Saturday, November 28, 2009

Food Philosophy for Everyday Cooking

The food philosophy in my house for everyday cooking is, "Take good food and do as little as possible to it."

Even though we're busy people, Boyfriend and I eat dinner together pretty much every night. The only way we could possibly pull this off is by preparing meals that take 20 to 40 minutes at the most. The philosophy that we cook by helps: Take quality ingredients; add nothing more than salt, pepper, olive oil or butter, and perhaps a handful of herbs; and add heat.

High quality ingredients don't have to be anything crazy. Most of the time, it's a fresh piece of fish bought from the fish market on the walk home from the subway, or a few chicken thighs from the Halal section of the grocery store, or a plump eggplant from the produce stand, or a couple of cage-free eggs from the little organic market around the corner.

We'll pair whatever we cook with a salad, bread and cheese, or another vegetable cooked in the same way: olive oil, salt, pepper—sometimes black pepper, sometimes red pepper flakes, what we call pepperoncino—maybe a bit of parsley, basil, garlic. Depending on what the main ingredient is, we'll pop it under the broiler or toss it on a grill pan, or do some other one-step cooking.

At least once a week, we do something more involved, like braise some pork. Two weeks ago, Boyfriend braised a rabbit, which fed the two of us three meals each. Last week I cobbled together a vegetable lasagna on Sunday so that later in the week, when I knew we'd both be busy, whoever got home first could pop it in the oven for an hour and be done with the cooking.

If the weather has been particularly hot, or if we are suddenly busy and late to come home from work, we'll grab a package of smoked salmon and a baguette from the market and pair it with a salad and a bottle of wine.

We eat well daily, and healthfully, and it actually takes less time and effort&mdashmuch less time and effort—than it would to prepare food that's unhealthy. That's the one thing I wish I could convey to people who want to improve their eating habits. It takes minimal effort to stir up together two omelets and a baked sweet potato, or a lay out a few ounces of smoked salmon on bread with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions and a lentil salad.

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