No matter where I’ve lived — tiny studio in Manhattan, somewhat roomier rental in Hoboken, 99-year-old house in Denver — my freezers have looked eerily the same. Always a well-stocked kitchen outside, but break the vacuum seal and inside was just ice cubes, Stouffer’s mac and cheese, and a few bananas I’d dutifully preserved in the (unfounded) hope of making banana bread. Unfounded in that over the hundreds of times I’ve made it and the scores of recipes I’ve tried (white flour, whole wheat flour, low-fat, gluten-free, with chocolate chips, with or without nuts, with egg whites but no yolks, etc.) I’d never once cracked open the freezer to use any of those objects formerly known as bananas.
And I still haven’t.
But tonight I did something better. At quarter to five, when my children were building snow forts and throwing snowballs, I cobbled together a soul-warming side dish to go along with our split pea soup and biscuits. The surprise? Everything but the spices came from our freezer. I never thought I’d see the day.
This summer I spent every Tuesday night processing the box of produce I’d picked up from Monroe Organic Farms, the CSA I joined. Every week my family downed more vegetables than I thought humanly possible for hubbie, three young kids and me, but still there were more beans, tomatoes and peppers than we could handle. So I began — gulp — blanching and freezing things, putting them in ziplocs with labels like my grandmother used to. Not trusting that they’d ever see the light of day, much less the inside of my All-Clad, but not wanting to toss them outright.
Fast forward five months. Soup for dinner, biscuits to go along with, but no veggies. So I went to the freezer and grabbed the first bag I laid hands on: green beans. Then dug for an onion — everything starts with an onion, right? — and headed to my cookbooks. I was envisioning a riff on a warm potato salad with a light vinaigrette. But inside Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, a recipe for braised cauliflower with curry and tomatoes caught my eye. Hmm. I could do something with this. I ran back downstairs for frozen diced red peppers, grabbed the tomatoes and tinkered with the recipe to suit my ingredients. In 15 minutes we had an aromatic Indian-style side dish, all of which was LOCAL except for the olive oil and spices: onions, garlic, green beans, tomatoes, red peppers. Enough spices to intrigue my kids’ palates, not too much heat to turn them off (you can add cayenne if you like, but I left it out). I still don’t have high hopes for those rockhard bananas, but now I’ve seen the resurrection and believe that life post-freezer is possible.
Here’s my take on Curried Green Beans with Tomatoes.