Okay. I get it. Cooking truly is an art form. It requires patience, creativity, and talent. Lacking two of those three means I am struggling in the kitchen, but pressing on nonetheless. My creativity in other areas does not transfer well. I know that is a confidence thing, and it will come eventually. Thank goodness my husband enjoys to cook, otherwise we would starve during the time it takes me to recover from a single meal prep.
What I lack in patience and talent, I more than make up for with my curiosity and love of learning. I want to soak up as many experiences as possible while I am living here, and that includes learning about new ingredients, new foods, and new ways to prepare them- -myself. So I research, pin on a special “current obsession” Pinterest board, and write recipes in a brand new spiral bound notebook. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy this part!
Recently, armed with a grocery list (for quite possibly the first time in my life), I headed to our local Ley grocery store. After a long internal debate about whether or not I should buy tomatillos in their husks or out, I opted for out. Although I had no earthly idea what a ripe tomatillo was supposed to look like. I received a short lesson on how to select the perfect lemon from a very kind expert. I am slowly learning to tell the difference between the five gazillion varieties of peppers available. And no laughing please, but I had absolutely no idea that tomato bouillon was a thing! In fact, I was a little worried that I would not be able to find it. I had to ask where to find the vinegar. (A side benefit of this cooking thing is an improvement in my Spanish speaking skills.)
By the time I was finished, almost everything in my cart had come from the produce department. I loved how it looked! Upon arriving home, I took a picture of everything because it looked so pretty. That was the extent of my kitchen time the rest of the day.
I woke up early the next day to soak my beans and make the marinade for carne asada before I went to Spanish class. I got right back at it once I returned home, cooking the beans and whipping up a little salsa verde. I really loved this recipe because it did not require a lot of slicing and dicing. I just threw everything into our little smoothie maker and in seconds I had delicious salsa. Without a doubt, the tomatillo is quite possibly the greatest thing on this planet (ripe or not).
Nearly everything on my menu called for garlic. We never used a lot of it back in Indiana. Who am I kidding? My husband did because I found TWO garlic presses in our kitchen utensil drawer. Who knew that garlic is a lot like an onion? Never mind. Probably all of you. Well, I was amazed by all the layers of skin I had to peel off to get to the good stuff. And it now makes perfect sense why one of our small, independent grocers sells fresh garlic already peeled.
I have a new appreciation for the Rachel Rays, Paula Deans, and everyone else who can cook and joke around, chat, or watch Ellen at the same time. I was over focused, consumed by what was in front of me. I would check my recipe and then forget what I had just read minutes later. I felt frantic and incredibly anxious. At one point I actually had to lie down and practice my breathing. Take out would have been so much easier…
Truth be told it was a good thing I rested. While my husband was grilling the flank steak, I was racing around the kitchen like a mad woman finishing up the rice and the beans. Part of the problem is that our gas stovetop seems to have two settings- – high and higher. Before I had time to chop my carrots, the rice was boiling. I had no chance of keeping liquid in the bean pot; the juice evaporated instantly. And I never even had time to slice onions or lemons for the carne asada because I was stirring two pots at the same time to prevent burning.
I let Steve taste everything first. Once it was evident that he was not going to have a food reaction, I tried dinner myself. The rice was incredible- -it is now my specialty (read “the easiest”), and I make it at least once a week. The beans tasted somewhat bland, which I was not expecting at all. It was explained later that I had failed to add the “tube of lard” (available at Ley) to the bean pot. Um, no. Until I figure it out, I will just mix them in with the rice. And I will be doing that for a while considering that even though I halved the recipe, I have beans for days. Thankfully, it is pretty hard to screw up carne asada, even without onions and lemon!
Up next machaca, tacos al pastor, charro beans, and pozole. I figured pre-calculus out the week before the final exam. I can surely master the kitchen. (But I am keeping a few restaurants on my speed dial until then.)