dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
The beauty of living in today’s modern world, among a few other small details, is that we have FREEZERS!
Were you expecting something more profound? Sorry…but really, there is SO much savings and savvy to be had by using the freezer for what it was intended– storing the food YOU’VE made. Not some over-priced, preservative laden concoction that costs too much and tastes terrible. Not to mention that that stuff really won’t save you all kinds of time.
First Beautiful Item to Freeze: Soup, and it’s precious staple, soup-stock.
Second Beautiful Item to Freeze: Calzones
Third Beautiful Item to Freeze: Doughs of all Kinds– pizza, pie, quiche, etc.
Not to mention tomato sauce, the summer’s overabundance of vegetables (zucchini in November, anyone?) and berries.
How to make soup stock Now for Later:
Not many people are rustling up a big pot of soup in the summer, but what they are doing is chopping up lots of tomatoes, asparagus, and squash and stringing beans. And what are they doing with all those nubby ends and tomato cores, bean tips and woody asparagus ends? Mon dieu! I hope they are not throwing them away! Compost maybe, but one more step on their journey before returning to the Earth. Next stop: the stock pot. Put all that stuff in and cook it up into delicious veggie stock to be used later…and if you freeze it, much later.
Here’s a simple recipe for Veggie Stock, easily transformed into Chicken or Beef Stock with the crafty edition of bones and discarded bits:
I always add to the mix:
2-3 bay leaves
And then, any combination of what’s leftover will do, but changes the flavor a bit from batch to batch, and can include:
tomato heels and tops
mushroom stems (an essential for a rich, earthy broth; discount bags of old mushrooms are good for this, too)
green bean ends
herb bits and ends
or just about an inedible vegetable bit. However, make sure there aren’t too many root vegetables (carrots, beets, parsnips) in it or it will just taste like dirty water, and you can make that easily enough with your toddler…:) And potatoes don’t work at all for the above reason.
Chuck it all in the big stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. When the boil is rolling right along, turn it down to a simmer, pop the lid on and leave it for an hour or two. How easy is that? When it’s cooled, strain it through a sieve into 2 cup portions in ziploc bags, put the portions into a pan and freeze. Then chuck the limpid veggie bit into the compost or the ‘green trash’ bin.
Use these portions of stock to cook rice for a little extra flavor, make soup with it come fall or add a bit here and there to sauces and such.
Calzones, or pizza, outside-in:
I love calzones because they’ve got all the comfort food taste of pizza, and they keep as long-term leftovers in the freezer if you just wrap ’em up in foil. You can make your own pizza dough (an achievement to which I aspire, once I find the perfect recipe and enough space in my kitchen for this kind of production prep) or buy pre-made dough (I love Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat pizza dough) and separate each pizza-size portion into four smaller pieces. NOTE: dough of the yeasty variety does not do well when hand torn; use a knife and cut it instead. Thank you and much love, The Dough.
After making 4 little ‘mini-pizza’ doughs (not too thin in the middle– you don’t want them splitting and oozing), add some cheese and some tomatoes, or a bit of tomato sauce and whatever else you like in there.
Here’s one of my favorite Vegetarian Calzone recipes:
3 Tablespoons homemade pesto (stay tuned for that one) or fresh chopped basil
1 cup Asiago, Jack, Mozzarella or other white meltable cheese, whatever tickles your fancy
2-3 Tablespoons tomato sauce or chopped, canned tomatoes
3 Tablespoons chopped kalamata olives
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
Scoop about 1/3 cup of mixture (or 4 equal parts) into the center of each dough circle. Fold in half, making sure all the ‘stuff’ stays inside, and then pinch your calzone closed with your fingers and a bit of water. Put them on a greased cookie sheet in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes and enjoy. Though do be careful, ’cause they’ll be hot.
A few notes: The filling is a recipe from the WTHIG -school of thought, aka Whatever-the-Heck-I’ve-Got. Pizza’s originated from this idea- it was a bunch of leftover once-risen dough and odd scraps from the kitchen. Go forth and make your calzones in this spirit!
To freeze these puppies, wait until they’ve cooled (as the idea is to freeze the calzone, not heat up your freezer) and then wrap them well in foil. A reheat from the frozen state should take about 45 minutes on 350degrees or 15 if you thaw ’em first.
Pie Dough and the Best Super-Easy Quiche Dough:
Okay, so pies and quiches may sound too fancy for the Destitute and Obscure, but I assure you it can be so much easier and less-Julia Child-like than you might think. And it all starts with DOUGH. If you make a few little rounds of dough ahead and freeze them, you can just whip them out, fill them up and look like a good little Betty Crocker in no time. I wrap my dough up in cling wrap and label it, maybe Q for quiche and a nifty little P or 3.14pie symbol (which would be cuter if not for the Darren Aronofsky flick).
Here are two great recipes that aren’t mine, but they are good, ol’ fashioned baking fun:
Pie Dough, adapted from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham (and if I could figure out the link I would)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3-4 tablespoons of ice water
Mix flour and salt, then add shortening and butter, using a fork or a pastry blender– which is a nifty little tool to have on hand and safe enough to put in the toddler-friendly cooking drawer. Get it all into a breadcrumb-like consistency and then add the water 1 Tbsp. at a time until it just comes together. Ball it all up in cling wrap and chuck that puppy in the freezer.
Note: I usually make this recipe with 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick) and no shortening, uh, for no better reason than because it makes it simpler. It is also super easy to double this recipe as you make it, and then you have 2 crusts for a 2-crust pie. Also, the ice water in the dough is dependent on the amount of moisture in the air and other strange statistics that would put baseball to shame. Just have a lot of ice water on hand, and add slowly until its a crumbly, but mostly stuck together consistency. Also remember that you’ll be adding more flour once you start rolling it out for pies…once its thawed, of course.
This Quiche Dough recipe is pilfered straight from my mother’s Joy of Cooking (see regretful linking note above) and it’s important that my edition is that old, because the new, nifty versions kill some of the best recipes, most notably the one for Peanut Butter Cookies. I digress… back to quiche.
Pate Brisee, which is known as a French short dough (more on that once I’ve done my research) is great for quiches and earned me many a compliment when catering a book event for the author, Sebastian Faulks. Anyhow, here’s the recipe:
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (yes, you must, must, must sift the flour)
1/2-3/4 cup water
Like the pie dough, rub the butter into the flour, this time with your dexterous, clean lil’ hands. Make a well in the middle of your dough, and pour the water in gradually, using the least amount necessary. Stir the flour rapidly with your finger to incorporate. It should form a nice little ball, but not be too sticky. Freeze in cling wrap and don’t forget to label.
So, thank the modern world for freezers and get to work stocking (sorry about that little pun) yours up with some good, old-fashioned staples and enjoy the luxury of fine food later!
As always, let me know if you’ve given these things a try, and let me know what you’ve got in your freezer, even if it means listing the flavors of Ben and Jerry’s that are hiding in there!
Ciao and lots of love,