Creating

While every other food blogger was posting their Thanksgiving masterpieces earlier this month, I was busy refreshing my repertoire by digging into my older cookbooks and looking online. I came across an old favorite called, “Whole World Cookbook.” It features international macrobiotic cuisine and the book comes from the editors of the now defunct East West Journal.”

Every Thanksgiving I make the cranberry relish from that book. In my humble opinion, it is perfect.

There is a plethora of recipes out there! One might think there is nothing new that can be created. That is not so. When you make the recipe it is yours. Not talking about copyrights–obviously you can’t copy a recipe and say it is yours now. But originality is closely linked with imagination. When you imagine how you will make a dish, it is your original dish. It is your personal touch, your presentation, your seasoning, your judgment that makes the dish yours.

For me cooking is an art.  It is my outlet for creativity. Even if the recipe came from someone else’s repertoire.

The simplest thing, created by you, can be amazing!

For a Thanksgiving event, I signed up for Maple Glazed Carrots. At the time, I did not know exactly what Maple Glazed Carrots would be. It just sounded good. As it turned out, they were ridiculously simple and came out so so delicious. This was my original.

How will you make it yours?

Maple Glazed Carrots

6 large organic carrots, washed and scrubbed

3 inch piece of kombu seaweed

pinch of sea salt

1/4 cup of water

1/4 cup of maple syrup

2 Tsps arrowroot mixed in a little cold water

Umeboshi vinegar

1/4 cup rough chopped Italian parsely

Cut the carrots by slicing the carrot on a diagonal to make a chunk about 1 inch long. Rotate the carrot 1/4 around and slice diagonally again. Rotate 1/4 and slice. Keep going. This method allows you to adjust for variations in the size of the root vegetable so all your pieces are about the same size and will cook in the same amount of time.

Brush off a 3-inch piece of kombu seaweed and put it in the bottom of 3 quart pan and add the water. Let the kombu rehydrate and then add the carrots and sprinkle with sea salt. Use a lid on the pan. Heat up over medium heat until the carrots start to steam and then turn the heat down to low and continue cooking until the carrots are tender but not falling apart. Keep an eye on the water and add more if needed.

When the carrots are tender remove them from the pan. Set aside the kombu to use in another dish.

In the pan, there should still be some liquid left. If there isn’t, put about 4 tablespoons of water in it. Add maple syrup. Add arrowroot that was mixed with cold water and heat it up stirring constantly until everything thickens to a nice glaze consistency. You can adjust the amounts of liquid and arrowroot as needed. Turn off the heat and add a splash of umeboshi vinegar into it. A little bit of this brings out all the flavors and cuts the sweetness just a little.

Mix the glaze into the carrots and garnish with parsely.

MGC 3

 

 

 

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Basics: Slicing Vegetables

One of the things I enjoy about cooking is using my excellent knives and slicing my vegetables and other ingredients myself. I am not one to rely on food processors, mandolins or other gadgets much.

It’s a beautiful thing to skillfully slice cucumbers and have them come out evenly thin or to master paper-thin onion slices or to perfectly shred a head of cabbage. And when I’m through, I only have to wash my knife!

Another thing I like about hand-slicing vegetables is that I can control how they cook better by how I cut them. If I want the vegetables to finish cooking at the same rate and in the same amount of time, then they must be about the same size. But what if the carrot is thick at the top and skinny at the bottom?

If you cut this carrot in horizontal slices you are going to wind up with big slices and tiny slices. When you cook them, the big ones may be underdone and the little ones overdone. But if you cut them in slices at an angle, you can adjust your angle so you end up with pieces that are about the same thickness and size and they will cook pretty much at the same rate and in the same amount of time. This makes for more perfect and more aesthetic-looking dishes.

Here is a picture of a carrot that has been sliced at an angle from top to bottom to make all the pieces more even in size. Then the slices were cut julienne-style.  This is also called “matchstick.”

The carrot was sliced at an angle to even out the size throughout and then cut into matchsticks.

Notice how the matchsticks are all about the same length? This is because the carrots was sliced at an angle making them even throughout. The angle was adjusted as the carrot got bigger toward the top.

Sometimes you just have to look at what you’re cooking and think about how you will be cooking it and what you want it to look like; you just figure out how to prep the food to get what you’re going for.

Today I picked up some baby bok choy. It was fresh and lovely and I wanted to lightly steam it with sliced mushrooms. I didn’t want to cut the beautiful leaves up very much but I knew I had to do something to get the thicker stem ends to cook in the same amount of time the more delicate leaves would cook.

I decided to separate the stems from the leaves and make the stem pieces small enough to steam with the leaves.  This is what I came up with.

This way of cutting my baby bok choy worked out very well!

This way of slicing my baby bok choy worked out very well! The bigger stem pieces were cut into more than two pieces.

The way to learn how to slice vegetables so they are attractive and will cook consistently is practice, practice, practice!