Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Menus--June

Here is a second set of menus for a week. I have assumed that one day will either be dedicated to dining out or eating leftovers. I've added brief descriptions of each menu to indicate what food type is featured and the general time requirement for preparation. A (hopefully!) comprehensive shopping list is below. Recipes will follow soon.

1)  Spaghetti alla Carbonara, green salad, bakery bread (noodles, comes together quickly)
2)  Quiche, cornbread, fruit (sandwich/pie, needs 30 to 45 minutes for baking but can be done ahead)
3)  Pan-fried salmon with fennel and onions, biscuits, fruit (saute, comes together quickly)
4)  Moussaka, olive oil flatbread, cucumber salad (cassarole, slower food)
5)  Picnic! (mezze, comes together quickly or ahead of time)
6)  Ajiaco with accompaniments, rolls or other rich bread (soup, slow food)

Shopping List:
Produce--
Lettuce (preferrably organic, available at my farmers' market)
Apples (preferrably organic)
Grapes (preferrably domestic)
Fennel
4-5 Onions (green onions for the salad are available at my farmers' market)
Garlic (available at my farmers' market)
Carrots
1 large eggplant
Cucumber
Baking potatoes (preferrably organic)
4 large Yukon gold potatoes
Avocado
Cilantro (preferrably organic)
Lime
Cherries (available at my farmers' market)
Strawberries (preferrably organic, available at my farmers' market)

Proteins--
3-4 oz bacon OR tempeh
Eggs (preferrably pastured or organic)
Salmon fillet
Ground lamb OR tempeh
Whole chicken

Shelf-stable pantry ingredients--
Cornmeal (preferrably stone ground)
Flour
Shortning (Crisco is trans fat free)
Salt (large grained and fine--I like sea salt)
Sugar
Olive oil
Potato chips or popcorn kernels
Raw almonds
Dried oregano
Chicken broth (if you don't have it in your freezer already)
Canned roasted red peppers
Capers

Dairy--(look for rBST free dairy products)
Parmesan wedge
Milk (low fat, not non-fat is best for baked goods)
Plain yogurt (not non-fat)
Butter
Sour cream

Bakery--
Sandwich bread
Cookies for picnic if you don't have time to make them

Frozen--
Ciabbatta or other Italian bread (such as la Brea bakery bread)
Corn kernels

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, June 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sweets--Dulce de Leche Rice Crispy Treats

I LOVE rice crispy treats. Perhaps this is because I have deluded myself into believing that they are generally not as bad for me as many other desserts (Note: "not as bad" does not necessarily equate with "good for"). Perhaps it is because I find their gooey sweet crunch irresistable. All I really know is that I have very little will power when a pan of nicely gooey rice crispy treats are lingering in the kitchen. 

I have tried making the treats with candy-covered peanut butter pieces (1-2 cups stirred in after the cereal), white chocolate chips (1 cup stirred in after the cereal) and crushed pretzels (2 cups stirred in with the cereal), and even browned butter (increase butter to 6 Tbsp, brown over medium heat, and allow to cool slightly prior to adding the marshmallows). All of these are yummy iterations but I think that my latest, the dulce de leche variety, may be my favorite. These have a more complex sweetness, owing to the dulce de leche, and a salty note that could be your downfall, too, if you like salty-sweet flavors.

Dulce de Leche Rice Crispy Treats
6 cups rice crispy cereal
1/4 cup butter
1 10 oz package marshmallows
1/3 cup dulce de leche
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Place the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the marshmallows and dulce de leche when it begins to melt. Stir frequently until all of the elements homogenize, but do not allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the cereal. Add the salt when the cereal is evenly distributed in the marshmallow mixture. Spread the cereal mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Allow the treats to set before cutting.

GLUTEN NOTES: Pay attention to your crispy rice cereal. If it contains malt than it is not technically wheat free. Apparently Kellogs now makes a gluten free cereal with brown rice. There are also probably other brands.

