Monday, February 6, 2012

Cooking in Season, A Lesson Learned from Our Parents' Mistakes

So what are the most common cooking mistakes we learned from our parents and how do we fix them?  Overcooking. Too little salt. Ingredients out of balance. But the most common - and the easiest to correct - according to Summer Tomato by Darya Pino is:

Mistake #4: Using bad ingredients

I saved this until the end because I say it all the time on Summer Tomato, but this is really the most important step. It’s February and asparagus couldn’t be any more out of season, so don’t buy it. There are plenty of seasonal ingredients at your local grocery and they will taste worlds better (and be cheaper) than anything artificially ripened and/or shipped from another hemisphere.

Solution: Cook with the seasons

Even if you can’t make it to the farmers market every weekend, you can still find seasonal (if not exactly local) ingredients in your grocery store. If you live in Minnesota and can only find California broccoli this time of year, so be it. But you don’t need strawberries from Chile or tomatoes from a greenhouse in the middle of winter, and they won’t taste good anyway. Here’s a great seasonal food chart if you don’t know where to start.

My South Louisiana family loved good food. Naturally. We're Cajun. Good food is very nearly religion in that neck of the woods. Everybody cooks. But loving good food is not the same as learning how to cook, so there were plenty of "uninspired" meals (read bland or downright bad) when my mother was in the kitchen. My BFF and I laugh about tough meat and gray green beans.

Hey I get it.

Some of my meals are also "uninspired" when I'm not into it. That's when it's a real joy that my BFF also loves to putter around in the kitchen.

Cooking in season and stretching our menu to incorporate new, unfamiliar vegetables is a constant adventure. We don't like everything. Not every recipe turns out as we expected. But the quest to work with Mother Nature - eating in season with all its health and environmental benefits and the satisfaction when a new food / recipe works - makes it all worthwhile.
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