stories of home cooking

Three Figs, Thanksgiving Fruit, 2001I 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.

Apricot Peach Upsidedown CakeUse 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.

Up your stir fry game. Uses for the ends of the loaf of bread. Fresh herbs around? Even a clove of garlic and a sprig of parsley or even celery leaves? Add some fresh ground black pepper and now you have spiced croutons at least. Or as a last resort you can use a slice to soak up fat.

I love my cast iron skillet. And my wok. Start by seasoning the pan followed by caring for it properly thereafter. Tips and tricks for cutting all kinds of fruit. Potato hacks? Whodda thunk. But yes, here are tips for better spud cooking.

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