A few evenings ago, I felt very uninspired about making dinner. This has been happening a lot lately, far more than I should probably admit, as someone who is supposedly crazy about cooking. I could attribute it to lots of causes, but I think these things go in cycles for all of us, these urges to cook or not cook, and no matter our individual circumstances, it’s only sane to acknowledge that. Sometimes I want to make two types of sauce gribiche, and other times, I want to claw my eyes out and then call for a pizza delivery. I know I should try to find some sort of happy medium in this, and maybe I will someday. But in the meantime, I have found that it’s useful to sit down and make a list. I call it The Crap I Like to Eat (CILTE) List, and it really does help.
Here is what I do: at the top of the sheet of paper, I write CRAP I LIKE TO EAT. You can write whatever you want, but I find this to be a crucial first step, especially the mild cussing. Cursing at your food forces it into submission, I find, and that’s very important in times like these, when you need to reassert yourself and your can-do in matters of the kitchen. Now, underneath that heading, you’re going to list dishes or recipes that you’ve made, and that you’re eager to make again. If you’re doing it right, this process should make you very hungry. If you can’t think of anything to write down, open up a cookbook, scroll through a blog, or take a bath and stare into space for a while. Basically, you’re looking to collect ideas, an arsenal of inspiration that you can visit whenever you feel inclined toward eye-clawing. Then you put this piece of paper somewhere prominent – on your desk, or the kitchen counter, or stuck to the bathroom mirror – and when you don’t feel excited about making dinner, you look at it until you do.
My first CILTE list was short and sweet: fake baked beans, chicken salad, and broccoli soup with lemon-chive cream. It may not sound like a lot, but it kept me away from scrambled eggs and salad, my default setting, for an entire week. I made another list yesterday, and I thought it might be helpful to share it, in case you’re considering making one of your own. I haven’t been trying many new recipes lately – trying to open a restaurant feels like experimentation enough – so the recipes on my list lean more toward the comfortable, well-worn variety. They’re old shoes. For some people, trying new recipes is relaxing, but much to my chagrin, I am not those people. I tip my hat to them, and then, for the millionth time, I make Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with butter and onion, item #1 on my list.
Also present on the current CILTE list is chickpea salad, and braised greens with chickpeas and garlic. There is also roasted broccoli with shrimp, with or without the shrimp – the broccoli goes with everything – and Brandon’s soba with peanut-citrus sauce. And yesterday afternoon, I made rhubarb compote. I ate some of it just now, as a snack with plain yogurt, and it would also be good with fresh ricotta, or Greek yogurt, if you’re fancy. Or straight-up, with nothing, if you’re not. I cut the sugar by a couple of tablespoons, and it tastes just right to me.
And last week, I made spinach and green garlic soup twice. Somehow, we still aren’t tired of it, so I bought another bunch of green garlic, the one in that first photo up there, and I’m making it again tonight. I am relentless.
If you make a list, and if you feel like sharing, would you tell me what goes on it? I would love to know.