At the corner of ennui and apathy…

I sometimes wonder how professional chefs do it. Cooking the same dishes again and again and again and again. Most chef’s don’t add new dishes to the menu. And when they do, those new dishes just become another dish to make again and again and again.

Home cooks have a similar problem. You open the fridge, getting ready to cook a meal, and nothing looks interesting. You’re tired of it all. And you’re just too meh to learn a new technique right now. Some people say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting the results to be different. Sometimes it’s just something that happens at the corner. The corner of ennui and apathy.

When I find myself there, I try to do something simple that will give me a blast of additional flavor, something that will take a dish I’ve made a number of times for the family to the next level. But something that doesn’t require much thought or effort. I’ll talk about a few of these in days and weeks to come.

The first one is browned butter. I don’t like, and have never liked, margarine. I’ve been a butter lover since I was a kid. And, all in all, I don’t think that’s bad. The scientific jury keeps changing its mind about butter, but people have been eating it for thousands of years.

I always use unsalted butter. That way I control the salt in a dish. So, start with unsalted butter.

If you are cooking something with butter, put the butter in a skillet and warm it over medium heat. Swirl the butter in the pan. After 5 minutes or so, it will become fragrant and caramelized. It will turn a light brown. If it burns, you went too far. You’ll probably burn the butter a time or two as you get used to this approach. If you burn the butter, pitch it.  And remember to wipe out your pan.

You can use the butter for anything you’d use regular butter for. Cook an egg in it – delightful! Use it to scramble eggs – also great.

One of the things that puts people at the corner of ennui and apathy is summer squash. Garrison Keillor used to say that people lock their cars in Lake Wobegone in the summer – so people won’t fill them with squash! If you grow squash, here’s something you can do with it. We’ll revisit this a few more times.

Mike’s Summer Squash and Zucchini Dish

This should be enough for 2 or 3 people. You can scale it up or down as needed.

2 TBSP butter
1 onion
2 cloves garlc
1 summer squash
1 zucchini

You can make this with regular or browned butter, which will serve as a way to see what differences browning the butter makes.

Start by browning the butter in a 10 to 12 inch skillet you have a lid for. As the butter is warming, julienne an onion. When the butter has browned, toss in the onion. Cook it over low to medium heat and let it caramelize, stirring often. As the onions cook, mince two cloves of garlic. Add them to the onion when the onion gets coko0ed through, soft, sweet and caramelized. Garlic burns easily, so we add it late.

After you mince the garlic, clean and slice a summer squash and a zucchini. Add them to the pot and flip them a time or two in the butter and onion. Cover them and let them cook slowly. Stir them every few minutes until they are cooked all the way though.

This might be letting a cat out of the bag, but I’ve been known to sprinkle seasoned salt and/or rosemary on the squash as they cook.

The squash will be soft, falling apart soft, and succulent. When we serve it to guests, they often say things, “I never liked summer squash or zucchini before, but this is good!”  Sadly, it doesn’t photograph well…. but I’ll see what I can do to get a picture in here.


One thought on “At the corner of ennui and apathy…

  1. Hi Mike,
    My wife, Jane, has made this dish for years; she adds sliced smoked sausage (kielbasa, or similar). We refer to it as “goulash.” We definitely must try subbing butter for olive oil, next time.

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