Why I cook

Using a fork to combine flour and eggs, I balance the bowl on my hip as I look over my son’s shoulder to check his homework. The dough is sticky, so I add a few tablespoons of water.

The dough came together about the same time my son understood his assignment. I knead as he works through the problems. Setting the lump of dough under the mixing bowl to rest, I join him at the kitchen table where we reviewed Southwest Asia countries and capitals. Thirty minutes later, he was finished and the dough was ready to become pasta.

I flatten the dough with a rolling pin. I shpw my daughter how to use a pizza cutter to slice the dough in thin strips. As she dies that, I crush tomatoes for the sauce. Both kids take their showers as onions and garlic saute in the Dutch oven. I add thyme and sliced carrots as my husband walks in the door. He sits and talks with me as tomatoes simmer in the pit and garlic bread bakes in the oven.

An hour later, we were in a food coma. As I washed the disges, my husband hugs me.

“I am so lucky to have you,” he said.

I love to cook. I like the feeling of satisfaction that comes from serving a great meal or making people happy with baked treats. There are days I don’t want anything to do with my kitchen, days I’m happy we live just two blocks from Panchero’s, but even more days when I’m happy to take time from my schedule to produce something for my family and my friends.

Food is personal yet social. It brings people together. It’s something everyone enjoys, even if we have completely different tastes. It’s easy to lose the joy of cooking with the humdrum of everyday like, but those moments of gratitude and happiness are worth it. I need to remember this the next time I stand in my kitchen, with no idea what to make for dinner. A few personal touches to even the generic of dishes makes the different between a meal and an experience.

Go for the experience.

BASIC PASTA

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp water

In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the flour, the slightly beaten eggs, and mix. Mixture should form a stiff dough. If needed, stir in water, one tablespoon at a time.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 3 to four minutes. Let dough rest under mixing bowl for 30 minutes. Using a pasta machine or by hand, roll out dough to desired thinness. Use machine ort knife to cut into strips of desired width.

Boil water and salt. Cook pasta in bathes to prevent sticking. Past will rise to the top of the water when cooked.

BASIC TOMATO SAUCE

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 Spanish onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 medium carrot, finely shredded
  • 2 cups peeled whole tomatoes, crushed my hand and juices reserved
  • salt

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as hot as thick cereal. Season with salt and serve.

I added cooked Italian sausage to my sauce. It added spiciness to the sauce; very good!

Recipe from my Italian cooking class — we tackle Mexican food Wednesday!

An ode to mushrooms

A long time ago, I did not like you.

I thought you were slimy; you made me think ‘Ew.’

But then I grew up, and my taste buds matured.

When waiters ask “Do you want mushrooms with that?” — I answer “Sure!”

I put you in salads, chop you up for spaghetti.

When my husband grills steak, only with mushrooms on top do I think it is ready.

In omelets and burger toppings, meatloaf and soup —

Rarely do I put you in something, taste it and think “Oops.”

So thank you, dear mushrooms, for not giving up on me —

And now, to celebrate, I think I shall eat thee.

(Robert Frost has nothing on me!)

(And yes, I used to hate mushrooms. Not anymore! I sautéed some for pork chops tonight with a little whiskey and butter. Yum!)

(I shall compose a poem to green — and red and yellow and orange — peppers someday. Sadly, though, I will never write one for tomatoes.)