Good morning. This week’s the one where I start to plan meals ahead again, instead of staring into the refrigerator until I’ve come up with a recipe on the fly: All those vegetables in the crisper, diced and roasted under a miso glaze, with rice and, um, that one last beer from the weekend. That’s good eating, don’t get me wrong. Lately, though, it just makes me sigh, to cook that way.
What if I’d thought ahead? I used to! All the time! Then there might be tempeh amid the condiments, so I could make this marvelous recipe for the Indonesian dish tempe penyet (above), fried flattened tempeh dressed in fragrant sambal sauce. I could have had some canned Hatch green chiles on a shelf, for this green chile chicken stew. I should have picked up fish, for that Neapolitan classic pesce all’acqua pazza, “fish in crazy water,” the flesh poached in a garlicky tomato sauce studded with fennel seeds. All this is possible, for the person who plans.
And I will be one of them again, now that summer’s coasting toward its end and all those easy meals of perfect tomatoes and the sweetest corn will soon pass into memory, now that work and school and masked socializing are ramping up again. I’ll greet autumn with a crisp salute as I replenish the pantry, the freezer, the bar. Please join me.
And what then? Crisp gnocchi with brussels sprouts and brown butter, for one meal, and penne alla vodka for another. Slab-bacon tacos with burned-scallion crema. Duck confit! I’ll spin up a blueberry cinnamon coffee cake just because, and mix myself a Long Island iced tea if only to prove I have the ingredients. (Tough to cook after that one. That might be an order-in-wings kind of evening.)
This isn’t possible for all of us — cramped finances can intrude on meal planning, and, having shopped, there’s a tyranny to having two huge bouquets of kale in the bottom of the refrigerator, taunting you — but I think it’s still worth trying to have as stocked a pantry as you can manage, to have thought through the proteins you’ll cook, not just for this evening’s meal but for coming ones as well.
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Now, it’s a day’s travel over hard country from considerations of veal stock and the proper length of time to cook a jammy, soft-boiled egg, but I enjoyed David Jacob Kramer’s look, in GQ, at the vanishing hippie utopias of the state of California.