My "random” recipes

I’ve been fancying myself as a burgeoning “chef” – but I’m realizing that I’m being guided by a specific philosophy that does not apply as across the board as I thought it did with people who enjoy cooking.  I’m talking about improvising and using leftovers.  And not just improvising withing certain guidlines, I’m talking about improvising “with what you have.” 

I’ll compare this to a friend who also cooks really well.  He will decide upon a recipe, and then go out and shop for all the ingredients.  IF one of those ingredients is just a tad esoteric – say, pear sauce – the rest of that unused pear sauce will then sit in the fridge until time itself has forgotten about the pear sauce.

In my cooking world, I look for recipes where I know we have at least 60% of the ingredients – then I just start substituting like mad.  And you can imagine how that frustrates more formal cooks.  We’ve come up with a nickname for our kitchen, with it’s random (but slowly improving) assortment of utensils and pots and pans (until a few months ago, we didn’t have a food processor, much less a pot that didn’t have teflon pealing off of it).  That nickname also applies ot the randomness of my cooking – “La cocina del diablo borracho” – the kitchen of the drunk devil.  Sure, it doesn’t really capture the spirit, but it sounds good, and it certainly reflects the frustration of purists who step is an a) see what things we *don’t* have, and b) see what I decide I’m going to substitute in my recipe because of what we *do* have.

I have to chalk it up to Amanda, who has instilled in me an abiding rule that you don’t waste food (yeah, ring one up for my friend Chops too).  Nowadays, even if I want to make a simple pasta, and the turnips are about to go bad, into the pastra they go.  Or I spend my time looking for turnip recipes that I can make.

Another thing has happened: since I feel fine throwing in extra bits and pieces into my meals, I have no problem with miniscule leftovers.  Used to be that if there was less than 2 inches of onion, or 1/3 cup of garbonzo beens, they’d either go into the original recipe or get tossed (eventually, when they went bad).  Now I just keep them on the side, and add them as an extra ingredient when something comes up.  Which is why I keep creating a plethora of “random” dishes.  And frustrating the hell out of my friend Russ.  But you know what?  We have very little food that goes bad in our house.

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