My Cooking Style
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, you will soon figure out that my cooking style is pretty informal on an everyday basis. I tend to look in the fridge and freezer in the morning and decide what I can cook for supper that night based on what I have on hand. And I try to reinvigorate leftovers so they don’t taste left-over. Sometimes a trip to the grocery is necessary, but I try to put that off as long as possible.
But when I talk about what I’m cooking, I tend to use language like:
“Drizzle in the olive oil.”
“A pinch of kosher salt…”
“A handful of fresh herbs…”
“Cook it till it’s got a good sear before turning over.”
“Taste it and adjust your seasonings if needed.”
I guess I do this because I tend to follow some basic cooking techniques that I’ve honed and that can be adjusted on the fly, or based on ingredients I have on hand. A recipe I find in a cookbook, or online, I will follow pretty closely, but not always to the letter. When I’m just cooking off the top of my head, and then explaining it verbally or in print, that informality carries over. For that I apologize. I know my explanations are not always precise or formulaic, but I hope they convey an ease with which I cook and that I believe anyone can achieve.
Now, that “ease” is not evident in all my kitchen endeavors:
Exhibit A: Pie Crust!
Exhibit B: Custard!
Exhibit C: Meringue!
Put those three together and you have, take your pick, Coconut Cream Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, Chocolate Meringue Pie…and on and on…
My point, and I do have one, is that much in cooking can be achieved with a relaxed approach that allows for substitution and adjustment as you go. The dinner on the grill from the Indiana Home Cooks “Thieme & Wagner” episode is an example. The ingredients you have on hand can be subbed in for any of the ingredients I used. You like more heat? Add some dried pepper flakes. Have a cucumber in the fridge? Add it to the Greek Salad. (That’s more authentic anyway. I just didn’t have a cucumber handy.)
On the other hand, some cooking, and certainly baking, require a fairly rigorous adherence to the recipe. Precise measurements and proper proportions are crucial to baking success. Proper technique with things like sauces, custards, and meringues is also essential. But it’s not rocket science. It can be learned! And maybe we will learn something along the way with Indiana Home Cooks. Keep in touch!
Mediterranean Marinade for Grilled Chicken
For 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 2 b/s chicken breasts
1/4 C red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each kosher salt and ground pepper
1 tsp honey
1 handful of chopped fresh herbs—oregano, basil, sage, thyme*
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
Whisk together all the above ingredients in a small mixing bowl or 2-cup glass measuring cup. If it seems a little too thick, add a little water. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.
Put chicken in a zip-top plastic bag. Pour in the marinade and zip the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Squish around the contents until chicken is thoroughly coated. Put in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or up to 24 hours, before grilling. Follow your grill’s instructions, or any basic cookbook, for cooking boneless chicken.
*To chop this jumble of fresh herbs, first, strip leaves from 2-3 springs of oregano, do the same with thyme, and stack together with 2 basil leaves, and 4-5 sage leaves. Roughly roll this all up into a little “cigar” and slice into ribbons. Then chop the ribbons finely.
*Or, say “screw it,” and just use dried herbs! I would use 2 tsp total—1 tsp of dried oregano, and a generous 1/4 tsp each of the other three. A rule of thumb: with dried herbs use less, with fresh herbs use more. Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor.
My Greek Salad with Grilled Vegetables
(4-6 servings as a side dish)
1 bell pepper, any color
One medium onion
One large tomato
Feta cheese crumbles
For the dressing*, whisk together in your salad serving bowl:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Pinch of kosher salt and ground pepper
Tiny squirt of honey, or 1/2 tsp sugar
Pinch of dried oregano
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cut pepper in half and remove the stem. Peel and slice the onion into 1/2-inch thick slices—keep slices intact. Rub oil on outside of pepper halves and on the onion slices. Cook on a grill over “medium” heat. When the veggies begin to get grill marks, turn over and cook the other side. Should only take about 10 minutes, give or take, depending on grill temperature. Remove and let cool. Then chop, along with tomato, into a large dice. Add to the bowl with your dressing and top with feta and olives, as much as you want, and toss to coat.
*You can mix up the dressing while the grilled vegetables cool, while everything cooks, or do it ahead of time. The longer the dressing sits, the more the flavors will “marry” and get happy.