The $@#&!^* Joy of Cooking

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!

thumbnailRecently, 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 asadathumbnail-2 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.

thumbnail-1I 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.)