I have decided that my abilities as a cook have stopped progressing. This realization comes from two encounters with “Asian” food. One, last week: I tried to make a stir fry with mushrooms and bok choy and green beans, to be served over quinoa (a nubbly little grain from Latin America). I didn’t exactly follow a recipe–just threw together likely-seeming ingredients in roughly the order that a stir fry is supposed to come together in. It was… sub-ideal. The end result, an amalgamation of mushrooms, bok choy, green beans, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and honey, was not exactly bad. It was just … too flavorful. Far too flavorful for it to be comfortable to eat a full serving. Really it was best in about two-bite portions. This over-flavoring is a problem that I run into fairly frequently, and I am a hack at working with Asian flavors.
The second encounter was last night at the Meadow Bar in Edinburgh. I ordered a lentil burger (with bacon, naturally, but that was sadly left off). It was a flavored with green chilies and ginger, supposedly, and it was SO strange. I am accustomed to bean burgers having a more southwestern flair that having one that was so Thai was really interesting. I would never have thought of this combination (because, honestly, I never think of new and different ways to use lentils), and I feel that this is something that I should remedy.
Normally, I would remedy my stagnation with random experimentation as the whim strikes me. However, that method has a very high failure rate. I would estimate that a good 75% of the totally random experimentation ends up largely inedible. (Leaving something largely inedible in the refrigerator for a longer period of time does not seem to get it eaten, strangely.) So, I am thinking of something a little different–a more strategic approach, using–GASP, the HORROR–actual recipes, without wild deviation and flights of fancy. I think, like music theory and a lot of other things, you probably need to learn the rules before you get to play it fast and lose with them. The question is, where to start?
Suggestions from the audience? I am a relatively inexperienced cook, and I am bad at whole wheat breads, broth-based soups, Thai food, Chinese food, and Indian food. I am inexperienced with Middle Eastern food, though I will be trying the shakshuka recipe that was on Smitten Kitten recently. I am ordinarily not very good at cooking meat, with the exception of bacon, which I (being from Southern America), attempt to put in almost anything. (Maple Bacon Cupcakes, anyone? okay, those were actually another one of the random experimentation/almost inedible set). I am fond of dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, radishes, squash, and legumes. I would be delighted to be directed to your favorite recipes!