Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Simple Family Dinner When Time is Short

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

When the weather is spectacular, and yet the sun will set still way too soon, you just have to enjoy it, and dinner prep for six be-damned. So out I went with the boys and Filou to roller blade past the blossoming almond and apricot trees. God how I love them! A true sign of re-birth, the first glimmer of life and hope after a gray and dreary (if not very long) winter. Vincent Van Gogh surely was thinking something along these lines when he chose the almond blossoms against a fiercely blue sky as a birthday gift for his new nephew.

Weary but happy, we rolled back into the house, hungry and eager. So, with no time wasted, the following meal was on the table, and we were nourished and on our way to bath, books, bed.

Salad, Pasta with sauce, cheese on a plate, and a glass of JP's organic wine for me, milk from the local farm for the boys.

Our salad is made with whatever greens are currently available (in Provence, Bib and Boston lettuce are not constants, it might be chicory, it might be stiff and frizzy, it might be tender and dark green, it might be large and full... our greens are whatever the seasons and the weather permit). I heat a handful of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in a thin frying pan (a wok would do as well) and sprinkle them on the salad, I drizzle on some local olive oil, a few drops of soy or tamari sauce, and a spoonful of nutritional yeast. I am allowed to grate some carrots into it, and occasionally I underhandedly grate some beet root... but this is all. Keep it simple, and they all eat it. The seeds and yeast I buy in 3kilo (6.5lb) bags from my organic wholesaler. So I have them in the pantry to use whenever, toss into my cereal, bread, etc.,

I make a very basic tomato sauce which begins with an onion sweated in a good amount of olive oil, a crushed and minced garlic clove or two (or three), a can of chopped tomatoes (and in summer, a few garden tomatoes chopped), a couple bay leaves from the garden, and some water. I let it all simmer for at least 30 minutes to reduce and thicken and sweeten. A touch of salt, and it's ready to go. I'm careful to full sweat the minced onions before I add my garlic, and let my garlic simmer in the olive oil no more than 30 seconds to a minute before I add the tomatoes. I want the garlic to richly flavor the olive oil, and thus to be fully present in my sauce, but I don't want it to burn. That would ruin everything.

This basic sauce can be passed through a vegetable mill for picky kids (yes, I've got those, visible onions make them cringe). It can also be improved with bits of good sausage, nicely browned hamburger, crushed anchovies (added into the olive oil and onions before the garlic), capers, chopped spinach, olive oil browned zucchini... the possibilities are endless.

Pasta -- again, something I buy by the case from the organic wholesaler's, so I've always packets of spaghetti and shells in the house.

A plate full of a good hard cheese (Jonas loves the comté which is like a richer, more buttery swiss, I might also add a round of goat cheese, and a soft cow's milk cheese). Parmesan to grate. And there's our very very simple, but pleasing meal. Few leave the table hungry.

No comments: