Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013 Cooking Goals

Now that 2013 is over a week old, I think it's a good time to set some goals for the new year. Cooking goals to be exact. Goals and resolutions are one in the same, but calling them goals seems a little more positive, right? The word resolution makes me think of something bad that needs to be stopped or something that you need to improve. Reaching goals can certainly lead to improvement but there's just more of an air of accomplishment about them. Some goals can be serious and life changing and I definitely have some of those, but this is a fun blog and I want to share some fun goals.

I've always had a mental list of things I'd like to do in the kitchen, but I'm happy to finally have a place to document them and be held somewhat accountable. Some may be a little weird or really simple, but I still want to do them.

1) Make my own cheese.

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I think that cheese is the greatest food ever in life. I would eat it for every meal if that wasn't a bad idea. I love all cheese; even the really stank stuff. If I was on death row my last meal would be a mountain of smoked mozzarella. I don't even allow myself to buy smoked cheeses because of the rate at which I consume them. So yeah I like cheese. And believe it or not, it's really easy to make! In fact, you can do it with just three ingredients. So this will be happening. And my cheese consumption will increase. Oh well.

2) Make pie crust from scratch.

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Easy enough, right? I don't know. I've heard that pie crust can actually be very fickle. Getting ratios and ingredient temperatures just right can be the difference between mush and flaky goodness. The one and only time I made a pie I used store bought crust. I was a novice cook then, but now I think I can definitely handle it. Plus, my lovely friend Ashley gifted me with ceramic pie weights last Christmas and I still have yet to use them. My favorite FAVORITE pie - maybe even my favorite dessert - is strawberry rhubarb pie. It's heaven. One of the stands at the Brookline summer farmers' market makes strawberry rhubarb jam and it's absurd how fast I go through a jar. I eat it with a spoon and I'm not ashamed about it. I've never made a strawberry rhubarb pie so I just might have to make this a double challenge! Look out, rhubarb season. I'm coming for you.

3) Make risotto. Real risotto.

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Everyone's terrified of risotto, right? No? Just me? Good. I don't know why risotto, which is really just sauteed and slow cooked rice, is so intimidating. I think it's probably because it involves time and attention. I've made risotto from a mix before (not bad), I've made it using orzo pasta (orzotto, if you will), and I've cooked quinoa using the same technique, but I've never made the real thing. I think having a killer risotto recipe is a really good thing to have. Especially if it involves mushrooms and a lot of cheese.

4) Make gnocchi.

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If you've ever had perfect gnocchi, then you'll understand this. I've had it and it can be found at Strega in Boston. It's worth sitting through the mob movies and the gaucheness the restaurant insists on (if you've been to Strega, you understand). When it's done right and al dente, gnocchi is pillowy and slightly chewy and not too heavy. It's complemented best by a simple tomato sauce and lots of Parmigiano. There are a few different kinds of gnocchi - potato, ricotta, flour, semolina, etc. I'm not sure what I'll like best, but I'm will to try them all until I figure it out.

5) Try really hard to like tofu and alternative proteins.

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 I guess this is more of an eating thing, but I will have to learn how to cook them. I've had tofu a handful of times and I've never really been a big fan of it. Maybe that's because I don't really know how to cook it. I try to eat protein of some sort with every meal and it can be hard. Sometimes I really, really don't want meat or any kind of animal protein so it would be nice to have this as an option. Tempeh and seitan are also alternative proteins which I would like to experiment with, but baby steps are needed here! This leads me to my next goal...

6) Go vegetarian for one week (five days) per month.

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I've talked briefly about my sort of kind of maybe desire to be a vegetarian before. I still don't think I could be or necessarily want to be an all the time vegetarian, but I want to make a conscious effort not to eat meat for one week per month. Bonus? Martha Stewart just published an awesome looking vegetarian cookbook called Meatless. I need no excuse to buy a new cookbook!

7) Cook for friends once a month.

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Most of the time I cook for just myself. Which is great because I can make all the things I like, but what's the fun in that? Cooking and food are meant to be shared and I will be sharing. Get excited.

8) Stop being such a perfectionist.

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Let me be clear - the only area of my life at which I am a perfectionist is cooking. Everything else? Not at all. Not even close. But I hate messing up when I'm cooking or baking something. If a dish doesn't look exactly like the picture in a book or on Pinterest I get angry. Because of this I very rarely conceive dishes on my own. I follow recipes and I follow them to the T. Why? I don't know. It's just really scary to me for some reason. My culinary education doesn't go any further than Food Network and Top Chef, but I certainly have enough experience in the kitchen by now to know what works and what doesn't work.

Eight goals is pretty good, right? I think these are all totally achievable as well. It's not like I want to butcher a whole chicken or make cow's eye balls or something. Those will be on a future list. Well, not the eye balls but maybe something else with offal. I will also consider this an open list so if there's anything I think of that I really want to do it's going on there. I'll be ready for Masterchef in about 10 years :)  

Do you think these are doable? What are some of your cooking or eating goals for 2013?

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