March 3, 2009

All by myself

You know that feeling you got when your training wheels came off and you were finally able to petal without those intruders on your back tires? That's what I feel when I cook without a cookbook. I admit that I take extreme pride in the fact that I am now able feed myself without one. Not only do I not get help from Chef Boyardee or Betty Crocker, Julia Child and Molly Katzen have also been strangers to my kitchen lately.

I must say I owe much of my limited kitchen knowledge to a couple chefs I dearly admire at Heartland restaurant, who also give me family meal leftovers to savor between my boring salads and generic stir-fry. The restaurant has slowly given me confidence to attempt making a roux-base for a soup or to ambitously attempt Coq au Vin for my family. Of all the things I'm learning, I've found the most difficult to be dicing vegetables. Attention to detail is never more paramount in the professional kitchen than when it comes to this task -exactness, precision, and consistency are all required.

(Don't mind the smudge on the stovetop, I cleaned it up.)

Since I was all diced-out, this week I decided to make something that only required a rough chop - kale. I could nearly feel the kale limping as I grabbed the bunch out of my veggie drawer. It sure is durable in the soil, but it tends to take on a finicky nature once in storage. There aren't many things that make me more happy in the winter than kale. It's a food that's got all the qualities that I like in people - adaptable, strong, robust, and elegantly sophisticated. Blanching the kale and sauteeing it with onions has proven to be one of the best culinary marriages my trusty cast-iron has seen.

This past year has been a food-obsessed whirlwind for me, bringing me from digging potatoes to dicing them and learning from the people involved. I've learned that farmers and chefs are just as fascinating to me as food in itself, if not more. I admire their ability to take joy in their creations and their passionate nature. My experiences with food and foodies are starting to come full circle, enabling me confidently sustain myself and having fun doing it.

And you want to know what else I did by myself? The dishes.

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