The Happy And Not-So-Happy Accidents - SoGirl Blog at - 278464


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 spades.  I start craving the salads and such when that happens and I spend hours in the heat gardening every week. 

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 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. 

Jun. 29, 2012 6:23 pm
Darn it! Half way thru the DS called and we have to pick him up car broke down. I agree totally about the intuitive part my grandma being blind! Loved what I got to read!
Jun. 29, 2012 8:50 pm
I'm so glad you recreated the carne asada burrito. I have never been the same since my favorite restaurant shut down. It was a highly expensive, highly unique and innovative Italian restaurant. Perfection it was. MY grandmother raised me and she taught me how to cook from the soul. It took me about 5 times to recreate her vegetable soup but when I did, I told myself it was because I stopped thinking so much. I think maybe we are suppose to measure some but mostly feel the rest. My food definately changes when a lot is going on in my life. Please keep writing and I'll keep reading. :)
Jun. 30, 2012 8:14 am
I think most good cooks use intuition. I made one of my family's favorite recipes that way, Thanksgiving Dinner Casserole. I was trying not to go to the store. I took a traditional green bean casserole, added cubed cooked chicken thighs for the bottom layer. Added a layer of stuffing made with chicken broth mixed in some cheddar cheese. I baked it and served it with cranberry jelly. they ask for it at least 2 or 3 times a month.
Jun. 30, 2012 10:05 am
Thanks, Cat Hill. And wow, did you just prove our theory of intuitive cooking with your grandmother's example! It really does come from the heart, doesn't it?
Jun. 30, 2012 10:08 am
Thanks, MommySmith. We're pretty happy with the burritos. And I love Italian food, too. I bet the restaurant was great! And you are so right about the "thinking" part, too. Letting go and just doing what feels right many times works way better than thinking about what to do.
Jun. 30, 2012 10:09 am
Cmf_cooks, great idea on your casserole and even better that your family loves it. That's why many of us cook, and when it's a hit with loves ones, that's the best success of all.
Jun. 30, 2012 4:17 pm
Hi, wisweetp. My Grandma never wrote very many recipes down for the same reason you are talking about-a pinch of this a pinch of that. Yet, we gobbled up everything my grandma would make. There definitely was a lot of love stirred into her dishes.
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About Me
I'm a born and bred Southerner now living in the Midwest (temporarily!). I learned to cook by watching and helping my grandmother and great-grandmother, both of whom were wonderful Southern cooks who cooked by "feel" rather than by measuring. And that's how I cook now, too. Recipes are more of a suggestion than instruction for me. I love to garden and use my fresh veggies in my creations, especially salsa and hot sauce, which are my specialties.
My favorite things to cook
Baked goods (especially yeast breads), soups, pizza, roasted and grilled veggies...
My favorite family cooking traditions
Christmas candy making with my mom. She lives across the country now, so we haven't been able to do that since I moved..better on the waistlines!
My cooking triumphs
Planning an outdoor party for 20 people where the main course and the main side dish were to be grilled. It was POURING when the time came. I moved everything inside and prepared the food on stovetop and oven, and it turned out beautifully anyway.
My cooking tragedies
Making biscuits at my mom's house one time and accidentally using plain flour instead of self-rising. Needless to say, I had to make another batch of biscuits when I realized what I had done! Otherwise, I've been pretty lucky!
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