VEGAN NOTES:  Dulce de leche is not vegan, nor are marshmallows, but do not fear. I have not ever done this, but I have read that one can substitute sugar syrup for the marshmallows. Here is the recipe for vegan rice crispy treats that I will try sometime soon: 1 cup sugar syrup (rice, corn, perhaps even golden syrup--maple syrup might be too runny and honey too prominent in flavor), 1/2 cup sugar, vegan margarine, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract for the marshmallows. Heat the syrup and vegan margarine to simmer over medium heat, simmer for approximately five minutes, stir in the vanilla and pour over the rice cereal. I have read of making vegan dulce de leche with coconut milk and brown sugar, but that may be a bit beyond the characteristic symplicity of rice crispy treats. The general idea is to simmer the cream from a can of coconut milk (not light) and 1/3 cup brown sugar until it becomes thick and caramelized. This takes a long time, apparently.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, June 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Soup & Stew--Cioppino, Bouillabaisse, Caldo de Mariscos

I had the good fortune of going out on a real date with my husband this past weekend. We joined a group of adults and enjoyed unobstructed conversation. I adore my kiddos, but it is quite a treat to enjoy a dinner out every now and again. The hosting restaurant was cosmetically unremarkable, but many in our party are regulars, so I had high hopes for the food. I selected Caldo de Mariscos, a dish that I had never before tried, and I found that I had chosen wisely. Mussels, clams, shrimp, and various vegetables laced the savory, light tomato broth, which was a perfect repast on a rainy Seattle evening. I decided that this would be a dish worth learning.

Latin soups are so interesting to me. There is a surprising number of them for a region where the temperatures are generally quite warm. I've heard theories about how it is easier for the body to keep cool if it is not heating up to counteract the effect of icy drinks, ergo, the popularity of soup. Whether or not that is true, it seems that soup is just as ubiquitous in the cuisines of warm countries as it is in the colder climes.

These three soups, cioppino (hailing from San Francisco), bouillabaisse (Southern France), and Caldo de Mariscos (Veracruz, Mexico), have quite a bit in common. Their primary focus is the fruit of the sea in one form or another, which underscores and deepens the broth with characteristic brininess. What I find interesting about this is that the same fundamental ingredients in distinct cultural cuisines seem to be consistently combined to yield remarkably similar dishes. And this is certainly not the only example of cross cultural similarities in food. It is merely one of the many aspects that can make cooking interesting.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Noodle--Phad Thai and Other Favorites


I know that my Thai food is not 100% authentic. I've read about such Phad Thai on the SheSimmers blog (http://www.shesimmers.com/), which is really a fantastic source for all things Thai. It's even indexed. That said, real true street Phad Thai involves fairly complex orchestration, which is something that is a bit beyond me. This recipe will be fairly satisfactory if your experience, like mine, is derived from good Thai restaurants in North America rather than the genuine article found on the streets of Bangkok. If you find yourself in the latter camp, well, go to SheSimmers and figure out the orchestration. I'm sure it will be fabulous.

The measurements for fish sauce, sugar, lime (real Thai cooks use tamarind--perhaps I will too someday when I am no longer the mother of three small ones--I have recently acquired a refined tamarind concentrate but have yet to try it--more on this later), and spice should be tweeked to suit your liking. I like a fairly strong fish sauce presence. Reduce the amount slightly if you dislike fish. But do use fish sauce. It is critical to obtaining that Thai flavor you want.

Phad Thai
3 limes, juiced
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
½-2 tsp curry paste (I like red or massaman curry pastes for Phad Thai)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8-10 oz thin rice stick noodles (flat, not thread noodles)
1 pound prawns OR beef sirloin OR chicken OR 8 oz extra firm tofu, sliced thin
1 Tbsp white sugar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 eggs, beaten lightly with a bit of salt
1 medium shallot or onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, pressed
2 Tbsp dried shrimp, minced (worth visiting your favorite Asian grocery to find, these are also sometimes available in the Mexican spice section of the grocery store)

Garnish options:
1 handful dry-roasted peanuts, chopped coarse
1 cucumber, peeled and julienned OR 1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped coarse
Chives
Lime wedges

Cover the noodles with lukewarm water and set aside for 20-30 minutes or until pliable. Combine lime juice, fish sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, curry paste, and 1 Tbsp oil and set aside.  Combine beef or chicken, soy sauce, and sugar and marinate at least 10 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside.

