Monday, September 24, 2007

I want to be a foodie.

I'm not totally sure what really constitutes a "foodie" (a judge just used the term on Iron Chef) but my presumption of its meaning seems to really capture what I want: I want to really know food, know GOOD food, know how to plan simple but delicious meals that focus on seasonal and local foods, and know how to prepare really good food. The first thing out of my mouth every time I'm asked what I'd do if I won the lottery is that I'd attend a good chef school or get private training in cooking techniques. Ten years ago I seriously considered bagging a lifetime of techie work to go to chef school, but I just couldn't rationalize putting that kind of effort into trying to get into a job with terrible hours, rotten pay to start, difficult working conditions, and where women still have a rough time proving themselves to be as worthy as the guys. All I really want to do is learn to cook really well for myself and the people I love.

I don't do too bad, though. I'm a totally improvisational/gut instinct cook, which usually works and sometimes doesn't. I love cookbooks and cooking-related magazines and websites and cooking shows, but to me a recipe is simply a guide; in fact I wish I could be more disciplined to follow certain recipes in order to use them as a basis for learning a core set of techniques.

I am pretty proud of some of the things I made recently, though. The other night when our friends were in town, I made local kale sautéed in a really good olive oil with white beans, onions and garlic; penne pasta (boxed) with more olive oil and fresh grated really good parmesean cheese; and shrimp coated with a slightly spicy dry rub and course salt mixture and then pan grilled in my granny's 60+ year old cast iron skillet (one of my most precious possessions). Then tonight it was more pan-grilled shrimp, but this time coated with a paste of olive oil, salt, pepper and a little bit of brown sugar; simple white rice cooked with salt and olive oil and butter; and a sauce made from butter, lots of garlic, a bit of vietnamese red pepper/garlic sauce, a bit of brown sugar, a little squeeze of lime, and a whole lemon - I then took the sauce and used it to deglaze the pan once the shrimp were done. I'd planned to also roast some fresh local brussels sprouts, but it was late and they take about 45 minutes to roast properly, so that will make it into a different meal in a day or two.

What I enjoy most is figuring out how to make really good food that doesn't take hours and hours to fix. Tonight's dinner took me 20 minutes - the time it took the rice to cook. Dinner the other night took maybe 30, but a good 10 of that was just from washing the local farm-grown kale which is always dirtier than the presumably pre-washed stuff from the grocery store. I'm the queen of the quick meal, baby. I just want to be the queen of the quick meal made using better techniques, more focus on local ingredients, and a greater variety of foods and dishes.

If anyone reads this far, then there's a chance that you're a foodie as well. If you know of sites or blogs that really feed that need to learn more about cooking and share ideas and recipes, please let me know about them!!


YardbirdSax said...

I too love "cooking on the fly." I think I've used a measuring cup maybe twice in my life! Maybe that's why any attempts at baking tend to end rather explosively. :) Anyway, here's a couple good food blogs I've enjoyed lately:

Jaden's Steamy Kitchen - Good Asian style dishes, and the lady is hilarious to read as well.
BlakeMakes - If you like Southern New Orleans style cooking, you'll love this.
Last Night's Dinner - Nice classical / elegant fare from a gal in Brooklyn... I'm very jealous of having all those wonderful restaurants and such; then I remember how damn noisy the city is.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks - Be warned: most of these dishes will instantly raise your cholesterol by at least twenty points! They're still really good though.

Here's to us wannabe foodies! :)

Mr. Biddle said...

check out my neighbor's blog:

Leslie said...

Yardbirdsax, I never thanked you for these links - they led to many long sessions of drooling on my keyboard.

Mr. Biddle, I'm not sure who you are (it won't let me link to you at the moment) but thanks for that site -- the Pumpkin Flatbread with Caramelized Onions, Gorgonzola, and Crispy Sage has me gasping with "I want to make that NOW!!!"

Leslie said...

Oh, never mind!! Mr. Biddle = Prairie Rose House blog!!

Thanks for stopping by and for the delicious link!