Thursday, July 20, 2006

Adventures in Cooking.

I can't cook. I can follow a recipe but invariably what comes out isn't nearly as good as I think it should be. Maybe it's just that if I'm going to chop and boil and saute' and bake, I figure some sort of culinary miracle should emerge. It never does. So, I'm (still) learning to accept my limitations. Having a cook certainly helps. But yesterday even the cook couldn't save dinner.

There are plenty of vegetables available at the market. No broccoli unless you want imported-from-France-$10/head broccoli. We pass. But there are fresh carrots, potatoes, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes (I know, technically a fruit), cauliflower, okra, lettuce, leafy greens I can't distinguish, zuchini, eggplant, corn on the cob and others. Fruits span avocadoes, mandarins, watermelon, melon, papaya, apples, pineapple, and mango. Grapes can be found, imported, along with plums and sometimes even kiwis. Those come with a high price tag, and questionable quality.
So why do we feel like we're eating the same old things over and over again? We miss berries and drupes, that I know. Strawberries and cherries, how we love thee. But I think it's more the different taste buds of our individual family members. I'd always thought we were adventurous sorts with our eating, but at home it's proving not to be the case. Katherine and I are the most varied eaters. It takes a near miracle to get Ian beyond carrots and potatoes. The other three kids are happy with sandwiches or plain noodles.
But that doesn't mean I don't ask the cook to make different things. His cauliflower and carrot bake is downright yummy. Yesterday I figured we'd go for corn on the cob, something we haven't eaten for a year and a food we all enjoy. After a long while of boiling to ensure it would be soft, we served it up for dinner.
Nope. It was hard and oh so starchy. Butter made it moderately palatable and the kids made a really good effort to try to eat it, but to no avail.
So rather than throw out 10 ears of cooked corn, I cut off all the kernels and mutilated them in the food processor. While chili was simmering, the too hard kernels from yesterday were made into quite tasty corn fritters for today. I've never eaten, much less made, a corn fritter but I'm happy to say that they turned more than just edible, they were tasty. I have enough corn left over in the freezer to make another batch in the near future.
Another adventure in the kitchen was making our own microwave popcorn. We ran out of ACT II recently but Alton Brown and his book (the heat+food=cooking one) came to the rescue. Did you know you can take 1/3 cup regular popcorn, stick it in a paper bag, staple it twice (yes, I said staple... Brown addresses that in the book... the micro-waves are larger than the width of the staple, so in essence the staples are invisible to the microwave. Just don't let the staples touch the sides of the machine), and microwave for 2-3 minutes. Open the bag and shake in butter, salt, parmesan cheese or whatever, and there you have it. Trust me, it works. Less waste, cheaper, and healthier, it's an all around better idea.

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