Monday, November 13, 2006

Proud and Bragging

Proud and Bragging


Sometimes it’s the little things I do in my day-to-day life that make me proud of myself. Tonight for instance. I cleaned up my kitchen before I sat down to write. Although I worship at the alter of orderliness, we also know Procrastination has earmarked me for his own.

So – Ha! Ha! Procrastination. My kitchen is clean, and now I’m going to write before I surf. Take that!

Bragging & Preening & Satisfied

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about cooking. Cooking? …It’s my muse, my art, my release, and my therapy. It’s the way I share friendship, show concern and love.

A week ago one of my dinner groups met. My responsibility was the salad. For me, cooking requires full use of my senses. I think about the time of the year, what’s in season, the weather and what the rest of the meal will encompass. This time our main course was meatloaf. Umm, meatloaf. A perfect fall main course. My mind began to spin. Salad, a fall salad. What is the essence of fall, the essence of fall in North Carolina? Why apples of course! Sometimes I have a taste – or idea in mind. I go to several of my favorite sources to find what I’m looking for. This time however, “apple salad” turned up nothing of the dish in my mind. And what you ask was tumbling around up there?

Apples are a beautiful fruit. Glossy and multi-colored. Green, yellow, red, some Impressionist marked with flames. I find there is poetry in their names; Cotton Sweet, Crimson King, Dixie Red Delight, Fall Wine, Winesaps, Pink Ladies, Gala’s and Breaburns and Granny Smith. Can you imagine how beautiful they’d be, diced with their skin on in a bowl, jewel like tones temping you to bite? So that was the first element I wanted to bring to my salad. The mountains of North Carolina are home to apple orchards from antiquity so how fitting to design a fall salad around these grand old dames.

A dish must have more than one element. So sit and think. What else reminds you of fall? Crimson colors? Dried fruit? With the sweet apple shouldn’t there be a counter balance taste? Why yes … how about dried sour cherries. Once again in my minds eye I could see these small jewels lying in among the white flesh of the diced apples. Two elements down … how many more to go? Texture is so important to what we put in our mouth. I had chewy, I had juicy, now I needed some crunch – look out pecans. How much more southern could it get? Those were my elements, now I needed to bind them together. Sour cream was sturdy enough – but with time it would become too think. How do you thin it, yet enhance the flavor? Hmmm, maybe some apple cider? And what about kick? Shouldn’t the dish have a surprise? Something unexpected for the south? What other culture uses apples and spice … why Indian Curries! So there it was, sour cream, some red curry paste, cardamom, cinnamon and a touch of cloves. It was a success. Crunchy, chewy, sweet with a kick! The Fall Curry Apple Salad was born.

But cooking doesn’t stop there. Friday night I invited a guest for dinner to celebrate his Bon Anniversaire. The menu? Since it was a Friday night I wanted nothing too time consuming. I settled on Flank Steak with Corn-Kernal Polenta; Red Wine Maple Glazed Carrots, and Sautéed Broccoli with Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes. You see, not only does the food have to stir the pallet, it must also please the eyes as it sits on the plate. I’m always embarrassed when I sit down to eat and take a bit of something and I can’t help myself but say, “Ymmmm. This is really good. But I did that night.

Friday night down, two nights to go. Sunday was, as you read, the gathering of the gorging gang. In fact, I think we’re going to make it a Sunday night habit. A gloomy day calls for bright flavors – the remembrance of spring. So I treated them to Citrus Chicken – a sautéed chicken breast – flavored with lemon, orange and lime zest – plus a hint of red pepper and thyme served on a bed of spinach. To accompany this repast? Apple glazed carrots and lemony couscous. The guest brought bread, dessert and wine. What more could you want as the perfect end to a week – and the stage-setting for the week to come?

Cooking for groups and friends is fun. But you know, I cook like that for myself too. Tonight – as helped clients on the phone, I prepared Chicken Breast with Goat Cheese Sauce, Creamy Lemon Orzo and Orange Carrots with Cumin. With leftovers like these, who wants to go out to lunch?


Joe said...

Hey, when you have time, you should come over and we can go to Rue Cler. It's only about a mile from my house; I can walk there in 20 minutes. Woo-hoo! :)

Keetha said...

Um, when can I come over to eat dinner?? These meals sound so lovely! I love the way you talk about food; you seem to take such joy in the colors and flavors and textures. It's refreshing!