Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Keeping it Simple
I watch about an hour of TV a week, on average. Virtually all of this time is spent with two cooking shows, Iron Chef and Top Chef. It’s a bit intimidating, and I could skip the over-wrought drama of Top Chef’s elimination sessions, but I love to watch the things these people do with food.
Matsaharu Morimoto’s approach to cooking salmon in every possible texture variation and incorporating this all into a single dish just gets me on some odd level of culinary curiosity. I bow to the skills any chef of this caliber brings, literally, to the table.
It does make me wonder about who the heck I am to be writing recipes. What do I know? At these trying times where the creativity well is running a bit dry, I turn to “the library.”
The library is the combined collection of my husband’s and my cookbooks. It now numbers in the 200’s. Seriously. We have a lot of books in our house and not just on cooking. But cooking is our shared passion and the library reflects this.
Thusly humbled, and with fresh green beans on hand, I reached out for the comfort of my favorite Italian grandmother, Lidia Bastianich and her latest book, Lidia’s Italy. Instead of beating me over the head with a French whisk and a treatise on the perfect technique for the five Mother Sauces, Lidia greeted me with a warm hug of food affirmation from page 297’s Insalata Cruda E Cotta (Cooked and Raw Salad).
Roasted onions. Vinegar and olive oil. Fresh vegetables. Simple. Perfect. Familiar. Baby, I am at home in the kitchen again. In just one recipe of the book, Ms. Bastianich reminded me that good food is only as good as the ingredients. That simple is best even for one of the most recognized cooks in the world. That no technique can make a fresh green bean taste any finer. That Top Chef may make good reality TV, but it’s not the reality of how we really cook and eat.
So thank you, Lidia. And here is what I did to your lovely recipe. I hope you approve. I know we did. The end result was the best salad I have had in a long time. It helps that virtually all of the vegetables were local, in season and just out of the ground. Really. I had to wash the dirt off the onions myself.
Cooked and Raw Salad ala Lidia
Looking for this recipe? It will be included in my upcoming book co-authored with Ali of Cleaner Plate Club!
Serves a small army. Tastes like summer.
A couple notes here. To seed a tomato, just slice it in half first, and gently squeeze out the seeds and tomato “goo,” leaving the flesh, skin and “ribs” of the tomato intact. Also, the purple green beans are a lovely eggplant color. This will turn to dark green when cooked. So, if you look in the pot and wonder, “Hey, where’d the purple beans go?” now you know.