Sunday, January 25, 2009

Adventures in cooking

I want to be a good cook. I think that taking all of these various ingredients, that may or may not taste good on their own, and putting them together to make something that tastes good is really cool. And maybe a good analogy for the church? Well, it's something to think about, anyway.

But, despite my best intentions, my attempts haven't always been that successful. Two prominent attempts that come to my mind are a time I tried to bake bread, and a time I tried to make vegetarian lasagna. The bread turned out kind of hard and tasted funny (or there was the time I think I killed the yeast). Then, with the vegetarians lasagna, I wasn't aware of the excess moisture that spinach can create. And so my lasagna turned out to be pretty soupy.

There have been times when things turn out good, and the food tastes good and everyone likes it. Of course, those times aren't as burned into my memory as the others are.

I'm still trying to figure out what my adventure today should be classified as.

I made lentil loaf, a dish that I got out of the Holden Village cookbook. It's kind of a running gag in the Village, but supposedly it can also be really good. Since, during my visits to the Village I have never been blessed to try it, I thought I'd give it a shot. It didn't seem like a lot of work, until I got into it.

First, I had to get the lentils. You think that sounds easy, but my first attempt was fruitless. Maybe it's because I don't know where to look for them, but I thought they'd be by the beans. That's a good guess, right? Well, they weren't. So I looked in the organic section. They weren't there, either. And this is at a grocery store. I looked up and down every aisle. But I couldn't find them. So I ended up buying the rest of the food, and then I drove to another place to look for them. It was looking like it might be hopeless, there, too (is it REALLY that hard to buy lentils?) but I was walking through the "Hispanic" aisle and happened to glance down by the black and pinto beans and there they were.

Well, once I got home I needed to start boiling the water for the lentils. And I needed to chop up all the vegetables (and I decided to add some other kinds not listed in the recipe). As I was boiling the lentils, chopping the carrots and celery, and sauteing the mushrooms and onions, I looked at the recipe and realized I hadn't started the rice yet. So I took the mushrooms and onions off the burner and put on a pot of water and instant rice.

Then I combined all of the ingredients and spices into the bowl and started mixing them. I even resorted to using my hands so that I could make sure it got mixed up.

There are two things I learned/was reminded about today in this cooking adventure: 1) When it says 3 cups of cooked rice, that does not mean you should prepare 3 cups of uncooked rice. It expands and ends up being a lot more than what you started with. And 2) A recipe in a cookbook is often intended for more than one person, and so to make a recipe by the book means that you'll have a lot of food leftover. So now my freezer is full of little rubbermaid containers of lentil loaf.

Well, I should say "lentil mush." You see, afterthe oven timer went off, and I took the TWO pans out and put them on the cupboard to set, and then sliced into one and moved it onto my plate, it sort of fell apart. It wasn't really understanding the whole "loaf" idea. I let them set a bit longer before I tried to put them into the containers, and each time they fell apart. But, it tasted ok. If I make it again, I might tweak the recipe, add some more vegetables, mushrooms and cheese (I added cheese as an extra that wasn't in the recipe), and maybe more tomato paste so that it will stick together better. Is that my problem? Does anybody reading this know?

Obviously, this is NOT how my loaf turned out. I had wanted to provide a picture to show off my culinary skills, but didn't think that, with the way mine turned out, it was all that worth showing off since it didn't look that great, but tasted ok. And you can't taste pictures. So, even though this is not my lentil loaf, it looks similar as far as color and texture and whatnot. So I thought I'd share it with you all so you could get some idea of what mine looks like. So picture that but a bit more crumbly and then you get mine! Exciting, I know! So, plans are in the works for my next cooking adventure, but I think I need to clean up after this one by both washing the dishes and eating all the leftovers. I have a couple cookbooks that I've been meaning to try recipes out of, so we'll have to see what I'm brave enough to try next!!!

1 comment:

  1. My mom is a really good cook and LOVES to try new recipes. Clips them from magazines, Food Network, online, gets cookbooks at the library, etc. I credit her love for experimentation dating back to my childhood with the fact that I'm willing to try eating nearly anything. (Even Lentil loaf, although my Holden experience didn't include that item, either.)

    Her general approach is to first, make the recipe as close as possible to as written. Then make it a second time with her own tweaks to fix whatever she didn't like the first time. And if she doesn't really like it, she never makes it again. It's all about trial and error and having indulgent friends/family willing to eat your efforts so you're not stuck with 5 quarts of tofurkey goulash on your own!!!