Neither here nor there but everywhere

I’d like to cook more in the new year, carry out more of the weird and random ideas swirling in my head.  Like the mashed potatoes with curry and coconut milk i thought of in the shower this evening — sweet potatoes might work even better. Or the upside down persimmon-lime cake that came out of nowhere a few weeks back. I ate a bit for breakfast and then promptly threw out the rest because the citrus was too funky and unbalanced. And to get in the habit of cooking staple protein-centered meals like roasted fish or chicken, and beef stir-fries, and soups and stews.  The kimchi soup I made tonight wasn’t half bad. The bulgogi I made last night was downright bland, though. Better under than overseasoned, I suppose, though life is so much more flavorful with salt. I read recently that the main difference between restaurant dishes and home-cooked meals is the amount of salt used. Restaurant chefs are more heavy-handed and home cooks are not comfortable adding more than a sprinkling.  Sometimes I watch shows on the Food Network, like Down Home with the Neelys (which I admit I disdain b/c they so obviously lack technique), and see Pat give a little dash of salt to an entire pot of chili and think there is no way that tastes like anything. Then Gina takes a bite and makes ooh lala faces and smacks her lips, man that show is more fake than wrestling. Say what you want about Rachael Ray but at least that girl adds enough salt to her dishes.

On another note, I’ve started reading the Momofuku cookbook, a very thoughtful present from the boss man. I am pleasantly surprised by how much I’m enjoying the book, given my suspicion that Momofuku is overrated. I almost finished reading it from head to toe over the break, which is saying something considering how hectic things got. For those who haven’t seen it, Momofuku is half recipes, half the story of Chang’s, or rather Momofuku’s, life. The story is an interesting one, if anything; Chang is rough around the edges, which turn some people off, but I respect his tenacious attitude and risk-taking ability.  And the photography is stunningly elegant and gorgeous.  The book is full of accessible recipes (and a few unwieldy ones), and his homage to pickling has inspired me to start pickling whatever is on hand — not the all-out onslaught pickling that results in your average deli pickle but his more minimalist approach to pickling, one that produces delightful variations of lightly marinated vegetables and fruits that awaken your taste buds rather than deaden them. Momofuku makes clear that while the technique is simple, it’s endlessly versatile and can be applied to almost any vegetable and a dozen different fruits. Chang considers pickling the “sixth cooking technique,” alongside sauteing, frying, dry and wet cooking, and combination methods like braising, and perhaps there is merit to his claim. Tonight I threw some snap peas into the vinegar marinade (vinegar, water, sugar, salt), and I bet something tasty is in the works.

To end a random post, I randomly present my half-eaten dessert, a neon-orange, glow in the dark, mango-flavored glutinous rice ball filled with an oddly lumpy custard, not too sweet but also not very appetizing. It wants to eat me more than I want to eat it 😦

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