Been reading up on “basics” lately. I have to say, as I tackle some new recipes (which, I hope, will become the bases of some new go-to dishes for me), I’m pretty pleased at how many “basic” things I’ve already picked up by this point. Between both watching my mother and reading various cookbooks over the years, I think I’m doing pretty well, and it’s got me thinking about my “life” in food.
Would I ever accept an opportunity to go to culinary school? Would I want to be a restaurant cook, or even a full-fledged chef?
No, I can say with very-near certainty.
Can I learn as well in my own kitchen, or become as masterful, on my own as those who do go to culinary school, or those who give their blood, sweat, and tears in various fine restaurants?
Again, I say: No.
But if I’ve learned anything as my life in food has evolved over the last few years, it’s that it doesn’t matter where the education comes from, because I’m just enjoying it as it comes, and that’s good enough. People who’ve known me for a long time know that “good enough” is hard for me to accept. But my “relationship” with food has been one of the most tumultuous of any other in my life over the last few years, and certainly the most successful, if “success” means we each reach a happy medium and move on with our lives and no one gets hurt.
There aren’t many things in my life that make me happier than someone tasting my food and saying they loved it. I’m past the point where I even wonder if they’re telling the truth. Who cares?
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I realized on Sunday morning that I have a ridiculous amount of random, half-empty boxes of dried pasta, in various shapes & forms. Time to start getting some of them out of the way. So, it’s pasta week in my house!
I’ve been putting my new favorite cooking app (and I have a bunch of them, to be sure; I’ll post a list sometime), How To Cook Everything. Buying that app, by the way, is kind of a no-brainer if you’ve ever used Bittman’s actual How To Cook Everything books. Anyway, my pasta dishes of the last two nights have come directly from that app.
First up was the Pasta with Eggplant and Balsamic Vinegar. Even with my pan
Pasta with Eggplant & Balsamic Vinegar
being too hot when I added the vinegar, this ended up being delicious. To add to the deliciousness, I used a riccioli pasta – a shape I’d never seen before – that was a gift from a friend of mine. It somehow tasted fresher than your average dried, boxed pasta. Eggplant & balsamic, of course, is a match made in food heaven. In this dish, biting into the eggplant tasted super smooth, and along with the wonderfully sweet balsamic, had a flavor all its own that stood up to the heaviness of the pasta really well. Some Pecorino is a must.
"Mother In Law's Tongue" Pasta with Mushrooms
Then tonight I did Pasta with Mushrooms, which I admit right now I made some adjustments to, partly due to ingredients available and partly due to me not reading the directions carefully. Regardless, it was great and when I make it again more carefully, I’m sure it will be even better. I had another “special” type of pasta, also a gift, that I wanted to use. I had no idea if the vegetables used to color the pasta would influence the flavor of the dish, but I went for it anyway (it didn’t, but it was also somehow way better than regular old dry pasta). I used shiitakes, but should have used more than just the one package I had bought. I misread the recipe and used a full cup of chicken broth instead of 1/2 cup, but I realized it quickly and drained off some of the liquid before it started to cook down, but that meant losing a bit of the now-mushroom-and-shallot-flavored oil. Oh well. It was still really, really good.
If I had to go to work tomorrow I’d be really excited to open up my lunch bag and find leftovers of either one waiting for me. But tomorrow, like today, is a snow day, so I’ll be doing the next best thing – probably eating lunch in my pj’s.
***UPDATE: 1/11/11 – Recipes Added for Pasta with Mushrooms and Pasta with Eggplant and Balsamic. See Recipes page for more!