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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Alone Time + How I'm Learning to Cook

When my new husband (!) left for Seattle for a few days this morning, I was kinda bummed. I was thinking The honeymoon is really over! and How is this fair for newlyweds to spend 3 whole days apart? But then I remembered I'm an INTROVERT and I haven't had alone time in WEEKS and how else am I going to regenerate my energy?

So after work I skipped merrily along to the farmer's market and came home with lots of fun goodies for my first solo night in a long time.

Now back in NYC I would head to the Union Square Market and pretty much shrug at everything because how am I supposed to cook that? And shouldn't I just let the experts do it and it's too hot to cook anyway but gee it sure looks pretty in that box and maybe I should just take a picture and then get a beer somewhere before I head back on the L train.

There are no such distractions here in Pullman, and no such luxuries as "someone else will cook it better" because they WON'T. I think it's this feeling of "it's me or no one" that has pushed me to actually start chopping things up and putting them in hot oil and then wow! Dinner!

My home cooking endeavors started off as finding a recipe, going out, buying all the ingredients, measuring everything, and carrying out all the tasks listed in the grease-splattered cookbook. But like any other craft, you start to get the hang of it. You read through a recipe and take the parts you like. You remember cooking techniques that work and apply it with different ingredients and flavors. And you stop measuring! Because unless you're baking then there's really no point. 1/4 teaspoon of salt should really be more, anyway, so why not just eyeball it? And then you save money because you're skilled at tailoring dinner towards what you have and not what's $10/lb at the grocery store. (See? I've learned to be frugal, too!)

Tonight I think I advanced a little more with a beet salad I made up with veggies from the market, a fried rice I tweaked from Cooking Light and a chicken I cooked on a memory and an instinct. I tried to match the dinner to the hot weather, to give me some cool relief with little nods to a fiery sun. I wanted something light and bright with little hints of earthy spiciness.

I call it Yogurt-Dill Chicken with Lemongrass Rice and Honey Beet Salad.

Whoooo-what! That sounds crazy. Like a real adult person's dinner and not what I used to do when Rob went away which was... um.. an excuse for a giant takeout pepperoni and ricotta calzone from a place on Manhattan Ave with lots of pictures of Italian people on the walls.

Oh, memories.

Well I'm not skilled at writing recipes yet (because again, I don't measure) but maybe you're an eyeball-er too and just want the highlights.

The chicken breast was marinated in plain yogurt, lots of fresh dill from the farmer's market, garam masala, lemon juice, garlic powder, curry powder, red pepper and cumin. Shook off the marinade. Sauteed about 4 minutes per side, then into the convection oven at 350 for about 15 minutes because its way too hot to turn on the actual oven. It didn't come out yogurt-y at all, just had lots of great aromatic Indian spices, and the creamy freshness from the yogurt adhered all those great flavors to the meat.

The white rice I cooked as usual, without salt or butter. Then I sauteed some onions in oil with lemongrass powder, added the rice in, turned the heat off and added lemon juice and lots of parsley.

The salad took a bit more creativity. I don't know if you're supposed to blanch beets or not, but I did. And as I was boiling them, the grassy smell made me think of peas, so I blanched some of the sugar snaps, too. Then I remembered I got cucumbers from the farmers market too, so I salted those and chopped them up. Fresh, green, crunch. Mixed everything together and chilled it. I made a vinagrette with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and lemon juice. It tasted awful. I adjusted the amounts. It tasted better. I added more honey and a little orange peel. Perfect. Glazed it over the beet salad.

Then I set the table with new Crate & Barrell placemat and napkin from the registry and put the farmer's market snapdragons in water. And maybe I had a Topcutter IPA too. I'M ALLOWED!

Being a newlywedded introvert with a budding talent for fresh and local cooking is kind of awesome.

I still think about that calzone sometimes, though.

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