Show a little flair in the kitchen

  • By Ron Ramey Herald writer
  • Monday, April 6, 2009 9:56pm
  • Life

Want to have fun in the kitchen?

Not your idea of fun? OK, go read something else.

The rest of you look around (be sure you’re in the kitchen) and see what ingredients are on the counter, in the cabinets, refrigerator — wherever you keep foodstuff. Now ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky?”

Wait, wrong movie. The one I’m after is “Ratatouille,” the animated one, with the cooking rat. The rat who cooks, I mean. His name was Remy.

Remy learned to smell and taste ingredients and get a sense of what would go well together and what wouldn’t, concocting delicious recipes for his hapless human friend and would-be chef, Linguini.

Now, let’s get the rat-in-the-kitchen thing out of our heads and go play with our food to see what we can invent, improvise or revise. Educate yourself on what herbs, spices and other ingredients work well together for you, and what won’t. Then, with what you have on hand, throw something together, even if it’s just a vegetable side dish, a pasta sauce or just a different way to make tuna salad. Most of the time you’ll find you’re just tinkering with recipes you’ve used before, but sometimes you might go wild with things you’ve never tried.

I’ve had surprising results, even though they weren’t always pleasantly surprising. Sometimes it takes a few runs at something before you feel like you’ve got it right.

As an example of how you might go about it, the pomegranate-lemon sauce recipe here is a third try (all done over a two-week period). It was inspired by a spare lemon and some pomegranate seeds my wife keeps on hand to use in oatmeal. The two ingredients seemed ideal to pair in a dressing for a salmon filet I had in the refrigerator.

The first attempt used fresh lemon juice, the pomegranate seeds, some mint and olive oil well blended. Flavor was OK, but it was overall too thin and a little too tart.

A second run at it added some sugar, zest and juice of a lemon, and a little more olive oil. I also used some shallot. The mixture was simmered and reduced a bit before the olive oil was blended in. It went on halibut this time and was OK, but still not there.

In the final run at it, I ditched the shallot and added white wine. Recent use of Meyer lemons inspired the addition of that fruit. It went on a baked cod filet this time, and I was satisfied with it, but that doesn’t mean I’ll quit tweaking it.

Experimenting can be fun. Be fearless. And if you “invent” something new to you, don’t be surprised to run across a similar recipe sometime. I found several similar pomegranate-lemon recipes with many of these same ingredients when I went looking a few days later.

After all, if you only go back as far as ancient Sumer, humans have been at this cooking thing for, at the very least, 7,000 years or so. It’s hard to come up with something really new under the pot lid, but it’s fun to try.

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