I've written here about how I became a personal chef and I've written here and there a bit about my clients, but I realized I haven't described the nuts and bolts of my little business.
I currently have three permanent clients and one temporary one. They are all couples and I cook for them on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Before I had my second son, I cooked for them on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, but my older son took two longs naps a day until he was 2 years old and went to bed every night at 6pm and woke up around 8. Those days are no longer and while both my boys nap at the same time (which is the ONLY reason I can even keep this business going), I have a lot less free time to cook. Two days a week it will have to be until we have more preschool in place.
For each meal, I bring them an entree and usually two sides. Occasionally there are other components to the meal (like chutney and raita if I were making Indian food). Tuesday is the day I bring the "treat". Everything is made 100% from scratch and is all vegetarian. I would say about 25% of the time the food is vegan, but the "treat" never is.
I cook everything in my kitchen and divvy it all up into plastic containers. I get everything as ready as it can be and deliver it to their homes with a handwritten note explaining the night's menu and any last minute prep the food needs. Some nights it is as easy as popping stuff in the microwave and tossing a salad, other nights something will need to go into the oven or a little more prep will be involved. On my next visit, I pick up all my empty containers - I have quite a collection!
Because the meals I make are fairly involved, I use Mondays and Wednesdays as prep days. I almost always bake on Mondays and I will do any prep work possible in advance, even if it is just chopping vegetables. I find (and this is good advice for dinner parties too) that any little thing you can do in advance, from making the salad dressing to taking the leaves off parsley, will make your food prep the day of that much easier.
Since I tend to be busy prepping on Mondays and Wednesdays, our dinners those nights are a little simpler. Last week I was glancing through one of my favorite cookbooks, Real Vegetarian Thai, looking for a curry paste recipe to send to Beatrice at Ginger Beat. I love this cookbook - it is written by a woman who spent two years in Thailand while in the Peace Corps, and all recipes come with some kind of back story and lots of thoughtful tips. I decided to make a quick rice noodle soup with some lemongrass stock I had in the freezer and a salad with this incredible dressing.
The dressing comes from the New York Times and it tastes exactly like that perfect one you get at sushi restaurants. It is incredibly simple to make, it makes a lot, it lasts for a week in the refrigerator, and it is so nice and thick that it can also be used as a dip. I can also imagine it spooned over tofu, or even over soba noodles. It is so good, I was tempted to eat it straight from the jar - a desire I have never experienced for salad dressing!
Before the recipe, let's talk about miso. There are several different types of miso - white being the most mellow in flavor. It is often kept in the produce section of your grocery store, or where you would normally find tofu. You will end up buying more than you need for this recipe but, if you keep plastic pressed directly on top of the miso once it is opened, it will keep for a year in your refrigerator. And you will want to make this dressing again!
Miso Carrot Sauce
From The New York Times
Makes 1 1/4 cup
The salad I made for this dressing had butter lettuce, thinly sliced mushrooms, halved cherry tomatoes, and chunks of avocado.
1/4 cup peanut or grapeseed oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp. white miso
1 tbsp. dark sesame oil
2 medium carrots
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and cut into coins
Put all ingredients into food processor and pulse to mince carrots. Let machine run for 1 minute, until mixture is chunky-smooth.
Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)