Heat wok or large frying pan over high heat and add 1 Tbsp oil to pan. Add steak, chicken, or tempeh in batches so that the pieces do not touch one another.  Cook without stirring for approximately one minute.  Turn the protein and cook other side for around 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Turn down heat to medium-low. Remove pan from heat and add another Tbsp of oil and the shallots and garlic. Stir fry until shallots become translucent and very fragrant but do not allow the garlic to burn. Add eggs to pan and stir fry until the eggs are barely set. Remove the eggs to the plate with the protein.

Increase the temperature to medium-high. Add the noodles, the lime sauce, and the dried shrimp, and toss to coat evenly. Kitchen tongs are a really helpful tool for tossing noodles. Spread the noodles evenly across the pan to allow them to absorb the lime sauce, tossing frequently, until the noodles are soft. Return the meat and eggs to the pan and toss to combine. Top with garnishes and serve immediately with a wedge of lime.

VEGAN AND GLUTEN-FREE: This is a great option for individuals who are following a vegan or gluten-free diet. Simply omit the dried shrimp, substitute vegetarian fish sauce (available in Asian markets or on the internet) for the regular fish sauce, and use tofu for the protein.

Cucumber Pickle
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp finely chopped onion or shallot
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large OR 2 medium cucumbers, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick

Combine the water, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring these to a simmer. Simmer for three minutes to allow the mixture to thicken slightly. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour the sugar syrup over all. Cool and serve with Phad Thai. This is probably not an authentic pairing, but it is very tasty.

Sticky Rice
2-3 cups (I always make extra) Thai glutinous (long grain sticky) rice

Cover the rice with water in a bowl and allow it to sit overnight or at least 8 hours. Place water in the bottom of your multi pot and place the steamer insert over this. Line the steamer with a flour sack or muslin dish cloth. Drain the rice and pour the rice into the steaming basket. Cover with the lid and the cloth (make sure the cloth is well away from the burner). Bring to simmer and steam the rice for 1/2-hour or until tender. Serve with peanut sauce. The cool thing about this rice is that you can actually form it into little balls with your fingers.

Thai Peanut Sauce

3/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1 lime, juiced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons fish sauce 

Place coconut milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high heat.  Whisk in curry paste and cook until red oil separates and rises.  Add lime juice, sugar, peanut butter, and fish sauce and stir until smooth.

Oranges in Rosewater
1 organic orange/person, membrane removed and sectioned
1/2 tsp orange zest/person
1/4 tsp rosewater/person
1 tsp sugar/person

Combine all ingredients and allow to mascerate prior to serving with shortbread cookies.

I am still working on my shortbread and curry recipes.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Salad--Asian Style Green Salad with Sesame Rice

1 carrot, peeled and grated, per person
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed, per person
1 egg, whisked with 1/2 tsp vinegar and salt and cooked as an omlete, per person
4 wonton skins brushed with oil, sprinkled with salt, cut into 1/4-inch strips, and baked at 300-degrees until golden
3 oz baked tofu or roasted meat, cut into 1/2-inch strips, per person
2 handfuls of lettuce or lettuce/shredded cabbage combination per person

Place the carrot, corn, egg, wonton skins, and protein in the bottom of your salad bowl. Layer the lettuce on top of the mix-ins. Drizzle the dressing down the sides of the bowl and toss. Serve immediately over sesame rice.

DRESSING (per person)
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Whisk dressing ingredients together. Toss with salad immediately prior to serving.

