Anthony and I have been experimenting in the kitchen lately. Experimentation is a great way to learn things, and it’s also a great way to experience spectacular amounts of fail. I’m going to start with the bad idea that I had because I feel it’s just too depressing to end the post with it.
While Anthony was gone again into the wilderness hunting the elusive Sasquatch (actually he was celebrating a bachelor party by drinking beer and eating tri tip around a huge campfire–one day and two showers later he still smelled of wood smoke), I decided to make dinner by cleaning out the contents of the fridge. Although we technically have two cars now only one of them is drivable because the other one didn’t pass smog. I insisted he take the car we call The Sunday Buick while he left the jalopy home with me. If there was some sort of emergency I could leave the house of course, but I wasn’t eager to. That meant I had to get creative with dinner because all our fridge contained was some leftover grilled chicken, green beans, cauliflower, several ears of corn, and eggs. We survived two years with school and full-time jobs with only one car, so I’ve created many wonderful impromptu meals out of necessity.
I’m a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, and like anyone who has watched someone on TV for awhile and read their books, my brain sort of considers him a friend even though we’ve never met and probably never will. Oh that Tony! I’m on a first-name-basis with him (in my mind). One recent episode of No Reservations I spied something happening in the background that caught my eye. Someone was roasting whole cauliflower heads. Brilliant! I love to make Popcorn Cauliflower by roasting individual florets with olive oil and spices, but you do have to do some chopping and some messy mixing first. (Typing it out really confronts me with the fact that I am totally lazy. It’s not that hard to chop up cauliflower and douse it with spices, people.)
Anyway, I saw someone on the teevee roasting whole heads of cauliflower and I thought to myself I’m going to try that! So I trimmed my head of cauliflower, sprayed it with oil and coated it with my favorite combo of paprika, curry powder, and bacon salt. I probably should have looked up say, the time it would take to roast a cauliflower. And also, an oven setting would have been useful to note. Nope! I’m a rebel. I just chucked it in at 415 and set the timer for an hour. How different could it be from a potato?
Here’s where I get on with sautéing green beans and boiling corn. I fix Isobel and I a delicious dinner of corn on the cob with queso fresco, butter, and lime, green beans sautéed with tamari, and left over grilled chicken, which she just adores. My girl loves her some chicken.
We eat dinner and play outside while the kitchen starts to smell. Oh. Boy. I can tell by the smell that the wonderful thing that happens to cauliflower when it roasts is not happening. My actual first thought when I smell it is, am I inhaling somebody’s socks? This cauliflower is not roasting–it’s slowly steaming in its own cruciferous juices. It smells so bad I can’t bring myself to open the oven and pull it out till the next day. I want nothing to do with that fetid disaster.
The lesson to take from this is that it is not the cauliflower’s fault. It’s my fault. I should have looked up the temperature and times instead of just being lazy. Or I should have just roasted the individual florets like I love to do anyway.
Isobel knows how to operate the pantry door now, by the way, so as I was cleaning up the kitchen later that night I opened the pantry to find poor Poppy, who had been locked in there for god knows how long. Isobel thinks it’s hilarious to lock the kittens in the pantry. Fortunately Poppy’s spirits were undaunted and when I opened the door she looked at me like, “Welcome to the party! The keg should be here soon.” Bless her feral little heart.Also note the complete disaster my pantry’s in. Each time we go to the store we just keep piling stuff on top of the mess. I’m sure I’ll clean it eventually.
In the past Anthony has created his own kitchen disasters so it came as a surprise that I epically failed at something while he epically triumphed. His most notable kitchen disaster happened right after I met him. It was so romantic! He was cooking me breakfast! I don’t remember exactly what he did to those huevos rancheros but it was unspeakable. He’s come a long way since that morning and particularly this summer he’s been leveling up his cooking skills. He wants to be able to cook delicious food for Isobel. Sniffle! He’s such a good dad.
As I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t a whole lot in the fridge to feed our family for breakfast, but fortunately we had those eggs. This is when Anthony stumbled upon a great idea that I’m filing away in my in my set of thrifty recipes in my brain. It was cheap and it was good.He noticed we had several kinds of leftover fruit plus some small remnants of yogurt. Instead of letting these items go unnoticed until a colony of fruit flies alerts us to their rotten presence, he decided that we need to create a new tradition of making smoothies out of leftovers before we head to the store.He chopped up a banana, threw a couple of ice cubes in to the blender, and added berries and pomegranate yogurt and produced a delicious smoothie to wash down our eggs. I sipped mine leisurely on the patio in between repotting my plants. A fancy thrift store glass is optional, of course, but it made the whole experience special. I imagine this ritual will only work in the summer months as we don’t have leftover fruit like this in the winter, but what a way to use up leftovers. Isobel loved it, too, and she went around with a pinkish mustache all morning long.
I think the moral of this story is: don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen. Sometimes things will turn out bad, stomach-turningly bad, but you are sure to discover some wonderful ideas, too.