Thursday, March 05, 2015

cooking by the box

Recently, a friend gifted me a free week of Blue Apron. It's a service where they deliver a box containing recipes and all the ingredients--exactly the right amount--for three meals (each with two servings). It seems like a great idea! I already love Door To Door Organics, which delivers me a box of organic veggies and fruits every Thursday. So what's not to love about trying a new recipe without committing to buying a pound of something when I only need a tablespoon? Seems promising.

I got my box last week, and I confess that I haven't had time to cook much. I didn't anticipate my schedule correctly. In any case, here's what's in the box:
*Beet Apple and Goat Cheese Sliders, with potato-frisee salad
*Chole (a chickpea stew with vaguely indian/middle eastern spices) served with naan
*butternut squash canneloni

I plan to make the last two tomorrow (so I'll have leftovers ready for the busy weekend!). I made the first last night--the beet sliders. (no pics, sorry...I didn't know I'd be blogging about it.)

First order of business: everyone in the world has heard me announce that I hate beets. I think they taste like dirt.
Second order of business: I am a firm believer that anything is better with cheese. Goat cheese is even better still.
Third order of business: I try so hard not to waste food.

So here we went, into beet-land, last night.
The recipe page has pictures all over it--pictures of the ingredients both whole and prepared, pictures of the cooking process, pictures of the finished product. It has step-by-step instructions that any middle schooler could probably follow. It was well-organized, telling me to do some things while other things were cooking. The stuff in the box was all clearly labeled with what it is, which recipe it is for, and storage instructions (i.e. "keep refrigerated").

And the end result was surprisingly delicious, I have to admit. I wouldn't choose to make the sliders again, because honestly I would have been perfectly happy to have apple-goat cheese sandwiches and skip the beets. But I did eat 1.33 servings of them, and not only because I was thinking about how I should try to eat more things like beets because they are good for me. It genuinely tasted good. I think the combo of goat cheese and mint (??!?!?!?!) was amazing. I was a little sad not to have thought ahead to the fact that assembling the sliders as directed would mean that they would not be suitable for leftovers. Since I am one person and the recipe makes two servings, I should have found a way to hold on to the prepped innards of the sliders and just toasted the buns when I would want them. I ended up needing to either eat more or waste some, because they couldn't be re-heated.

and the salad? OMG. I was so happy to eat it again for lunch today (with an avocado added because otherwise the avocados on the counter will turn mushy!).

The actual process of cooking?
well...
Maybe tomorrow's experience will be better, because I see that they lay out the steps in a certain order on purpose.

for those who missed the subtext on that: I didn't exactly follow the directions the way they were written.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to those who know me in person that I have a hard time with recipes. I love to cook, and I own a number of cookbooks, most of which sit unopened on a shelf just waiting for the day I finally run out of experimentory steam. I am the kind of home cook who looks in the fridge and pantry and says "I can totally make something out of kidney beans, soy curls, spinach, barley, eggs, nutritional yeast, an avocado, and almonds." (actual contents of my pantry right now.)

I am less the kind of cook that follows directions.

I think Blue Apron is a great concept. I suspect it puts good cooking within reach of many many people who would otherwise eat cereal or fast food. I will probably get another box sometime in the future. But I am not the target audience for this service. I think the recipes look great, and the one I've tried so far tasted good despite by skepticism and inability to just follow the directions.

I just like to have a little more wiggle room, a little more creative space, when it comes to my kitchen adventures.
In short, I want it to be an adventure. And I have yet to have an adventure when the guidebook is still open in my hand.

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