Sometimes “local” means what’s in the house right now, or what I can scrounge glean from my neighborhood. Today was such a day.
Before going to pick up the car from the repair shop, I rode my bike to a community garden plot where I’ve been given permission to glean; i.e., scavenge for leftovers. Years in the restaurant business have inured me to any feelings of squeamishness or shame from this practice, so off I went to “hunt for vegetables.” The giant zucchini I had seen a few weeks ago was gone, and the tomatoes were pretty much played out, but I managed to come away with a few pounds’ worth for my effort. I also squeezed in a bike ride on a beautiful fall day, which is never wasted time.
Back home, I had to decide what to make for dinner. I had put ratatouille on the menu for Tuesday night, and eggplant Parmesan for tonight, but both called for things I didn’t have. I decided to split the difference. First, I diced and sauteed half an onion that was languishing in the fridge along with a red bell pepper and two cloves of garlic; while that simmered, I diced the ripest of the tomatoes. The yield was well over a quart, and into the skillet they went, along with salt, pepper, sugar, basil, and oregano. Next came one of the two eggplants I picked up a few days ago. I halved, quartered, cubed, and consigned it to the doom of heat. Some leftover black olives followed, once I remembered they were in the fridge.
Then, cold beverage in hand, I started to think about how nice a dessert would be. “I’ve got apples, brown sugar, oatmeal…but I don’t want to use the oven. Hmmm…what to do…” Suddenly the plan burst forth like Athena from Zeus’ forehead. I cored and diced about two quarts’ worth of the Cortlands and Macs I had from the orchard, and tossed them with brown sugar and cinnamon until they were coated. Then I sauteed them with two pats of butter while I worked on the topping. Remembering the chicken and dumplings from the other night, I sifted 1 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 tsp. each of baking powder and salt, then cut in 1 cup of rolled oats. I bound it all together with a cup of milk and spooned it over the top of the simmering apple mixture. Here are the two dishes, side by side:
There wasn’t much left to do but cook the spaghetti and start the broiler (for the melting of the cheese), so that’s what I did. The results were declared to be in the top 1 percent of dishes I had ever made, although The Youngest One a) didn’t care for so many different vegetables, and b) would rather have had plain apple crisp a la mode than Apple Dumpling Pie, as I just named it. Whatever. The results:
And that’s how dinner got done tonight.