I love to cook because I like to eat. I may be vegetarian (fin’n’feather, no mammels) but my cooking is far from boring or tasteless. I come from a family of good cooks, I paid attention as a kid, I’ve worked in a couple of good restaurants, and have cooked more meals for more people over the years than I can count. Free form, eclectic, tasty, and good for ya too.
I can cook. Love to. As we say at my house, never turn down a dinner invitation Now I’d like to share some of my experiences with food, cooking, (and eating) with you.
Make it look good Presentation counts. Why? Because you eat with your eyes first. What colors are on the plate? Do they mesh or clash? Is there good contrast? What shape are the vegetables? Garnishes, no matter how simple, do make an impact.
Nouvelle comfort food Mac & cheese is good so don’t scrimp on the cheese. I buy the ends when they cut good cheese at the store and mix it in. Baking a chicken? Put a lime or a lemon in the cavity before you bake it. Use fresh basil and oregano in your pasta. Try one new and unique vegetable in your next salad. And don’t forget to resurrect one or two of your favorite childhood recipes.
Use your knife deliberately Cut carefully, don’t hack. Try to cut things to the same size and shape. Aim for bite size pieces appropriate to the food and the utensils. Forks aren’t chopsticks and chopsticks make poor spoons.
Shop a circuit, not just one store Get into the habit of frequenting different grocery stores, not the same one. Expose yourself (and your family) to a wider selection> You’ll bump into more sale items. Don’t forget ethnic markets in your shopping tour. We’re a nation of immigrants so eat like one!
frequent green grocers and farmers markets Support your local farmers and get to know those who grows your food. Buy on what’s in season. Eat fruits and vegetables that are fresher and often cheaper, and eat heirloom varieties you won’t see elsewhere.
Try exotic mushrooms in addition to the common button mushrooms (Agaricus): Chantrelles, Oyster, Shiitake, Enoki, Morels, and others. They’re often sold loose so buy a couple mushrooms to start with. Try them sliced and sauteed in butter. Go back and buy more of the ones you like. Dry some for future use. Think soup stock, gravy, or one in the pot when you cook rice for flavor.
Buy a box of small freezer bags When you find something on sale, eat half and freeze the other half for later. Saves time and money.
Fresh herbs are the best Didn’t grow your own or buy any at the farmer’s market last time? Pick up a poultry mix or Italian seasoning mix of fresh herbs at the grocery store and separate out the various herbs. Variety for the cost of one!
Shop local, especially when you travel You’ll find foods in other places you can’t get at home, including local brands that don’t enjoy a wide distribution. Fresh fish is best where it’s caught. I look for opuntia syrup when I’m in NM or AZ. It’s heavy and expensive to ship but fits in a corner of my luggage. The East Coast in the winter? I look for Mallomars. Seasonal and regional. Start thinking of food as a souvenir.
Try to clone what you eat in restaurants When I eat something I really like in a restaurant (or at your house) I try to remember the ingredients & taste and try to mimic it at home. Reverse engineering recipes. Eating out can spark your culinary creativity and inspire you to cook new things at home.
If you eat seafood, remember that it’s a natural resource and needs to be cared for as such. Fishing needs to be sustainable not exploitive. Find out what to buy and order in restaurants from Seafood Watch.