I’m not a gourmet cook. I don’t use exotic ingredients or fancy presentations. I don’t use obscure cooking methods, or dabble in recipes that require anything more than the basic kinds of utensils.
No, I’m more of an ordinary-food-with-an-extra-kick cook. (Hmm. That sounded a bit like kick the cook. Don’t you dare.) I’m a woman who has raised a family on a small budget and still lives on a small budget, so what I come up with has to be down-home cooking.
But don’t be fooled. “Down home” doesn’t have to mean plain. It doesn’t have to be smothered in fat, drowning in sugar, or come out of a box. It can be ordinary food that’s been prepared just a little bit different from what’s expected–like adding garlic salt to scrambled eggs, or almond flavoring to French toast.
All this is being said to give me an excuse to write about the rather ordinary meal I fixed today that was good enough for me to still be thinking about it. And planning to do it again.
This meal had to be worthy of Sunday dinner, but quick to fix, since we were just getting home from Mass and George had to leave fairly soon for an afternoon and evening of music gigs. So, this is how it went.
First, when I got up this morning I sliced half of a big boneless,
skinless chicken breast into one-inch strips, then buried them in a a shallow dish of marinade. The marinade was, roughly (since I never measure) 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric, 1/8 cup of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Covered with plastic wrap, the bowl stayed in the fridge until was ready to start cooking. This could have been done the night before, too.
Since it was a warm day and George was in a hurry, we decided against grilling outside. Instead, I heated my grill pan that I’d coated with a little grape seed oil (which tolerates higher temps than olive oil does) and laid the strips of chicken on that. I plucked them out of the marinade and was careful that a good amount of the yogurt mixture remained on the chicken.
While those were cooking–I turned them a couple times–I cut up a couple medium-sized potatoes into bite-sized chunks, put them into a bowl, drizzled them with olive oil, covered the bowl and microwaved it for 4 minutes. Then I sprinkled garlic, salt and pepper (or lot of chili powder, for another kind of flavor), mixed it well, and microwaved them for 4 more minutes. When they were done, I let them sit until the rest of the meal was ready.
Meanwhile, I took the one shortcut I seldom take:
I used frozen peas instead of some kind of fresh veggie. But, like I said, time was an issue. So, I prepared those on the stove top, and then topped the peas with sliced almonds.
And that was it. That meal, followed by fresh, locally grown cantaloupe for dessert, used basic ingredients most of us keep in our kitchens. But by using a few spices and an easy marinade for a little zip, every mouthful was savory and far from being bland or plain.
The key is experimentation. If you can bring yourself to do that, cooking–and eating–will seem gourmet even when it’s not.