Thursday, May 27, 2010

Defeated in the kitchen, and a plea

This post is so somber it doesn't even have an accompanying image. Rest in peace, fusili.

For my entire life up until this point I have had little interest in the preparation of food. I like to dine, but I do not like to cook. I like to bake a little (around the holidays) but I do not like to plan meals. Now and then I'll get in the spirit and cook something for supper. Afterwards I might as well call the HAZMAT team to come in and clean up the mess. I'm the type that clutters a cutting board with so much stuff that I only have 3 square inches on the bottom right corner for chopping. When I was in university I ate cereal for dinner. When I was feeling wild and crazy, I made rice!

And then three things happened that have begun to change my thoughts on my non-existant cooking abilities:

1) I now have Sadie, who needs to eat healthy balanced meals everyday;

2) Husband who I used to rely on for sustenance because he used to love cooking and used to read cookbooks and watch the Food Network obsessively, is losing his zest for the culinary arts. Read: too many frozen pizzas lately.

3) I have been admiring all the beautiful foodie blogs around the web. Good food photography seduces me and makes me want to learn the ways of the likes of Orangette and others.

About a month ago I had dinner with friends at a great Italian restaurant. I ordered a delicious pasta - fusili with butternut squash, granny smith apples, toasted pecans, arugula and a gorgonzola cream sauce. It was so good that I vowed to try it at home. How hard could it be?

I tried last night. Failed miserably. It tasted like feet.

Then I got grumpy and pouted, which always happens when things go wrong in the kitchen. Once I was attempting shortbread and couldn't get the dough to bind and ended up in tears!

So I'm asking you for help. Anyone out there have a great recipe that looks and tastes impressive but is easy peasy for a rookie? Pray tell, where should I start???? I need something that is nearly impossible to screw up......

4 comments:

Garden Girl said...

Hey Sarah,
I am also a little bit culinarily challenged. This is my fool proof, quick and yummy dish that is great for bringing to potlucks as well as having for dinner or lunch. Don't bother with the pine nuts until you're confident making the dish then you can add them in.

Curry Couscous Salad
1/2 tsp curry powder
large pinch turmeric
1 tsp salt (I don't add salt if I am using veg stock that has salt in it)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup dried cranberries
5 or 6 dried apricots, finely chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup couscous
1/2 bouillon cube (any flavour)
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil (optional but I use it because the couscous can be very dry without it)
1 scallion thinly sliced

Mix curry powder, turmeric, salt, and pepper; set aside. Brown pine nuts in a frying pan on high heat for 3 min. (I do this on low-med heat and time it based on when they are brown or not, I found that the nuts burn easily). Let cool. Boil water, dissolve bouillon cube, then add couscous, and remove from heat or turn heat off. Cover tightly and let stand for 5 min. Fluff couscous and add olive oil and spices; mix well. Stir in dried fruit, nuts, and scallion. Serve warm. Serves 2 as main dish, more as a side, or scoop it into pita halves and eat sandwich style. To make dish more filling, mix in a can of chicken or tuna.

good luck! let me know how it goes!!

michelle said...

sarah ok i admit i have a few years of cooking on you. but i do love food blogs and i too have had that dish you speak of at that said restaurant... LOL..

yesterday i made risotto. it was so easy. i swear it was easy. YOU CAN NOT Screw it up. here is the link. it was rich and tasty and even my kids loved it. it did take a tiny bit of time to stir the liquid into the rice but it was SO worth it. i used chicken sausage just remember to remove it from the casing prior to cooking.

http://smittenkitchen.com/2006/11/alexs-restaurant/

Nupur said...

I have a couple of ideas for you:
1. Start with no-cook recipes. Like this no cook tomato sauce http://www.andreasrecipes.com/2007/08/17/no-cook-tomato-sauce-grow-your-own/

or http://foodiefarmgirl.blogspot.com/2007/09/three-no-cook-summer-recipes-mexican.html

2. Start with something very simple to make, like scrambled eggs. Starting off by making impressive dishes may not be the way to go. Instead you could start with basic dishes that taste really good, and go from there. Build up your confidence one dish at a time, and as you find success, you will be excited to cook more.

But here's a dish that is both simple and impressive: http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2008/07/spaghetti_carbo.html

More inspiration:

http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/recipe-roundup/recipes-for-the-graduate-and-other-beginning-cooks-051452

http://cookingwithamy.blogspot.com/2010/05/top-20-cooking-myths.html

You might enjoy this post; the comments are full of ideas for a new cook: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001574.html

Koo and Poppet said...

thanks for all the great suggestions! I will take them to heart :)