The Happy and Not-So-Happy Accidents
Jun. 29, 2012 5:19 pm
Updated: Jun. 30, 2012 4:17 pm
I learned to cook at my great grandmother's and my grandmother's knee...both excellent cooks. And both cooked by feel. "Cooking is a science", so say some of the experts. Well, I respectfully have to disagree. I think cooking is an intuitive process,
and once you've been doing it long enough, you do develop a feel of what will work and what won't. Now that's not to say that everything you try will be a success but you certainly will succeed more than you fail...eventually.
I'd had some really happy accidents. Recently that included a pasta salad and a burrito that was a hit for dinner. Summer has finally arrived in Wisconsin...in spades. I start craving the salads and such when that happens and I spend hours in the heat gardening
I love gazpacho and have it regularly in the summer. I also love pasta salad, and I happen to love the wondeful marriage between the two. I planned to make Gazpacho Pasta Salad this week. Now first you need to understand...I am NOT a lazy cook. In fact,
I will happily make a recipe that has many steps and would send some of my friends screaming from the room. But I AM lazy when it comes to making a trip to the grocery store. I just don't like to do it. So I found myself wanting Gazpacho Pasta Salad with
no cucumbers, and in 100-degree heat, no motivation to head to the store to pick some up. Ok, plan B...dig around in the fridge and freezer and see what I can find. Fresh grilled corn..hmmm...frozen butterbeans (ok I know officially they are Lima beans,
but I'm from the South, and they are always going to be butterbeans to me!). Grilled cherry tomatoes that I had put aside for the Gazpacho version. And some grilled chicken tenders. Ok, idea forming...Succotash Pasta Salad?? Well, ok, why not? I love
succotash. So I gave it a shot with some orzo pasta. I made a simple vinaigrette and threw the ingredients to together with some chives and basil from the garden. Wow...turned out much better than I expected, and I've been eating it for lunch all week!
I'll definitely make again, and I'm already planning some additions to the next one.
Burritos...always thought they are pretty good but not a "wow" dish. Until I had a carne asada one from a local mom-and-pop restaurant that sadly closed after a few months. Oh my, was it good...carne asada, beans, rice, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese, sour
cream, put together and grilled...YUM! I've been on a quest to duplicate that burrito for some time now. This week, I decided to give it a try. Super thin sirloin steaks rubbed with a hot pepper, garlic, olive oil, and lime juice paste and then thrown on
the grill. Sliced into bite sized pieces, and added to tortillas with the same ingredients as mentioned above. Bingo! Nailed it, and we'll be having those again tonight with the leftovers.
And then there's the not so happy ones like my quest to make homemade kimchi. I searched multitudes of recipes until I found one most promising and gave it shot with my own cabbage and the rest of the ingredients (that I made a special trip to the Asian grocery
for). Excited to see how it turned out, I sampled this week. Oh my was this bad! I mean really, really bad. I think it's the fish sauce...I'm trying again but this time NO fish sauce. I usually like that in my noodle salads and such, but it just took
over the kimchi. Inedible and in the trash. And my first attempt at beef barley soup when I added too much barley. In case you don't know, barley expands a LOT--and it's very thirsty. And the time I decided to smoke ghost chiles and then ground them inside.
The entire Waukesha police force could have captured that dust to use to subdue people! We had to leave the house. The powder, for what it's worth, turned out great according to my husband.
I'm not a measurer, and I do have trouble sometimes duplicating a dish because I can never hit that right balance again. I know I should measure when I'm creating something, but I just can't seem to reach for that measuring cup...even when baking, I eyeball
much of my ingredients. Just like my grandmother and great grandmother. Still, I rarely have a baked good that doesn't turn out well or at least be edible. If it's too dry, I grind into crumbs or I use for bread pudding. Too moist...call it bread pudding
and top it with a little whipped cream. : ) I never make a recipe exactly as it states. I love cookbooks and have probably a thousand of them. I use many of them frequently but mostly as inspiration for ideas or as a base to work from.
I love to cook, and I know in spite of what I might tell myself to the contrary, I'll keep cooking as I always have...a dash of this and a pinch of that. I'd love to hear your happy accidents...and your not so happy ones, too.