My husband and I decided to have a picnic supper and I had a little extra time on my hands but nothing defrosted to cook. So, once again, I went to the grocery store (yes, I know I mentioned in an earlier posting that I only go to the store once a week...I'm not perfect)! Its May and already warm in DC, and I didn't want to cook anything too heavy. I also had some leftover balsamic vinaigrette from last night's artichokes (there weren't any leftover artichokes). This made a great marinade for grilled chicken breasts. Giant Shrimp were actually on sale so I bought some of these as well to throw on the grill; these paired nicely with a lemon aioli. Along with bread and cheese, grilled vegetables, and of course wine, we had a feast!
When I was single, I used to go grocery shopping almost every day. It was wonderful to cook whatever looked appealing, but its amazing how much extra money not to mention time you spend going to the grocery store several times a week. I've gotten much better at doing my grocery shopping once a week, except this week. It was a hot night, and I didn't really feel like cooking meat (the only thing we had in our fridge), so a trip to the market was necessary. I walked to our local Whole Foods without really knowing what we would have for dinner. The Char (a pink fleshed but mild flavored semi-oily fish that holds up nicely on the grill) looked fabulous and they also had one of my favorite vegetables...fresh baby artichokes! Dinner was solved. I had some leftover sangria in the fridge, which I thought would make a nice sauce for the char. To wash everything down we had lavender scented (with lavender from my herb garden) pink martinis. By the way, you can find all of these recipes by clicking the link or on the "recipe" page.
- It is ok to play with your food. I like to experiment in the kitchen. This usually works to my advantage except if I am baking (and experimentation isn't always a bad thing, you just have to know some chemistry) but believe me, some recipes have gone very wrong. But hey, you don't know if it will taste good until you try it! And if it doesn't taste good, my husband and my brother will usually still eat it. If not, there is always the dog...
- Sharp knives are as dangerous as dull knives. People who say that dull knives are more dangerous are lying. I know firsthand. I truly am a klutz in and outside of the kitchen, hence the name of this blog. Ask my neighbor who just happens to be an ER doctor. I have had a couple of run ins with very sharp perfectly weighted knives that I wouldn't trade in for anything in the world. Anyway, it was nothing that a little super-glue, albeit applied under the strictest medically supervision, couldn't fix.
- Eat Seasonally As much as I love eating strawberries year round, they just taste better in May or June when they are in season. The artificially ripened for easier transport and bright red color doesn't add any flavor. It may look like a strawberry, but the taste just isn't there.
- Cook Simply, but don't be afraid of complicated recipes. Good food doesn't need much preperation or seasoning. I still remember being a little girl and going out into our garden, picking a giant tomato, and eating it like an apple with the juices dripping down my face. delicious. With that said, I love making recipes that involve many steps and processes. Some fabulous recipes simply take longer than 30 minutes to prepare.
- Patience IS a virtue. See above, but some recipes take time. A soup or a stew that takes two hours to simmer takes two hours to simmer. cranking up the heat is not a substitute. I've also found that preperation is half of cooking. I'm the consummate multitasker. This is a good thing, however if the carrots aren't chopped when they need to be added to the dish, the results won't necessarily be delicious.
- Ingredients matter. The basis of all dishes is the ingredients that go into it. Higher quality ingredients may be more expensive, but if they are truly higher quality then it is worth it. And conversley, just because they are more expensive doesn't mean they are higher quality.
- Gourmet food isn't necessarily fussy. As much as a like going out to eat at the latest "gourmet" restaurant, just because you pay a lot of money for the meal doesn't automatically mean it is worth it. Some of the best meals I have had aren't pretentious. They are regional specialities cooked the same delicious way they have been prepared for years.
- People have really strong reactions to cilantro. You either love it or you hate it (and my hate I mean you detest the smell and describe the flavor akin to soap). I don't know why, but its true. I love it.
- Don't be afraid of food. Seriously. Even though you may have bad memories of food from when you were a kid, try it again. I wouldn't eat fish for years because my mom would insist on cooking it until it died twice over so the result was a dried out flavorless mass that lost the delicate flavoring of the original fish. I also follow this when I travel. I'm a very adventurous eater and so far I don't regret it for a moment. Although maybe my mind will change when I bring home a friendly parasite from the third world.
- Avoid "processed" food whenever possible. I realize I am being slightly hypocritical with this one, since cooking IS a process. However, I try to cook from "scratch" and use basic ingredients as much as possible. It may take more time, and certainly some short cuts are worth it, but I truly believe the final product tastes better in the end.
Cats are not good kitchen helpers. enough said.
- Spicy food does not have to be hottt. In the US we equate spice with heat. I love spicy food, but I don't like food that is so hot that it masks the flavors. Spice to me is combining savory flavors like cinnamon, cloves, sage, and thyme with meat to make a meatball (more on that recipe later). Its finding those combinations of flavor that make a recipe individual. Don't get me wrong, I do love some "spicy" foods (I lived in New Mexico for a while and nothing can beat the flavor of a freshly roasted green chili), but there is more to spicy than heat.
- Taste is as much about texture as it is about flavor. Texture is more than just what we taste, however, its how we taste it. The reason why homemade stock is superior to store bought broth is texture. (and believe me, despite my pledge to cook things from scratch, I do use store bought broth. its just so easy AND we don't have the freezer space). Stock, but not broth, has denatured proteins (collagen) that increase the viscosity of the liquid which allows it to more fully coat your moth which allows different taste buds to function.
- Applying delicate flavors is one of the hardest techniques to master. Good food is like good wine. Flavors are complicated and build over time. The most successful compositions are ones which the flavor builds and possibly changes depending on what else is being served. However, its very difficult to anticipate how flavors will or will not complement each other. Thus, experimentation is good.
- Fat, Meat, Salt, (you name whatever the study of the month says is bad) are not inherently evil. It seems like every week a new study appears declaring that some food is bad for you. It may or may not be true, but my 100% unscientific response is that in large quantities everything is bad, (I"m not going to be the next Paula Dean and preach that everything will just taste better with three sticks of butter), but it is ok in moderation. I also believe (again, completely undocumented, but just a hunch) that chemically processed foods are much worse than eating red meat a couple of times a week or drinking a glass of wine with dinner. My unsolicited diet advice is eat purely, eat with a lot of flavor (going back to salt, it adds not only flavor, but also texture to food), eat small meals, but "bad things" are ok.
You might not know it from looking at me, but I love food. My hobby is cooking, and I truly enjoy wandering through the farmer's market or grocery store to shop for food, creating new dishes, going out to eat, and most of all enjoying the fruits of my labor (ok, bad pun, I couldn't resist) with my family and friends. I plan on posting recipes (unless noted, all of the recipes on this site are original), restaurant reviews, and stories from my experiments in the kitchen. Please feel free to comment and let the adventure begin!