Monday, October 13, 2014

Cooking simply

I have come to the conclusion that cooking isn't really very challenging - unless you specifically aim at gourmet recipes, of course - if you can almost always be assured of almost all ingredients, or at least, if it's only a question of putting something on your next shopping list. 

It isn't very difficult to make a good dinner if you always have a chicken or a good part of beef.  Salmon steaks are pretty hard to ruin, too. And your baked goodies, soups and pasta will almost always turn out well with plenty of butter, cream and cheese. And it's really easy to make fancy desserts with copious amounts of whipped cream and chocolate. 

It's a lot more of a challenge to create a variety of healthy, tasty, satisfying meals from the simplest, most economical ingredients. If you use vegetables and fruit in their season, when they are best (and cheapest), things become even more interesting. 

My mother-in-law cooks, and has always cooked, soup almost every day - mostly meatless, sometimes enriched with the bony parts of chicken or turkey. Her lentil soup and split pea soup are especially beloved. A bowl of such thick, savory soup is a meal in itself. I don't cook soup nearly as often, but nevertheless we hardly eat meat during the week - or if we do, it makes for a supplementary part of the meal, such as bits of chicken breast with stir-fry veggies, served over noodles or rice. 

In my mind, I have scrumptious visions of lemon meringues with fluffy clouds of whipped cream piled up high; of an impressive cheesecake with fresh berry topping (berries are rare and expensive in Israel); of espresso mousse with kahlua liqueur, served in individual elegant glasses; of brownies oozing with lots and lots (and lots) of chocolate. Usually, however, I have to compromise for the simple good stuff, such as carrot or apple cake. It's a lot more down-to-earth, but the house smells of cinnamon, and anyone who comes through the door enthusiastically turns toward the oven. 

There was a time when bell peppers were so cheap that my husband brought home great full bags of them, and I made stuffed peppers almost every week. Then came a time when peppers got so expensive we did without any for maybe two months in a row. Nowadays I have just enough for fresh salads. Having any vegetables at my disposal at any time would be more convenient, no doubt, but there is also something nice in not having something, and looking forward to a time when you can have it again, and enjoy it all the more. 

In the photo above; my bean and barley soup, which I'm looking forward to making again soon, in the cooler days yet to come.


Kim said...

Have missed you lately. Glad you are safe and doing well.
I like hearing about the differences between the United States and Israel berries are something we take for granted here they are abundant in the summer and usually available year round for a higher price.
Simple ingredients and hearty meals make for well fed happy families. Your bean and barley soup looks good. Will you be posting a recipe?


Linda said...

Your soup looks so delicious.
I love soup, but I am the only one in my family that does, so I hardly ever make them.
My favorite meal would be a vegetable soup with a yummy roll.

Charity said...

Interesting post - I had been thinking some of the same things. Cooking with what you have (because it's in season and needs to be used) versus going out and buying other ingredients, is more difficult (sometimes you end up with a very odd collection of meal components :), but it has rewards as well. Things taste best when in season and from our garden, we experience the rhythm of the year in ways others don't, and maybe we will also invent some great dish out of our necessity!

maria smith said...

I couldn't agree more! Use what you have and use it well. It's not too complicated. We over think so many things. I'm learning a lot about simplicity in green cleaning, shopping, cooking and home life in general.

Anonymous said...

I was excited to see your bean and barley soup picture. I've got beans soaking right now for black bean soup, and i've never made soup from dry beans before.

Jo said...

Agree, meals dont need to be difficult or expensive. Cook with what is in season and make simple heathy meals without using processed foods. These sorts of meals don't take very long which fit well into a busy day.

Lady Anne said...

Just curious - what caused the Great Bell Pepper Shortage? We are heading into winter here, so I presume your are also, and fresh vegetables are harder to come by. Are you experiencing a drought, which makes growing some things more difficult? (The continued drought in California is driving a lot of our food prices sky high, and it's going to get worse.)

By the way, when you moved, were you able to keep your chickens? I know the fresh eggs were a blessing to you.