Standing at the stove is a five-year old boy on an unmarked Saturday morning. Johnny Quest is heard calling for his dog Bandit from the small television that sits on the kitchen counter that on any other day of the week would be tuned in to his mother’s favorite soap operas. It is the weekend, and Mom and Dad are sleeping in and hungry interrupts the mesmerizing cartoon block. Pulling down the oven door this future chef climbs up to reach the stove top in order to make scrambled eggs with copious amounts of American singles melted through out. This is my beginning with cooking.
Today, as a chef and instructor who teaches classes, for both adults and teenagers, I see subsequent generations taking spoon in hand, and enthusiastically stepping up the counter.
What has changed since those early days of mine is the quantity and availability of ingredients to play with. No longer is a leek considered esoteric or curly parsley the only herb to consider when perfuming a fancy. The accessibility to the world through cooking has never been greater, and we should unleash culinary warrior within and dare yourselves to try the plethora of possibilities that now is within arms reach.
Star Fruit and Jicama Salad - serves 6
2 star fruit
1 pound jicama - peeled
2 bunch arugula- washed and chopped
3-tablespoons cider vinegar
1-tablespoon Thai fish sauce
1/2-teaspoon cumin seed - ground
1/2-cup canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the star fruit into 1/4 inch thick rounds, and the jicama into 1/4 inch thick julienne. Then toss with the vinegar, fish sauce and cumin. Just prior to serving add the arugula, oil and salt pepper to the star fruit and jicama. Toss well and serve immediately.
Dhal with Coconut and Spinach - serves 6 to 8
8 ounces red lentils
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion - diced
2 garlic cloves - minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger - grated
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound spinach - washed and roughly chopped
1-can coconut milk
1-cup hot water
1 teaspoon salt
Pick through the lentils to remove any stones or other debris. Soak the lentil in a pot of cold water for 10 minutes discarding anything that floats to the top. Drain. In a sauce pan heat the oil then add the onions, ginger, and garlic cooking until golden. Add the lentils and ground spices and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the coconut milk and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover cooking for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the spinach and salt continue cooking covered until the dhal looks like porridge. If there is too much liquid cook uncovered to help evaporate excess liquid.