BakeSpite: Project 2012 status update 1

Everyone loves new year’s projects, and this year Cat and I decided to embark on a good one: We’re going to cook as often as possible. Originally my plan was to cook once per week, a course of action I arrived at after realizing I felt terrifyingly overwhelmed preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year, but then we decided that if the two of us prep food instead of just ordering out all the time (which we’ve always done because we’re both too busy to spend time to prepare our meals) we’ll save a lot of money and eat far more healthily. And, in the process, I will learn about cooking.

Project 2012-1: Linguine with pear salad

I requested a simple start, so for our first project we made a simple sauce for linguine and paired it with a lettuce-and-pear salad. Pasta’s easy enough, even for me (boil the water with a little salt and olive oil to add flavor and prevent clumping), but the sauce was a learning experience. I’d never minced or toasted garlic before and came very close to burning the oil; we also improvised slightly from the recipe and added spinach to the sauce, which was a slight miscalculation, as the vegetables simply soaked up the oil and left very little in the way of sauce. Still, we made the best of it and tossed the pasta in the sauce, and it worked out nicely. The sauce was garlic, oil, red pepper, black pepper, parsley, and spinach, making for a dish with slight heat and a peppery flavor. The salad (lettuce, sliced pear, feta cheese, and a bottled pear vinaigrette) made for a slightly sweet complement to the savory pasta. A success!

Project 2012-2: Basa fillet with collard greens and sweet potato chips

For last night’s dinner, the main thing I discovered is that mandolines are dangerous; hence the chunk missing from my thumb. What happened is that I was cutting sweet potato chips and suddenly I found myself cutting Jeremy chips instead. That was pretty messy (especially since it started to heal overnight but my bandage got caught on my pillowcase and ripped off when I moved my arm, bloodily reopening the wound), but I finally convinced it to stop bleeding once and for all this morning.

Anyway, the food. Cat prepped the fish on her own, using butter, breadcrumbs, e.v. olive oil, salt, and pepper to coat the fillets before baking them on a bed of sage leaves. I helped with the collard greens and broccoli, putting my newfound knowledge of garlic-sautéeing to prep the veggies. Fortunately these vegetables proved to be a lot less absorbent than spinach, so they didn’t end up being little wads of saltiness. And I managed to make the chips more or less on my own, cautiously fishing them out of the oil fryer with my off-hand. I’ve heard that you’re not a true chef until you have to reset the number on your “THIS KITCHEN HAS BEEN x DAYS WITHOUT A LOST-TIME ACCIDENT” sign and powering through anyway.

All told, it was a very nice and vaguely southern dinner, geysers of blood notwithstanding. The mild fish (which was delicately flavored by the sage) and crisp sweet potatoes were complemented well by the slight bitterness of the greens. And the greens were complemented well by the red of my body’s precious life blood. Yes.

P.S., both meals were paired with a 2007 Chardonnay that is not worth recommending (but wasn’t terrible, either).

P.P.S., tonight’s dinner was leftover salad, eggs, and a bagel. Can’t go all-out every night, after all. I only have so many fingers to go ’round.

15 thoughts on “BakeSpite: Project 2012 status update 1

  1. I wish I could cook, but I get queasy around raw meat and sharp knifes make me nervous, so that limits things.

    • Sharp knives are a lot safer than blunt ones, because you don’t have to use much force with them. Much less likely to slip.

      • This is true, about sharp and dull knives.

        There’s actually a LOT of cooking you can learn even if you hate those two things. Baking sweets is a great way to learn a lot about the basics of cooking even if it’s not, you know, a meal.

        Take cookies, for example. If I’m not mistaken, the Toll House recipe on the back of their chocolate chips calls for 1 tsp of Vanilla extract, if I’m not mistake. The recipe on Ghirardelli chips calls for 2. Which one is better? Personally, after experimenting with both, I found a tsp and a half to be best.

        As tiny as it may seem, learning how little things like that can make a very noticeable difference in both the taste of the food you make as well as your own appreciation for it.

        Plus, it’s pretty rare for a member of your sex[es] of choice to not want to totally make out with you if you make really good sweets.

  2. “Originally my plan was to cook once per week”

    wait, do people actually eat take away or at restaurants that much?

    • Yeah, it’s kind of hard for me to imagine eating out that much. But it’s also kind of tough for me to imagine being as busy as Parish is.

      Congrats on the pasta. For some reason I just can’t make a decent pasta.

      • It’s pretty easy to lean on restaurants when your neighborhood is loaded with good locally owned places, most of which deliver. It’s not a preference, though, just a necessity, and we don’t do it daily… maybe twice a week, and on weekends. Also, when I say once a week, I meant I personally would be doing the cooking. Cat cooks a fair amount. I suck at it.

    • Heck, sweet potatoes in general are awesome. And quite good for you. Unless it’s slathered in butter and brown sugar. Then… probably not so much. Still tasty, though.

  3. Thank SO MUCH for not calling it EVOO. The e. v. olive oil made it so much better.

    Mandolins have those safety guards! They are your friend!

  4. Recently made a parsnips and barley soup, with spinach and leeks and nutmeg and whatnot. But now I wish I’d had sweet potato fries to go with it!

  5. Ah, more BakeSpite sounds great, thanks for sharing your adventures. I also have to rely on cooking by myself, as I am a) a poor student and b) a vegetarian. Not a good combination in germany.

  6. Last year I had the same accident with my mandoline while using the safety guard (my hands were wet). Since then I ditched the guard and opted for a very heavy duty rubber glove. You can find them at any hardware store in the gardening section.

  7. I heartily approve of simple meals and leftover consumption. Part of the reason I never really “prepare” food at home is because most dishes that sound interesting have ingredient lists as long as an encyclopedia, three quarters of which I do not have, would have to buy in quantities far exceeding what I need, and would go to waste long before I would be able to make use of it all.

    And while we’re talking about blade accidents, a few years ago I nicked off a good chunk of my thumb in a meat slicer. One of those big deli ones.

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