Last Sunday I served a roasted corn on the cob. There were two different recipes – one called for Ancho Chile powder – the other didn’t. Once called for lime juice – the other didn’t. Neither called for Queso Fresca – yet that’s what I wanted.
So I made up a butter dip incorporating all the things I wanted. It turned out good enough both dinner guests asked for the recipe.
Yesterday, I grilled pork chops. I wanted a wild rice side dish to go with them. With CRANBERRIES. Do you think there’s a recipe like that on Cooking Light or Epicurious? NOOoooo – Of course not. I knew before I started, because I’ve searched before. Yet time and time again I find myself wishing I had a wild rice pilaf dish with chewy cranberries nestled among the nutty grains.
So last night I made one up – using a wild rice STUFFING recipe as a guide.
It turned out so good, I wish there’d been someone around to share it with me. Plus – seeing the leftovers, my mind couldn’t help but think how good they’d be mixed with chopped grilled chicken breast and a light vinegar dressing as a salad. So the leftovers are in the freezer. (See? That’s how you cook great food for one.)
The other day at Trader Joe’s I’d purchased some small whole wheat Pita Pockets, which I’d been planning to use for sandwiches. Today after church, I stopped by the store to buy potatoes for the Potato Salad I’ll take to a fried chicken dinner at a friend’s house tonight.
It was lunchtime, and I knew I needed to make something simple when I got done shopping for lunch. I decided I’d have chicken salad. I didn’t have time to grill the chicken, so I totally broke down and bought canned white meat chicken. (Please do not discuss this at length. It makes me VERY nervous to contemplate ANY type of canned meat – and so far, this is the only one I’m willing to risk. Even TUNA, unless it’s Italian in olive oil, is suspect to me.)
Did I make a traditional chicken salad? NO. For some reason – I just can’t bear the idea of mayonnaise based dressing (a recent trend, as I DO like mayo, I just don’t want it in/on my salads these days.) Knowing no mayonnaise was the first departure from a “traditional” chicken salad I wondered, “What else are you going to do?” I knew there was lovely fresh basil and mint to steal from Grace’s Garden (the best neighbor on the whole planet), and I had watercress and grapes leftover from my Red/White/Blue Salad for the Fourth of July BBQ to use up. I chopped up the mint, made a chiffonade of the basil, quartered the grapes and diced a little red onion to the chicken. “Now, what to bind it all together?” I asked myself.
“Balsamic Vinegar and Olive oil,” was the answer that returned. I poured both into a small container, vigorously shook them until they emulsified and enlivened with it with some sea-salt and cracked black pepper. It tasted great – but not PERFECT. However stuffing the watercress into the pita pocket – then packing in the chicken salad solved my dilemma. Within minutes I was chomping away with satisfaction wishing all of YOU were here to join me.
If you’re a regular reader (or even if not), you can tell I love cooking and feel fairly confident in the kitchen. In September I’ll be attending a “Tomato Taste Test” in Philadelphia with friends.
I am so excited, I tell EVERYONE about this upcoming trip. Even if they don’t like me – or care about cooking, I tell them, “OMG I’m going to Philly. My friend is growing 7 different varieties of tomatoes and we’re going to taste/cook ALL OF THEM!”
I’m not afraid of going to Philly. I’m not afraid to eat tomatoes (although truth be known, I don’t like them a whole lot.) … what’s scared me is this missive that I received about the weekend.
“I am thinking that since we will focus on fresh tomatoes & herbs, that the general cooking style will be Italian/Greek.... Fresh fish, Meat, Veggies, Olive Oil, and fresh produce. Everything fresh and light...... whatever we can pick and the freshest ingredients we can find at the market that day.”
Nothing frightening in that part. In fact, it lines up perfectly with my cooking ethics. But here’s where it gets scary. He goes on to say,
“ There will be NO RECIPES.... that is the number one rule.... we will cook what is available.”
I almost had cardiac arrest.
“NO RECIPES??!! I can’t cook without a recipe! What is he thinking??? I’ll totally screw up – the food will taste like shit.”
On and on, my OVER-INVENTIVE mind trudged ‘round and ‘round my cranium.
“NO RECIPES. NO RECIPES. NO RECIPES.”
It was like an earworm playing before I went to bed and when I woke up.
“NO RECIPES. NO RECIPES. NO RECIPES.”
During church, at the Praise & Prayer section, I wanted to stand up and proclaim, “Holy GOD! He wants me to cook WITHOUT A RECIPE! Please dear Lord, save me in my hour of need.”
Then I went by Grace’s to steal those herbs for the chicken salad. She came out of the house to return the Ancho Chile Powder she’d borrowed to make the grilled 4th of July corn.
“It was the hit of the party.” she told me. “Everyone wanted to know where I got the recipe from. I said, ‘Mit is the Medlin Street Chef’d Cuisine.’ Everything comes from her.”
As she helped me pinch the Basil off she said, “What are you going to use this for?” I told her my plan for the chicken salad.
“You are so inventive! How DO you come up with all these ideas? she said. I could NEVER cook without a recipe.”
I started to say, “Me too.”
Then I thought about it.
Fear is silly isn’t? And irrational.
I cook ALL THE TIME without recipes. I just think of tastes that go good together. Textures that complement. Colors that contrast – and “blamo” I have a recipe.
Clearly I CAN and DO cook successfully without recipes.
As I contemplated this revelation (and deliverance from God) I wondered. “What else in my life ‘CAN I do?’ … ‘Do I do?’ that I don’t recognize as being a skill?”
“What fears hold me back from moving forward? Completely UNREALISTIC FEARS. Fears that I prove wrong EVERY DAY??”
It’s scary to think about isn’t it? Fear holding you back from succeeding, when you’re already doing the very thing you’re afraid of!
I’ve decided I need to develop a litmus test for fear - I’m not sure how to go about administering it – but clearly it’s needed if I want to keep moving forward, and onward, in my life and with my dreams.
What fears are holding you back?
Are they realistic?
Or are they like mine?
Unfounded yet fermenting?