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Emergency Items for Lazy Cooking

May 27, 2010

My mother calls me a lazy perfectionist. I want to be a great teacher, but grading deadlines really sneak up on me. I want to earn my PhD and publish work, but I manage to write papers papers and proposals last minute. I want to sew my gifts instead of buying them, which usually means people get their gifts a bit late, especially since it happens after that grading and paper writing. She argues that by leaving work last minute, I give myself an excuse to not do well. Didn’t do well on that paper? That is ok, you wrote it that morning. I am trying to work on this, as I realize one does not earn a PhD through procrastination. I figure acknowledgement is the first step, I’ll work on the rest later.

Now, with cooking, lazy perfectionism is completely fine. For example, I don’t use measurements, but often just go buy taste, that way I understand how ingredients meld instead of just following directions. However, one must keep a pantry ready for your laziness. These are a few things I keep on hand for those nights we want good home-cooking, without the hard work. They seem like simple obvious items, and for those of you who cook alot you might go “DUH,” but for beginners who are intimidated or advanced chefs being reminded of these items can help you improve. Through changing ingredients up a bit, you can add innovation to your cooking.

Flavored Olive Oil— My father-in-law travels to Geneva several times a year and comes back with all sorts of treats. When he discovered a store that sold only olive oil, he knew he found the perfect gift for me. So once in awhile, he returns with high end olive oils. Of course the key to olive oil is to buy the first cold press extra virgin oil. However, he also brings lemon, hot pepper, basil, and other flavored olive oils. You can make your own infused oil as well, I tend to do this with rosemary (just warm the olive oil with a spice, and then you can use it for a few weeks). Last night, I wanted to add lemon to my asparagus, however our lemon was bad. I freaked, and then remembered that I had a secret ingredient in the pantry. We enjoyed lemon flavored olive oil on the asparagus, and then sprinkled feta and pepper on top.

Premixed Spices– No need to buy those premixed spices or spice rubs at the grocery store, they have tons of additives. If you go to a store that sells spices in bulk, purchase a variety of spices and mix them at home, and then store them in the empty bulk containers. We usually have something I generically name Italian Spices, Chimichurri Rub, Spicey Spices, Cajun, and Tandoori. I sprinkle these on all sorts of foods such as vegetables, pizza and pasta. I also mix them in with breadcrumbs for fish. It adds alot of zing to a simple thing.

Breadcrumbs– Have Italian breadcrumbs and Panko crumbs on hand at all times. I find the store Italian breadcrumbs too fine and the Panko crumbs too boring, so I usually mix them together to create a better flavor and texture. People say to use old fresh bread, but seriously that is not lazy enough for me. I just don’t have fresh bread on hand at all times.

Soyvey– I don’t usually buy premixed or packaged foods; we stick to the outer aisles of the grocery store. However, this item is an awesome marinade in a pinch. The soy/terryaki flavor is perfect for fish, and it doesn’t need to marinade long.

Variety of Cheeses– Cheese really adds flavor. We tend to keep a drawer full of different types, and I am constantly trying new kinds. You don’t need to keep a certain type, except for maybe Pecorino Romano and a variety of cheddar. Go to a local wine and cheese shop, and buy something stinky and unusual, you might be pleased.

Good Wine– Keep on hand a variety of good wine, to add to your food. The wine you cook with should be wine you would want to drink. People tend to say dry wine, but honestly a light fish can be cooked with Prosseco for some kick.

The other day my sister asked if a steak marinade would go well with chicken. Since we were talking on the phone, I couldn’t tell her. However, I told her to smell the marinade and imagine chicken. Did the smell make sense with the ingredient? That is how I ensure lazy perfectionism cooking doesn’t become a disastrous display. If you find yourself combining spices or marinades, stop and imagine the food ingredient. If it tempts your taste buds go for it.

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