Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Both ends

This morning it occurred to me, as I crawled out of bed at 7:00am after another late-night work session, that there is a direct link between how much sleep I get and how cheerful I feel when I wake up.

Yes, I am sure that this cause-and-effect relationship is already blindingly obvious to the vast majority of you. However, those of us who are chronically sleep-deprived sometimes take a little longer to make these connections. And it is slowly, slowly dawning on me that I cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends without feeling the effects, now that I’m officially middle-aged. (Eh? Speak up!)

Also that no matter how late I stay up, I still can’t be as on top of everything as I would like. And that being exhausted makes it all that much harder to keep up with whatever comes along the next day.

I can’t figure out anything to cut back on (probably because I’m too tired), so I’m trying to work on using my time more efficiently. I don’t think I’m doing too badly in the efficiency department, but there’s always room for improvement, especially if it frees up more time to cook. As much as I wish I could spend my days puttering in the kitchen, cooking up this or that complicated dish, plating and styling it artfully, photographing it just so, and writing it up here with lyrical description…well, given the current constraints of my life, that is just not going to happen.

No, what is going to happen is that I’m going to keep looking for cooking ideas that give me maximum output for minimum effort. I’m not going to say “quick” or “easy”, because a) that’s a food-writing cliché/copout, and b) what I think is quick or easy and you think is quick or easy may be radically different things. I’m perfectly willing to spend five minutes kneading bread dough, or chopping vegetables to make stock in my slow cooker. I think both of those are quick and easy, and chances are I’ll think of doing them far enough in advance that I can actually use them at dinner time. You may think that doing either of those things is borderline insane at any time, never mind designating them quick or easy. And that is your right.

Where was I going with this? I think I dozed off there for a minute.

Oh yes: using time efficiently.

Example: I love green beans, but all the snapping off of little bits on the ends drives me nuts when I’m faced with a pound of them at 5:30 while I’m trying to get dinner together. The last time I made this, though, I brought them to the table as we were finishing an extended Sunday breakfast with houseguests, and did all the snapping while we talked and finished off cups of tea and the last sticky crumbs of maple-syrupy pancakes and bacon. Not only was it more efficient, it was vastly more enjoyable than usual.

Roasted green bean salad with tomato vinaigrette
Adapted from From Anna’s Kitchen by Anna Thomas
Roasting really shows off the quality of the green beans that are available in the summer; I’ve had mixed results doing this with supermarket beans in the winter, which seem to be larger and come out tougher. I’ve also left off the dressing and served the beans as a finger-food appetizer; no matter how many I make, they are gone in no time.

Roasted green beans
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb/450 g green beans, topped, tailed and washed
3-4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
salt & pepper

Tomato vinaigrette
8-10 grape tomatoes, quartered
2-3 basil leaves, shredded
3 Tbsp/45 g olive oil
3 tsp/15 g balsamic vinegar
1 tsp/5 g maple syrup
1 tsp/5 g Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic

Preheat oven to 450F/225C. Pour olive oil into a shallow roasting tray and put in the oven to heat for about 5 minutes.

Be careful when dumping beans into hot oil, which may splatter. Toss to coat with oil, and add garlic cloves. Roast, stirring and turning every 10 minutes or so, until beans look wrinkled and shrunken, with brown spots here and there, 25-35 minutes. Beans should taste tender but crispy. Keep an eye on the garlic and make sure it doesn’t burn.

While beans are roasting, prepare dressing. Place all ingredients in a small jar. Shake very vigorously to bash up the tomatoes a bit and get them to release their juices.

When beans are done, remove from oven and pour into a large bowl, drizzling with remaining oil from cooking. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss, then add dressing and 1-2 cloves roasted garlic, removed from their skins. Toss thoroughly and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4.


Ruth said... Best Blogger Tips

Please do share how else you manage to use your time more efficiently, as I could really use more sleep as well. Freelancing is not good for sleep, especially combined with a toddler...yawn.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

I've pretty much decided that freelancing is not good for sleep combined with *anything*, including, say, breathing. But I'll keep you posted on more time-efficiency tips as I discover them.

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