Sunday, November 8, 2009

Savor the Flavor

What happens when you have only a few of the ingredients a recipe calls for but you make it anyway? Sometimes it may be a flop, but this past week I called it dinner!

If you ever watch PBS, Christina Pirello, author of Cooking the Whole Foods Way, has a face you may recognize. Her cooking show and website are called Christina Cooks. Since I don't have cable and thus don't have the Food Network, I rely on public broadcasting for my TV cooking needs. And she's a cook who generally delivers.

I bought her cookbook where I buy nearly all my cookbooks: a second hand shop. It's the very best place to find interesting editions, and it's a super big bonus if the previous owner has made notes in the margins (I love finding those!). In this case, I nearly passed the book over because of her weird picture on its cover. Which is ridiculously unkind of me, and, thankfully, my "!" cookbook obsession overcame my Mean Girls moment.

Christina's story is an amazing one. She was diagnosed with terminal leukemia at 26 and given less than six months to live. Searching for her own cure she came upon macrobiotic food, began cooking-up a wholesome food storm, and 16+ years later she's healthy and well. The doctors called it spontaneous regression and told her she was lucky--Christina called it the power of healing foods and considers herself a new woman, down to her very cells.

However you choose to view her recovery, you must admire her enthusiasm for wholesome cooking. In the introduction she writes, "Develop an understanding of food and how ingredients work together, and cooking becomes an act of pure joy. How can the act of nourishment be anything but?"

I was scanning recipes this weekend, wondering what I'd do with the leeks and root vegetables we had piling up in the fridge (I swear, you put three beets in the crisper and suddenly there are 10 of them!). When I first came across Christina's recipe for roasted veggies I figured I couldn't make it: I didn't have the same mix of vegetables she called for. But after another look, I realized that her directions indicated that "any firm, hearty vegetables will serve nicely," and decided to go for it.

My version of her recipe:

Preheat oven to 375F.

Drizzle olive oil into a large roasting pan.

In pan place large, irregularly-cut pieces of
potato, with skin
beets, with skins
leeks, white part only
onion, peeled
kohlrabi, peeled
rutabaga, peeled

Drizzle Bragg's (you could use soy sauce) over the vegetables.
Bake for an hour, covered.
Serve over rice.

Her recipe had called for mushrooms, brussels sprouts, parsnips, leeks & daikon, but I don't think we missed out by using what we had on hand. What was probably key to her recipe that I didn't have: kombu (I thought there was still some left but it must have been tossed) and reduced balsamic vinegar. Next time we roast veggies I hope to have both on hand.

I know what you're saying. Roasting vegetables isn't really using a recipe. Especially when you totally change the sauce that was called for! Well, remember, I'm still a newbie cook and since we were able to eat and enjoy this meal and I'd referred to a cookbook along the way, I'm calling it a success and need to post it. Plus, according to Christina, we shouldn't "be trapped by recipes," which may be ironic for a cookbook author to write and her blogging reader to quote, but doesn't make it less true.

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