A Simple Act Of Love
Cooking is oft viewed as complicated course of action with many moving parts. We are lead to believe that every dish must take hours to get ready with ingredients sourced from the four corners of the global. When researching a new recipe or reading the tomes of famous chefs I find that each share one thing in common. They all at one point divulge that ‘less is more’. If you are dining out a fancy restaurant then you should expect a complex meal that has many moving parts. On the other hand, when those chefs are at home the meals can be equal complex and delicious but must less in terms of preparation and ingredients.
Living in Italy I oft hear the same criticism over and over again when it comes to American or other styles of cooking, ‘too much’ spice, ingredients, preparation and/or portion size. A marinara sauce here has just three ingredients: tomatoes (whole hand crushed), olive oil and garlic (a sliver or two) or onion. There is no addition of wine, cheese, herbs etc the end result is wonderful. In Italy eggs are not a breakfast food. Eggs are eaten at lunch or dinner. I have eaten an egg on a pizza on more than one occasion.
A simple bowl of pasta, mushroom ragout with rucola is delicious and hearty. Just because a dish only takes 15 minutes to make doesn’t mean it cannot be a show stopper. Melon and prosciutto is delicious. The salt cured ham wrapped around a wedge of cold sweet cantaloupe is nothing short of amazing. A plate of hummus, pita chips, grapes or other fruits, cheese and sundried tomatoes is a lunch or dinner meal that stays in permanent rotation in my home. Soup is often overlooked as meal. Stock plus vegetable and/or meat, pasta, rice, cous cous can make for an elegant simple meal from pantry to table in 20 minutes or less.
My point is that cooking doesn’t have to be complex or time consuming to be good or even great. Food when it is fresh and seasonal doesn’t need to be buried behind heavy sauces or even other ingredients. It is okay to let good food shine on its own. A caprese salad is a classic example of this. High quality mozzarella bufala and fresh vine ripe tomatoes and a few basil leaves. The addition if truth be told of good extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar is all that is needed for a wonderful started course in five minutes with no recipe required. Seafood is another easy, quick prep food that requires very little to make a memorable meal. Salt, pepper, lemon is necessary for most seafood. You can stream, bake, fry or grill your seafood. General most seafood needs only a few minutes to cook. Once again from pantry to the table in under 15 minutes and no recipe is required. Add a glass of presecco or wine of your choosing to the feast and you have an upscale meal that restaurant worthy. Here cheese and/or fruit is the common dessert. Once again no recipe required just imagination and exploration.
If I could impart anything to you my fellow Gastronomers it is that cooking is a simple act of love. It is love for yourself and those who share your life. Every moment spent sharing that love makes for a better world.