Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Repertoires and other musings

Long time, no entry. Oops.

I haven’t been cooking much recently—a busy schedule and a lack of foresight are the obstacles that seem to get standing in my way. Twice in a row now—twice!—I’ve gone to grocery store with out a list of any kind. I haven’t really given any forethought to what I want to make—which is good sometimes, for spontaneity’s sake but can also be bad (especially when it results in the strange mess of veggies that I sautéed last night and ate over whole wheat bread).

I am not a very spontaneous person. I like to plan things, to know where I stand, whether in the kitchen or out of it. I like the simplicity and straightforward nature of following a recipe. I’m not fond of tweaking, at least not at first. But what really restricts me when it comes to cooking is something else I lack: a repertoire.

I only seriously started cooking for myself about a year and a half ago. Before that I would half-heartedly make cookies and spend several days each summer churning out cups of pesto for the winter’s freezer, but that was really the extent of my interest. I don’t really have a basis for my cooking—there are very few dishes that I can make off the top of my head without a recipe. Sometimes I think this is a good thing—it means I’ll be constantly trying new things. But on a cold and tired Monday evening, when all I have is a handful of okra, tomatoes, onion, and frozen asparagus spears (I have more than that, I promise, but I wasn’t in the mood for it or it didn’t lend itself to the veggies)—it would’ve been nice to have a fall back.

I won’t lie—I’m certainly getting there. I have a tomato sauce recipe under my belt that is both rich and creamy and ridiculously easy to make (I stole the recipe from Orangette, who in turn took it from the talented Marcella Hazan). I have my sautéed fallback—a wonderful, easy dinner that consists of whatever I have lying around sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, and parsley. I often put it over pasta, but bread, salad greens, or by itself works just as well. But that’s really it.

So. It seems clear to me that my next step is to work on my repertoire—be on the lookout in the coming weeks and months as I try to build one! We’ll see how successful this will be. At the moment, I’ve been eyeing recipes for frittatas, salad dressings, and quick chicken or turkey dishes. But I also want to experiment much much more with soups and pasta dishes, explore the world of quinoa, and maybe even branch out into baking desserts and breads. I’m also narrowing down my interests in cuisines—after several attempts to be fascinated by French cooking, I find that it just doesn’t resonate with me. I think Italian and Indian are those that most catch my interest. But we’ll see. I’m hoping that my horizons expand beyond my expectations. Any suggestions or help would be much appreciated—leave words of wisdom in the comments!

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