I commented to someone, probably Caroline, that I found cooking to be a lot like writing fiction. You start out with a vague I dea of what you're trying to do, some really firm building blocks (ingredients; characters/settings), some rather impressive limiting factors (time, physics, literary conventions), and a number of equally good options (narrative voice, baking, chapter organization, broiling, pacing, frying) and then you get on this roller coaster where, despite whatever training you have, and formal knowledge about how things should work, you mostly just pay attention to your gut and pray that you don't make a huge mess of things as you're shepherding your lunch/novel from the refrigerator/mind to your stomach/readers.
Needless to say, I rather enjoy cooking.
I have a few tendencies in cooking that determines my method: I generally like to cook a lot once, maybe twice, a week and then reheat and reconfigure whatever it is that I made again and again. So I'm a fan of soups, stir-frys, roasted veggies, vegetable/pasta salads and pestos, and things like that. I'm also prone to just cooking up, say, a lot of zuchini, and then making omlets/pasta/etc. with it throughout the week (without lots extra fuss.)
I should also add a few things. First I'm not a vegetarian, really. I don't mind eating/cooking meat, but I do so with a lot of moderation, and while there are some vegetables that I don't really understand the appeal of (celery? wtf. beets? feh), I've found that my use of meat in meals is often pretty minimal. My natural tendency, having said all this, is to eat quick things (tuna fish with mayo; noodles; etc.) rather than actually have to cook at all, but sometimes it's good to resist this tendency.
As part of my tenure helping my grandmother out, I've been doing a lot of cooking, so I've been doing a lot of this, and I think it's worked pretty well. Last week I was cooking. I had bought some eggplant which I wanted to roast and make a sort of eggplant/tomato/mushroom sauce to serve over rice. Roast eggplant, mix in tomato sauce, with some red peppers and mushrooms, sounds good?
Like good novels/meals, it got into the pan and decided to be something totally different. On the upside, it was amazing. Here's a brief recipe/guideline for what I made:
- Garlic, Fresh, in great quantity. Cut cloves in half.
- 1 Can of artichoke hearts, drained and quartered.
- 1 can of straw mushrooms, drained.
- Some amount of beef sausage (12 oz?) sliced (optional)
- 1 or 2 red peppers, sliced
- 2 or 3 Zucchini, sliced
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 2 - 3 Eggplant roasted with skin and seeds removed (cut in half, spray/apply a minimal amount of olive oil, and sail for roasting, when the skin is blackened and separated peel it, remove seeds and chop the remaining eggplant.)
- A bit of olive oil
- Rice vinegar (though other white vinegars should work)
- Rice (I used sushi rice, but that's personal preference.)
Get all of the ingredients ready. Eggplant roasting can happen earlier. Once everything starts cooking it goes pretty fast.
Begin by heating the oil with garlic and onion and sausage until they begin to brown, add zucchini and red pepper and cook until the zuchini gives sings of browning. It might take 15 minutes to get to this point.
Add Eggplant, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts, cook for ~3-5 minutes, add 3/4 cup of vinegar (or more depending on how much food you're making. You can use wine if that's your speed.) Turn heat down slightly and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Use your judgment, my times are really estimates/guesses.
Serve with rice and enjoy.