*All the recipes I discuss in this section are available through the search section of this site.
Yesterday we discussed How To Shop Like A Foodie. Today, we hit the kitchen. Pick a day to cook with which to block some time (1-2 hours). When you went to the grocery store, you chose a protein, a base and an accessory. From this trio you’ll be making gourmet food all week. You also bought salad greens, herbs and stocked the pantry with vinegar, mustard and a few staples (artichoke hearts, beans, pasta). You’re ready for success.
Let’s say it’s summer, I don’t want to cook a lot because it’s warm and I am eating lots of fresh produce while it’s ripe. I want to make Tuscan Bean Salad (protein), Bulgur with Cucumbers and Tomatoes (base) and Bruschetta Pomodorro (accessory). Need some meat? Pick up a rotisserie chicken at the store or get a nice steak from the meat department for the grill. Simple and minimal prep time. The beans, bulgur and bruschetta can be served at room temperature, heated up or chilled. They travel well, which means you can go on an urban hike or just bring them to work for lunch.
Let’s say you stay home one evening and need a quick dinner. Pour a chilled glass of Pinot Gris; warm olive oil in a pan and sauté Bruschetta Pomodorro until syrupy and fragrant for a simple fresh tomato sauce. Then toss with al dente pasta. Enjoy an appetizer of Tuscan Bean Salad, sliced salami, olives and raw cucumbers. Need an idea for lunch? Bulgur with Cucumbers and Tomatoes and some of antipasti from dinner, now you have a fresh and cooling break in the day.
If it’s winter, I might choose the Roasted Rack of Pork, Salt & Pepper Fingerling Potatoes and Caper and Chive Goat Cheese. All these flavors work together. The extra chives can be sprinkled on potatoes or added to a salad dressing. The goat cheese is great with pork. Make a pannini on ciabatta bread with thinly sliced meat, a smear of goat cheese, and top with arugula. You have a healthy amount of veggies on hand, so it’ll be easy to do a quick sauté or simple salad.
Another option is to boil fresh pasta, toss with a pantry item (artichoke hearts maybe?), fresh garlic, and roasted pork, top with goat cheese. For breakfast, sauté Salt & Pepper Fingering Potatoes with onion and an egg. Do you have any leftover vegetables from dinner? Throw those in too! Does this make sense? Do you get the idea here? The work is done and continues to be a return on your investment, like compound interest. You’re going to have to get creative, but it’s trial and error. Some of your concoctions will be genius and some duds. Just have fun.
So it’s time to get in the kitchen and make culinary magic. We’ll work with the pork/potato/goat cheese scenario. The pork will take the most time; prep that first and get it into the oven. Have all your ingredients set out for the next recipe; let the goat cheese come to room temperature while you prep the potatoes, then with everything in the oven, make Caper and Chive Goat Cheese. Clean as you go. You want to constantly have a fresh space to work with, so put dirty dishes in the washer, and wipe down the cutting board and countertop after each recipe.
This seems like a lot of work? Go on a fieldtrip – pick a night and dine at a restaurant where you can see the kitchen. Sit at the chefs counter or the bar (just so you’re facing the prep area) and watch how cooks work. Quick, clean, prepared. This is how you want to be. Cooks are constantly wiping down their station, having ingredients prepped for the next step and tasting their work to adjust spices. This is your Mr. Miyagi moment, wax on, wax off.