The starting point for any good meal is great ingredients. I’m fortunate to have access to wonderful produce–both down the street and a strones throw away on on charming local islands. Below is a quick snapshot of “souvenirs” from a short afternoon trip to Vashon Island.
Cashews are something I grew up with, regularly inserted into our family’s diet whether toasted, raw or ground into a creamy sauce for something delicious and spiced. But I rarely translated these delicious nuts into my non-Indian cooking. I’m fortunate enough to have been introduced to a wonderful vegan chef, Chad Sarno whose use of cashews inspires me–especially when I might feel helpless without dairy.
A quick variation in my own kitchen was to take two of my favorite salad staples, kale and radishes, and make them just a bit more decadent for a recent at-home asado (…where they were served with rosemary-smoked chicken and roasted yams. Sorry, Chad.) In this salad, I love the combination of bitter, sweet, creamy–and how each time I get a bit of radish, it cleanses my palate and takes me through all those experiences again.
- 1/4 cup cashews (raw)
- 1/4 cup of water
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (coconut oil also works, but changes the flavor quite a bit)
- 1/4 clove of garlic
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 4 blackberries
- pinch of salt
- 1 bunch white radishes, sliced lengthwise (A bit sharper than your normal red radishes, which are a fine substitution.)
- 1 bunch lacinato or “dinosaur” kale (Now is the season to plant them. We do in pots on our patio!)
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley (curly or Italian)
- 2 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup of blackberries, cut in half, lengthwise
- 1/4 cup of hemp hearts for topping (optional)
Blend all of the ingredients for the dressing in your blender until smooth. Drizzle in extra lemon juice or olive oil and blend further, depending on the needs of the resulting emulsion.
Place the dry, washed kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and massage for 30 seconds. Next, add the dressing and massage until evenly distributed. Then, toss in the rest of the ingredients except the blackberries and hemp hearts. Sprinkle the blackberries and hemp hearts on top as a garnish and serve.
WHY COOKING MATTERS
Last week, I was chatting with my friend about how he stays healthy. One of the main ways, aside from being intentional about what he eats, is cooking for himself. But his main stumbling block was getting to the point where he gets to the grocery store—or even his kitchen.
“I know that cooking my own meals is good for me, but I seem to forget how much I like the process until I am cooking until I’m actualy cooking. It’s very soothing, almost therapeutic. But, it’s funny, when I’m thinking about how much time it’s going to take me, that really stops me about 80% of the time from cooking—let alone making anyting meaningful.”
As I’ve spoken with more and more friends, the key to healthy eating (granted, for a specific sample set) is learning to cook. There is something in the intentionality of thinking through what you’re going to select and what truly goes into a meal that can then translate to decision making when you’re not cooking for yourself.
Translating this to impulsive or bad habits, if you better understand what goes into that bacon double cheeseburger, you may find less satisfaction in ordering it or be a more discerning in where you choose to eat one.
I’m not advocating that everyone stops to become a world-class chef, I think that’s unrealistic. I believe that cooking is going to become an increasingly specialized skill, just like knowing how to build your house or growing your own food has. However, there will always be a desire to connect at a deeper level with food, and that’s where learning classic techniques, like good knife skills, will be critical.
But as fewer and fewer people know these skills enough to pass them on, where will we be able to learn to cook for ourselves?
AN ONLINE SOLUTION
Beyond friends and family, there are professional places to learn in-person (local community college, culinary academies, culinary stores, etc.) but over the past few years, online education has exploded.
Not only is there increased quality and speed of video, storage and sharing leading to exponentially increasing content online, there is more general penetration of smart phones, making it easy to access classes anywhere, anytime. Assuming food preparation does become increasingly specialized, online education is going to be key in providing those who are the most talented and passionate about food with training and certification they may not have been able to access or afford.
How does this technology trend translate to cooking for the individual? There are a few key advantages with online, video-based culinary education, aside from the lower cost and easier access.
Unlike a television program, you have choice over what you’re going to learn. Some of the schools edit out excess content, such as chitter-chatter of the more talkative chefs. With video, you don’t have to wait for things you would in a real class, like the oven to pre-heat or the water to boil so the demonstration can begin. You also get a front seat with video features such as zoom or alternate angles – and many have live chat functions to ask questions. But the biggest advantage? You can usually start, pause and re-start a video (class/course) as your schedule permits – often still getting to ask questions to live staff.
Here is a list of some of the most popular online cooking schools for you to check out. Some are more basic while others get into some rather advanced topics. Most offer free trials, but do your research and figure out which one will really help you connect with your food.
SELECTED ONLINE COOKING SCHOOLS