Sunday, April 08, 2012

Lessons Learned in the Kitchen

Lesson 1—don't set things on fire. I discovered these parchment baking bags at the grocery store not long ago and threw them in the cart right away. I have cooked in paper on occasion and have had to form bags with sheets of parchment paper. Having them ready made is a great idea.

What I usually do is lay in an assortment of sliced veggies—mushrooms, onions, celery, red peppers, zucchini...—then lay something like salmon or tilapia on top, toss in some seasoning and a splash of white wine, roll up the bags and bake at 400˚ for 10 minutes or so. Dinner. I did this the other night, and while the bag was roasting, I made a pot of rice and some lemon cream sauce, and I timed it all just right so that everything would be ready at the same time. But when I tore into the bag, I discovered the larger piece of fish needed a few more minutes.

I set the rice and sauce on low and popped the baking sheet back into the oven, set the time at three minutes and walked away. Three minutes later, I learned a lesson—don't put an open parchment bag in the oven so that the edges can touch the hot oven surfaces. The bag had caught fire, evidently, and burned to a crisp, and when I pulled the baking sheet out, paper ash wafted out into the kitchen like newspaper on a camp fire. I managed to salvage the meal, but there is still ash in the oven, and every time I open the door, I am reminded of the fateful baking bag mishap.


Lesson 2—compulsive cookers should not choose recipes based solely on photos. Pinterest is a bad place for compulsive cookers like myself, and maybe that's the real lesson. It's nothing but photos, many of them well shot and appealing, and when I see something that looks great, I pin it to my food board and return to it when I have time to cook. These appetizing photos have led me to make lemon monkey bread (really good), chocolate zucchini cake (so so), and tonight's dinner—roasted rack of lamb with wilted spinach and baked smashed new potatoes (all very good). But sometimes these photos lead to odd things I would never make based just on the recipe.

This afternoon seemed just right for messing around in the kitchen. We had each made ourselves a sandwich for lunch and cleaned up the kitchen. There was laundry going on, there was the Masters being watched (the grammar seems wrong there, but I'm pretty sure it's correct), the dog was resting, and it seemed the perfect time to make stuff. After the green olive tapenade on endive leaves and baked brie with apples, I went for something I had pinned on Pinterest and had prepared for by buying, of all things, Nutella and Cool Whip.

I have nothing against Nutella, but I do not make food with Cool Whip. It's like cooking with J-ello, as far as I'm concerned, or frozen tater tots or godsavethequeen as bad as cheese in a can. But I couldn't help myself because of the picture above. I mean, look at it. Doesn't it look dreamy, and doesn't the title No Bake Nutella Cheesecake say "I'm delicious. Make me!"

Granted, I'm a bit of a food snob, but if you're going to make cheesecake, then make cheesecake, and don't crap it up with Cool Whip. And if you're going to make something with Cool Whip, then don't pretend it's cheesecake. But the photo snagged me like a fish on a beautiful lure with feathers and shiny bits. This stuff is not inedible, but it's not great, and I feel as though I have adulterated perfectly fine cream cheese and Nutella. If I ever make this again, I'll opt for fresh whipped cream instead. And I'll try to remember what I know about food ingredients and not be swayed by a pretty picture.

I should also add, the woman responsible for this enticing photo created something really lovely, much more so than what I made. I didn't put nearly as much effort into the appearance of my "cheesecake," but still...Cool Whip?

1 comment:

Shannon and Paul said...

This is why I miss you... :)