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Monday, July 6, 2009

Cooking Quick and Dirty

"When baking, follow directions.
When cooking, go by your own taste."

Laiko Bahrs

I spent the 4th of July in Maine with my extended family. Some are from Detroit, some from Georgia, Idaho and Alabama, some from Maine and some from Florida. I'm the only one from a big city.

I love how down-to-earth and damn unpretentious a lot of my family it. I'm not sure if it's because most of us are Southern or rural raised, but there is a direct and easy-going attitude to my extended family I love.

Living in NYC is a bit of a hyper existence. Everyone in the city thrives on ambition, career and work, work, work. Very little time is devoted to family and home life, which is why the city is so depressed and cynical.

The simple act of getting on the train in NYC after being in New England was very telling. Everyone ran to the train, pushed people out of the way and were plain rude, yet there were plenty of seats on the train. Why are they so frantic? Why are they so blatantly rude and then shocked when you tell them they are rude?

The city will never change. People in Manhattan will still live for the next 'big thing' or look for the next 'fashion trend''s too bad, because if they were to slow down, they'd be able to enjoy their life a bit more instead of always running for that elusive prize at the end of the road.

The joke is there is no prize (but you can't tell them that, Lord know, 'cause they know it all).

What I learned up in Maine and New England is when people have been cooking a long time cook, they cook by taste. And they cook SIMPLE.

I made a bunch of baked goods (BROWNIES, some LEMON/LIME SQUARES a few CHOCOLATE PIES) and cooked up some meals before the big shin-dig (spicy ENCHILADAS and MEXICAN RICE, TACOS, BALSAMIC CHICKEN and ITALIAN PASTA), but when it came time for the party we had to cook in BULK and there was no messing around.

My niece autumn made a great FRESH PASTA SALAD and a tasty COLD PEANUT NOODLE SALAD w/ spaghetti.

What did she do? She went into the pantry, found a bunch of pasta of the same shape, cooked it up and drained it. Then she chopped up two bunches of scallions, some peeled carrots, radishes and then poured in a bottle of Italian dressing. Salt and pepper and good to go!

Same thing for the Asian salad but she added peanut butter and scallions and dry roasted peanuts. There you go!

This kinda cooking is how most people eat. Food snobs in NYC forget this. I'm a food snob, I'll admit it, but at the same time, I'm always lookin' to cook like everyone else cooks! And I learned you can cook the way everyone does but you can add flavor by not relying on the easy way out!

The only thing Autumn needed to change is not use the bottled dressing and cut way back on teh peanut butter. There is so much shit in that it's unreal. Sugar, sodium, preservatives...terrible stuff for your body.

The other day I was watching Rachael Ray. She had this truly hideous recipe for grilled hotdogs and a tomato/sugar/mustard sauce that was the most unhealthy thing I'd ever seen, yet there she was, serving it up on TV.

This is why people are obese. She has a responsibility to help people with their weight, and yet there she is (on a program funded by Oprah, I might add), adding sugar and salt and fatty pork to American's dinner table. And people cook her stuff because it's cheap and easy!

Not good.

My brother-in-law, Ken, made a bunch of big old RIBS. You want simple? I'll give you simple. He bought 26 pounds of ribs (at only 99 cents a pound!), grilled them, adding BBQ sauce at the very end and served. Why did everyone eat them? Because they loved the sugar in the sauce.

Again, like Autumn, he was looking for simple and easy. If he wanted an alternative, he could make the sauce in advance and have it handy the day of so he wouldn't feel overwelmed. By using bottled foods, you're putting chemicals and preservatives and sugar and salt into your body you simply don't need.

There was classic potato salad with fresh dill (with way too much mayo - you don't need a lot of mayo for potato salad...a dab of low-fat will do ya), a soggy but tasty Mexican salad (never put lettuce in a dish, soggy greens is not pleasant), a dreamy mozzarella, Parmesan and fresh tomato and basil salad (simple, fresh, easy, no oils needed) and some bland potatoes, simple grilled corn sausages.

Again, the idea here is people want to cook fast and easy. And they will only do that if have the sauces and the ingredients nearby...and Lord knows you can't say anything during because everyone is running around like a chicken with their heads cut off at any big party.

That's why I've decided Wednesday is going to be about how to make you OWN HOMEMADE SAUCES for SUMMER COOKING so you don't rely on the bottled crap. You can have the easy cook-out you want without adding all the sugar and fat and salt by pouring on bottle after bottle of pre-packaged crap!

But the funny part was the favorite sandwich of everyone's was the one with the easiest ingredients. It was a sandwich of sliced turkey, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fennel and a nice thick spread of goat cheese with a thin layer of pesto in the center. Now, how easy is that?!

If they used real turkey (which, again, they didn't because they didn't want to be bothered) and made the pesto themselves they would have raised the taste factor. People are rabid over goat cheese, not sure why, but it did work on this, except I would have used something a bit less 'grassy' tasting.

The thing is everyone loved it because it was fresh tasting, complex, smooth and fun to eat. This is also a meal which can EASILY be made vegetarian. I'm all about trying to eat less meat nowadays.

This is what Wednesday's post will be about. How to make quick, convenient SAUCES and TRADITIONAL DISHES for big cook-outs and get-togethers instead of relying on bottled food and flavor enhancers so you're food goes from good to great.

Here is to a summer of tasty and healthy eating!


Mikey Bryan
Your food therapist...

1 comment:

  1. Hey! I tried to post earlier and couldn't...but love this post! Wasn't it fun to have family here? Loved your chocolate pie, savory enchiladas, lemony very glad you were able to come up!!!!!