Sunday, November 2, 2008
I love food. I love cooking it. I love baking it. I love tasting it. Sitting outside on a beautiful sunny day reading an enticing cookbook is one of my favorite past times. And as much as I love a good recipe, I can barely recall one that I haven’t tweaked a little bit. I think all good cooks tweak their recipes a pinch or two in an effort to add a touch of flare.
I think of recipes as mere suggestions on how to blend a variety of foods to acquire a particular flavor. I’ve found that if I do have a recipe in front of me, I follow the recommendations the first time to see if I like the flavor they're working for. Then, when I eat the cuisine, I start checking off things in my head that I would add or change to possibly improve it.
I have two straight-up rules – one for baking and one for cooking – that I follow every time I’m in my kitchen. One: If I’m cooking up something for dinner and the recipe does not call for onion, I just assume they forgot to write it down and I throw some in. Two: If I’m baking something delicious and the recipe does not mention vanilla, I know they forgot to write that one down, and I add an extra tablespoon or two just to make up for somebody forgetting – how dare they! Many times, I like to think of Vanilla and Almond Extract as long lost loves that never should have been separated and I reunite them and allow them to share the credit and the spotlight when people comment on the fabulous flavor of my desserts.
Of course, the more time one spends in the kitchen, the better one gets at knowing what foods play together well and what foods make beautiful music together. Eating at fabulous restaurants has been my greatest teacher when it comes to knowing what food combinations will make a big splash in the kitchen. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that almost everything goes well together. I’ve been at restaurants and read menus that made me lean back in my chair and think,
YES way! YUM!
I admit, I’ve gone a little overboard once or twice with the theory that all foods play well together in the kitchen. My taste buds, as well as my pride have taken some serious hits in the past, but luckily these little culinary bombs have only gone off in the privacy of my own kitchen.
I’ve learned the hard way never to make a recipe the very first time for a large group of people. I made an eggplant lasagna for the whole family once and it quickly became apparent that I had never worked with the purple vegetable before because it was so tough. Every single dirty plate came back with a slab of eggplant on it. Add to that, the lasagna itself was painfully bland. Very disappointing.
On the other hand, when I create something truly stellar, I do not hesitate to toot my own horn. If I make something that I absolutely adore and want to devour myself, I will literally “Toot Toot” my own horn. Why not? Good eatin’ is good eatin’!
Tonight the horn was blowing crazy loud, after I threw together some foods that I had a feeling might be happy together. I made some mouthwatering meatballs that contained ground beef, chopped spinach, bread crumbs, egg, ketchup, chitpole sauce, salt, pepper, and of course, large pieces of onion – so large, that the ends of them are sticking out of the meatball as you roll it, bake it, and eat it. Oh, and when I rolled them into their little odd-shaped balls, I tucked a perfect piece of Gouda cheese inside, so there would be a surprise lava – if you will – oozing from the center. Kind of like the tootise roll in the center of the Tootsie Pop – that surprise never gets old!
The one Golden rule with this type of cooking is that when you hit the jackpot like I did tonight, you savor every single moment of the flavor, because you didn’t measure a darn thing, so your chances of performing this magic trick again are not good. But you can’t worry about that right now. All your attention should be on the culinary masterpiece sitting right in front of you. With each bite, notice how your taste buds come alive over and over again as if drunk with happiness! Let them enjoy this moment that may never come again. It’s what makes the moment – and these meatballs – so special!
Posted by Sheri at Sunday, November 02, 2008