One of the most important things about eating well on a budget is embracing creativity and reinvention in a situation of limited resources. You've got to get down with using the same ingredients over and over again. Don't think of it as boring. Think of it as creatively challenging. The better you get to know those familiar ingredients throughout a given week or season, the more comfortable you get with being creative in how you prepare them.
Tonight was one such experience.
The cabbage and tofu dish I cooked the other night is now gone. But, there is still cabbage in my fridge (for the 4th week in a row since it is winter...). There is still tofu. There is still dill. The scallions and onion were gone, and the fridge was pretty empty besides.
So, I had to get creative. I checked my new favorite cookbook, pictured above, to see what it had to say about cabbage. Many cabbage recipes called for sweet and sour combinations. Interesting.
What else did I have?
Miso paste. A few limes. Dried hot chilies. Kinda reminds me of Pho.
I started to see some possibilities. Here is a recipe for a totally different dinner with essentially the same main ingredients from two nights ago. Only the flavoring elements and ratios of liquid have changed.
Sweet and Sour Soup
3/4 head of cabbage
grated ginger (2-3 teaspoons. Fresh!)
a teaspoon of minced garlic
several sprigs of dill
cubed tofu (firm)
dried hot chilies
key lime or normal lime juice
wild card "secret" ingredient: LOCAL WILDFLOWER HONEY
- Put 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a deep, soup-friendly pot. Once its hot, add the garlic, ginger and chilies. Saute for several minutes, stirring often.
- Add chopped cabbage to the pot and stir to cover the cabbage in the spicy oil. Cover for 5 minutes. Stir more.
- Chop tofu. Check cabbage. Stir it?
- Dance. Taste it. Dance.
Psychic City (Classixx Remix)
(Choice line = "And the kitchen might say... hang around baby, we'll be baking a cake for you...")
- Ok, now it is heating up. Add a few cups of water to the mix and drop in little bits of miso paste. Stir to help the paste dissolve. Cover more. Amuse yourself somehow for several minutes.
- Add squeezed lime juice. Add a dill, as much as you think you'll like. The broth should be getting interesting.
- Cover and really let the flavors mesh.
- Now, taste it.
- Add honey. As much as you think it needs.
- Let the whole thing come together for a bit by leaving the pot for a few minute with the lid on. Keep tasting. Add salt and pepper if needed.