When the second round of co-op pick-up rolled around this past Wednesday, I quickly assessed my leftovers. It was clear that I had overestimated myself. My culinary ambition had taken the form of uneaten produce, piled high on my kitchen table, a daily reminder of my failed attempts to “figure out the ghost pepper” or “whip out the grill.” Let me be clear: I am very fond of produce, and I genuinely love to cook. But now, let me be honest: I’m quite frequently a frantic mess, and finding the time to eat/cook 10 (?) pounds of miscellaneous fruits and vegetables per week is a near-impossible task.
A cornucopia of apples, eggplants, and corn made up the contents of my leftovers, and I resolved to use them that very night—my new batch of veggies would just have to wait. Below, you will find a list of easy solutions to co-op overload. This list will help you minimize food waste, and also allow you to pragmatically live up to your culinary ambitions, despite the eternal time crunch of life at Wesleyan.
Let’s just lay the cards on the table: kale is just shitty spinach. So freeze it! You can use it later in smoothies, shakshuka, or even stew.
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with the eggplant. It is usually either too dry or too rubbery, too bitter or too bland, too mushy or not mushy enough. I rarely order it at restaurants, and have never bought one on my own. But perhaps the best thing about produce co-op patronage is the duty it imposes on you, to step out of your culinary comfort zone. It can really pay off. This recipe and this vegetable will be added to my rolodex of easy roasts, and I encourage all of you—especially the lazy chefs—to do the same.
- Preheat oven to 350. Cut the eggplant vertically into flat slices, about a quarter inch thick. This is a fairly challenging cut, so if you’d rather cut it width-wise, go ahead, but just remember to slice them so that they can lay flat and try to make them all approximately the same size (although some variation is inevitable). Lay the slices flat on a baking sheet.
- Drizzle sesame oil over the slices. You don’t need to fully lather them, but mix them all around in the tray and make sure each slice has a little bit on each side. Eggplant is weird because when you pour oil onto a raw slice, the interior appears to absorb oil like a piece of paper or fabric—it soaks right in. Don’t be fooled. This does not mean that each slice needs to be fully greased on either side. I urge you: Be oily, but be reasonable.
- Drizzle balsamic over the slices. I tend to go a little ham on this step, and I honestly encourage you to do the same. Balsamic, I’ve found, perfectly balances the bitterness of the eggplant with a tang of sweet, a touch of acidity. Drizzle away, mix around, make those suckers a little brown.
- A few pinches of salt on top, and then stick it in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. That’s really just a guesstimate because I’ve never actually timed how long it takes, so definitely keep checking along the way. I like to take out the tray when I can see that the eggplants have gotten a little brown, a little caramelized. And voila! Eat them as a side to any meal, or pile atop your pasta or rice or stir fry or tomato sauce because these roasted eggplants—and please, pardon my humility—will go with literally ANYTHING!
Apple (space!) Sauce
I realized this past week, in a moment of self acceptance, that I really don’t eat that many apples. Call me crazy, or perhaps unhealthy, but the classic autumnal fruit tends to make my teeth hurt and my hands sticky. I enjoy the occasional golden delicious as much as the next guy, but if you, like me, do not literally eat an apple a day, you might be left at the end of the week, wondering: “Do I really have to make a pie?” Fear not, dear chefs, for it is not so. Applesauce might be the most low-maintenance recipe in history, second only to apple (space!) sauce. The difference lies in your potential access to an immersion blender. Because I do not have such a blender, and in fact prefer the semi-saucy, semi whole texture of unblended cooked apples to the baby food-like homogeneity of applesauce, I have outlined below a recipe for the easiest and tastiest apple (space!) sauce in the world.
Earth Balance spread
Peaches, plums and any other fresh/frozen fruit you have lying around can also be included, but are not necessary. Although, on second thought, you’re not going to want to add bananas or oranges. Use your judgement, consider the flavor profile.
- Cut your leftover apple into small wedges, and break those in half. Throw the slices into a big pot.
- Add a healthy chunk of Earth Balance, about 2 tablespoons per 3 apples, to the pot. No need to mix around.
- Sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon into the pot, to taste. Of course, you can’t actually taste it at this point in the process, but add as much as you want—it’s pretty hard to screw this up.
- Place the pot on the stove, over low heat (level 3, in Wesleyan stove lingo), and cover it. Check in on it every 5-10 minutes or so, and mix around. You could also add some dark liquor, like brandy or whisky, if you’re feeling frisky. Add Earth Balance and/or spices as you please.
- If you have other fruits that are soon to go bad—like co-op peaches or plums, for example—slice them up. Wait until the apples are soft (they take longer to cook) then add the extra fruit. You can also add frozen berries, but if you do, make sure to cut the strawberries into smaller pieces.
- Let it simmer, and ta-da! Remember: low heat, long time. It requires very little attention, and in 30-40 minutes, you’ll have your very own apple (space!) sauce!
Red Onion (optional)
- Bake your remaining ears of corn in (leave in the husk!) on a baking tray at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Cut your cherry tomatoes in half.
- Coarsely chop a red onion (or half, depending on how much corn you’re making), and soak in water for about 10 minutes. This will get rid of the spicy bite, but retain the red onion flavor and crunch.
- Once the corn is done, cut it off the cob.
- Mix the chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, and corn together in a bowl. Add olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, and maybe a little tahini for dressing, and you’re done! A delightful summer salad.
Sasha Linden Cohen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.