Wednesday, March 3, 2010

are you what you eat?

I started dinner last night by sautéing diced onions and banana peppers in EVOO. (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) As I stirred and sniffed, it occurred to me that was the third night running I had started dinner the same way, with some pretty different outcomes. Last night I was making linguine with white clam sauce, the night before it was chicken fajitas, and the night before that, my own recipe for Stuffed Cabbage Soup - a sort of de-constructed cabbage roll dish.

Right off the top of my head, I can think of several other recipes that start that way; certainly spaghetti sauce and chili, for example. That got me to thinking. What are the absolutely essential ingredients for me to make a tasty meal? What are the things I can't cook without? I used to know a woman who hated onions and refused to cook with them, wouldn't even have them in her house. I was amazed. Really, I just wouldn't cook without onions.

So here is my list of ten essential ingredients. I'm not even going to get into herbs and spices, except to say that everything must be salted and peppered with freshly-cracked pepper.

1. onions - far and away my #1
2. garlic
3. celery
4. banana peppers
5. EVOO (I prefer Colavita's)
6. homemade chicken stock
7. tomatoes (fresh and canned)
8. mushrooms (fresh and canned)
9. Marsala (which I use in pretty much any recipe that calls for wine)
10. Eggland's Best eggs

I have to admit, I have never used all ten of those ingredients in one recipe, but the first eight sound like the start of something pretty tasty. I'm sure I have probably forgotten something - even though I got up and did a quick tour (a cook's tour) of the kitchen cupboards - and I have probably left out your favorites, as well. So, what are they?


Ben said...

Before we get to your question, I have to ask: did you brighten up your blog background or something? Because it looks different I think. Brighter. Better.

No, I am not what I eat. I've always thought that was a stupid phrase. Everybody knows: You Are What You Smell. Yeah. See? Yeah.

I mostly concur with your list (of course I do, I eat what you cook). I can't conceive of cooking without onions. We pretty much have them in soups, sandwiches, even with eggs for breakfast. I know your list is not actually "in order" but I would not rate celery or Marsala very high on an ordered list. I might be able to cook without them. In fact, I rarely use them in my popular Grilled Cheese Sandwich recipe.

anne mancine said...

You do make the best grilled cheese sandwiches!

Other than that, I invited you to list your essential ingredients, not critique mine!

Bryan said...

I don't know that I have absolutely essential ingredients, but when I discover a new recipe I will often make it several days in a row with variations. And often I'll go through phases; a few years ago I had an orange/teriyaki phase, then a lime phase, then a soy/Worcestershire/white wine phase.

I'm definitely big on using EVOO and freshly minced garlic. And in fact, a great many of my cookings [?] begin with sauteing/stir-frying something in EVOO. And if there's some delicious gunk stuck to the bottom of the pan when I'm done, I'll splash in some white wine to help release it and coat whatever I'm frying.

Bryan said...

Oh, and whatever I stir-fry in olive oil one day, I am highly likely to try again with sesame oil the next day. :)

anne mancine said...

Yeah, I agree with you about the "going through phases" thing.

Some ingredients are seasonal, as well. I am way into limes in the summer, for example, but not so much right now.

jamanci said...

i was wanting to say that my cooking shifts in phases, too, but i have to admit it doesn't! i've pretty much only cooked some variety of pasta with olive oil and garlic and some variety of vegetables for a long time now. i add chicken or pork occasionally for my cohabitant, and might create a "theme" with particular meat, sauce, and vegetables.

i do keep onions and celery around constantly, although i almost never use them. wonder where that comes from? ;)

jamanci said...

i'd have to say, by the way, that broccoli is the top vegetable right now. used to be spinach, but that gets really "fally-aparty" when you cook it for like 5 seconds. i'm experimenting with kale.

anne mancine said...

I don't know where you get the "eating-yucky-vegetables" phase, though.

jamanci said...

i expect they seem exotic, since we never had to eat them when i was little! :)

Bryan said...

Broccoli is the ultimate vegetable for me. There are just so many different ways to prepare it that are all yummy.

Oh by the way, I thought I bought parsnips last week, but it turns out it was actually root parsley (there wasn't a label on the bin, and they were the only white-carrot-looking things at Giant Eagle). I guess they can be prepared in a similar fashion, but taste different.

I cut them into 2-inch sticks and roasted them along with some carrots, but ended up removing the carrots part way through since the root parsley took significantly longer to get tender. It was OK, but didn't really seem to have a flavor per se. I think I ended up sprinkling some garlic powder on them.

anne mancine said...

Everything tastes better with garlic powder, eh?

jamanci said...

including scrambled eggs!