I’ve always loved new recipes – after all, what better way to lighten the unbearable darkness of being than to mess around with brightly-coloured vegetables and chop and fry onions and so on. Why do you think first-world countries have become so obsessed with cooking shows and gourmet ingredients and sushi? To eat healthy? No indeed. Merely that cooking is a bright and practical way to relieve the perfect tedium of daily existence combined with the screaming angst of impending mortality…
Back to the subject at hand. Ah yes. Cookbooks are some of my favourite reading matter, and when “Hasan” was around in Halifax, we spent many a bright moment together talking about cooking and yes, Sunday dinners had become an institution I looked forward to, to experiment and prepare new kinds of dishes- lamb with pistashios and apricots, chicken with paprika and chorizo, bright stuffed peppers. And drink a lot of wine. And the kids gamboled around our feet.
But last fall, “Hasan” had to flee Halifax, and so on.
Yes. This is a blog post about cooking. Specifically, how you don’t need to follow recipes exactly to get a nice meal. I regard recipes as a form of challenge and inspiration. Not a literal word-by-word instruction manual.
Take the dish “Chicken Pepperonata”, which I cooked yesterday. Here is how I diverged from the actual recipe:
-I used breast instead of leg, because that was on “Special” at Superstore.
-Added sesame seeds and paprika to the flour for dusting the chicken.
-Couldn’t bear to throw away the remainder of the flour because of the sesame seeds and paprika, so I stirred it in the chicken stock, making a thicker gravy.
-Did not use green peppers, only red and orange, as I don’t really like the taste of green ones. Also see below.
-Did not garnish with fresh oregano as the golden boy will not eat anything green/ or with green on it.
-I cooked the chicken for the 20-25 minutes required, and found the resulting pieces to be tougher and more stringy than I like. So I let it simmer for another hour or so. We Iranians like our stews “well-settled” (ja-oftadeh). The result looks somewhat like a classical khoresh-e gheymeh, rather than the proud distinct pieces of pepper and chicken ready to attack, but the taste, I assure you Gentle Reader, had nothing to do with gheymeh.
So, I prepared this dish and it was good. No angry Italian housewife leaped out from the pages of the cookbook to scream invective at me, as one hears they are wont to do. Gentle Reader: do not be intimidated by recipes. Let them be your guide, but not your master. And you will have a very nice Sunday meal, with hopefully leftovers for the office next day.
Guess which one is mine and which is the picture from the cookbook?
(You can find the answer by hovering over the pic)