Looking Forward to Getting ‘Cooked’

Yes, I know this post title sounds bizarre. It makes me chuckle, so bizarre it shall be.

cooked

I just caught part of an interview with Michael Pollan in which he talked about his new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.

First of all, I am excited to read his new book! I just got myself onto the waiting list at the library. 🙂

Second, there were a couple things he said that reminded me of some particular events from my own life that I’d like to jot down here.

Once upon a time, part of my job included grocery shopping for a household, but I was not the person who did the cooking. In retrospect, I can see that this could be challenging for the person who would ultimately do the cooking. I know that as the cook in my own home, I prefer to also be the one in control of the grocery shopping. Who better to know what’s needed for the coming week? That wasn’t really possible in this particular situation, so those tasks were split.

What brought me down this particular section of Memory Lane was Michael Pollan’s recommendation to “Shop for Ingredients, Not Meals”. I remember being so irritated when my coworker complained of there being nothing to make. I knew there were all kinds of wonderful ingredients in the house. I stocked them! I finally realized he was looking for something easier. It was a source of tension, two different approaches to cooking. I never did make the move to buying convenience foods, so I was probably a source of annoyance to my coworker for the duration of that arrangement. I don’t regret buying quality ingredients rather than ready-made meals. My job was to stock the household with good sources of nutrition, which is what I did.

Pollan also noted that a lot of people don’t cook these days because they feel they don’t have time. I won’t lie. I have two frozen pizzas in my freezer right now, and there are some hectic evenings when I’m glad to have an option like that. I do try not to rely on those kinds of foods often, though. I’ve found over the years that it is possible to cook up a healthy meal fairly quickly if need be. For me, occasional meatless meals on these busier evenings have helped me provide quick meals for my family that are still real food. I do cook, but you won’t typically find me spending hours cooking our evening meal. (Once in a while, yes.) Thinking of cooking and time reminds me of a conversation with an older woman visiting from India who asked me if I cooked. I told her yes, and she asked me how many hours I spent cooking. She went on to tell me of her marathon cooking sessions. I was never sure if she was trying to make me feel inadequate or what. Maybe she envied me? I don’t know. Just a funny story that still makes me smile.

And as it happens, I’m off to start dinner. For the record, onight’s dinner will take about two hours to complete.

See, I’m enjoying Cooked before I’ve even gotten my hands on a copy. Maybe I’ll be back to talk more about it after I’ve actually read it!

Time to get cooking!

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Curried Apple and Celery Soup

Wow, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve shared a recipe here.  I really got into a cooking rut over the winter, and frankly didn’t try many new things.  Then, in the spring, my husband announced that he was going on the Paleo Diet.  The challenge involved did perk up my interest in cooking for a while – any shortcuts in the kitchen went against his requirements.  For example, I made my own chicken stock for the first time in a long time.  Unfortunately, Paleo goes against my own natural appetite.  No grain?  No legumes?  So much meat.  I suppose it was my own lack of enthusiasm that kept me from sharing recipes.

After the initial 30 days, hubby was ready to relax the rules a bit.  I may have relaxed a bit too much.  I could actually see how this diet benefited hubby’s health.  I need to find a good balance.  Grains and legumes will be part of my life, but they can usually come in the form of a side dish, so hubby can avoid or partake as he chooses.  This soup is a compromise.  The meat and veggies fall in line with the rules, but I did use store-bought chicken broth, and I did include salt.

Curried Apple and Celery Soup

Ingredients

2 T butter
1 apple, diced
1 small bunch celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 T cumin
1 T red curry powder
2-3 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.
2. Add apple, celery, garlic, cumin and curry to skillet.  Cook until tender.  Add a bit of broth if needed to prevent sticking.
3. Remove to blender.  Add broth and puree, using enough broth to achieve desired consistency.
4.  Return to skillet.  Add the chicken, salt and pepper and simmer for a few minutes before serving.

This is one of those dishes that doesn’t look the way it tastes.  Luckily, I wasn’t entering a cooking competition with it (not that I’ve ever entered a cooking competition). In a perfect world, all food would look pretty as well as taste good. In my reality, that’s not always the case. Unpretty as it was, it tasted SO good. It was quite spicy.  My son liked it, but my daughter thought it TOO spicy.  The combination of flavors work well together, but you may want to experiment with how much cumin and curry to add.  This made three servings.  If I make this again, I will likely increase the amount of celery, apple and chicken to yield more, while lessening the spiciness for my daughter’s sake.  My cooking often is experimental.  That’s half the fun, I think.  🙂

The unpretty but delicious result.

In the dirt

I spent a quite a bit of time in the dirt this weekend.  My husband and I weeded our garden and harvested some peas and radishes.  We have some blossoms starting on our watermelons, and it looks like we will get about 3 or 4 ears of corn.  Not much of the corn we planted came up.  We finally have a few blossoms on our tomato plants too.  Time will tell if we get some tomatoes.  We started them from seed, and we might not have gotten them transplanted soon enough.  Our spring was cold, though, so I don’t know what we could have done differently.  However much we get, I have enjoyed our experience with the garden this summer. 

Outside the garden, I also did some mowing and more weeding in rockbeds and flower beds.  So far, so good as far as allergies.  I’m so glad! I like to be outside, plus there is plenty of work to be done outside.  It is hard for me to stay indoors when my allergies are at their worst. 

I’d like to share a recipe for the potato salad I brought to a potluck dinner over the weekend.  It’s not a typical potato salad, and it’s perfect for this time of year.  Our vegetables came from the CSA, but they are also available at the grocery store or farmers’ market.

Ingredients:
1 pound new red potatoes
1 pound green and yellow beans
1 small sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
* Gently scrub potatoes.  Leave skin on.
* Bring pot of water with potatoes to a boil. Cook until they can be pierced with a fork or toothpick.  Remove to a bowl to cool.
* Trim beans and cut to 2 inches in length.  Bring pot of water and beans to a boil.  Cook about 5 minutes until crisp-tender.  Remove from pan and allow to cool.
* When potatoes have cooled, cut into 1 inch chunks.
* Chop onion.  Combine potatoes, beans, and onion in a large bowl. 
* In a small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar and parsley, and pour over vegetables.  Toss to coat. 
* Chill in refrigerator for one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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I listed red wine vinegar, which is what I would normally use. This time, I used a fun vinegar that my husband picked up for me.

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I worried that the cherry flavor might not go, but it was good.Isn’t it nice that my husband bought me fancy vinegar? I think he gets me. 😉

This week kicks off another phase of ‘busy sporty summer.’ My daughter starts track and field, and my son starts a new session of golf. And hopefully I will continue to squeeze in some running.

Do you like to dig in the dirt? How would you describe your summer?

HaPpY MoNdAy!!