I’ve been sick since I arrived in Portland on Monday. Head splitting, eyes watering, nose itching, coughing, coughing, tight chest, sore everywhere. Not the best condition to be in when attending a conference you’ve been looking forward to for months. If I was home, I’d definitely be in bed.
I was so happy to see representatives of Cuisinart whirling up blender pitchers full of Mother Nature’s Elixir yesterday morning at breakfast. It’s packed with lots of vitamins and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables. They were happy to share their recipe. I gulped down four of those little cups of elixir. What a healthful start to my day — after a tall blast of Stumptown Coffee, of course.
And, speaking of recipes, I attended a session yesterday afternoon with this title: The Death of Recipes?
While I’ve been thinking more people are getting back into their kitchen to create their own meals, research shows Americans eat less than 50% of their meals at home. With recipes everywhere, millions just a google search or a click away, people still don’t know how to cook or just aren’t bothering to cook. Many who do cook at home are a bit like technicians, tied to recipes and unable to improvise or create something original. A number of books are being published advocating a freer style of cooking — essentially without recipes.
A panel of experts/authors who are changing the way we think about recipes and the way we cook, including Michael Ruhlman, author of "Ratio," Karen Page and her husband Andrew Dornenberg, authors of "The Flavor Bible," and Amy Sherman of CookingWithAmy.com had an interesting conversation.
Some points shared by the panel that struck me:
- On the average, people are spending 27 minutes a day on food preparation.
- Less than 5% of Americans prepare dinner from a recipe. (This could mean the remaining 95% are using mixes, frozen foods, processed foods, fast foods or tossing ingredients together to put their own creation on the table.)
- Life is better when we cook ourselves. We’re healthier, happier, more relaxed (you know, those comforting smells of food cooking) enjoy more family time.
- If you have down the basic techniques of cooking, have a decent understanding of which flavors go together, you can creat a meal without a recipe. (And this takes time, practice and experimentation.)
- If you are afraid to cook, prepare one thing you like many times until you get really good at it. You’ll gradually become more comfortable in the kitchen and you’ll be proud of that delicious dish. And you’ll gain the confidence to move on to other dishes.
Here are a couple of non-recipes I happened to hear about from two different people throughout the day:
Grilled Steak as shared by author Karen Page
Coat a steak all over with miso paste. Put the steak in a plastic bag and seal it up tight. Put it in the refrigerator overnight. At meal time, wipe the miso paste off of the steak. Throw the steak on a hot grill.
Pasta Dinner as shared by author Mollie Katzen
Toss together a mixture of half cooked pasta and half chickpeas. Garnish with walnuts.
Mollie’s recipe is one you can add your own creative touches for more flavor and flair. Maybe drizzle with quality olive oil, add some seasonings you like with pasta, a bit of cheese, maybe.
Are you one who could live in a world without recipes? Personally, I love recipes. I have some that are full of family tradition and memories. And I have some that simply inspire me. I know that I could never make my favorite cake without the recipe. At the same time, though, I’m not afraid to create dishes of my own.
Here’s a recipe for the breakfast drink Cuisinart treated me to at breakfast yesterday. But, you could make something similar without a recipe. Use your favorite fruit juice, whatever fruit you have in your kitchen and a handful of greens and fresh herbs.
Mother Nature’s Elixir as shared by Cuisinart
- 1 1/2 cups apple juice
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 3 kiwis, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup 1-inch cubes fresh mango (from about 1/2 of the whole fruit)
- 1 1/2 cups frozen mango pieces
- 2 bananas, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 2 generous handfuls fresh baby spinach
Put the juices, kiwis, both fresh and frozen mango and bananas into the pitcher of the blender. Process until blended. Add parsley and spinach and blend until mixture is smooth and bright green. Makes about six (8-ounce) servings.