What kind of cook are you? Do you follow recipes down to the minutest detail? Do you rely strictly on convenience foods? Do you use your kitchen for coffee making only? Or are you able to conceive a dish in your mind and present it on a plate?
Much of the difference in types of cooks comes down to three things: desire, confidence & experience. If you have no desire to cook, then no amount of instruction or coaxing will change that. But if you want to cook & want to be able to freestyle in the kitchen, then experience is the key. Experience builds confidence, enhances skills and gives you a mental “flavor library” to draw on to create your own dishes. Also, a few templates don’t hurt. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
When I was a novice cook I had the good fortune of stumbling onto an issue of Bon Appetite magazine shrink-wrapped with a separate little guide about basic cooking techniques. The technique guide was helpful, but it was the recipes & pictures in that first issue of Bon Appetite that really inspired me to embrace cooking. They all seemed so interesting & exotic! Now realize, I was barely 20 years old, lived in a small city in the Deep South in the pre-internet days and had just met the man I wanted to spend my life cooking for. Those recipes were the Holy Grail! First I had to weed out all of the ones that had ingredients I didn’t know or couldn’t find. The ones that were left I followed slavishly. Some hits, some misses. But most importantly, they gave me the confidence to try, allow myself to fail occasionally and eventually to trust my own instincts in the kitchen.
Fast forward 30+ years. I have worked as a baker in a popular local coffee shop, taught cooking lessons and catered dinner parties. Now, I’m back to cooking for just the two of us again. My husband, while a MUCH more adventurous eater than he was 30 years ago, is still a die-hard carnivore. Don’t get me wrong; I love fish & seafood of every kind, crave a really good rib-eye with some regularity and find a perfectly roasted chicken to be a thing of beauty. But given my druthers, my favorite way to eat follows this template: whole grain or grain substitute, greens or other veggies, nuts & cheese.
Instead of being limiting, a template like this is empowering. There are nearly limitless possibilities! Sometimes it’s a fresh greens based salad with a scoop of cooked grains added for heft finished with nuts for crunch and cheese for that luxurious creaminess. Sometimes it’s a grain bowl with cooked veggies, again sprinkled with nuts and cheese. Sometimes it’s a warm lentil salad with wilted greens and nuts and cheese. Sometimes I use two or three of the components and add in a protein: pastured eggs, leftover chicken or steak, quickly cooked shrimp or wild salmon or the only cold cuts and bacon I’ll use; Applegate Farms. The common bond that all of these meals share is that they’re healthy, filling & delicious.
The thing to remember is being able to whip these yummies up starts at the market: good food in your cart means good food in your fridge which means good food in your body! Next week I’ll be back to talk about what to stock your fridge, freezer and pantry with to be able to whip up delicious meals like these. Remember: eat good, feel good!
Until next time!