VEGAN NOTES: Use vegan mayonnaise in the dressing.


Sesame Rice
(per person)
1/2 cup short grain calrose or sushi rice
1 Tbsp rice vinegar or mirin
2 tsp sesame oil

Cook the rice according to package or rice cooker directions. Fluff the cooked rice thoroughly by tossing it in a larger bowl with a wooden spoon. Whisk together the vinegar and oil. Toss into the rice. Sprinkle the rice with sesame seeds if you so desire. Black sesame seeds are very interesting.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, June 2012

Mezze--Mexican

Tortillas
4 cups/1 lb 4 oz flour (use up to half whole wheat if desired)
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp oil
1 ½ to 1 2/3 cup very hot water

Place the flour, salt, and sugar into a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Rub the oil into the flour with your fingertips or using the beater attachment for a stand mixer. Pour the hot water over the flour and stir to thoroughly incorporate. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic and allow the mixture to sit for 20 minutes. Kneed for five minutes or until the dough is smooth but not too elastic. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and use a bench scraper or knife to divide it into 16 roughly equal pieces. Place a crepe pan over medium heat. Form each piece into a ball and roll into a very thin circle. You may need to lightly dust your rolling surface with flour to prevent sticking. Place the tortilla in the pan and allow it to cook until it begins to bubble. Flip the tortilla to finish cooking. Remove the tortilla and place it between two plates to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining dough. You will get into a rhythm with this dough.

GLUTEN FREE OPTION: Make true Mexican tortillas out of masa and using a tortilla press. This is something I plan to learn how to do soon and have heard is easy.

Refried Beans with Cotija
I generally use canned refried beans or reconstituted dried refried beans. Perhaps I will graduate to making my own sometime. Cotija is a great alternative to cheddar cheese. A slightly sweet, slightly spongy white cheese, cotija crumbles decoratively on top of refried beans.

VEGAN OPTION: Top the beans with a thin drizzle of chili oil and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Chili-Lime Corn Salad
3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed.
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 to 1 tsp chili powder
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 lime juiced
Salt to taste

Place the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat and add the chili powder. Toast until fragrant and add the corn kernels. Saute briefly and toss to coat evenly. Remove from the heat and allow the corn mixture to cool slightly. Whisk together the mayonnaise and lime. Stir the mayonnaise mixture into the corn mixture until evenly coated. Adjust salt to taste. Chill if not serving the salad immediately.

VEGAN NOTES: Use vegan mayonnaise.

Melon with Chili Powder
1 medium melon, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch balls or cubes
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar

Combine the lemon juice, chili powder, salt, and sugar. Toss with the melon and adjust seasonings.

Guacamole
2-3 avocados
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 lime, juiced
¼ tsp salt
½ onion, minced
1 jalapeno (include seeds and ribs for spicier guac), minced OR ½ tsp chili powder

Mash all of the ingredients together and place the guacamole in the refrigerator with plastic wrap directly on its surface. Adjust seasonings prior to serving.

Salsa
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 jalapeno, chopped fine (include seeds and ribs for spicier salsa)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 lemon or lime, juiced
½ to 1 tsp salt
1 handful cilantro, chopped
Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until the desired consistency is reached. If you do not want puree style salsa then you should just pulse a couple of times. Place the salsa into the refrigerator to allow the flavors to meld and adjust seasonings before serving.

Mexican Bread Pudding
After one too many bad flans on a trip to Central America I find that I am unable to bring myself to make flan for dessert. This bread pudding is an pleasant alternative dessert.

