by Tara Davis

Food often speaks to me.
When I eat it, of course. Or smell it, or have my hands in its processes.
When I am in its presence, shopping farmer’s market or grocery. When I am inspired by a flavor or cuisine.  And now, by its seasons.  I anxiously wait, receive and seek out those ingredients best or only available in spring, and anticipate the coming summer produce.  Peas, squash, strawberries, lettuces are all showing their fresh faces now, and I can’t wait to use them.
But availability-or lack thereof- does not solely legitimize inspiration. Often we cook or seek out whatever sounds good in a given moment.  Or whatever is quick and convenient. We budget and food prep to meet monetary and dietary needs.  Inspiration gives way to necessity as life takes over.  Still, plan we must.
When I plan a weekly menu, I take advantage of sourcing as many ingredients as possible locally, though that is certainly not feasible for every ingredient year round.  I also think about what people might like to eat, what is convenient for folks on the go, about keeping my offerings within certain price parameters, about providing fresh, healthy choices for people.  And what I want to cook and eat. (Yes, my staff and I eat what we offer you weekly and daily). Those are a lot of thoughts to think.  But I believe most of that translates to everyone’s daily lives and at home meals.
What are you in the mood for? What’s quick and easy after a long day? What’s healthy? What won’t break the bank today? What will your kids actually eat?  What can you do with those leeks that were so beautiful at the farmer’s market last Saturday?
Below I share an economical, a quick and easy and a currently seasonal recipe for your perusal:
For economy-  Pasta chicken bake:
Liberally salt and pepper 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees on a thermometer.  When cool enough, cut into small cubes. While the chicken is cooking, boil water and cook 1 pound pasta of your choice to al dente (about 8-10 minutes).  Drain and place in an oven safe dish with chicken.  Add 2 chopped tomatoes, 1 jar (drained) black olives, 5-6 sliced green onions, 2 cups sour cream and 1 cup shredded cheese (my favorite is Monterrey jack).  Mix well, season to taste, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
Quick and easy soup:
3 cups chopped/diced vegetables of your choice (I like onions, celery,  carrots and bell peppers, but you can add corn, potatoes, beans, etc…) in a medium pot with 2 tbsp oil and a generous pinch salt and pepper.  Cook until mostly softened,  then add 2 qt chicken stock, and 2 cups any prepared meat (rotisserie chicken, leftover ground beef or pork…)  Simmer 10-15 minutes and serve as is, over pasta or rice.
Seasonal- Leeks and mushrooms:
Slice and thoroughly wash 3 large leeks.  Thinly slice 2 cups mushrooms of your choice.  Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet.   Add mushrooms and cook over medium high heat until golden brown. Remove mushrooms from pan. In the same pan, cook leeks until fully tender. Add 1 tbsp each minced garlic and olive oil to leeks.  Add 1 cup heavy cream and a generous pinch salt and pepper.  Simmer on low 5 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup shaved parmesan and the cooked mushrooms.  Serve warm.