I remember it vividly: it was winter, the sun set early. 5:30 pm and staunchly dark outside- I bravely took that evenings still frozen, whole chicken, and chucked into a soup pot with dried oregano and whole, uncut lemons, generously squeezing an entire bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing all over the contents. I belted out, “dinner is served”! A precarious 8 year old with a hunger for life and all things food, my creative side always reigned supreme; I have that kind of right-brained intelligence where cooking from recipes, or even following the rules of basic board games seemed intrinsically foreign to me. Several nights later my mother said to me, “Your ‘ranch chicken thing’ was a disaster. Don’t waste food like that. But I see you’ve taken an interest in cooking…come cook with me”.
My mothers style of cooking was never recipe-based and was always jam-packed with tang and panache. Her finesse in taking a basic concept and stamping it as her own is a quality I still admire. Her desire to create elegant, healthy and creative dishes that opened up her family to an international world of spices, cultures and cuisines played a contributing factor in my particular love for all things culinary.
My family went to restaurants a lot. Several nights a week in fact. At our local spots, I became attune to the fact that each dish was so homemade and so recipe-less. Each had different notes and tinges each time we went back; it was such a settling feeling that I had the pleasure of tasting so many different versions of the same dish. And thus, the house in which I grew up and the restaurants I was blessed enough to visit, paired with my hankering for continuously trying new international dishes, served as the founding fathers for what become the culinary me: concocting cuisines and cooking with creativity.
To say I get bored from the mundane, repetitive nature of daily routines is an understatement: I break out in hives and get sassy if, at the bare minimum, an exciting new TV show doesn’t enter my week- I need spice! I’m not one of those women who has her list of dishes for designated days of the week and I never use online recipes either- I create my own concoctions from the depths of my creative spirit and put my own stamp on them. I’m not trying to convince my readers to ditch their favorite recipes in favor of something “more from the heart”. My goal is to purely show my personal logic: eating is such a large portion of our daily lives, we may as well be creative and put our own individual flare on our concoctions and our dishes, the same as we do with our assignments at work, our styles of writing, and with our outfits or what we wear.
I wanted to share one of my “non-recipes”- a particular dish that I always come back to, one that has been a sure-fire hit for me at dinner parties, or just at dinner. As I don’t have an exact set of measurements for each (I change the amounts each time) I have listed the ingredients for your perusal. Take the items and give the dish your own name and your own spin– one laced with flavor and as much you as you can!
Olive Oil + Honey
Onion, Carrot, Cherry Tomatoes, Button Mushrooms
Fresh Basil and 1 Dried Bay Leaf
Around 550-600 grams of chopped red meat
Pinch of Chilli Flakes + Saffron
If you do not have homemade sauce, any homemade-style sauce such as: Vincents, Rao’s, or Da Nicola will work- use generously and in equal parts to the amount of meat
Dash of Philadelphia cream cheese
Serve over Rigatoni/Penne or shaved, raw carrot for health and crunch
Feel free to shave fresh Parmesan or melt Mozzarella on top