March 27, 2012 in Uncategorized
The c-word. It’s usually reserved for the lazy or the uncaring. Today, I’m using it in the kitchen. Reinventing leftovers and buying a couple of things to create the meal is an example of what I call “cheating in the kitchen.” Cutting corners in the kitchen can be bad, but it can also be OK.
Last night I pan-fried some leftover Filipino Pork Adobo to be the main filler for Adobo Pork Tacos. To the grocery store I turned for tortillas and refried beans, despite the fact I had flour and dried pintos in the cupboard. Sometimes, you just don’t want to knead the dough, or you forget to soak the beans while doing other things like laundry and packing boxes. That’s fine. To avoid the stigma surrounding packaged food items, I opt for the organic something or preservative free whatever when I can. And sometimes resources are limited and I just can’t. I weep for a moment, and then pick up the item that closely matches my needs. You do what you can, when you can.
Based on conversations with non-cooking friends or rarely cooking friends, the biggest hurdles are putting in the time and gathering the exact ingredients. No sweat. If those are the real turnoffs, then don’t be ashamed to use sauces and seasoning packets. Does a recipe call for oregano? Just use the general Italian seasoning in your pantry. I do recommend collecting a few basic herbs and spices. These can be used in combination, or even singularly (with salt and pepper, of course!):
- Thyme (excellent for poultry)
- Bay leaves (gives an extra depth to soups and sauces)
- Rosemary (great for beef, lamb, poultry, and vegetables)
- Onion powder and Garlic powder (perfect for when you don’t have either to chop)
- Paprika (nice smoky sweet flavor that’s nice for pork and chicken; think of it as an extremely tame chili powder)
- Soy sauce (makes something instantly feel generically “Asian”)
- Olive oil (skip out on the extra virgin and just get regular pure olive oil; it will have a higher smoking point, i.e. better accommodating for cooking at medium to high temperatures, and frying with extra virgin olive oil actually alters the taste of it, so reserve that for salads and finishing dishes otherwise you’re wasting your money!)
- Vinegar (gives that sour taste and helps with marinating)
- Spice/herb blends for flavors you like (Italian, Lemon Pepper, and the like)
Also, leaving some seasoning ingredients out of a recipe is OK. It will change the dish, but most of the time it won’t be missed. It’s a matter of reading the amounts and directions and seeing what gets more emphasis. Try it out! If you’re unhappy with the results, then do something else next time. Substitutions in the same flavor family are fine, too. Does something call for lime? Sub lemon! Don’t have apple cider vinegar? Use another type of vinegar you already have! A quick Google search will uncover great ideas, and you’ll learn something, too. Navigating meal prep is conquerable. Happy cooking!