Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why people are afraid to cook

I love the web. Open up a search engine, type in "green beans, chard, beets, carrots" and out comes a recipe. Amazing.

Except when you try to make it.

"roast chard in oven until crispy, but not burnt" How long will that take? What will it look like? Should I do anything with it while it's in there?
"slowly drizzle in the oil to emulsify into vinaigrette" Do I just pour it, or do I have to mix it? How hard? How slow is a drizzle? How can I tell it's emulsified? What in the world does that even mean?
" Lay out prepped beets and carrots on a sheet pan and roast in same 400°F oven as the chard until nicely roasted" Again, how long? What constitutes "nicely roasted?"

So there we were with pan-fried mushrooms and green beans, steamed carrots and beets, and sorta kinda crispy chard. Annoyed with the recipe, we turned it into the Nelson Chin test kitchen and came up with:

Scalloped August veggies

2 large Carrots cut length-wise and then into wedges (I never peel carrots, but feel free)
5 Med.-Lrg. mixed Beets cut into wedges and peeled
Today's green bean harvest (we had about a pint), cleaned (i.e., cut the ends off)
1 large portobello mushroom, sliced
3 larges cloves of garlic, smashed and diced

30 large chard leaves, washed and stems removed
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F/190C

Remove the stems, then clean and chop the chard. Toss in a large bowl with a couple tablespoons olive oil. Spread thinly on a baking sheet (one with raised edges works best) and roast about 25 minutes, or until it is crispy but not burnt (after 15 minutes, start checking it every 5 minutes). Remove from oven and set aside. Turn off oven and allow it to cool down a little.

Prepare a casserole with cooking spray. Scald 1 1/2 cups of milk (4-6 minutes on high in the microwave)

Steam, braise, or roast the beets and carrots until just tender. Saute the green beans, mushrooms and garlic in a little olive oil. Turn the oven back on, at 350F/175C. Put the two veggie mixes into the casserole in two layers. Each layer should be dotted with 1 tablespoon of butter, and dredged with 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour the hot milk over this, cover and bake for 30 minutes.

Serve over fettucini.


  1. Sounds delicious! Cooking is not hard and you don't need a lot of space or equipment to make a delicious meal. Simple is best.


  2. You know people always say cooking isn't hard but it IS! My mom never tried showing me anything about cooking so I just don't know. Your example here is EXACTLY my problem. I'm literal and precise. I have questions. Just the other day I saw a recipe online for something very easy--at first glance. But when I read through it I was like "Kosher salt?" what's that? Well, I went to the coop and got some but discovered there were normal and coarse kinds. HUH? Did it matter to my recipe? (It turns out it didn't and because I know the author I just asked, but you can't always do that.)

    So sometimes, even though I have managed to run the rest of my life OK and consider myself moderately intelligent, I just end up feeling stupid and defeated by most recipes.

  3. This recipe even stumped me and I am a very fearless and experienced cook. Even though I could have figured it out, I got annoyed and changed mid-stream, kinda "take THAT stupid recipe. I don't have to follow you!" I'm sure the recipe is feeling very contrite now. What I really love is the website has the word "simple" in the title.