Friday, February 12, 2010

The failed minimalist cooks

I'm not cut out for a minimalist kitchen. I love having a tool for every purpose, a new vessel for every stage of a dish. I regularly fill an entire dishwasher before we've even eaten dinner. The bare essentials that I brought to DC with me - for what was supposed to be a mere three days until the moving truck got here - stopped being enough for me right about the time the second snowstorm hit.

I have one pot and one pan. One knife. Two plates, two bowls, two saucers. Two plastic cups. One travel coffee mug. A set of flatware for us each. I managed to sneak in a Microplane and a garlic press, but oh, the things I didn't realize I'd covet... 

See, staging meals around the single pot and pan turns out to be the most difficult aspect for me of living so sparely.There's no simmering a sauce separately from the food, or roasting one dish while I'm sauteeing another, unless I plan on doing single-dish meals alone. Which perhaps might have been the smartest choice. My way, I end up washing and washing and washing everything for reuse. [Looks at dried-up hands and shudders.]

I was craving brussels sprouts, and thought the roasted greens would go nicely with a spicy andouille and garbanzo bean soup. I began the brussels first, caramelizing the onions, then transferring the onions to one of our plates while I roasted the sprouts in the same All Clad skillet. After the sprouts were done, I mixed the caramelized onions into the dish, along with some walnuts (which I toasted on the lid of my skillet - told you I'm getting inventive over here!) and some freshly grated parm. Fairly manageable in a single pan, and really delicious.

But the soup I'd been craving? You'd think soups would be my go-to, one-pot meal, as well they should be. This soup is easy to prepare, simple enough that I didn't need to buy many ingredients, and flavorful enough that I could avoid buying spices I already own in that moving truck.

I lined up my cans of garbanzos and had my fresh ingredients all ready to go. And then it hit me: no can opener. No can opener! We tried knives, a wine bottle opener, anything we had on hand. No go. And so a choice presented itself: cry over one of my favorite winter soups not coming to fruition, or rethink. With the winds howling outside and icy snow slamming against the windows, running out to the store again wasn't an option.

I'd purchased enough groceries for a few meals, carefully planned based on minimal ingredients and tools/vessels required. I threw my original meal plans out the window, laid out all my fresh ingredients, and decided to make a go of it. Here's what I came up with:

Andouille Vegetable Soup

It's a mess of everything fresh I had on hand: andouille chicken sausage (some mean person bought all the pork at Whole Foods before I got there), kale, red bell pepper, potatoes, basil, shallots, garlic, chicken broth, dark beer, and a little salt and pepper.

So no can opener. No original soup. But on weeks like this one - which I know we will *always* remember with fondess due to its absolute craziness, but I'm still allowed to be OVER IT, k? - I felt pretty good about this mishmash in a bowl. And it was yummy enough that it made me forget all about that original plan for a while.

(Until I started fantasizing about my wine glasses.)


  1. It still looks DELICIOUS!

    Once I tried to make mashed potatoes without a potato masher and OMG it was the biggest nightmare ever. EVER! I ended up using the bottom of a beer stein; well actually I made my boyfriend use the bottom of a beer stein But seriously, I feel your pain!

  2. No can opener is tough, but hey lesson learned. Now you will NEVER move without one again! What about your new DC neighbors? I'm sure borrowing a can opener could stand in for borrowing a cup of sugar as an introductory technique.

  3. Ha! That just sucks. I mean, I've had no wine opener, (or, um corkscrew, brain is gone today), but through sheer determination have meddled with cork enough to get to some vino sipping. However, cork is a soft porous material, unlike cans, so I can only imagine the frustration. When are movers coming??


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