PART II: IT SHOULD BE ENTERED INTO WITH ABANDON OR NOT AT ALL. -HARRIET VAN HORNE
My dad has gifted a subscription of Martha Stewart’s little EVERYDAY FOOD magazine to me for the past three-ish years or so. Each issue is designed and layed out in such a way for optimal understanding. Not at all overly stuffy and complicated as can often be found in her MS Living magazine. Provided are recipes that run the gamut from simple snacks to full-blown Sunday dinners along with a pantry list of necessary staples and an accompanied grocery list to make the recipes set forth each issue. Très facile!
I began by laying out a template for each day of the week consisting of breakfast, lunch and dinner along with a mid-morning and afternoon snack, and of course, dessert in the evening. Brainstormed all of my favorite foods and cravings as well as what a healthy, balanced menu should include. Then, I continued by marking down the issue and page number of any recipe I found I’d like to try from EVERYDAY FOOD. After sorting my findings into lists for the appropriate meal category, I fitted all the collected recipes, as well as the afore mentioned favorite foods and cravings, into the template.
Do tell us, Deborah, what did you do from there? You’re too kind to ask … I based my meals on a 4-week plan, so 28 days with a few spare ones at the end left open for spontaneity. Yes, planned spontaneity, the moron of oxies. I then expanded that plan into a 3-month plan so that repetition, a peeve of mine, is not much of a factor, aside from the pasta favorites and steak (STEAK! Oh, just you wait …)
It’s been quite the process, what with the planning and all, but after having found myself overwhelmed in my attempts last year and also beaucoup food going to waste for lack of preparation, it was clear I had to get down to business.
Had to fight feeling tied to the kitchen at first despite my passion for it, but that passed as I kept at it. Music has gone a long way in providing peace and energy simultaneously in which to cook by. The main problem with the whole affair so far is that I’ve found that I gotta start early enough in preparing the meal, when I’m not yet ravenous. If too much time passes between when I last ate and dinner, that’s trouble!
Love working with people in the kitchen, (you may be put to mild work if deemed worthy) the give and the take of it all is a great thing indeed!
Another thing, I went for years typically eating once a day around dinner, often much later even, during a slow time at work, say 10pm, with impromptu bites of the occasional salad or breadstick here and there. So, I must remind myself to actually eat at times, especially at breakfast. There was a time during the summer where I felt very lonely in not having anyone to share this whole new adventure with. It passed and I choose to think on all of my learning as an investment in providing well for my future family and in the meantime, at the very least, myself. Yay, self! At some point, as more familiarity builds and settles in, I plan to have more people over regularly for company. The ones I’ve had have been a great time! Love working with people in the kitchen, (you may be put to mild work if deemed worthy) the give and the take of it all is a great thing indeed! My aversion to repetitive meals has hindered me in building the familiarity with the new recipes I desire, though, it seems.
Not at all sure how to handle the dilemma of the picky eater! I’ll bend over backwards and do a short jig to make someone comfortable when they’re over for a visit. How does that translate into a meal, though? I’m serving what I’m serving and surely would leave mustard off your sandwich were you opposed to it, or pass on the olives atop the salad, but there’s a line to draw. Somewhere. My sister is one of the most selective (read: picky) eaters on the planet at times and we don’t see eye to eye much at all when it comes to chow. Real food to her comes straight from a box. Real food to me comes from the produce section, dairy, and bakery. Whole foods, yes. Kraft, just say no!
Throughout the year, there’ve been horrendous mess-ups. Just as in creating anything, I’ve learned that the mistakes teach just as much, inherently more in fact, than the successes. Super frustrating at times, but all to a satisfying end, yes? A tomato soup thickened with shredded carrot, where I figured the more the carrot, the merrier the soup ended up tasting like butt (I imagine). The little salsa that couldn’t, so much onion that it was wrong, just plain WRONG, more white than red. The glue, I mean mashed potatoes, at Easter. Such a lonely ham, it was …
I so love to chop stuff! Give me a sharp chef’s knife and some fresh basil, or some garlic for the mincing, and call me happy. There’s freedom in cooking, it’s that whole art thing again, whereas baking, is far too rigid, often an exact science. Am happy to report success and fun to be had with each baking attempt thus far, even so! Pies are a particular forte, most especially cherry peach pie with the top crust pieced together from cut out stars. Oo-la-la!
My number one aspiration when embarking on my plan early this year was to learn how to cook a steak to taste like it was ordered in a restaurant. A good restaurant. That melt in your mouth, crazy-tender, thick bit of perfection, with a bright pink center (medium for me, please, medium rare, if you tend to overcook). STEAK! MEAT. Crave. Want. Love. Yum. Triumph! Seared joy on a plate. A sizzling hot pan, the right amount of oil rubbed into the flesh, and plenty of salt and pepper applied to both sides to draw out the flavor and create that semi-crusted goodness. It took me a few steaks to get it right, I must say, the timing and temperature were real buggers!
I’ve got presentation down I’ve been told, but what a cruel trick to create a dish looking good enough to eat only for it to then possibly fall flat in the taste department, right? Not havin’ THAT! Hence, my fervor in plan of attack.
You’ll find no little dishes of preprepped ingredients ripe for the combining into a seemingly too easy recipe
Have been making it a point to watch the food network off and on for well over a year now in order to kinda steep my thoughts in all things culinary, to emerse myself in the language and inner workings of food and its preparation. I’ve learned so much just by watching! This definitely goes against my sometimes general philosophy of “Kill your television.” Giada De Laurentiis can do no wrong with her Everyday Italian. Mario Batali and Michael Chiarello are good for the teaching as well, and that Rachel Ray, though, mercilessly mocked by my favorite of favorites Anthony Bourdain, is an excellent real-world example on her series 30 Minute Meals. All due to the premise- you’ll find no little dishes of preprepped ingredients ripe for the combining into a seemingly too easy recipe, nothing placed into the oven only to pull out the perfectly finished product for viewing a moment later. All great and I suppose necessary tactics for most cooking shows. On 30 Minute Meals, you see Rachel accomplish all but the cleanup within the given 30 minutes, minus commercial time at that! From the gathering of ingredients at the fridge and in the cupboards to the heating of pots and pans, the chopping and mixing, and the sauteeing and grilling all to the plating, done right there at the counter with a cutting board and the real life shuffling of any number of items in a limited amount of space. Love that!
Must conquer the current menu of recipes, basically really good beef or chicken enhanced with marinades or spice rubs, accompanied by a fresh vegetable or fruit, salad or rice dish. Included: Rolled flank steak with a pepper remoulade, grilled nectarines, roasted carrots w/lemon dressing, cilantro lime rice, sauteed pineapple in brown butter, grilled sweet potatoes with scallions, Tuscan bread salad, cinnamon chicken, rosemary onions, honey roasted plums, brown rice and edamame, and so on.
Next up, braising, and all things Asian, a close second in the favorite food genre. Have allowed myself a few stirfry dishes in this menu cycle, and had success in creating a particular sauce for the first time, familiar from when dining out. I was disgustingly self-congratulatory that night, I tell you! Beyond that, lies the tackling of seafood and who knows what! Any requests?