Friday, February 28, 2020

red plate specials - the horrors of cooking that actually taste pretty good

My husband likes to tell me 'enjoy your horror' when he sees me upending cans of food into the glass pyrex container, strange spices and things he wouldn't touch with a ten foot stick.  But then, he has digestive problems and likes to 'stick' to what's safe.

I experiment.

He also made a comment the other night about how most people, when they follow a recipe, actually use the ingredients suggested by the recipe.. or at least, try to.  And then they blame the recipe when t heir substitutions of baking powder for flour or etc do not work out for them.  Well, I think I have much more of a handle on it than those people! 

I improvise.
I follow my nose, and my tongue.  Some things just go together, others.. don't.
There is a certain interplay of fats and proteins, vitamin-C and vitamin A and K...
Some spices are there at the edge of my brain - cinnamon with this, celery seed with that.
And I know that hardly anyone else really would like half of these things.
Or at least, maybe they never let themselves cook like this.
If they did, they could discover this process for themselves.

Sometimes, I'm sure I'm vitamin-seeking, and there is actual chemistry going on at an intuitive level.
These combinations taste REALLY good to me, and it could be because at that very moment, that is what I need for some building-block project my body has going on, rebuilding collagen, muscle and blood. 

I'm certain I would not have survived college without this skill - to be able to throw the net out over my culinary ocean and figure out what to do with what came back.  There were days I walked into the Hornbacher's market in Fargo and my nose took me directly to a grapefruit or a bunch of onions, or I found myself really really interested in tracking down a jar of mustard or can of olives.  I was always working with pocket change, and willing to experiment - that is how most of my cooking knowledge was born. 

But, this sense doesn't work for other people - no one I've met yet..  My nose works for my stomach, and everyone else just stares in horror as I consume the mixtures.  My sister when I was younger, my roommates.. my husband, sometimes my child.  But oddly, the dogs are very appreciative.  They live from their noses to their stomachs, too.  But I wouldn't let any of them cook.

 I found a really good combination last night, and continued it a bit today.

The inspiration for the mixture was a recipe for Sardines and roasted endives with bitter greens - way above what I have on hand at any one minute... but hey, fish and green things, that sounds good - let's improvise.  I've got things in my cupboard that will do that for about $5.99.. at the most.

A can of olive-oil packed mackerels
A can of green chiles, all of it, undrained
A handful of some frozen leeks (tops and bottoms combined)
The other half of a bag of frozen broccoli

A can (drained and washed) of small red beans, non-sauced, non Kidney-beans.


My favorite glass pyrex banana bread pan was deep enough to hold it all.

I layered the fish on the bottom of the pan, then the chiles, then the frozen items on top and covered it with aluminum foil.  I let it bake at 350 for about thirty minutes, then added the beans and stirred the top few layers a bit together.  I baked it a bit more  - about fifteen minutes, to warm the beans to the same temperature.  I originally wasn't going to add the beans, but.. vitamin-seeking, I saw those greens and said 'what does this need?'...and it some more iron and some more protein etc...

I served it up (for myself, only) on my red plate special with some mashed potatoes, butter and lots of black pepper.  I had an audience of six dogs and two cats who would have really liked more than I saved for them.  It was so good, I saved a serving for today and reheated it with some pineapple tidbits mixed in.

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