In the last three weeks, I’ve thrown away six overripe bananas. Wasting food really bothered me so when the remaining three bananas on my counter started even looking mushy, I decided to make banana nut bread. Having never made this, I had to research it. I ended up baking the “World’s BEST Banana Bread – No Kidding” as posted on www.spinningsugar.wordpress.com (3/13/2007). And the bread met all expectations. It was very moist and the combination of nuts and the chunkiness of the bananas gives this bread some ooomph! In the process I also learned that banana bread is not purely of Hawaii origin. But that’s another story.
But here’s the deal. I wouldn’t have baked a new thing if I didn’t have a compelling reason. In this case, I can’t stand throwing food away. It’s not because my parents reminded me of global starving children. They simply forced me to clean my plate. So I would not throw away one more banana.
I began considering my culinary experiences. My dad did all the cooking and did not want any help. When I moved out, I was inept in the kitchen. I was 24 when I learned how to cut vegetables and make a grilled cheese sandwich. Cooking was survival and function. It’s not that I didn’t like to cook. I associated it with something I have to do.
I recently told some friends that I like to cook. I surprised myself, then realized that I am at least average in my cooking interests. These are some of my cooking magazines. I tab the recipes that “someday over the rainbow” I might try.
Plus I have great cookbooks and frequent www.foodandwine.com, www.americastestkitchen.com and www.allrecipes.com when I’m looking for a recipe. I add Internet recipes to my Favorites list and I diligently file printed recipes that I have collected over the years.
So why is it that, when it’s time to prepare dinner at home, I rely on the usual suspects? Like last night. I wanted to concoct a meal from ingredients already in my fridge and pantry. The dish had to include either pork chops, chicken, trout or ground beef, since these were in my freezer (I don’t do vegetarian). I searched my recipe sources and there was always something I didn’t have, like coconut milk, lemons, celery . . . Spontaneous dishes mean not having to go to the store.
I ended up adapting a recipe from Saveur, a magazine that my son picks up at airports when he flies in to visit us (he throws many such hints). Tian Tian Chao Mian (May 2010 issue) is “everyday fried noodles.” I did not have the ground pork, garlic, seedless cucumbers, bean sprouts and scallions that are called for in the recipe. But I did have chicken, sugar snap peas, ginger, carrots, peanuts, the liquid ingredients (soy sauce, sesame oil and rice cooking wine) and lo mein noodles.
Plus the wok is a magic cauldron. One cannot go wrong with a wok as long you remember HOT and QUICK. This dish turned out quite tasty, and I look forward to the three tablespoons of leftovers.
Nevertheless, this dish was an improvisation, a modification, of something I’ve done before. Teriyaki anything, for example, is not a new recipe for me. Neither is pasta sauce using turkey rather than pork sausage. Or variations of chocolate or custard pies. Or any kind of quiche.
I want to try recipes of dishes that I have not yet prepared. Something N-E-W! I need to reinvent my culinary skills (such as they are) and awake my palate.
So I’m on a mission. I will try one new recipe a week. One a week may not seem much to most foodies, but it’s a start.
I will post the results of the next new recipe next Monday,
Who knows? Someday I may make up a new recipe myself . . .