Daily routines

by CSWSmovie

One of my favorite blogs of all time is a site that’s simply called Daily Routines. Although now defunct, it accumulated interviews and excerpts from famous writers, artists, filmmakers and the like  in which they describe their day-to-day work schedule. When do their creative selves ingest caffeine? When do they take a walk? Do they rise early and work steadily through the day, or work in energetic bursts through the night?

Maybe this isn’t a universal fascination, but I’m someone who absolutely loves to hear about other people’s daily schedules. (Confession: this column might be my favorite part of the Sunday Times.) Maybe it’s because my own work schedule has a tendency to change by the day, making me always on the look-out for that constant, fail-proof formula for my own mornings. But I think the reason I really love to read about this stuff is because it puts into sharp focus what people make priorities in their day-to-day life. Some famous folk always make sure there’s time for solitary reading of material by people who inspire them; for others, some daily time in nature takes precedent; and for a few, a stiff drink (or three) with the company of friends must always end their evenings. Constant celebration, with booze or not, is something I can get behind.

I like to think that good food – home-cooked food in particular- is a priority in my own little universe. There are very few life-defining memories that I have where I can’t remember the corresponding meal that came with. But when that same life demands late work nights, early mornings and general obstacles to your keep-your-life-in-order efforts, having dinner eaten out of your own bowl and not a takeout container takes some forethought and some planning.

The easiest way to do this is to spend some time during the weekend to cook for the week. This used to mean some extra oven work (roasting vegetables for a quick pasta sauce and stew was my easy go-to during the winter) but with the summer temperature hovering around 80 degrees most days, I’m looking for new do-ahead recipes that don’t take away too much of my precious weekend time.

Enter this pesto, which is now one of my favorite sauces to make. Combining some of my favorite ingredients – cilantro! mint! chilis! – a few minutes of work gives you a sauce that I stir into soups, put over pasta, or just use as a dip for vegetables when you’re really sick of eating hummus.

And now, I ask you – what’s your favorite make-ahead recipe for the week? Chili for the freezer? Healthy (or not) muffins for a breakfast on the run? Hard-boiling lots of eggs? As it should be obvious by now, I’d truly love to hear.

Cilantro and Mint Pesto

Adapted from Bon Apetit, January 2005

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup)*
  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped seeded jalapeño chile**
  • 2 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon (scant) coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
*I didn’t have any chives on hand so excluded this when I made it. Still tasted great.
** Keep seeds in if you like a little kick

Blend all ingredients except for the lime juice in a blender until smooth. Whisk in lime juice. Refrigerate when not using.

Spicy Chayote Soup

Adapted from Gourmet, April 2003

  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced small fresh hot green chile such as serrano or Thai, or to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 lb chayotes* (2 to 3), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and pitted if necessary, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable stock
  • Cilantro and mint pesto for garnish

Cook scallions, garlic, and chile in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add chayotes, salt, and 1 tablespoon cilantro and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add stock and simmer, covered, until chayotes are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in remaining tablespoon cilantro and purée soup in 2 batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Season with salt. Serve soup in bowls and spoon some Cilantro and mint pesto on top.