I am completely guilty of going through phases of making the same recipes over and over again. If it’s not broke why fix it? If I’ve learned how to make it why learn how to do something new? My new effort with the year at the farmer’s market is to really try new things. To step out of my usual purchase every week of just getting tomatoes and try actually take a stab at expanding my repertoire. When I wrote the post about the market a couple weeks ago I promised to keep you all up-to-date with what I’m trying out. It’s time to actually follow up on my promises.
I absolutely love cookbooks. Looking at all pictures of delicious food is relaxing to me. It’s like mental yoga. It’s also just inspiration for what kind of flavors to put together. In my far off fantasies I wish I could be a chef but I know I don’t necessarily have the culinary creative vision to create entirely new flavor combinations. I have however become exceptionally good at improvising and creating simpler, down and dirty versions of more complicated recipes. Sometimes I cheat a little and use store bought products. Shhhhhh….
While reading It’s All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow, I came upon a recipe which was your usual Japanese restaurant style salad with ginger carrot dressing. I took my own spin on it to cope with my own limited schedule.
I always prep 2 portions….
1 head of romaine chopped
2 handfulls of baby spinach
1/2 a red onion chopped
1 tomato sliced
1/2 a cuke sliced
1 avocado halved and then sliced (set aside, I put on afterwards so the salad stays pretty)
1 tablespoon of minced ginger (the pre-chopped kind in a little jar works wonndddders)
1 minced shallot
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3-4 tablespoons olive oil (more if you like a more substantially dressing)
Salt and pepper as you like
optional: 2 tablespoons of grated carrot (this is not really my jam so I omit this one depending on who I’m preparing this salad for)
Put all salad ingredients in a large salad bowl. Salt amply over the top (my little veggie tip… salting the veg before pouring on the dressing makes the flavor more concentrated – especially your tomatoes). Mix together dressing ingredients and pour on top of the salad and toss. Top with avocado after you’ve plated everything!
photo courtesy of It’s All Good, Gwyneth Paltrow
After spending a week away from home for a photoshoot there’s one way to some up how I feel. Gross.
I cannot wait to get home and actually prepare my own food again. While I absolutely love trying restaurants and eating out, it’s only enjoyable when it’s completely optional. When the question of what do you want for for dinner turns into a ring around the rosie of what place is going to dictate your portion size for the evening it loses its glamour.
This weekend will be spent picking out all sorts of veggies at the farmer’s market and getting some roughage back into my system. I will be roasting beets, washing beautiful greens, soaking chickpeas and making pesto. It will be a full on salad celebration. For me it’s like therapy. When you spend an entire week doing things for other people it’s nice to spend quality time taking care of your own chi for a little while.
Look to Martha for some inspiration: tomato beet salad; romaine salad with crispy prosciutto and white beans; and chicken, chickpea and pesto salad
Cooking, for the average Joe/Jane, is a learn-by-example or learn-by-experimentation skill. Adulthood sort of requires you to suddenly be procificient at it when you move into your first place or risk weight gain from excessive prepared and processed foods and/or financial paralysis from spending entirely too much on ordering in/eating out. Some find their wings in the kitchen pretty quickly or were previously interested and some struggle (can you tell which camp I’m in?). Yes, I was a struggler, but a lot of learn-by-experimentation and some learn-by-example thrown in has gotten me fairly far along.
But a little formal instruction can go a long way, so for a friend’s birthday, we signed up for a cooking class together at Sur La Table’s New York City learning kitchen near Columbus Circle to get some inspiration for our next kitchen forays. We made a roast chicken with basil pistou, creamy wild mushroom polenta (ingredients pictured above), braised fennel with shallots and herbs, finished off with a dessert of Bosch pear tartlets. No wonder cooking shows make it look so easy – the menu is set, everything is purchased and prepped in little dishes, the space is huge, the equipment top notch… cooking classes make cooking less stressful… Freedom within a framework and all that. We learned some basics in knife technique (apparently I’m not as bad as I thought I was), our chef/instructor Joel taught us not to be too afraid of raw meat and dirty mushrooms – “A little dirt will never hurt” was his mantra – and we had a great time eating everything we made (since they make it foolproof and it was delicious).
Here is us with Chef Joel. Happy Birthday Kate!
Changing of the seasons makes me excited about cooking again. The end of winter makes my cooking mojo fizzle. I start making the same recipes over and over and eating out way too often. Eating things that are savory and heavy no longer tastes as great. I start to crave salads and fresh vegetables. Overall I’m just more energized. Getting up early with the sunshine on Sunday to make homemade yogurt all of sudden felt like a good idea. While I was at it I also roasted sweet potatoes and made pancakes. Because why not? I’m up. I’m drinking French pressed coffee and wearing new yoga pants. The suburban world is my oyster.
Part of my excitement is that my annual favorite day of the year is coming soon. Opening Saturday of the local farmer’s market. With that comes weekends of cooking, freshly baked bread, huge tomatoes, grilling corn, potato salads, pesto making, summer squash and roasting beets: #foodporn. So in preparation for the best day ever I sat this weekend and read through all my favorite cookbooks. Gathered ideas. Refreshed my memory. I absolutely cannot wait for the first tomato, watermelon, spinach and feta salad with a balsamic dressing of the season. Definitely will be washing that down with a glass of cold rosé.