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People say I can cook

SCD (Seasonal Cooking Disorder) 
Jun. 12, 2011 10:17 am 
Updated: Jun. 30, 2011 12:53 pm

SCD  Seasonal Cooking Disorder

Something’s happened to my cooking over the last few months.  I’m not skimming through cookbooks or watching cooking shows.  I cook from my head, pulling recipes or large fragments of recipes from memory and I adlib the rest.  Finally made paella without referring to my notes.  Made things up based on whatever caught my eye in the market.

I realized something had really changed when I made shrimp with water spinach.  Water spinach is an Asian vegetable that looks like something ducks hide in at water’s edge.  It’s got a long hollow stem with inch long green leaves spaced along its length.  We called it grass for years until this year when I went on a crazed Google hunt and finally discovered the name.  In Flushing it’s only marked with Chinese characters.  It’s a nice green, stir fries easy, only negative is that it really should be used within a day, it deteriorates fairly quickly.  I was tired of doing it with pork and the typical garlic/ginger/scallion sofrito so I was scanning the internet for ideas.

Have you used Google Recipes?  What a great tool!  I type in water spinach and hit search, get the usual comprehensive list then on the left side of the page I hit Recipes, BAM, everything disappears except actual recipes.  Water Spinach with Shrimp at looked interesting, used some coconut milk, a plus.  I wasn’t sure about the combination but boldly went ahead anyhow to break the boredom.

Read the recipe as I went along off an old laptop on the counter and clicked off when I was done.  The kid and She raved about it,  the kid goes this is really good, I go yeah thanks, he goes No, Seriously.  She chimed in It is really good.  I guess they was telling me it was RQ.*  I thought the flavor was super authentic, like something I would eat in Flushing.  Yada yada yada.  The point is I didn’t save the recipe.  I’ve saved recipes before that just looked interesting.  This was a winner and I let it go.

(*RQ = restaurant quality)

I guess I could blame it on Saturn along with the chicks in the basement and my rearranged office but I would hate to think I am drifting away from cooking, me being a self proclaimed expert and all.  My family doesn’t know what’s going on.  No one here can cook anyway and I still mess around trying to change and complicate things just to keep it interesting.

I’m thinking that it has to do with the change in season, the arrival  of barbecue weather,  of finding soft shell crabs at the fish market.  (I love soft shell crabs and if you don’t I sincerely thank you for helping to lessen demand and increase availability.  Easy to clean, fry up just like green tomatoes, eat with a fork, mild briny and delicious.) 

I mean barbeque isn’t really cooking, is it?  Prep it, season it, toss it on the coals.  I may trim or brine the meat, make up a seasoning, soak the unhusked corn for a few hours prior to roasting it but that’s not really cooking.  I slivered garlic and poked it with butter into potatoes with a skewer prior to wrapping them in tinfoil and putting them on the grill.  So what?  The coals do the cooking.  And there’s nothing to clean up.

I use a Weber, the big plain cheap kettle.  After messing around with hibachis and gas grills I bought my first one maybe 20 years ago for about $45.  Now they are $90, exactly the same except that the wood handles have been replaced with plastic.  Capacity is huge unless you have three adult sons, and then it’s barely adequate.

But it's not all about the barbeque.  She wanted spaghetti with white clam sauce.  Don’t need a recipe.  Steaks and those wonderful crashed baked potatoes from the Pioneer woman.  Recipe not required.  Started experimenting with deep dish pizza.  Blasted out two pounds of meatballs hoping to wind up with some leftovers.  She wanted with pork chops in sauerkraut last week and I haven’t made that since before the kids were born (using a recipe) over 24 years ago.  Made it up as I went along and I guess I'm a better cook now because it came out great, much better than any of my long ago attempts.  Didn’t use a recipe.  Didn’t write down what I did. 

It is all about the barbeque.  It’s the arrival of weather that makes windows open.  Breezes blowing through the house.  Just as easy to cook and eat outside as in.  Comfortable.  In a month though the temps here will begin to ratchet up and I’ll be hiding inside in the AC.  When tending the coals means standing in air that makes sweat drip from the end of my nose the allure of the Weber will fade.  I’ll be back in the kitchen.  Quite possibly I’ll be back to researching cooking and recipes.  I’ll keep you posted.

Jun. 30, 2011 12:53 pm
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