Monday, October 18, 2010

Explore! Cook! Learn! Grow!

Sometimes, with a little explanation, things don't seem as complicated as they first appeared.  New ingredients, new sauces and new herbs can sometimes discourage the home cook from preparing something scrumptious.  Ive known a few people, who after reading Julie & Julia , decided to work there way through various cook books recipe by recipe, only to skip the ones that looked strange and foreign.  It has always been my experience, that cooking once with a new ingredient, turns into a month of experimentation with the new ingredient. With the Internet, educating yourself about items like Chard , Foie gras , and Broccoli rabe are as simple as typing in the name then hitting the enter key. 

Now finding the new items can be more of a hurdle then not being familiar with them.  I once made a Entree that required Linguica but I had to substitute with Chorizo since not only did people not know what Linguica was, but nobody sold it in a 360 mile radius.  One of the major draw backs for living in a very remote state.

Ask questions!  If you know someone who's an accomplished cook or a Professional Chef, ask them questions about your new adventure.  I think you will be surprised with the answers you get.  Most accomplished cooks or Professional Chefs absolutely LOVE to talk food.  They love to talk about food as much as your hardcore football fan loves to talk about there favorite team or super bowl game.  I am never afraid to ask someone questions about a dish they made or a ingredients they have used that I'm not familiar with.  You will never grow as a cook or Chef if you stop growing your skills and talents with food.

One of my favorite types of food styles is Mediterranean. Learning the spices was tedious at best.  Since I don't live there or ever spent much time traveling there I had to rely heavily on reference material like Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean or The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook.  So, with the books and Internet in hand I cooked and experimented time and time again.
Here is one of my favorite recipes that has come from my trials and errors when learning Mediterranean foods.  I hope it might inspire you to go after some ethnic fair that you have always wanted to try but was intimidated by some of the ingredients.

Seppie Ripiene Al Forno
(Stuffed cuttlefish, Basilicata style)

1 lb fresh cuttlefish

2 oz stale bread roll
1 egg
Little bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
3/4 oz ewe's cheese, grated
2 anchovy fillets in oil, chopped
1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4Cup fish stock
Salt and Pepper
(If you lucky enough to have caught fresh Cuttlefish) how to clean cuttlefish 
The Filling
Crumble the bread roll (you can also use the food processor). Combine it with garlic, parsley (set aside some for later), anchovy fillets, the egg lightly beaten and ewe's cheese in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper (if you like) and stir very well. The filling must be soft.

Stuff IT
Stuff the cuttlefish with this mixture and close them with toothpicks.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Pour half the oil in a deep baking pan, place the cuttlefish in the pan, sprinkle them with the remaining olive oil and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper if you like.

Bake for about 40 minutes basting often (every 8-10 minutes) the cuttlefish with boiling fish stock.
*Time of cooking depends on the size of the cuttlefish*

The If's
If you prefer you can use anchovies in salt instead of anchovies in oil. Wash them before using.
If you don't like garlic you can substitute it with a fresh little onion, finely chopped.
If you bake the cuttlefish too long they can become tough.

Explore the world or even your own back yard.  It can be exciting and challenging and the results will be tasty and rewarding.



LS said...

Sorry John,
This is one recipe that I'm not brave enough to try!

KT said...

I'm with you on that one. I am just learning how to cook, and this is not for me, too complicated. I'm on the simple stuff, and I find books like Let's Cook Tonight by Gigi Centaro to be useful.

Anonymous said...

Sound advice! There is nothing I would do, after cooking and eating, than talk food and cooking. As a chef food does become somewhat of an obsession. Or perhaps I became a chef because of the obsession? Classic case of which came first: the chicken or the egg? I don't care, cause I got recipes for both!

§~John~§ said...

LS: I will help you if you want.

KT: Totally Understandable, I'm ganna check out that book. Thanks!

Will: It's great when we, being chefs, would rather than debate the chicken/Egg thing, would instead say, "LET COOK BOTH!" Great Blog btw.