Sometimes diversity is not so good.
Consider sticking with a style of cooking for a couple of weeks or even a season. For instance, in the summer, we cook a lot of Italian dishes. Sticking with a style makes for more efficient use of leftovers. You can throw things together in a pot or at least on the same plate and still feel like it’s a meal. This won’t work if you’ve got, say, an Asian-inspired vegetable dish and want to add it to leftover spaghetti with lots of Italian seasoning.
Getting good is good.
In addition to using leftovers, sticking with a style lets you develop expertise quickly. You learn what will work, how long it will take, what the pitfalls are, etc. This makes cooking more fun and you get more out of your bag of produce.
Be cost effective at Costco.
Also, you only have to keep certain spices or other dry staples around when you stick to a style. These are usually cheaper when bought in bulk, but you want to make sure you’ll use them up.
Change with the seasons.
Eventually, you get tired of cooking and eating the same types of things. Plus, different seasons bring different produce that lends itself to different styles. Once you’re comfortable with a style, think about what you want to try next and give it a shot. I’d like to get better at Asian cooking, so that may be my next challenge.
Some suggested styles…
- Asian-inspired style: mix and match leftover stir fries or make fried rice. A lot of summer vegetables are good in stir fries: yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant (purged!), garlic. In the fall and spring, you can switch to broccoli, cabbage, onions, and carrots. Prep vegetables by chopping them all the same size. Learn how long vegetables take to stir fry and segregate them by cooking time. Matching staples: soy sauce, fresh ginger, rice, chow mein noodles, sesame oil, corn starch.
- Italian-inspired style: great for summer time vegetables. This is my house. My family loves Italian food, so it works really well for us. Tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, and basil just beg to be cooked together and thrown on top of pasta. Use tomatoes fresh or slightly cooked. I don’t like to cook tomatoes all the way down because they produce so little sauce. Better to use the CSA tomatoes to spike a can of crushed tomatoes if you need a lot of red sauce. When in doubt, saute chopped veggies in olive oil and toss over pasta with fresh herbs and parmesan. Bellissimo! Matching staples: olive oil, pasta, Italian seasoning (in case you run out of fresh herbs), Parmesan or Romano cheese.
- Good ol’ Southern cooking: cooked vegetables, biscuits or cornbread, and a chicken or pork dish. These leftovers could be turned into casseroles or pot pies or just different combinations. My mother’s family is from Georgia since a long ways back, but this really isn’t my favorite cooking. It’s a good match, though, for locally grown produce. Matching staples: cornmeal mix, Bisquick, salt, ham hocks or other pig parts in the freezer.
- French country?: During the fall, we stop being so Italian and switch to salads and baked and roasted vegetables. I don’t know if French is the right; I certainly don’t go crazy with the sauces. The meals are simple, and we use the oven a lot. Lots of soups, stews, and casseroles. Comfy food that you imagine eating on a chilly night. Matching staples: herbes de Provence, bread mix, onions, butter, various cheeses.