Friday, July 9, 2010

some thoughts


who would ever want to eat a strawberry cupcake? that sounds awful to me. maybe it's one of those things like white sugar and tomatoes that end up surprising us all in the end.... hm...

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i love food television so much, it's sad actually. i eagerly allow anthony bourdain to take me around the world, alton brown to my local farmer's market, and after that i can't help but sit and imagine. there is nothing like a well-made video montage of food paired with clever narration to remind me what cooking is all about. it's enticing, stressful, fascinating, sensual, hedonistic, passionate, comforting, cathartic.... it can be cultural, political, spiritual, sinful, spontaneous, romantic, nostalgic,... each dish reflects sentiment, captures an idea, the interactions of each flavor driven by experimentation.

one down side to tv.... the main focus is presentation. of course, all tv, media is presentation. they are trying to sell you these products and ideas, maybe urge you to take a trip to the caribbean for a seaside brunch of nutmeg-crusted grilled red snapper. selling ideas, fantasies means flawless presentation. even looking online at the musings of "pro-foodies" makes me drool! beautiful serving plates, mood lighting, vibrant backdrops, complete with a crisp image courtesy of a DSLR to capture the shine of a sheet of melted caramel adorned by a.... you get the idea. 

if food plays the role of the middle-man between the chef and diner, what is lost in translation when the presentation is sub-par? (i can't help but wonder) is anything lost? or do the flavors alone speak volumes?

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today i baked little cheesecake brownie cups... for OVER AN HOUR. this mistake left me with soft, chewy centers and cookie crisp edges. these reluctantly dropped from the muffin pan only after putting up a serious fuss. ah well. 

i threw together some simple pasta salad to chill in the fridge. it's such an easy way to use fresh or leftover pasta. some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, dried oregano, fresh basil, salt, pepper. fresh cuts of sweet bell pepper, roma tomatoes, red onions. simple, fresh.... classic.... delicious!! i think pink peppercorns (there are a few lone ones stranded in my pepper mill) subtly added fresh color to this dish. it's a nice touch

also for a hot dish i used leftover rice (today's theme is... leftover starches?). for spicy chicken fried rice. it's easy to add "east asian" character to any dish. just like other exotic cuisines.. once you have an understanding of the basic balances of flavors you can easily improvise to cater to any whim. it's wonderful... but i'll save that topic for another day. canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine, white vinegar, garlic, red pepper, ginger... fried with day old rice. add diced chicken, carrots, bell peppers, jalapeños, onions... almost anything. salt and pepper to taste, sriracha hot chili sauce, it's a great dish for those miscellaneous bits and scraps in your fridge.. like a garbage disposal meal. FRIED: ipso facto delicious mind you :)

as you can tell if you read this blog, i am an amateur. on all counts! 
and
as you can see from the pictures, i did not care to arrange my food today. point and shoot.

as today's chef my message is that even these simple dishes with cheap ingredients, even on ordinary plates, repetitive lighting and mediocre photo quality, represent my life today. i am no 3-michelin-star chef, i'm an engineering student who loves to cook. i will always remember these times as when i fell in love with culinary arts as a medium for bringing joy to those around me. so look again at the pictures, these 3 dishes arranged in my front window, the window i sometimes open to pretend that i work in a cake shop (yes, pretend, like play pretend) the picture of my student apartment where i have made so much home-cooked college food. stop by for a bite and a visit!