Refrigerator Diaries Day 2

Full fridge day 2It’s a weekend morning and that allows for a full-on cooked breakfast. Geff cooked the boys home fries and eggs, oj, plus toast and jam. Is there something about men and cooking home fries? There must be some soul connection there. I am trying to eat lightly so I had yogurt with a banana, high fiber cereal, and a piece of toast.

Lunch was a catch-as-catch can affair: cheese and bread, Rebecca Katz’s Magic Mineral Broth and for the boys, quesadillas with cheese and steak leftover from last night plus oranges and apples.

In the afternoon, I made a version of Michael Chiarello’s lemon-braised artichokes. I always think of him as I snap leaves off until the tender, creamy, pale green core shows. When we were writing books together, he demonstrated how to do this: You hold the artichoke in your left hand and put your thumb at the base of each leaf. Then, with your right hand, you snap the leaf down over your left thumb. The result is a heart a few percent larger than just snapping away without the restraining left thumb. Those few percent are important in a restaurant kitchen, less so at home.

Too lazy to go outdoors and pick thyme from which I would also have to pick dog hair, I chose to use herbes de Provence, a usually wonderful French herb blend that includes thyme, fennel seed, basil, savory, and lavender. The lavender in this particular brand is a bit heavy and I am not known for a light hand with herbs. So, as the week progressed, the artichoke hearts would belong to me. Which is fine; I love the lemony artichokes and the braising liquid (water, Meyer lemon juice, olive oil) tastes great on toast, poured over goat and feta cheeses, over pasta, in salads, etc. You can find the recipe in The Tra Vigne Cookbook.

Cooking family meals with only what’s on hand creates opportunities. For instance, that sauce leftover from the Christmas roast beef–this evening it turned into barbecue sauce for the chicken. As I recall, it was a combination of chipotle, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. We marinated a chicken (from the freezer and defrosted in the fridge for several days.) in the sauce and served the remainder at table. It was a good substitute for our beloved, dark, and spicy barbecue sauce from Mark Miller’s The Great Chile Book (Ten Speed Press).

We finished off the pasta from last night and the potatoes from the morning. And then we sauteed a head of Portugese cabbage left from our last CSA (community supported agriculture) box. The first time I saw Portugese cabbage, I had no idea what it was. It looks as if it might be run-away bok choy. Its sweet, tender stems grow up a central stalk. Look for it; it’s delicious.

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I am a veteran cook, but I always avoided making bread. I recently took Penni’s hands-on class for no-knead bread and, in a matter of hours, I produced a beautiful, plump, round loaf that was worthy of display in a bakery. And, it tasted great!

-Robin Wirthlin San Francisco

About Penni

Over 30 years as a food and wine professional, writer, and editor.

Cookbook author including:
'The Tra Vigne Cookbook' for Michael Chiarello,
'The Basque Kitchen' for Gerald Hirigoyen
and 'BurgerBar' for Hubert Keller.

Contact Penni Wisner