I’ve not been feeling it lately. I’ve been feeling out of sorts, feeling disconnected throughout many aspects of my life. It’s not till I think about it objectively that I realize there is no reason for me to feel so disconnected. But for some reason I feel about a million miles away from where I want to be.
Slowly I’m getting back to normal. Maybe it was a freak emotional storm. Maybe it was the weather. We got snow yesterday, a day after I wandered around in nothing heavier than a short-sleeved t-shirt. None of it stuck, but it was enough to confuse my body completely. Maybe it’s the whole Daylight Saving Time thing. Don’t get me started. I hate DST with every fiber of my being and wished I lived in Arizona so I didn’t have to deal with it. Yuck.
So today I went to the thrift store. Retail therapy on a budget, don’t you know. This time I stayed in Newport and visited one downtown that I had never been to before. I’m on a quest to find old cameras, but I struck out this time.
But I did walk out with a beautiful new acquisition: a copy of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.
It looked interesting on its own, just as a repository of a lot of new-to-me recipes, but then I started reading the forward. Mr Bittman insists that the ability to cook from scratch shouldn’t be “an unusual or even rare talent,” that cooking is ultimately so simple that anyone willing to invest the time can cook a delicious meal without using convenience products. Ahhh, there’s the rub — the time investment, right? Actually, it’s not any faster to cook convenience foods, much of the time, unless we’re comparing regular rice with Minute rice. I can make a delicious pasta supper in the same amount of time it takes to make a box of Kraft mac n’ cheese. Water only boils so quickly, and the pasta in the mac n’ cheese box is just as uncooked as any other pasta you buy.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t ever use convenience foods, at least by my standards, though Mr Bittman would most likely disagree with me. I’m just saying that cooking isn’t as hard or as difficult as it may seem, and that once you do it a few times, you’ll know how to apply the techniques to make almost anything. You just have to try once or twice.
I knew this was a great cookbook when I told Elle about my purchase, and she immediately said that this is one of her favorite cookbooks. And if Elle enjoys it, you know it has to be good!
I flipped through the book this afternoon to find something delicious to make for dinner. I had no idea what I was going to make anyhow, so I had to come up with something. A recipe for Poached and Roasted Chicken caught my eye. You boil a whole chicken in a mixture of water, soy sauce, fresh ginger, garlic, sugar, and scallions (there’s also supposed to be star anise in there, but apparently that’s a seasonal item here in Rhode Island) in a covered pot for 15 minutes, then let it set in the pot for another 20 minutes with the flame off. Heat your oven to 500º, and place the chicken on a roasting pan and roast for 15-20 more minutes. Your chicken will be a deep, caramel brown by the time it’s done. The skin will be crispy and delicious, and the meat is juicy and tender.
Now doesn’t that sound easy?
I even peeked into the bread section, and that’s something that has always intimidated me. I’ve only really made bread in the breadmaker, never from scratch. But I found a recipe for a quickbread, one that just comes together in a bowl and doesn’t require kneading or rising. Cornbread and muffins are quickbreads. This was a recipe for Quick Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread, and amazingly enough, I had all the ingredients (whole wheat flour, baking soda, buttermilk, molasses, and salt) on hand. The recipe calls for 12⁄3 cups of buttermilk and a ½ cup of molasses, but the dough? batter? was far too dry. I had to add at least another ½ cup of buttermilk and more molasses. It turned out deliciously, even still, but a bit dense. It was a lovely counterpoint to the chicken, especially since it was just a bit sweet due to the molasses. Plus it’s far healthier than white bread!
I’m sure I will find tons more recipes to try over the next few months in this book. It’s over 900 pages! It isn’t a book for lots of pretty photos, in fact there are none, but the recipes are so straightforward that you don’t really need photographs. I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking to make delicious food without a whole lot of fuss.