First thing’s first: How often do you eat fresh food?
Cooking for yourself can be an exciting undertaking, and should be fun, and I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to keep from losing your enthusiasm for making food at home is to expand your culinary repertoire with some new, more adventurous ingredients. I like to know what kind of soil I’m working with, what kind of crops I’m cultivating, and so on. A well-curated pantry and seasonal vegetable garden make growing veggies as hands-on as you want. If you do a lot of cooking at home, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be a backyard gardener!
What are some unusual ingredients you think could be the next great entrée?
I recently discovered a supplier of locally grown Thai basil in New Mexico. Even though it’s the most common herb in Thai cuisine, it’s not so widely available, and when I tried the Thai basil at my local farmers market, I was overwhelmed by how much I loved it. It’s intensely fragrant and fruity-I love the velvety texture of the leaves in a salad or as a base for a simple soup. Plus, I love the exoticism of a Thai-grown ingredient!
What other new seasonings or ingredients could inspire a cooking revival?
For a steak I love to stir some red pepper flakes into the pan and then sprinkle some garlic over it. I like to season my meat with garlic salt, lemon juice and hot pepper flakes. What I also love to do is toss a lot of shaved (or grated) onion on top of the meat, along with some fresh thyme or rosemary. And then at the last minute, before you sear it on both sides, I’ll throw in some lemon juice, black pepper, and salt and then throw the whole thing in the oven until the crust turns a beautiful brown colour. So good!
How do you keep from losing your interest in kitchen tasks?
The thing that has kept me motivated is planning: Planning ahead in advance and knowing what I’m going to be making on any given day. I’m always thinking about meals ahead of time, and then I just get to it. I also tend to err on the side of eating healthy, so I make a lot of salads and smoothies, so I have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well. Sometimes I’ll prep a few things ahead of time so I can throw it all together when I get home from work and still have time to sit down and eat a nice dinner. You can get some great inspiration from the unlikeliest of sources, such as the menu-planning team at a restaurant whose catering software features open up communication channels with customers.
What are your most memorable stories about food?
It’s always a mix-the experiences where a dish comes together easily and hits the spot, and then there are the times where it’s sort of a struggle. The worst cooking experience I’ve had has been opening the oven to find that the dish is burnt or overcooked.
Can you share a particularly inspired way you’d approach something like entertaining guests at home?
I think the easiest way is to open up the meal by first offering beverages. For example, you can serve a warm salad first with a cold salad next, or a fish course first, and then a salad, and then the entrée, and then finish off with dessert and drinks.