Cooking Off the Cuff
I continue to marvel at my grandson, Austin, who creates brilliant meals from whatever he can forage from the fridge. This is a most desirable talent during a Pandemic, when we’re trying to keep store shopping to a minimum.
He cooks “au pif,” as the French would say, which means by feel or instinct. I, on the other hand, cook by recipe, so I’m learning a lot from him.
A Gastronomique Adventure
He’s acquired a pocket full of Jedi kitchen tricks that come in handy. “No ricotta? No problem.” He assembled a lasagna, making his own ricotta—since that’s not a staple I keep on hand.
I was surprised at how easily it’s done. You simply mix lemon juice and salt with warm milk. When curds form, you strain the mixture through cheesecloth—which, surprisingly, I happened to have.
It was a most veggielicious lasagna!
Stalking the Wild Mushrooms
Next morning, before breakfast, Austin headed to the woods in search of chanterelles, that might have sprung up after the rain. Alas, he found only a handful. But, as he said, that was enough to mix with some caramelized onions for a savory mushroom tart.
He searched for puff pastry in the freezer, but settled for an outdated phyllo crust. He capped the thin sheets with a béchamel-cheese sauce, providing a soft bed for the onion-mushroom mixture. It was really, really good! Something the snootiest gourmet might cotton to.
On to the Salad
I’d let most of my lettuce die in the refrigerator. Austin salvaged what he could. He chopped greens and Kalamata olives for a side salad, but cut the green onions into long, slender strips, giving the salad more dimension. (He did the same with the mushroom tart shown above.)
The salad got a light dressing of lemon-mustard vinaigrette. The fresh ingredients—lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and Dijon mustard—came together in a jiffy with a few shakes in a Mason jar. (A blender works fine, too.)
You can find the basic recipe for this vinaigrette at the end of this post. Other versions add dried oregano, basil leaves, honey, apple cider vinegar, and/or shallots. You might first want to try the easy four-ingredient recipe (plus salt and pepper) and experiment with the additions later.
Marcella Hazan’s Famous Tomato Sauce
For carb comfort, Austin made a spaghetti dish, using Marcella Hazan’s blink-and-you’re-done tomato sauce. The recipe has 4 ingredients: one-28 oz. can San Marzano or Muir Glen Italian tomatoes, 5 Tbs. butter, salt, 1 medium onion, halved and later removed from the sauce after cooking for 45 minutes.
Her Ten Commandments of Italian Cooking are also worth a read.
“Anyone who doesn’t finish a recipe, because they don’t have all the ingredients will never be a cook.” ~Julia Child
- 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp. sea salt
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
Combine all ingredients (except oil) in a small jar. Slow add oil and shake until blended. This only makes 1/4 cup of vinaigrette, enough for two people eating the salad. It can be increased, if more is needed.