I’ve been thinking about the subject of cooking these days. I’ve known average, good, and excellent chefs in my travels through life’s meals but have often wondered what is it that determines their status. Is it presentation? Variety? The ability to follow a recipe? Creativity?
Some illuminating (or at least amusing) quotes:
“The cook was a good cook, as cooks go; and as cooks go she went.”
“The qualities of an exceptional cook are akin to those of a successful tightrope walker: an abiding passion for the task, courage to go out on a limb and an impeccable sense of balance.â€
“A good cook puts something of himself into the preparation — he cooks with enjoyment, anticipation, spontaneity, and he is willing to experiment.”
Pearl Bailey, Pearl’s Kitchen (1973)
“HAM AND EGGS – A day’s work for a chicken; A lifetime commitment for a pig.”
“A clever cook, can make….good meat of a whetstone.”
“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.”
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
“My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four; unless there are three other people.”
Recently I’ve been enjoying two new cookbooks and sensing, in them, the possibility of becoming a better cook. Also I have been blessed by some creative chefs in my acquaintance. One of whom came to my home and prepared this amazing salad (Thanks Jennifer!!) that introduced me to several new wonderful green vegetables.
Name this vegetable!
Jen’s delicious salad.
After enjoying the leftovers of this salad for several days, I went to the grocery store today and bought large bags of fresh fruits and vegetables. The kids were thrilled to have the fruit bowl stocked again and snacked on strawberries all day.
For dinner tonight I put these greens together to make a yummy salad. I’m afraid it was a bit stretching for my (“I would be fine with iceburg lettuce”) family but at least two of them ate a big plate full. Jen introduced me to bok choy and I am already a HUGE fan. It’s sweet and crispy and perfect in salads. I haven’t tried it cooked but I read at this organic greens site that it is also good in stir-frys.
I have been so bored and frustrated with vegetables lately. I eat a fairly healthy diet that includes a hearty serving of vegetables at both lunch and dinner. After almost two years of following this food plan, I’m a little tired of the vegetables I’ve been preparing. How lovely to discover some new things to add to my repertoire. Several of the greens are ones I’ve avoided, fearing they would be bitter in a salad. Instead, I was thrilled to discover swiss chard and kale have subtle, pleasant flavors; perfect for a green salad.
I’ve already mentioned this cookbook but I want to bring it up again in order to share a recipe or two. Perfect Recipes for Having People Over by Pam Anderson
I’ve made the cornbread muffins twice and they have been a huge hit each time. They are easy to prepare and cook beautifully.
Moist Savory Corn Muffins
1 can (14.75) creamed corn
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tbs butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Set 12 cup muffin tin in over to heat while you make batter.
Put creamed corn in microwaveable dish and heat until comes to a full boil. Stir in 1 cup of cornmeal to make a thick, pasty mush (if not stiff, microwave another 30 seconds). Whisk in buttermilk, eggs and butter.
Mix remaining 1 cup cornmeal with flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Pour wet ingredients into dry ones and stir until just combined.
Remove muffin tin, spray with cooking spray. Fill tins. Bake 15 minutes (until golden brown). Serve.
This evening I made the Yorkshire Pudding/Popovers recipe from the same book.
1 1/2 cups instant (quick mixing) flour, such as Wondra
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
4 large eggs
2 tbs butter, melted
Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Mix milk, eggs, and butter in small bowl. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture; stir until smooth. Spray muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill 3/4 full.
Set oven to 425. Bake for 35 minutes (starting with cold oven and w/o opening oven door).
These puffed up so beautifully I had to call the children in to come and see the yummy sight.
The pictures I took of the popovers while they were baking in the oven didn’t come out and I was too busy putting the rest of dinner together to capture the finished product on film. Unfortunately I thought they looked like they were browning too fast in the oven so I took them out before the 35 minutes were up – they rose beautifully and then fell just as beautifully. Thankfully they were absolutely delicious and no one seemed to mind their fallen state at all. I will try these again soon.
The other cookbook that is the focus of my attention these days is Sunday Suppers: Informal American Home Cooking by Melanie Barnard (who seems to have also written several cookbooks for William Sonoma). My aunt (one of those excellent chefs that I noted earlier) gave me this book for Christmas. I believe when someone whom you admire gives you a present regarding their talents and gifts you should give it some careful consideration. I spent a good portion of the day reading/devouring the recipes in this cookbook (at stop lights, while waiting for the children at the Y, when I should have been making dinner). This book, in particular, carries the unique distinction of personal, hand-written notations from my aunt in the margins of her favorite recipes. What a precious addition to an already yummy book.
I am eager to get into the kitchen and start mixing and stirring. I hardly ever cook with lamb or pork and there are several delicious looking recipes featured in these two in the cookbook. My family is in for a real treat.