Imagine being in a rustic, Tuscan-style home, barefoot in some sort of old(ish), wrinkled-yet completely chic-long, linen dress, in a kitchen with no air conditioning that’s older than my great grandmother, and you’re there cooking under the guidance of a sweet Italian old woman you can barely communicate with.
Regardless of the fact that this explains my great grandmother more so than my actual grandmother, I still like to imagine that this is how and where I learned to cook. It’s really not far off, though. Simply replace the Tuscan-style home with a one-story house in the countryside of upstate New York and it’s basically the same situation.
At the end of every summer-for the better part of a month- my older sister and I would leave Chicago and head to a little place called Hillsdale, a town in Columbia County consisting of rolling hills, open farmland and wooden tracts. We did what any normal kid would do during summer break: go fishing, swimming, hiking, tree climbing, and mow the lawn on my grandpa’s tractor, my personal favorite. Aside from that I would always make time to cook with my Grammy (as I like to call her). When I think about cooking I am immediately brought back to her kitchen, and if there is one thing I’ve taken away from her cooking it is that you must put love into every dish you make.
Today was one of those days where I woke up early, went grocery shopping and spent the better part of six hours cooking. Since it was such a nice day in Austin, and probably one of the last warm days for a while, I decided to turn off the air conditioning, open the door leading out to my deck, and cook barefoot, which has now resulted in my feet turning a disgusting shade of black. TMI, I know, but it was well worth it. I had a whole meal planned out: brussels sprout soup topped with candied pancetta, crispy parmesan biscuits filled with lemon butter, baby arugula and smoked salmon, and dark chocolate cupcakes with matcha green tea frosting.
I know, I know, it’s a lot of food but my friends and I decided we would have a mock thanksgiving, even though none of the food we made resembled anything that would be on a thanksgiving table… that’s beside the point though. What really matters is that overall the dinner was a success, I was surrounded by close friends, and we pretty much had a feast.
I used to hate vegetables. I was that kid at the dinner table who would put them in their mouth and then spit it back out into the napkin. Yes I was that bad, and despite my hatred for all things green, my mother would continuously prepare them.
There are certain vegetables that are more popular during the winter season, brussels sprouts being the worst of the bunch. Normally these are rarely served during the rest of the year, but that means nothing to my mother. My one wish as a child was that my mother would finally follow the rest of the herd and stop serving those green vegetables that resembled cabbage, however that never happened. Instead of only occurring for a few weeks during the year, I had the joy of having constant nightmares about those foul and horribly disgusting tasting balls of death.
As I got older-and started to cook more for myself-I found that I tried more and more vegetables, which to my surprise actually transformed my initial hatred into love. I also learned that even though steaming vegetables is healthier I have no problem giving into the temptation of adding more calories to vegetables in order to make them taste better. Tonight I came across Eatocracy’s blog and became a little too excited about finding four new ways to prepare brussels sprouts.
The good thing about winter is that you can take all of these earthy vegetables and come up with creative ways to prepare them, especially if you are one of those people who has a hard time grasping the fact that vegetables are truly amazing. Two of my favorite recipes are pumpkin risotto and broccoli cheddar soup. Combining them into a risotto or soup (soup season is the best season) transforms them from initial disgust to a dish loaded with flavors and textures, so that nightmares about vegetables are the least of your worries.