Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dinner's in the Fridge.

I don't know how to eat lately. Sudden and early Spring with near-Summer temperatures have me thoroughly confused. I feel as if I've channeled my inner European and have taken to eating larger than normal lunches; when the dinner hour approaches, I find I'm not really hungry at all. There is also this thing called March Madness that prohibits me from really scheduling anything that takes my Husband longer than about a half-time to eat, if he eats at all. But it's all fine with me. I like eating little meals, and I also like cooking a little something out of nothing - a good challenge to use up odds and ends in the refrigerator.

Lately I've also been concerned that something I eat is making my skin issues worse. I occasionally have eczema on my hands, usually a condition that only appears under stress and with too much water or overuse. During this particularly awful episode, I am re-examining every morsel that enters my mouth. That is no fun, but on the bright side I have a whole host of new ideas about using food as medicine, and renewed empathy for those who suffer with food allergies.

My worst fear is that wheat or gluten is the culprit of my discomfort. For the past few days I have been diligently avoiding my bread, who sits neglected on the counter, a prisoner under a glass dome. I don't think that gluten is my issue fortunately and, maybe a bit prematurely, have started a new loaf of whole wheat sourdough this morning. The combination of using up the contents of my fridge and my subtle, perhaps unfounded, fear of gluten did lead to this little casserole that I baked efficiently in my toaster oven last night:


When I don't have to worry about my Husband for supper, I feel like I have free reign to make whatever my heart desires. While I classify him as a picky eater, he does surprise me with his likes and dislikes. On the likes list: kale, intestines, and raw fish of all types. On the dislike list: fennel, carrots, and squash of all types. These are abbreviated lists of course, but as a person without any food aversions (except raw cuddlefish, I ate it badly prepared once and had to spit it out), I find it sometimes frustrating to say the least.

Take polenta for example. I really love it, but texturally it's something my Husband can do without. Generally I avoid making it altogether since I don't like eating leftovers for a week. Rummaging through my cupboards yesterday, and noting how they could do with some Spring cleaning, I couldn't get my mind off a quart jar of polenta stashed in the back of my pantry. When I saw a half gallon jar in the fridge filled with more bean pot liquid than beans, and a few tablespoons of sorry looking mango salsa from earlier in the week, I figured dinner was served.

I cooked a 1/4 c. of polenta in the traditional way and spread it into a buttered tiny casserole dish that usually holds my measuring spoons, corn on the cob picks, other kitchen odds and ends in the silverware drawer. I tossed the leftover pintos with cumin, Mexican oregano and chile powder (despite pangs of guilt I wasn't going all out and using whole chiles as I was reminded in this lovely article - but I was going for ease...), and spooned them over the polenta. I mixed my sorry looking mango salsa, complete with edible but totally browned avocados, with a few spoonfuls of canned tomato salsa, and then grated the last of a block of cheddar cheese which I figured would be the best bet for using up odds and ends. I meant to add candied jalapenos to the layer of polenta, and I meant to defrost a little frozen corn, but for about 5 minutes of actual work, this simple one-dish supper was pretty good!


For lunch today I'm planning to have another slice, rewarmed and topped with a poached egg, and maybe crowned with some super hot sauce that I keep forgetting I should use up (oh, and a scoop of cilantro raisin chutney). Then, I'll maybe clean out the fridge some more and see what other little meals may be birthed out of the leftover chaos that often exists there.

But I'll not give up my bread just yet, especially when working more with whole wheat flour, and a higher hydration dough... I haven't been this excited about wild yeast for quite a while. I've also been reading Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book, which also makes me itchy (pun possibly intended) for new experiments. Real bread has become such a staple part of my life that living without it seems hollow. I don't realize how much I depend on it, long for it, transform it to my needs. I romanticize it to be sure, but it is beguiling and I know when the weather changes and I'm mentally calculating how that affects my rising times that I indeed have the soul of a baker. Any leftover, refrigerated project tastes better on a slice of bread!


poached egg on leftover leftovers.
(I think I liked it even better topped with an egg...)


  1. Iron pantry chef rides again! I frequently make polenta as a meal for one: soft and buttery, topped with a poached egg and a bit of grated parmesan (and, on the few instances I have it, truffle oil). Heaven.

  2. I've noticed with things like eczema that once the cause has been eliminated there will sometimes be flareups; I think of it as cycles, because they seem to go that way. First it gets better right away, and then a few weeks later it comes back, and then a few months later, it comes back again, and then a longer stretch, and it comes back again. Kind of like the body doing clean-outs; "oh, here's some of this still hanging around, out it goes!" What's helped me and my boys in those times is just making my diet and skin care really really simple, so the body can focus on cleaning out, especially when there doesn't seem to be a dietary or environmental cause for the flare up. I've noticed that emotions play a big part too, but I can't give any advice on that! The day that telling myself to relax actually works will be a banner day. ;)
    I am going to try this meal soon; it looks delicious!

  3. YUMMO!
    We make Polenta Pies for dinner regularly. The egg on top is brilliant! I can't wait to try it this way :)

  4. so delicious! It stirred up my appetite


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...