Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's what's for dinner

Beef – it’s what’s for dinner. That’s been the slogan of the Cattleman’s Association for ages.

Fine. If it’s for dinner, what do you do with it?

I’m not picking on beef. I feel the same way about chicken, pork, vegetables, or everything else. Surely I can’t be alone in this regard. More often than not, I simply don’t have any idea what to make for dinner.

My husband Joe and I go shopping most weeks, and often more than once. We buy food. Only somehow we never seem to have any ingredients to make anything. Most days I stare into the freezer or pantry, absolutely devoid of any ideas other than how easy it would be to order a pizza or pick up a rotisserie chicken. 

Don’t get me wrong. I like cooking. I find it creative and relaxing, when I’m in the mood for it. But somehow that mood only strikes on special occasions, or on Sundays, when Joe and I cook together. On the average weeknight, I can’t seem to think of anything to make other than things I’ve made thousands of times, which bore me silly at this point.

I know I could plan it out in advance, so I’d never have to be at a loss. I have a friend who does that. Every other week, she works out all the meals she’ll want to make over the next couple of weeks, and lists every single ingredient she’ll need, which she then heads out to buy. She doesn’t like it especially, but she considers her level of planning a better choice than the random approach I bring to my own meal-making.

I could plan as she does, too, of course. But I never will. I could say that I want to be more spontaneous, but that isn’t the truth. I just think there are simply two kinds of people in this world: the kind who plan for two weeks of meals, and the kind who like to stand before the pantry whining that there’s nothing there, but who are secretly relieved to have avoided all that planning.

I could shuck it off onto Joe more often, too. He can somehow find ingredients in our house that I failed to notice. But he typically works later at our bookstore than I do, so if I foist it off onto him, it means eating more creative meals, but later than I like them. Nothing is ever simple.

Since yesterday was the first day of spring, I took the trouble to make something unique, which I’ve called Extra Creamy Leek & Asparagus soup. I thought about how I could create a different variation on a standard cream of asparagus soup, thought about what I’d need, and since I found almost none of it in our house, I made a special shopping trip for it. 

Here’s the recipe:

1 bundle of asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large or 2 small leeks, sliced (white part only)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 large garlic cloves (or less, to taste)
4-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
1 cup milk, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 small package cream cheese
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse and cut up asparagus spears, discarding the tougher, fibrous bottoms of the spears. Rise leeks really well, and slice the white part into 1/4 inch disks. Heat oil in a pot, and sauté onion and garlic until tender. Add asparagus and leeks and sauté until they are tender. Remove from heat.

In another pan, heat butter. Add flour and stir to blend. Add salt and pepper. Whisk in milk to blend well. Stir until it thickens into a sauce. Cut one small package of cream cheese into pieces, and stir those into the sauce until well blended.

If you have an immersion hand blender (boat motor), puree the vegetables, reserving the asparagus tips. If you don’t have a boat motor, transfer the sautéed veggies, apart from the tips, to a blender and process until smooth. Combine with the sauce, and return asparagus tips to the soup. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty bread. 

Yum. Was that ever good!

The trouble with cooking, though, is that no matter how much effort you put into it yesterday, today you just have to do it again. And today, I’m as stumped as ever.

How about you? What are you making? If it’s restaurant reservations, I just might follow your lead.


  1. I agree with the benefits of cooking. It's possible to write while eating, but hard to cook while writing.

  2. Just had the left-over soup for lunch. Mmmm...Mmmm...Good.

  3. Well, sure. Food gets in your keyboard.