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Monday, November 22, 2010

Kitchen progress

Last year, I wrote a post about my relatively limited cooking repertoire, and my desire to expand the number of dishes that I know well enough to not work from a recipe. Now that the cold(er) weather has arrived, I'm more enthused about cooking again. Yesterday afternoon I made pumpkin-ginger pancakes...they were very tasty, and more substantial than regular pancakes, but I still somewhat regretted making them my lunch, which usually happens when I decide to make pancakes for a non-breakfast meal.

In addition to the lasagna and quiche that I noted in the previous post, I now feel comfortable improvising with vegetable soup, stir fry, and polenta. Granted, polenta is probably the only thing on that list that goes at all beyond kitchen basics, but I still consider this a reasonable rate of progress. I've also gotten better at preparing salmon a couple different ways and with different accompaniments. And I've made pad Thai a few times, but I'm still pretty tethered to the recipe. Any suggestions on dishes that are relatively easy/quick to make, and can be varied on the fly to stave off boredom?

6 comments:

applegac said...

Teague, I think pastas are really easy and flexible. You start with olive oil and garlic, and then add whatever you have: chopped up sundried tomatoes, any kind of onion or shallot, scallions, leftover bacon, red pepper flakes, chopped up bell peppers, spinach, sausage, olives, capers, whatever. Once things are sauteed, you can deglaze with any leftover red or white wine or with cream, or you can dump in a can of diced tomatoes and let things simmer a bit, or you can just dump your cooked pasta into the pan and mix everything around. After that step, you could add goat cheese or parmesan (those are both lactose-friendly, right?). This kind of pasta sauce is pretty hard to mess up, I think.
Also, congratulations on extending your repertoire! Especially to polenta, which still seems pretty challenging to me.

Teague said...

Thanks, Risa! Those are good pasta tips/ideas.

lj said...

I've become stuck in a cooking rut, myself. I never seem to think of anything beyond this one short list. We like something which we have named "roasty veg." It's not particularly fast, but is very simple, and good for winter: peel and chop a variety of tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, parnsips, etc) and onion, season with salt, pepper, and something else (I often use cumin and paprika), coat with olive oil, then put on a parchment-paper-covered baking sheet in a hot (~475) oven until done, about 40-45 minutes, turning a couple of times. A condiment that goes well with it is greek yogurt mixed with lots of chopped up fresh parsley.

Teague said...

Actually, I picked up a recipe very similar to "roasty veg" from Matt and Risa when I visited them last fall: Sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and an onion -- all tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a baking sheet. I really love this and make it all the time...I tend to think of it as a side dish, but will sometimes use the leftovers as a main dish when packing a lunch for work.

Becoming very familiar with a larger number of dishes is my strategy for avoiding a cooking rut, since there are only a limited number of weekday nights when I can muster the energy to follow a recipe, but I'm usually willing to make a recipe that I've already mastered...

seeligd said...

i heartily agree w/ risa and john's recipe ideas (i have my own variations on pasta and roasty veg :) ), and would just add two of my standby dishes: beans and rice - an admittedly simple dish, but one which can be as comforting as mac & cheese (which for me means somewhere between 5 and 10 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped, sauted, to which i add 2 cans of black beans, only one can drained, some chicken stock (i keep bouillon on hand to make it even easier) hot pepper flakes, lemon juice, and (thanks to my friend eirin) some butter at the very end, after mashing some of the beans so it resembles refried beans. then put it on the rice and enjoy with sriracha, or cilantro, as you see fit), second, tator tot hot dish!

Teague said...

D, I will try the beans and rice recipe, thanks. And I've been meaning to make tater tot hot dish for the longest time, I really need to do that. I know it's dead easy, and as I recall you posted your well-honed recipe on your blog a while back...