Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Up On A Soopbox

I’ve got something on my mind..

Exhibit A: A friend stopped by to have coffee this morning, and our conversation turned to food, or more specifically, the preparation of food. I forget exactly where we were in conversation when she made a comment that made me pause. To paraphrase, she sighed wistfully: some people just have an innate ability to know how to put things together. She then went on to say she thought that I was one of those people, whereas she was not.

Exhibit B: Flashback to Thanksgiving 2009, and the whole family is gathering for an epic feast. I offered to do most of the cooking, mostly because only me and one other family member really enjoy cooking, especially for a crowd. During the weekend, two different people thanked me for doing so much of the cooking, but then went on to say that “it’s easier for you, because you like to cook.”

Exhibit C: Flashback even farther to years ago when some people we know had children, and we did not. It was Christmastime and I brought an assortment of cookies. One person looked at those cookies and proclaimed, You won’t have time to cook like this after you have kids! (My snarky yet - wisely - unspoken reply: Yeah, well, you didn’t cook like this BEFORE you had kids).

And my point(s), to all this whining?

Cooking is a learned skill. Yes, my friend from Exhibit A, I now feel that I can mostly “wing it” even if I don’t have a recipe, but that’s because I learned by cooking FROM recipes for the last 20 years. Even someone as thickheaded as me should pick up a few things after that much time. Sure, some people have a greater interest in and talent for cooking than others, but I wish you wouldn’t feel discouraged just because you think you lack some innate ability.

Cooking is work. And although I enjoy cooking, that doesn’t make it less work! It does make the task less onerous. And Exhibit B family, I was oh so happy to hand over the dirty dishes to you – I would much rather cook than clean, but you already know that since you’ve seen my house.

Cooking is a habit. Exhibit C friend, you were right – you do have MUCH less time to cook after you have kids. The arrival of our 2nd made me even more grateful that the cooking habit had been firmly ingrained long before the children arrived. Call me compulsive, but I MUST MAKE SUPPER. I’m also grateful that my kids will eat almost anything – they’re happy with seaweed and rice for supper, though most nights I still manage to throw something half-decent together (ref. Exhibit A). I’m sure that my hubby has noticed a decline in the quality and “fanciness” of the food lately, but hey – it’s still all homemade.

So there you have it: my cooking philosophy. Cooking is a habit that takes effort to learn. Now go make something.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

And So It Begins

I'm talking about CSA season, of course. It's Week Three, which means that we're scrambling for ideas to use up greens. Actually, I signed us up for a late winter/early spring CSA, too, so we've been feelin' the green over here for a couple months already.

I prefer to eat my greens in soup. Kale and sausage is a match made in heaven, but feels too heavy in the summertime. So lately I've been making lots of Asian-inspired soups because they're quick, easy and use lots of CSA produce!
This one is based on a recipe for haddock soup from Aeri’s Kitchen and a cod, chard and potato dish. I made this tonight with flounder fillets and bok choy and it was fantastic.

Korean-Inspired Fish Soup with Greens

For variety, you can add some cubes of firm tofu to the soup at the step when you add the fish. Or place a scoop of cooked rice, some cooked udon noodles or other noodles in each person’s serving bowl and ladle in the soup. Makes 3-4 servings.

6-8 cups of liquid:
anchovy stock, fish stock, dashi, vegetable stock, or water
1 small onion, cut in half and sliced thin
~1 cup of peeled, thinly sliced Korean radish, daikon radish, or salad turnips
1 tablespoon chopped garlic, minced together with 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
1 small hot pepper or a pinch of dried chili flakes, optional
1 to 1-1/2 pounds of fish fillets, cut into serving-sized pieces
2-3 scallions, cut into 1/2” pieces
A few large handfuls of mild-tasting greens (bok choy, chard, turnip greens, Napa cabbage, etc.), washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2-3 garlic scapes, sliced very thinly (optional)

1. Bring the liquid to a simmer in a low, wide pot. Add the onion, garlic, radish and optional hot pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Add the fish fillets and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes. Skim off the foam that rises to the surface of the soup, if you wish.

3. Add the scallions, greens and optional garlic scapes and simmer for another 5 minutes or just until the greens are tender.

4. Eat and feel virtuous – you used up all those veggies, AND you ate some fish.