I decided since I was off work yesterday I would cook a meal from scratch for dinner. I went to the grocery and bought entirely too much salmon (I asked for four steaks and the woman behind the counter must have pulled out the largest ones they had). Charlie, King of All Meat, said I got a good deal but I couldn't help thinking that most of it would go to waste as Cavan refuses to eat any sort of fish.
I began by making an olive tapenade in advance. It was embarrassingly simple; throw the olives, some lemon juice, capers, and a clove of garlic into the food processor and blend. While it's doing its business add some olive oil. Done and done.
Then I cut up some fresh strawberries with two tablespoons of both sugar and lemon juice, which ended up giving them a really sweet, but tangy flavor. I think that's how my dad always prepared fruit when I lived at home. That was for dessert, served over poundcake with a little heavy whipping cream and vanilla.
When Charlie got home from work I threw the salmon steaks into a pan with vegetable stock, more capers, peppercorns, some fresh dill, covered it, and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes.
Next I julienned zucchini, carrots, celery, and fresh green beans to stir fry with garlic and butter. Those I set aside while I used the same pan for the salmon sauce. I strained the cooking liquid into the pan, added cream, garlic, and more dill, then a little milk and cornstarch.
Last I toasted some french bread in the broiler with a little butter and garlic, which we had with the olive tapenade.
All in all, it ended up being a really healthy, tasty meal. But being the super-picky eater that I am, I was convinced the salmon wasn't done. And since I've been on a basically liquid diet the past few months I think my stomach has shrunk quite a bit. I can't eat very much without feeling over-stuffed.
I used to have little dinner parties all the time when I was younger and would invite over someone new every Sunday to eat a meal I'd prepared. This was well before I had any sort of understanding of cooking (although even at this point my understanding is very little), so most of the time our guests ended up having pasta. I had no qualms about forcing friends and strangers to eat my cooking. Now, after trying to experiment here and there, I think I'm entirely too hard on myself.
I would really like to invite guests over to eat sometime, but most everyone I know is practically a chef. Scott and Jay are culinary masters; my co-worker Annie's husband is a whiz in the kitchen and I think he wants to open his own restaurant; my dad is one of those people who can take any four items in a kitchen and create gourmet meals.
I, however, appear to take after my mom, whose specialities are Rice-A-Roni with chicken, and deviled eggs.
There are a few things I make relatively well, and recipes I've altered to suit my own tastes, including a really huge six-cheese lasagna (that can be vegetarian and tastes quite good with the meat-less crumbles), homemade biscuits and gravy, a pot roast, cuban chicken with black beans and saffron rice, and a homemade chicken noodle soup with havarti-on-rye grilled cheese sandwiches.
I have to admit, though, the latter three are recipes I got either from my dad, my former housemate Jennifer, or from Rachael Ray on the Food Network.
The last three times I've made pot roast I've bought the wrong kind of meat. Charlie takes full responsibility for that and I'm more than willing to blame it on him. And it appears that rice and I do not get along – I can't ever seem to get it soft and fluffy. And sometimes I overcook biscuits.
If attempting to cook has taught me anything, it's that no one great recipe will make me a good cook. It just takes practice and a lot of experimenting, and I can't be afraid to let other people try and critique my cooking.