Hi, gang. I’ve been a cooking fool lately. I am determined to finish the testing of the recipes for my cookbook-in-progress within the next few months. I don’t have a full-time job, so if not now, when?
Part of this testing is about stepping outside of my comfort zone and cooking with ingredients and methods that I am not accustomed to (i.e., that I grew up with). And since I’ve been working on this book since 2002, I’ve been doing that for quite some time. So, I really think nothing of taking an ingredient and using it in an usual way.
Let me explain…
If you’re anything like me, you love finding new products on the shelves at the markets and trying them out (and by “new” I mean new for you–they might be traditional products back in the Old Country, whichever old country that happens to be). This is especially true when I go into an ethnic market. Every time I go to the local Asian market, I try to come out with something new and different (but not too different—my adventurousness only goes so far).
Last week, I went to one of my local Russian markets and in the beverage aisle, I found pear soda from Georgia (as in the Republic of Georgia, not Atlanta/Scarlett O’Hara/I shall never be hungry again). It was called Pear Natakhtari Fizzy Drink. It looked interesting, so I bought it (of course I did).
Well, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I was expecting something light and crisp. Instead, it was very sweet. Candy-like, in fact. Not really my thing. But I am my mother’s daughter, and true to our common frugal nature, I did not throw it out. I simply put a wine-saver top on it and stuck it in the fridge.
A couple of days later, I was making myself some dinner. It was one of those use-anything-leftover-in-the-fridge dinners. I had a piece of butternut squash, a few Brussels sprouts, and a container of chick peas that my mother had cooked (from dried beans) and given to me. I threw all these things together to make a butternut-Brussels sprouts-chick pea stew. The bottom of the pot browned nicely from the squash and red onions I’d also thrown in there. I said to myself, “I wish I had some wine open to deglaze this pot.” Then, I remembered the pear soda. Now, they say that you’re not supposed to use a beverage in your cooking that you wouldn’t drink straight up. Then I thought, well, that really applies to wine. Nobody ever said anything about soda. What the hell.
So, yep, I poured some soda into that pot and scraped up the fond from the bottom. And you know what? It was good! It brought out the natural sweetness of the vegetables and gave the stew that little extra something that makes you go, “Hmm, what is that flavor?” I never would have thought to use Georgian pear soda to deglaze a vegetable stew, but it worked. That made me happy. I’m having the leftovers tonight.
The moral of this story is, don’t be afraid to use ingredients in ways that might seem odd. That’s basically how the most creative recipes by famous chefs came about. They stepped outside of the box and used foods in different and unusual ways. That’s how they became famous in the first place.
As for my cooking frenzy, this week I made (among other things) Armenian cheese patties and spinach dumplings from Uruguay called buñuelos de espinaca. They both came out really good. A hint on making patties or any kind of dumplings: Make sure you seal them well. Use water or egg as glue. It’s distressing to see your cheese or whatever spill out from your beautiful dumplings. Yeah, it happened.
Oh, and I want to remind all my fellow writers out there about the pirate anthology, Skulls and Crossbones. This is a collection of short stories about female pirates, any time, any setting. Deadline is September 1, so get cracking on those stories! The guidelines are HERE.
Okay, back to cooking. Have a great week, everyone. And thanks for checking in. Peace.