Cooking as a hobby

When cooking is not just a daily necessity for survival, but an activity you actually enjoy, you can end up days like this one. Cooking chipotle tofu for lunch (with fresh guacamole!), having soup and salad with locally made sausages for dinner, and a just-because pear tarte tatin for dessert. Noms!

Cooking without a deadline

One of the most stressful things about cooking is knowing that someone hungry is waiting for the food to hit the plate. If the prep takes longer than expected, or you can’t actually juggle all the dishes at the same time, or (heaven forbid!) you ruin something, all of a sudden you are thrown into chaos.

That’s why I love cooking in the middle of the day. Baking bread, putting together a snack, cooking for a future meal, making desserts … I love not having a set deadline. It takes all the stress away so it’s just you and your tools and the ingredients.

Today I decided to make homemade hummus for the first time. Since I was already in the kitchen, I also decided to make soup — some for tonight’s dinner and the rest to have for lunch during the week. It felt indulgent to spend that quiet time chopping and simmering and blending. And now I get to enjoy the results, too!

Photo by Foodie Factor on Pexels.com

Midday risotto

I have what I consider built-in midwestern guilt (or perhaps a lingering case of Protestant work ethic) that makes me feel guilty for taking long breaks in the middle of the workday. This, even though I know I get plenty done and have a job that thankfully gives me flexibility in my work hours.

So it’s rare that I take the time to actually cook something from scratch for lunch. Today, though, I didn’t have much prepared and I happened to have everything I needed for Jacques Pepin’s Risotto with Broccoli Stems — only, in my case, using asparagus instead of broccoli (a substitution I have enjoyed in the past). It only took 30 minutes and was totally worth it.

Experimenting with bread

After hearing multiple people bring up sourdough bread in the past week, I decided it was time to give it a try. I’m not sure why I had avoided it before. So today I pulled out Beard on Bread and threw together the starter — so far so good, and I have tucked it in a warm spot in the kitchen to do its thing. Now I wait.

The satisfaction of a home-cooked meal and a full stomach

There is a simple pleasure in spending two unhurried hours preparing dinner from scratch. Thank goodness for weekends! Tonight’s dinner was three dishes from Ottolenghi that didn’t end up meshing all that well flavor-wise, but were each tasty and I’ll certainly be cooking again. (And with some tweaks they could be really versatile!)

I made a simple turkey with sauce, beans with hazelnuts, and a butternut squash and celeriac mash. The mash also had fried onions on top, which were super easy thanks to a microwave trick I happened to read on Food52 the other day. My stomach is very happy.

Writing in cookbooks

I get bizarre pleasure out of writing in books. Years of writing in the margins of textbooks never quite erased the years of being told to respect books by never, ever writing in them.

Taking notes in my cookbooks is an essential part of getting to know a recipe, making it work for me. Tonight I added some notes on the gilded pages of Nopi: Cut the lemongrass in bigger pieces, use a bit less five-spice, take it easy on the tomato sauce while serving, and try eating it with low-carb noodles. Details I’d otherwise forget the next time around.

But my favorite note happens on the recipes I really like — a little smiley face in the corner for quick reference. 🙂

Cooking throughout the day

I started working my way through some of the new recipes I chose the other day. We had turkey and courgette burgers last night (not actually new, but I’d only made them once before) with roasted brussel sprouts and salad. For today I decided to make the aubergine-wrapped ricotta gnocchi with sage butter. The recipe says it serves 2 as a main course, but just in case it isn’t enough we still have some of last night’s burgers to serve on the side. 🙂

This is one of those recipes that can trip you up if you (like me!) tend to pick out recipes without reading through them. Thankfully, I’ve learned that Ottolenghi recipes sometimes take prep ahead of time — I’ll always give them a quick skim and underline anything that needs to be done ahead so I don’t forget! In this case, the gnocchi can be almost entirely created a day ahead of time, which means if they’re tasty I’m going to keep track of this as a possible party food. But they have to be started about 4-5 hours before you want to eat them, so it isn’t something to make last minute.

I was planning on throwing together the gnocchi batter last night so it could chill overnight, but I forgot. Instead, I woke up this morning and assembled the batter before starting work. After lunch, I grilled the aubergine, boiled the gnocchi, and assembled everything on a baking tray. This evening it’ll be 10 minutes in the oven (and throwing together the butter sauce) and dinner will be ready. When you spread it out like that, it hardly seems like any work at all!