Friday, April 2, 2010

A good enough cook

I call this blog " a common sense cooking blog, for regular people." I started it when my kids moved out, so that they could get the family recipes, and then discovered that I was enjoying figuring out these recipes, so even after I'd managed to post pretty much all of them, I kept going.

Like my garden, I don't really know anything about cooking, despite being, I think, quite a good cook. My baking is a little hit-or-miss still, but I can learn that.

And that's the point.

How good do you have to be to make your own homemade meals for your family?

It's the same thing that struck me when I started participating in gardening communities on line. People seemed to know so much- which plants need acid and which need base (as opposed to my method, which was--that plant didn't do so well with the peat, maybe I'll try bone meal.) How much sun they got. The scientific name, the genus, the family. I'd been growing tomatoes, peppers and eggplants for 15 years before I ever heard the term "solanum." And yet, somehow, I managed to grow tomatoes, peppers and eggplants just fine. Still a little hazy on which ones are the "brassicas" but I figured out the "cucurbits" right away, once I'd learned the word.

I don't know how to make a roux. I can't chop vegetables super fast. I apparently committed a terrible sin by drying my herbs in the microwave (I guess the heat destroys the enzymes, but won't the heat from cooking do that too?) for which I was publicly admonished by some locavore guru (offers sheepish grin, goes right back to microwave drying herbs, because it's fast and space-saving).

I can make a mean veggie lasagna, and tomato sauce from scratch. My chicken soup is to die for and I roll my own dolmades. And yet, one of the favorite dishes that my kids absolutely love is just noodles with butter and cheese. And that's good enough.

Everybody's favorite noodles
Any kind of noodle--spaghetti, pasta, egg, rotini, etc.
3-4 tablespoons of butter
"sprinkle cheese" i.e. grated Parmesan or Romano

Cook the noodles according to package directions; drain, but leave them in the pot. Melt the butter, allowing it to brown very slightly. Add grated cheese to taste, plus salt and pepper. And that's it. You can add a green like broccoli or spinach, but mostly we ate it as is with some peas on the side.

If you want it to be a little more politically correct, do this with your own spaetzel.


  1. I once had a friend who was both a real foodie and a great cook. So I actually know what a roux is, LOL, AND she's the one who taught me to eat noodles like that. I love them without the sp. sauce, even though I like sp. sauce, too.

    I think the oils concentrate best if herbs are dried naturally, hanging from the ceiling... the the heat of the pan releases the flavors without losing enzymes... but I really have no clue as I'm not an enthusiastic cook.

    I call myself an intuitive gardener... I learned by doing and later found most of what I did was right... I know a lot more now because I love it so much and earn a small part of my living from it.

    But you gotta do what works for you--I always tell me students there are hundreds of right ways to garden!

  2. hah- that's how I found out what a roux is too! You should try the microwave method. My experience with it is that it preserves the flavor slightly better than air drying; I've opened micro-dried herbs two years old and still gotten the full wonderful scent. But that kind of public admonishment-- this is a way to stoke your ego, not to encourage people to learn how to cook! Which just seems self-defeating to me.

  3. Weren't you the one who used the term true believers, LOL? I think that's what it is. And, yes, it's more discouraging than encouraging. How long do you put them in the microwave? On anything? I guess I don't dry too many herbs because I tend to bring them indoors over winter... or freeze them fresh. Hmmm....

  4. Here's the instructions. First got this from one of the gardeners at MyFolia.