complicated recipes

November 14th, 2006

I've never liked cooking and home ec was my least favorite class in school, probably of all time. So I don't make much of an effort, but every once in a while you want to do something more interesting or make an effort just for the sake of eating healthy. I'm very far from being one of those health crazed people and I couldn't make myself eat for some long term goal. But after a decade of coincidental and unhealthy eating, I'm migrating towards eating in a way that promotes short term well being. I'm just not excited about food, so why not just eat whatever makes me feel good, right? While I haven't exactly knocked out a firm diet for this yet, the idea is just to eat food that doesn't get in the way of anything that I do. Obviously, overeating does that, large amounts of trash food does it too etc. I'd also like something that promotes good sleep, or I wouldn't be writing this at 5.30 in the morning. The lack of good sleep is very annoying, but it might be more of a mental problem for all I know.

Anyway, back to making the occasional effort. What bugs me about recipes is that they have to be so complicated. Half the ingredients on the list I've never even seen in the store, I've no idea what they look like and it's just a wild goose chase. A few years ago someone gave me cookbook of a 1000 Chinese recipes, and I tried a bunch of them. Hunting down the ingredients (after translating them from Polish) took a long time, and not really knowing what I was doing in the kitchen made some of those efforts come out weird. But there were some success stories as well. Still, doing one recipe was a big commitment, it took rigorous shopping and implementation of the recipe. It wasn't exactly a lot of fun, even though the food was good in the end.

Now, I can understand that adding a quarter of a teaspoon of something slightly enhances the flavor, but they really make it hard to cook these dishes. Meanwhile, if you go simple and cut everything that seems like an accessory, it ends up tasting very... plain. Good thing my home ec teacher isn't reading this (or is she?).

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3 Responses to "complicated recipes"

  1. erik says:

    I got some recipes for you, I'm really into these things now (didn't used to be until I had to get an ECG scan lol). I'll e-mail some others if you want later.

    Pasta alla marinara
    *penne, garlic, chili pepper, olive oil, parsley, mashed tomato (tomatenpuree in Dutch, comes in cans. You can also use regular tomato sauce: the cheap kind in cartons without any additional ingredients) . I could always find all of that stuff at AH

    What you do is you throw some garlic (however much you like), the chili pepper (cut up) two or three table spoons of olive oil and the parsley (cut up) in a pan and let it cook for a while until the garlic turns golden/brown.

    Boil the pasta too.

    In the meantime, mix the mashed tomatoes (about one table spoon of it) with some water so it turns into a paste, make sure it's not too watery. Then throw it in the pan with all the other stuff and stir it through. Leave it on low for about 10 minutes (you might have to add some water halfway through).

    Pour the water out of the pasta pan, take the sauce, throw it in with the penne and mix it. All done, it's very easy once you've done it once or twice.

    It's a really healthy recipe, I use it a lot.

  2. David Grant says:

    I hear you on that one. What I usually do is google for a bunch of recipes for the same thing, say pad thai. Then I print out 3 or 4 of them, then I sit down with a pen and paper and figure out where they differ and where they are the same. Usually I can determine what are the key ingredients that are necessary and which are optional. Also, you can figure out substitutions. For example, one of them might not have cane sugar, but regular sugar instead. Bingo! no need for cane sugar. Another might not have tamarind paste but extra lime instead. Hey makes sense, because tamarind really just gives it that sour flavour. So you don't have to buy tamarind. It's a neat strategy. They only thing I haven't done is written out the final merged recipe clearly somewhere. I really should do that.

    Most recipes are just a bunch of flavours, salty, sour, sugar, bitter. For example, in pad thai you could probably just replace fish sauce with salt...or substitute peanut butter for ground peanuts. You have to make sure you aren't missing core ingredients (like noodles or peanuts) and make sure you aren't missing any key flavours, like sweet, or sour. Of course there are also textures, like solid peanut chunks taste different than peanut butter...and a small noodle will feel different in your mouth than a wide noodle, so it's up to you how close you want to be someone else's version of something.

  3. numerodix says:

    That's a very good idea! I didn't occur to me to cross check like this..