Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mini cooking-co-op

Inspired by a New York Times piece about people who trade meals, my friend Rachael and I started a mini cooking co-op of our own last year. It's just us two, making it the smallest possible co-op you can have. But it's incredible how much time it saves to have a meal ready to go on busy weeknights, and it's so luxurious to have a quick dinner that's not a repeat of the night before. We don't have very many rules, like some of the groups in the Times article do; we just agreed to trade on Mondays or Tuesdays, and to make enough for the other person and her husband to have a good-sized meal.

It's been wonderful: last week Rachael made a delicious Italian Wedding Soup, delivered in two giant Mason jars. Earlier in the summer, she made a kit of thinly sliced vegetables and instructions on how to make summer rolls. My all-time favorite trade so far has been a lobster mac and cheese last winter that was so rich and delicious and comforting that I almost devoured all of it by myself. Mac and cheese is decadent on its own, but add lobster...heaven. For my part, I've shared some of my favorite dishes: pork belly sandwiches, oxtail stew, my mom's addictive fried rice.

Besides saving time on a weeknight -- which can be accomplished just by ordering takeout -- trading meals with someone is the next best thing to going out to dinner with them. It gives you a sense of community, even when it's a community of just two, two-person families, and even when the other half of the co-op is far away, battling a flooded basement outside the city. And it inspires you to try new recipes, to keep the agreement fresh and interesting and fun. If anyone is in the vicinity of Bryant Park and would like to join us in this little cooking co-op, drop me a line!

This week, Rachael made a delicious breakfast-for-dinner hash of summer vegetables: new potatoes, corn and kale, with a little spice, and packed up fresh brown eggs and cheese to add on top once the hash was re-crispied in a frying pan. Delicious! My contribution was cold orzo tossed with basil, tomatoes and olive oil, pan-grilled lamb chops, and a yogurty cucumber and onion sauce.

Dinner is over now and it's getting late. I can hear an ice cream truck playing its tune outside my window, even though it's after 10 p.m. Soon, they'll all be hibernating in their ice cream truck caves far away. Summer! Don't go just yet. Stay a little longer.

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