Actually, I cook every week, but sometimes I do it in a disorganized fashion. This week, I'm back to my OCD routine of choosing a cookbook, developing a menu from it, writing a grocery list based on the menu and shopping to buy from the list. The system works, and I swear by it even on weeks when I abandon it.
This week, the cookbook is Simple to Spectacular, an interesting book that takes a basic recipe and then offers three recipes that vary it to higher and higher levels of sophistication. For example, one recipe is for butternut squash soup with squash, broth and salt and pepper. The next is for the soup with some extras like garlic and thyme and red pepper flakes. The next adds chestnuts, butter and créme fraîche. And the next goes a completely different direction with yellow curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce and shrimp.
I usually don't choose the most involved recipe, so here is the middle-of-the-road menu for the week:
Slow-cooked salmon with mussels and coriander from page 182
Roast pork with honey and lemons from page 314
Sautéed and roasted chicken with vegetables and lime from page 252
Rib-eye steaks with shallot and lemon compote from page 279
Scrambled eggs with crispy potatoes and proscuitto from page 52
I know how this works, though—I plan on making all of this stuff, and then something comes up, and we end up having dinner out at least once. We'll see. So far, I've made the salmon, which looks like this on the plate:
It was mediocre, and after dinner I remembered the same impression the last time I made it, so I think I won't bother with this recipe anymore, not at this level, at least.
And I've made the pork roast with honey and lemon, which looks like this after about 40 minutes:
If nothing else, everyone should make this if only to have the aroma of lemon and roasting pork and honey fill up the house. The finished result was OK—there is a real trick to cooking pork without drying it out, and I haven't quite figured that out, yet.
Absent from this list is dessert because we don't eat dessert very often at home. I'm saving one of my favorites from page 409 (Chocolate tart in a chocolate crust) for guests who will be here for dinner on Friday, although I don't know yet what I'll serve for the main course. Something from the sophisticated level, you think? Maybe the roasted chicken but with the creamy Riesling-onion sauce instead of the veggies and lime. Or maybe I'll shelve this cookbook for the evening and make an indoor clambake—a big pot of clams and mussels and shrimp and chorizo sausage.