Monday, August 27, 2012

Cooking For Yourself

Ages ago, I picked up a cookbook called "Cooking For Yourself." It was part of the Williams-Sonoma canon and I snagged it on deep discount while I was working there.

I wasn't feeling all militant and single or anything - it just had some good recipes. And some good thoughts on how to buy food without wasting it, and without eating the same thing for a week. Despite the whole foreword about how you shouldn't feel bad about yourself because you're cooking solo.

I kid. It doesn't really say that. Well, not in so many words.

Anyway, I latched onto one recipe in this thing right away, and it's still something I make, 10+ years later.

It is, in fact, ideal, when you are cooking for yourself. As I was, tonight.

Also, I was super hungry. And also, I'm eating lightly this week so I can wear this certain dress to Rayleen & James' wedding this weekend. A very pretty dress. A very unforgiving dress.

Eating lightly for me means fish and veggies. For some reason, that seems to work for me. So I went back to my old salmon-in-a-packet standby.

It's so easy. Even if you're not cooking for yourself, you should add this to your repertoire. Just multiply the ingredients and packets.

And if you are cooking for yourself, I have a bunch of tricks that make this super single-person friendly.

Here's how it goes:

Go to the store and get yourself a nice piece of wild, line caught, salmon. Then go to the salad bar. Get corn, red peppers, and jalapenos. You want about 1/2 cup of corn, 1/4 cup red peppers, and a couple of tablespoons of jalapenos. And cilantro, a few tablespoons of that. If you remember to get cilantro, which I did not. 

Chop up the peppers if you need to. Try to get the pieces roughly the same size. Perfection is not required here.

Salt and pepper the corn/jalapeno/pepper mix and put it on a piece of foil. Add a few dots of butter.

Put your piece of salmon on top of the pile.

Oh. Crap. Set your oven to 450! You should have done that before! Do it now!

Ok, and then take a wedge of lime and squeeze it over your salmon on the pile of veggies. Salt and pepper it, and place lime wedges on top and then dots of butter.

Pull up the long sides of the foil and fold over the top so it's sealed. Then roll up the ends.

Now bake it. For 15 minutes. Or 20 minutes if you have a super thick filet, but I suggest you cook it for 15.

Be super careful when you take it out as you don't want to burn yourself on the steam coming from the packet of delicious.

It'll look like this:

If you, like me, had a piece of salmon with the skin on it, remove the salmon with a spatula to a cutting board. Flip it over and peel off the skin.

Tasty! (And healthy!)

The juices are delicious, by the way. You may want to consider serving this in a bowl so you can drink the juices at the end. Luckily, you're dining alone so such behavior is totally ok.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Blue Suede Shoes

It's summer. Also I evidently have insomnia tonight. Fun. Seems like a good time to write a blog post. Sorry I've been such a slacker.

Here's a dinner I made the other day. Man, I love summer produce. This was a nicoise-inspired thing. A little steamed red potato and green beans, a few halved grape tomatoes, some dijon-ish vinaigrette, and a nicely seared piece of tuna.

People act like cooking is a big deal, but it's not. It's actually simple if you follow a few basic rules.

1. Buy and eat what's in season. Guess what this means? No tomatoes in March. Sorry. I know you love tomatoes, but too bad. You'll appreciate them all the more when they come into season in August. You'll eat your face off with heirlooms and beefsteaks and dry farmed early girls, and cherry tomatoes in four different colors. It's worth the wait.

2. Keep it simple. I can't tell you how far a decent ($15 a bottle, not $40 a bottle) olive oil, some kosher salt (for God's sake, it doesn't have to be pink Himalayan sea salt or cost $60 a pound, but please, please ditch the iodized salt. It is 2012. You don't need to worry about goiters. Seriously.) and some FRESH ground (DO NOT BUY PRE-GROUND!!!) pepper can take basically ANYTHING and make it tasty. I'm serious. Start with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Try it on raw veggies, steamed veggies, roasted veggies. Try it as a preparation for all kinds of meats, including shrimp and fish. Which brings me to rule #3…

3. Overcooking is the devil. This is hard. I have a lot of trouble with it. I get nervous about undercooked chicken (Salmonella! OMG!!) and then I really dry out that nice, organic, pasture-raised piece of chicken I just paid way too much for at Whole Foods. Or…who among us hasn't accidentally forgotten to set the timer for pasta or veggies? We've all done it. Mush and gray. Awesome for the gruel in Oliver!. Not awesome for your food. The only time overcooking works to your advantage is when you are roasting some veggies that are on the brink of extinction. It is at this time - when you need to caramelize the sh*t out of something - that overcooking is ok. But otherwise it's not. So learn how to not overcook things by practicing. It's like hemming pants: you can always do more but you can't do less.

4. Play around! Challenge yourself to cook once a week without a recipe. I'm serious. I don't mean that you should memorize your recipe before you start. I mean, attempt to assemble something using just your wits and your experience. You can do it. And do you know what? If it sucks, you can order Thai. Don't worry about it. Just try. And try to remember that you'll always learn more from your failures than your successes. This is true in the kitchen and far from it.

In sum, cooking isn't a big deal. It just takes practice, patience, and attention to what you are doing. Be open to making mistakes and learn from them when you do make them.

It's not rocket surgery (as a darling colleague of mine likes to say). It is NOT a big deal. For real.

Ok, so guess what?! I did a craft. Holy crap, Kate, something homemade that we can't eat? Yes!

Aren't you excited?

I bought these shoes the other day because I wanted an alternative pair of comfortable heels to wear so I don't wear out my favorite black patent pumps before their time. These were cheap. I found them at DSW.

Only problem is…they have this gross disco heel.

Ew. Blue and fabric-covered and shimmery? Really?? Last time I checked, I wasn't a tranny. Something had to be done about this. This being the heels. Not my not being a tranny.

Ugh. Nevermind. Just keep reading.

Alright, in the interest of full disclosure, these are Jessica Simpson shoes. I know, I KNOW. It does hurt me a little on the inside. Really, it does. But I have to give Jess a little credit - the color of the suede is kind of perfect - a "new neutral," if you will.

Oh - which totally reminds me of when I turned 21 and Mer gave me this AWESOME fuchsia bag from Coach that I was OBSESSED with (I still have it) and, drunk, on my 21st, went all about town telling basically anyone who would listen that "hot pink was the new black."

Yeah, I'm that girl.

But I digress.

Anyway, Jessica Simpson shoes: great but for the ugly fabric covered heel.

So I painted them.

Yeah. You can do this, too. Don't think you have to accept things as the manufacturer makes them. You are better than that - you have more style. Go for it.

It's easy.

Get some craft paint that works on fabric and a nice, small brush. This will set you back about $4.71 at Michaels.

Put down some newspaper.

Paint. Cover everything but don't get too gloppy or thick.

Wait an hour and paint again. 

And voila. Shoes that don't look like you're moonlighting as a "shots girl" at Northstar.

Which I'm not.

In case you were wondering.