6-8 cups staleish bread cubes, preferrably from biscuits or stiff bread
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter, cold

Grease a 8-inch square baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Place the bread in the greased dish. Place the water, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Whisk together the sour cream, milk, vanilla, and salt. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the bread and spread the sour cream mixture over the bread. Pour the syrup over all and dot the top with butter. Bake for 30 minutes or until the syrup is absorbed into the bread and the top is toasty. Allow the pudding to cool slightly or serve at room temperature. Serve with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

GLUTEN FREE: Use gluten free bread or biscuits.
VEGAN: Use vegan biscuits (no lard or eggs), soy or almond yogurt and milk, vegan chocolate chips and margarine.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, June 2012

Asparagus Potato Soup with Tabouleh Salad

2 onions, Frenched thick (slice with the ribs rather than against them)
1 head garlic, top sliced off, drizzled with oil, wrapped in foil)
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp oil                                                                                   
2 quarts stock (vegetable or poultry)
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped flatleaf parsley
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the ovento 375-degrees. Place the onions, potatoes, and oil in a large bowl. Rub the oil into the vegetables and spread prepared vegetables in a rimmed jellyroll pan. Sprinkle with salt and slide the pan into the preheating oven. Roast for 1/2 hour or until the onions and potatoes begin to turn golden brown. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set them aside.

Pour the stock into the stockpot and place over medium heat. Place the vegetables in the pot and squish the roasted garlic into the pot. Bring the soup to simmer and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the flavores meld. Salt (in 1/4 tsp increments) and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and serve with Tabouleh Salad.

Tabouleh Salad
2 cups bulgur wheat
2 medium lemons, preferably organic
1/4 cup olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp salt
1 bunch parsley, chopped coarse

Bring five cups of water to boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the bulgur and reduce the heat to medium to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer the wheat until it is tender, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Zest one of the lemons and juice both of them. Whisk together the lemon, oil, garlic, and salt. Fluff the cooked bulgur to help it cool. Toss the bulgur with the parsley and dressing. Adjust seasonings and serve with the soup. The bulgur can be cooked and cooled ahead of time.

GLUTEN FREE SUBSTITUTION: Use brown rice in lieu of bulgur wheat. Please note that brown rice will require approximately an hour of cooking time.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, June 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Week of Menus

I have found that planning meals by the week works best for me. My fresh ingredients will generally not spoil in that time and I am not run ragged by too many trips to the grocery store with my three kiddos. Here is a week's worth of menus. Although planning does not always come perfectly to fruition it is really great to have a starting point for at least six meals per week. In order to keep things interesting I try to visit menu categories (see right sidebar) only once per week. Also, I am definitely not above leftovers, both repurposed and simply warmed up.

1. Asparagus Potato Soup with Tabouleh, Strawberry Shortcake
2. Mexican Mezze--Tortillas, Refried Beans with Cotija, Chile-Lime Corn Salad, Chile Spiced Melon, Chips and Salsa, Guacamole, Bread Pudding
3. Big Asian Salad, Sesame Rice
4. Phad Thai, Pickled Cucumbers, Peanut Sauce, Sticky Rice, Green Curry, Shortbread, Rose-scented Oranges
5. Leftovers
6. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato Soup and fruit

Pantry:
Olive oil
Vegetable oil
Salt
2 quarts stock
Flour
Sugar
Brown sugar
Powdered sugar
Shortning
Baking powder
Chili powder
Canned refried beans OR dried pinto beans
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups bulgur wheat
2 cups sushi rice
2 cups sweet glutinous rice (Asian grocery)
Rice stick/Phad Thai noodles
Sesame seeds
Salsa
Soy sauce
Fish sauce
Rice vinegar/Mirin
Sesame oil
Rosewater
Vanilla
Red curry paste
Green curry paste
Mayonnaise (refrigerator)
Wanton skins (refrigerator)
Bread

Produce:
4 lemons
2 limes
2 heads garlic
Italian parsley
1 bunch asparagus (available at my farmers' market)
4 onions
2 lbs russett potatoes (available at my farmers' market)
Strawberries (available at my farmers' market)
Honeydew melon
2 Avocados
Carrots
Lettuce (available at my farmers' market)
Cauliflower
Sweet potato
8 oz crimini mushrooms
6 oranges
2 cucumbers

