Finding culinary inspiration

I saw a friend last night who I hadn’t seen in about a year. It was a lovely get together and at the end I promised to invite her over for dinner in the near future. “As long as you make that sweet potato risotto,” she replied. Ah, the sweet potato risotto. A staple in my entertaining handbook. Why? It’s delicious. It’s not really complicated, but it is time-consuming and feels much more impressive than it actually is.

Last night was gorgeous (Hello, Toronto heat-wave) and so as I walked home from our dinner, I thought about that almost-a-year-ago dinner. I also thought about how I was considering making that same sweet potato risotto for an upcoming dinner party. And about how I had blogged earlier in the day about simply waiting the right amount of time before repeating a recipe. And then I went for a breakfast this morning and overheard the couple at the table next to me extensively planning a dinner party (“Okay, so if those are our sides – what will be our main?” “Oh no! That dish is far too vinegary to go with that main.”) It got me thinking about the amount of time and effort we put into meal planning – and the amount of inspiration it can take.

All this very wordy, very indulgent introduction is to say that today’s blog is about INSPIRATION.

Culinary inspiration

In no particular order, here are my favourite three sources of culinary inspiration.

  • PinterestDuh! I’m not even sure this one needs a description. Type in an ingredient, diet, or style of cooking and voila! A list of matching recipes appear. Not to mention that Pinterest’s pinnable nature means you can collect and easily organize recipes to search later.
  • Jamie Oliver’s Food TubeYou can definitely find some really fancy Jamie Oliver recipes, but a big part of his work seems to be about making good, healthy cooking accessible to the average amateur. His FoodTube channel features a number of chefs providing step-by-step recipe instruction. I’ve taken to scouring the channel as a little end-of-day entertainment. His How To Make a Silky Omelette video is a favourite of mine and provided a new way to make an old ingredient.
  • Yummly – Think of Yummly as a specialized Pinterest specifically for food. Rather than simply typing in keywords, you can also restrict search results. It has a bit less riff-raff than Pinterest, making your time a bit more useful.

Anything I missed? Leave your go-to culinary inspiration sources in the comments!

 

 

 

 

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Why did I drop that frittata?

I had planned to write this two hours ago, but the goal of this blog is to talk about home cooking, and so three hours ago it made complete sense that I would do some home cooking first. And of course I had anticipated the home cooking would take one hour. And of course it took three.

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Two servings of my roast fire. No, I’m kidding. This is the calm after the cooking storm.

This is how cooking works for me. I love food, and I love the experience of preparing it and I love the experience of sharing it with friends. I love a well-lit room, whether a restaurant or my kitchen/dining/living room in my tiny apartment. I think I’m good at it. I think I’m a good cook, that is. I’m a welcoming host.

What I am not, is a good planner. I’m constantly missing things from my grocery list, underestimating the amount of time it’ll take me to cook something, and leaving a destroyed kitchen in my wake. “The recipe says 20 minutes, so I’ll leave myself 30.” Flash forward to two hours and it’s something like “Shit, sorry guys, this should be ready any minute. I just need to finish up this one quick thing.”

The challenge: Be better at home cooking

And so, I’m going to embark on a little challenge. To better understand how to eat-in – both the mundane Tuesday night dinner, and the exciting Friday night entertaining.

I had originally intended to put a lot of stringent boundaries on myself: no eating out, only eating whole foods that I can trace, etc. etc. etc. But that’s not what I want this blog to be about. Instead of restrictions, I want to focus on the process – be it a quick thrown together meal, or a four-course masterpiece. There’s a running joke that I’m either eating a bowl of cereal or stretching my culinary skills to their maximum. I want to explore finding the middle ground – while not denying who I obviously am at my core (someone who once contributed to a Global TV piece on National Grilled Cheese Day).

What do I love about eating in? What do I love about cooking for friends? How can I get better at both? And why did I almost drop that frittata on the floor in front of my friends when I’ve pulled it off a dozen times when there were no witnesses?