Cooking is a lot like writing in many ways; the further along I get as both a writer and a cook, the more I notice the similarities. For example, in both writing and cooking, clarity is key. You can fill a sentence with lots of high-falutin words, just like you can fill a dish with lots of high-falutin ingredients, but if the idea doesn’t come across, then you’ve wasted your time. Another similarity? Breaking the rules. It’s fine to break the rules in both writing and cooking–see: Pale Fire, the Cronut–but you’ve got to know the rules before you break the rules. And so it was that on Sunday, I had some purple carrots from my CSA, along with asparagus and red wine, and I decided to go bonkers making something I know how to make very well: risotto.
It’s so funny to think about how recipe-obsessed I was when I started cooking. I mean, seriously, if a recipe called for a teaspoon of salt, I’d practically count the granules. Now I rarely cook with a recipe and it’s hard for me to imagine following a recipe to the letter. Which is why getting that box of CSA vegetables every week is so fun; it’s a chance for me to flex my non-recipe following muscles in the kitchen. And so it was that I had an acorn squash (I’m pretty sure it was an acorn squash) and some Brussels sprouts. My plan: to roast ’em like a rock star.
What’s with me and pasta? No, seriously, I’m really asking: how can I eat so much of it and never get tired of it? Sometimes I think it’s my own personal Rosebud, because my earliest food-related memories involve sitting at a little yellow plastic table on a gray carpet in front of the big TV, eating fusilli with Prego on top. Am I trying to recreate the innocence of childhood? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s just that pasta is so versatile and, more importantly, once you know the rules of how to make it–undercooking your pasta in well-salted water, then finishing it in the sauce, taking off the heat when almost all the liquid’s absorbed, and finishing with raw olive oil and grated cheese–it’s just one of the most impressive, delightful things you can make at home.
What is the most refreshing summer drink? Some might argue lemonade. With its puckery punch and bright yellow color, it’s a tough drink to beat in the summer months. And yet, ever since moving to L.A., I find myself gravitating towards another drink when I’m hot and want something a little less tart, a little more smooth. That drink, as you can tell from the title of this post, is horchata. It’s a drink that’s naturally thickened from the starch in white rice and heavily spiced with cinnamon. I’d never made it before (I usually get it from one of the plentiful Mexican restaurants here in my neighborhood), but making it just by itself seemed a little boring. Which is why I had the idea to incorporate another ingredient, something to give the drink more body and also to make it more healthful; that ingredient, as you can also tell from the title of this post, is an avocado–rich with Omega-3 fatty acids. Together, horchata and avoado might make a killer smoothie. Only way to find out was to try.
Popcorn at home never quite dazzles the way it does at the movie theater. Maybe it’s because of all the buttery goop they squirt on, maybe it’s because of the smell it gives off, but my homemade popcorn rarely does the trick. That’s why, recently, I decided to give up on my quest to reproduce that giant overpriced bucket of yellow stuff and replace it with something far more original, exciting, and–to steal a word from the title of this post–snacktastic. The results, I’m glad to say, speak for themselves.
I didn’t experiment much in college (well, except in the ways of improvisational comedy and musical theater directing), but as an adult I’ve become a hardcore experimenter, specifically on weekend mornings when Craig’s out of town. That’s when I let my soul run free, tapping into my inner being, and cooking up whatever springs to mind. Sometimes, my ideas are pretty gross (see here); sometimes, though, I hit on something so good, it enters the repertoire. This breakfast, thankfully, falls into the latter category.
Unpacking my first CSA box felt a bit like opening presents on Christmas morning. (Note: I’m Jewish but I date a non-Jew, so I know what I’m talking about.) There was the going to bed the night before, knowing the box would arrive the next day; the anticipation, getting out of bed that next morning, going to the front door; and the actual physical pleasure of tearing open the box to finally see what was inside it. You already know the answer from my CSA post, but the most delightful surprise was a head of purple cauliflower. I’d never cooked with purple cauliflower before and I loved the challenge of building a dinner around it.
When I first heard about savory oatmeal, I felt confused. Onions in oatmeal? Is that even possible? What planet are we on?
I grew up eating oatmeal out of little packets, the kind you tear open, pour some water on and stick in the microwave. My preferred flavor was maple brown sugar, but occasionally I’d opt in for the apple cinnamon kind. Thankfully, no packets said “garlic and onions” or the younger me would’ve run screaming into the hills. The current me is slightly more open-minded.