I'm glad you're now taking pictures for the blog, but I have to say that your last post was a total bait and switch. I thought I was going to see cookies! Who wants to eat the moon? I demand more cookie pictures now as recompense.
Now, if I can stop thinking about cookies, I wanted to write today about a troubling subject. Awhile back, I got in a cooking rut. Do you ever have this problem? Side note: I have heard rumors that our tiny blog public is growing ever less tiny so now would be a good time to comment on solutions for a cooking rut. Perhaps our tiny blog public never has cooking ruts (lucky bitches), or perhaps they simply enjoy the cooking of others. But I'm open to suggestions if you too have suffered this affliction.
Just to make sure you get the picture, a cooking rut isn't a sudden inability to read recipes and follow instructions. Nor is it some magical rotting curse on food I touch or a series of kitchen explosions. These, though unfortunate, are the not the problem. A cooking rut is like writer's block, a loss of inspiration. It's kitchen malaise and food frustration. It's lofty goals and leftover disappointments. It's a failure to imagine as well as failure to execute. Litany concluded.
I am ashamed to cop to this intermittent affliction on my very own food blog. How can I have a food blog and be unable to cook something original and delicious? Even writing this I worry that some Blogger Secret Police will come shut us down. Or worse (for you anyway): maybe it means we'll never get rich and famous!
But I am determined to persevere. And so, Tofurkey and fair and growing blog public, I bring my plight to you for your judgment, and hopefully encouragement and suggestions.
My boyfriend, ever the engineer, would suggest that I seek the root cause of my problem. Done: butternut squash soup. For reasons surpassing understanding, I seem incapable of making a good squash soup. I say this surpasses understanding because a passable squash soup is simply boiled squash, pureed with some seasoning. What's hard about that?
Granted, I've only made two attempts, but the first was close to inedible (due to a measuring error) and the second received a tepid response from friends. Here it is:
|Butternut squash soup with a cider base topped with sizzled sage, toasted squash seeds, and sometimes creme fraiche|
Forget the analysis; whatever the cause, it wasn't that good and it put me in a food funk. For about a week I couldn't make anything done. So I surrendered the battle, but not the war--squash soup, I'm coming for you in 2013!.
My solution to a food rut is to ride it out with old standbys. You know, cook the reliable dishes I can make in my sleep with my eyes closed. Who sleeps with their eyes open you ask? Most cooking sleepers, that's who!
Or better yet, I make things that involve no cooking! Like salads. I love salad, and I'm not ashamed to say it. I know you, Tofurkey, also love salad because you're vegan and you have to because it's part of the charter. So you may not know that among some company, liking salad makes you less of a man. Probably also not something you're worried about.
Salads are great because they're so easy and so versatile. They can be cold or hot. They can be savory or sweet. They can be vegan or have eggs and cheese and slaughtered animal all over them. What's not to love?
Here are some of mine of late:
|My everyday garden salad|
|Heirloom tomato caprese|
|That's not the slaughtered animal that's red. It's a beet salad.|
Too often my love of salad is tested by restaurants that think spilling some lettuce and grated carrot out of a bag and putting a cherry tomato on top makes a salad. It doesn't. So because I've gotten a lot of compliments on my salads lately (to make up for the squash soup maybe), I thought I'd share my simple rules about making salads. Maybe if anybody in our tiny blog public is one of those "I hate salad because, like, who wants to eat dirt?" people, he'll see the error of his ways.
- Use fresh ingredients. That doesn't mean you gotta grow it (though that helps); just don't get your greens out of a bag please.
- Mix it up. Try different greens (where applicable). Lots of those weeds have different tastes.
- On top of those weeds, add some herbs. Cilantro and basil are great, but even parsley or thyme means that dressing doesn't have to do so much work.
- Essential: a salad must have more than four colors. I know you think you can't taste colors, but you can. Try it. And yes, white counts.
- Add a good mix of vegetables, but don't overdo it or cut them too small. Leave big bites.
- Salads should have fruits as well as vegetables (for non-garden salads like caprese, this rule can be skipped). And no, tomatoes don't count for fruits here. Stick something sweet in there.
- Corollary: A dried fruit and a fresh fruit make good salad friends
- Add nuts, preferably toasted. You can substitute croutons for this crunch if you must, but nuts are better. Walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, and almonds are my usual. You can also substitute sunflower seeds.
- Add a cheese (vegans, sadly, skip this step). Softer cheeses tend to be favored, like feta, bleu, or goat cheese, but harder grating cheeses, like parmesan, can be good too.
- Meat and dressing should be kept on the side. Preferences about this are so individual it's safer to let your friends decide. Oh, and the salad keeps better this way. So you can make a whole big bowl and eat it throughout the week without it getting mushy or soggy.
That's it! Maybe next post I'll get to rules for making dressing.