For me, simple cooking is about making food from scratch, every day. Or eight days out of ten. there is something soul satisfying about it. I get to be up close to the food chain for a few brief moments or so each day.
And as I cook, sometimes my thoughts run…….we have managed, as a species, to climb to the very top of the chain. We can hunt anything, we can eat or devour anything in our path because we are the alpha predators on this planet. And look at how we do it.
Instead, I take heart from my food that I feed myself and understand that I am a contrarian in food terms, most of the time. Though I am neither vegan or vegetarian, it seems to be that is mostly the style I enjoy, without the tofu or tempeh.
Meat is over-rated and nobody needs to consume the amounts that we do. I might eat or cook beef a couple of times a year. On my terms. The same with chicken. Have to be in the mood for it. Rack of lamb, domestic, Australian or New Zealand, all over-rated. Rib-eyes, porterhouses, dry-aged this, beef tenderloin that……all over-rated. Duck confit this, lobster that…..all over-rated. Anything deemed expensive in a luxury class………over-rated.
For me, forever the contrarian, if I am going to cook and eat a plate of dead steaming animal protein, give me fish. Think of a dead cow and what you can do with it. Roast, grill, braise, or stew. But it is still the same dead cow every time you go to shop. From this cook’s point of view, it does’nt vary throughout the year. Whether you choose to grill bone-in rib-eye steaks or braise short ribs, it is still a large dead cow of questionable pedigree
I prefer cooking fish. There is a simplicity and sophistication about fish cookery. You can certainly apply the same classic cooking techniques but it will never be the same type of fish twice in a row. I’m drawn to fish cooking over meat any day. I love it’s seasonality. And in this regard, I lucky to live in New England. I buy and cook local, New England fish. Available to me in this season are mussels, clams, oysters, monkfish, flounder, cod, Maine shrimp and haddock. There is plenty of range within that listing for me and I do not eat a lot of fish either. Over-rated are fish that travel long distances to market. I’d rather the fish swim long distances to get here like the bluefish in late spring, striped bass in the summer or the swordfish in the autumn.
The reality is grains, legumes and vegetables are underrated. So is extra virgin olive oil. 90% of the time, that is all I need. Hopefully, the grains and vegetables come from someplace local. The best part about not eating a lot of dead animals is that clean-up is a breeze. And that’s important to me.
Despite cooking from scratch, I try to minimize my time in the kitchen. Recipes are rarely used. In terms of simple cooking (time and expense) most recipes are improved by the removal of an ingredient or two.
Recipes are great for reference, to use as a guideline. The only vegetables in my fridge right now are mostly roots. They are cheap and tasty so I cook with them……..winter style vegetables. Base vegetables like onions, carrots, turnip, potato, rutabaga and celery root. Greens like Brussels sprouts and kale. And grains. Oats for breakfast, buckwheat too, rices, farro, spelt, barley, corn in the form of polenta, and lastly, wheat. I’m all about wheat, pasta, bread, pastry and whole grain wheat also, please. All non GMO. Legumes like lentils, chick-peas, favas and cannellini. Most everything else is overrated. Preferably, the only processing is the interaction between me, my blade and my cutting-board.
When I cook fish, I use classical techniques. I either use a court-bouillon to cook the fish or I fry, grill, poach or stew the fish. Steamed fish already sounds like punishment. Frying can involve either saute, shallow frying or deep fat frying. I’m not set up to perform the last detail. Why do I want fish and chips?
In terms of simple cooking, I try to think in terms of minutes rather than hours. We are all busy. Eat like a fish-monger. Thank you for reading my cooking efforts.