with Israeli cooking, it's like a Spanish shakshoukah). J. doctored the recipe with additional garlic, some cumin and a dash of cinnamon, and plenty of chile powder.
After a day spent in flying limbo - you know the kind, where time ceases to exist in the monotony of the airplane - I made it home to my apartment. I was tired. I was hungry. There was no way I was heading out to buy food. But my freezer lovingly offered up some suggestions: a bag of roasted tomatoes, and a bag of a zucchini/onion saute. I had eggs in the fridge.
So I threw the frozen vegetables into a cast iron pan, broke up them as they started to defrost, and threw in dried crumbled chile pepper, some cumin, a bit of cinnamon, and some smoky Spanish paprika. I cooked it down for a while until the water had mostly boiled off.
Finally, I poached a couple of eggs on top.
This morning, I ate the left-over vegetables on top of rice with some goat cheese.
Oh, freezer. Thanks for welcoming me home with a great, home-cooked meal.
I'm not going to bother giving you my recipe. It would read something like this: in the fall, stare uninspired at zucchini, then saute with onion and freeze. Buy an excess of tomatoes for tomato-free winter months, roast, and freeze. Months later, get hungry, defrost them, cook with spices, and set eggs on top.
Oh so useful, right?
Instead, use this New York Times recipe, and doctor to your taste.