Flexibility is Key to Kitchen Success

Life is messy and unpredictable, especially in the kitchen. Although you will have days where things just don't go smoothly, staying flexible can help you pull out of a kitchen crisis.

Last night was one of those nights. I didn't add quite enough oil to the carmelized onions, they began to stick and over-brown. My kale chips didn't fit on one sheet pan, so I moved the roasted veggies to a pan on the stove and put two trays of kale in the oven. Then I pulled the grass-fed kobe burgers out of the frige, and there were only 2 in the package, not 3, as needed. After some re-working, I grilled the burgers to perfection, but my husband came home 15 minutes later. Ugh.

But look what emerged, even after all that chaos!
Kobe Burger on Greens with Avocado & Carmelized Onions served with kohlrabi, carrots and leeks

Kobe Burger on Greens with Avocado & Carmelized Onions

These hiccups can send almost anyone into a tail spin. However, when you are trying to get dinner on the table, you have to take a deep breath and press on. Unless you've scorched something to charcoal briquette status, the meal is probably salvageable.

Problem 1: Food is sticking to your pan.

You probably didn't use enough fat/oil. Or your food isn't ready to stir/flip. As Chef used to tell us "it'll let go when it's ready" (he was talking about cooking proteins...meat, chicken, etc.). Fix these problems by adding more fat to the pan and waiting a bit to see if the food "let's go" of the pan.

Problem 2: You are running out of kitchen real estate.

Planning usually helps solve this problem. For instance, if you have one cutting board, prep salad and veggies first, and then cut meat. Also, try to divide your dinner prep between appliances or cooking methods. Don't put three different pans on the stove...this increases this risk of burning & triples your dishes. Put one thing in the oven for 20-30 minutes, so that you can cook another item stove top. Occasionally I break this rule by cooking a whole dinner on the BBQ.

Problem 3: Dinner is ready, but no one else is ready.

This is a tough one. Unless you have those handy heating lights like restaurants, you often serve cold or overcooked food in this case. If your plates are oven safe, you can stick them in a low oven (200°) for 10-15 minutes without affecting the quality too much. Another technique is to microwave a plate on a lower power level(5), so that you don't cook the food twice.

And with the kobe burger incident, when in doubt, add more veggies. I broke the patties down, added grated red onion and carrot, black pepper, and garlic salt. Then I formed them back into three patties. Fantastic!

Remember, meals should be enjoyable. No sense in messing it all up (and your digestion too!), by getting in a tizzy right before sitting down to eat. Bon appétit!

Fresh Food

Several years ago my sweet little niece asked me if I go to church...I responded "no honey, I go to farmer's market". I feel like this is my way to commune with Mother Nature or the Guy in the Sky, or however you want to describe what's "bigger than us". So every Sunday we are home, we go to the Farmer's Market as a family. It's a delight to the senses; we taste, smell and touch as we move through the market and look for the best items to bring home.

Here's part of this week's haul:
Roasted Veggies

There is nothing quite like a crisp, juicy apple from Mr. Ha's Orchards, especially during those first few months of Fall. They are heavenly. Or the delicate, juicy Satsuma tangerines in January. These days, I'm obsessed with the mindblowing perfection of Romanesco. I could go on and on, but the point is food this fresh, tastes different, tastes better.

I can already hear the naysayers mounting their excuses...I don't have time, there's no farmer's market nearby, I'm busy, I don't like vegetables. Well, if it's important to you, you may be able to find a way. No farmer's market nearby? Try a Community Supported Agriculture program or have a box of organic produce delivered to your home. When you ditch processed foods, you won't believe how amazing fresh food tastes. (And, hey now, even our 3 year old eats this stuff!)

We are fortunate to have J & P West Coast Seafood at the market too. The fish is amazingly fresh and delicious. This weekend my parents were visiting, so we splurged on jumbo shrimp and red fish.

Jumbo Shrimp with California Chimmichurri Jumbo Shrimp with California Chimmichurri

I tossed the shrimp with the rest of the California Chimmichurri in the frige, and threw them on the BBQ for an appetizer. After 5-6 minutes and a squeeze of lemon, ooh's and ah's filled the kitchen.

This week, red fish made a debut on the menu board. I had never heard of red fish, so we tried it. Unfortunately, Red Snapper, a relative, appears on the "Avoid" section of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Buyer's Guide, so this may not be a sustainable choice.

Cedar Plank Red Fish Cedar Plank Red Fish

Nonetheless, you could cook another, more sustainable fish this way with fantastic results. Soak a cedar plank in water for several hours. Place sliced lemons and a handful of herbs (thyme & parsley are nice) on the plank in the shape of the fish. Place fish fillet on top of the aromatics. Rub with oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill on medium high heat for about 20 minutes. No need to flip. Serve with lemon wedges if desired.

Served with farm fresh roasted vegetables and a colorful salad. This is restaurant quality food at home...enjoy!