Dairy:
Cream
Milk
Butter
Cotija cheese
Sharp cheddar cheese
Plain Greek yogurt

Proteins:
Firm tofu
Organic, cage-free eggs

Freezer:
2 packages frozen corn

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, June 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Planning Menus, Part 1

Successful meals begin long before you address knife to vegetable or pour oil into the sauté pan. Although it can be tedious, I’ve found that menu planning is the foundation of provident eating. When I plan menus I succeed in getting dinner on the table even on time crunch days, thereby avoiding financially and calorically expensive take-out. Menu planning also allows me to consider my own food goals and actually put them into practice. Finally, I find that I waste much less food, thereby saving even more money, when I plan menus.

The most critical element of menu planning has nothing to do with the food itself. This element is scheduling. My husband and I come to a Sunday evening meeting together with our schedules for the coming week in mind. We resolve conflicts and clarify outside obligations. Armed with this information I avoid the disappointment of learning of an evening meeting just as I am preparing to plate a particularly time-intensive dinner. By utilizing this information in my menu planning I can tailor the menus to the variable circumstances of each day and prepare menu components in advance as necessary.

When you know how your day is going to flow you can plan how meal preparation is going to fit into it. If you are going to be busy in the morning but relatively free in the late afternoon you could prepare a meal that requires more attention immediately prior to serving. If you expect to be busier right before dinner hour then a slowly cooking or quick preparation meal may be the best option.

Another benefit to menu planning is that it allows me to thoughtfully plan meals that reflect my own culinary ideology and goals, a difficult task to accomplish on the fly with limited time. Consider your nutritional goals, your honest feelings about food and food production, your budget, and your time; then, incorporate these goals into your weekly plan. For instance, imagine that you have decided to replace one meat-centric meal per week with a vegetarian meal; if you have planned in advance you will be more likely to succeed with this goal.

Planning menus is a great way to encourage yourself to try new foods or recipes that you would likely pass over if you were pressed for time and hungry. If you are trying to include more greens in your diet you could plan to make kale chips one night instead of serving potato chips with the hot dogs. Perhaps the next week you could add a second green, and so on. As far as I am concerned, dietary changes meet with less resistance when you allow yourself to make them gradually.

Finally, planning menus allows you to take advantage of sales, remember important holidays and family anniversaries, and avoid the frustration of missing just one or two ingredients or having excess ingredients languish in your refrigerator.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, June 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Welcome

Welcome to the provident table! This is a bit of an experiment, but in this blog I am hoping to publish menu planning tips, weekly menus, recipes, and other assorted commentary on food in general. Food is what I think about when I am not otherwise consumed with my family, church responsibilities, and housework. I find food both essential and fascinating and am excited to explore it in a new way with this blog.

What is the provident table? It is a place where food is salubrious and tasty. At the provident table, the diners are aware of where their food came from and how it fits into their dietary and financial budgets. The provident table is sometimes laid for celebration but is more often set with the makings of homey, practical meals that require planning but not excessive finesse or time. The provident table is a place where one feels good and understands that his or her food choices impact far more than a waistline, for food is at the core of tradition, survival, and global citizenship. The provident table has a place for you.

The provident table does not exclude guests whose dietary restrictions may be different than your own. The recipes employed at the provident table can be easily customized to meet the needs of guests or allow you to explore new food options that may interest you for economic, health, or environmental reasons.

When you prepare food for the provident table you learn basic principles that allow you as the cook to exercise creativity in the kitchen, which is essential to assuage culinary ennui. The cook who prepares food for the provident table plans and purchases ingredients with purpose; and, thereby experiences far less waste or inconvenience due to missing ingredients.

The provident table can be either quick and simple or more complex, depending on your daily schedule. It does not depend on ingredients that would have been unrecognizable a couple of generations ago; rather, it is built with the staples that cooks have been employing for centuries.

I invite you to come and dine at the provident table. Come to learn and experiment. Come to develop your cooking style and repertoire. Stay to enjoy!

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, June 2012