1/02/2006

Out of My Groove

As any home cook intending to create some kind of regular meal structure in the house will tell you, it’s not just the cooking. No. Sometimes it might just be a quick, 30 minute meal or something, but that’s just the time in the kitchen. A meal takes much more time than that. Take tonight’s fare, for example. I’m going to make a quick little broiled snapper. Salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil maybe, and a couple of minutes under the flame, and that’s it—except for all the time that it took me to think up the broiled snapper.

It all started with a need to go to the grocery store. The California cookbooks always say to go to the market and see what looks good. Well, I went to Whole Foods in White Plains this morning, and I thought the chocolate looked good, but nothing seemed right for dinner. I was completely uninspired. I got some bananas, some tea, some prepared soup for Esme’s lunch, my favorite little crackers (Water Wheel Original Minis) and some McCann’s Quick Cooking Irish Oatmeal. I was tired of chicken, tired of beef, not in the mood to cook anything.

Then I remembered that The Girl had dance class that afternoon and that I’d be right next door to Citarella’s on Broadway. Fish! That was my second grocery shopping expedition of the day. See all the time? All the thought? And that’s just the entrée—I haven’t even started cooking. Of course, rice, peas, and leftover Broccoli Rabe will round it out, and maybe some frozen bread that I can pop in the oven.

Sometimes I get completely inspired and am able to plan a couple of menus all at once, including how to use the leftovers. That’s kind of like being “in the zone.” But I’m off kilter, what with the holidays and all. I remember when I just had The Girl, it took me about a year to figure out how to take care of her and make dinner. The nadir of that era was when I tried to make chicken parmigana, not wanting to pound the chicken breasts too loudly (so as not to wake up the slumbering infant). I came to the table exhausted, and when The Husband and I cut into the chicken (which had been breaded, sautéed, smothered in a tomato sauce, topped with fresh mozzarella and baked) it was completely raw in the middle. I broke into tears and gave up cooking for a good, long while. I may not have been able to cook and care for a child, but I could eat with chopsticks with either hand—even while nursing.

This snapper dinner will be just what I need to get me back in my dinner groove, and I can go to the market again tomorrow to pick up a chicken to roast. That will get me to Thursday.

2 comments:

SF Mom of One said...

I am impressed. I thought as far ahead as to pick up a pre-cooked chicken at the grocery store. Hey, maybe I will get some ideas! I have never been in the zone.

And I hear you about cooking and caring for an infant. I burned everything I tried (which wasn't much) in that first year.

FrodoPDX said...

I had McCann's today. Here's the best way to make it. First, place the oatmeal and water in a pot (using the 1:2 ratio recommended by the package) and let it soak for 5-10 minutes. Then cook it on a fairly high temp for 5 minutes. The water boils away pretty fast. Then add 1/4 -1/2 cup of whole or 2 % milk, a bit of cardomon, cinammon and some cranberries. Cook for another 10 min over low heat. You can add sugar if you want but it isn't really necessary.