Whenever someone asks me what my hobbies are, for some reason cooking rarely comes to mind. The funny thing is that I spend a relatively huge percentage of a given week cooking. More importantly, I love it. I suppose cooking has become so integral to how I spend my time it doesn’t feel like an add-on. Cooking both excites and relaxes me. It uses a part of my brain that other daily tasks don’t exercise. Cooking is simultaneously artistic and scientific; a creative and sensual expression that soothes, comforts, excites, and enlightens. In many ways, it is the reason I get out of bed in the morning. Even if I am not looking forward to work or errands or whatever else is going on in a given day, at least I get to be creative about what I eat.
In the spirit of food creativity, I would like to share some of the recipes I’ve used lately that really knocked it out of the park. Please note that I’m not just talking good–I’m talking close-your-eyes-breathe-deep-be-transported-to-another-time-and-place delicious. Enjoy!
I never thought such an elegant dessert could be so easy, let alone so mouth-wateringly magnificent. Not too sweet and not too rich, this lava cake reduced both me and Josh to a stunned, gooey silence. Seriously, though–SO EASY. If you have a set of ramekins, you will blow the minds of your next dinner party guests with a mere 20 minutes of minimal effort. I’d recommend serving it a la mode.
I love this recipe for several reasons: first, because it is full of so many wonderfully fresh flavors including mint, parsley, lemon, cucumber, sweet tomatoes, red onion, and Greek yogurt; second, because Greek cuisine that is both delicious and not dripping with oil is really hard to find in Chicago; third, because this dish is a fabulous way to use up left-over roast chicken. In our house, we go through chicken stock pretty fast, which means we roast a lot of chickens, which further means we end up with a lot of leftover chicken meat. In the past, I used the leftover chicken in an old family recipe for Chicken a la King. While I absolutely love that family favorite, we needed a new challenge. We found it in these gyros, although challenge is not really the right word because hardly any part of this recipe was challenging (except for picking the chicken carcass…but Josh valiantly tackles that beast so I don’t have to!). Chop stuff, mix stuff, pile stuff, BAM…Gyros! A few tips: first, I recommend trying to get very sweet tomatoes. The difference, as I just discovered between the first and second time making this dish, is drastic. Tart tomatoes will work, but ease off on the parsley and add sugar or honey to taste. Second, try to use pre-oiled pita as it adds a yummy, grainy texture when slighted toasted on a frying pan or griddle. Third, don’t pile too much, though you will be tempted. 🙂
I have a soft spot in my heart for this recipe, and not only because sinking my teeth into this tender salmon-stuffed crepe made all the muscles in my body melt into meditative contentment. This dish is special to me because it was one of the last dishes I cooked for my grandmother before she died. I am pleased to say that it was a good choice. In her last few months of life she started losing various faculties, and as her eyes began to fail, and her hearing got worse, she had nothing enjoyable to do except eat. I remember watching her eat this dish. For what seemed like a half hour at least, she sat concentrating on each bite, murmuring yummy noises every few minutes. I knew I had done a good thing. Thank you Epicurious.com blue ribbon recipes! I recommend serving this with a lighter vegetable, possibly with a vinegar based dressing to help cut the richness a bit. I also have made it with sauteed asparagus with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Do you have any recipes you feel like sharing? Please send them along!