Friday, October 5, 2007

Truly awful

My natural culinary inclination is toward Italian cooking, mostly because I was raised with it and those ingredients make sense to me. They’re comforting, and they remind me of simpler times. I am a good cook because I love eating, and I have a need to eat ALL THE TIME! I have my regular dishes, what I consider my tried and true standards. Lately though I’ve become more adventurous in my tiny hovel of a kitchen. And the results have been, well, awful.

I’ve been experimenting with recipes that combine different cuisines and flavors, especially ones that on the surface sound counter-intuitive to me. Though in my efforts to keep an open mind and try new things, even if they sound strange, I have been giving the weirdest of combos a shot.

My mistakes have begun by thinking that every recipe that is published must be somewhat decent. After all, publishing is expensive (not to mention competitive) and supposedly these recipes have been tested before going to print. I am learning that these assumptions are complete fallacies, and my poor taste buds, not to mention my stomach, are paying the price. I am also realizing just now that I have been watching too many episodes of Iron Chef America. The other day a culinary master made ice cream out of – are you ready for this – asparagus. I’m not kidding. And the judges raved about how delicious it was. This has completely screwed up my sense of cooking logic.

To be fair, I have been making tiny substitutions – kosher salt for sea salt, soy milk for cow’s milk. Nothing drastic. Grocery shopping in NYC is challenging to say the least so if I can keep from making an extra trip and making due with what I have on hand, I cheat a bit. Still, that is no excuse for the simply horrible things I have turned out from my stove top and oven in the past two weeks.

An example: I found a recipe in one of my favorite magazines for sweet and sour chicken with a twist. Using apricots for the sweet part, and onion soup mix and vinegar for the salty and sour. I winced a little when I saw it but thought I should give it a shot. If asparagus could be made into ice cream, then surely this odd mélange of flavors could create a sweet and sour chicken. Nope. I’m sad to say that it may have just been the most disgusting chicken dish on record. Straight from the oven and into the trash.

The other additive into this situation is that I absolutely refuse to ever be discouraged by anything. I was determined not to lose my battle for home-grown food adventure because of one little silly chicken recipe. So this week I found another odd-on-the-surface recipe in yet another one of my favorite magazines. This one for warm red cabbage salad. It looked lovely in the photograph. A beautiful purple color. Very autumnal. And I hate cabbage (another side effect of growing up in an Italian household), so maybe this recipe will make me like this good for you vegetable. Give me a new outlook on it.

I packed up a serving for lunch today and my stomach is furious. It’s actually screaming at me right now. “How could you do this to me AGAIN???? Didn’t you learn your lesson from that chicken? Are you trying to kill me???” I’m feeling bad. Very, very bad. Red cabbage is not my friend. I have developed a new disdain for it. I am nearly through my small travel pack of Tums.

There are times and places meant for adventure. My kitchen is not one of them. It’s back to my Italian mavens, Giada and Rachel Ray, for me. I will leave the combining of strange and exotic flavors to the experts in New York’s fantastic restaurants that I love to frequent.

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