I started cooking a couple of years ago. I dabbled before that; I had a couple of specialties down, and I knew how to read a recipe. I come from a large family of really accomplished cooks. My grandparents owned a restaurant, and my mother to this day cooks dinner from scratch every night. My aunt is the baker (I mean, seriously, her username on the interweb is "piebakersue") and the sort of person to invite you over to "nothing special" tea, and greet you with scones, a bundt cake and some cookies she just whipped up. She literally gets up at 4 in the morning on Thanksgiving to make 8 pies. In my family food is central to everything, and yet, we all take it for granted. I always did, anyway. When I started cooking, it was kind of like "my turn, had to happen sometime."
The family couldn't have been more pleased, and I was showered with eveyone's hand-me-downs and cast-offs. I don't think any beginner cook has ever started learning with more tough, seasoned equiptment than I. Dutch oven? Tongs? Vegetable steamer? 2 colanders? Angel food cake pan? I had it all. Cooking was fun. It was like making art, except with less pressure. Picked the worst possible spice combination for your made-up recipe? Who cares, let's throw it out and order pizza. Even mess-ups can feed you, and when you're done you never have to make it again. Or think about it again. Until you're at the bar the next night telling overblown stories about the Grossest Dinner Ever.
Lately, though, Ive been cooking less. I attribute this to seasonal depresson and the departure of a live-in boyfriend. There's just something about cooking for someone else that makes it really satisfying. Its got to be the Jewish grandmother in me (have another rugelah, you're skin and bones.) With the advent of spring, though, I am determined to keep up with my project, the working title of which is "Be As Good of a Cook The Last Generations Were Without Having To Make A Big Deal About It To Their Friends On The Internets."
Basically, I am throwing a dinner party. I have high hopes for this one. I plan on not getting drunk while nervously waiting for anyone to show up. I plan on not pestering eveyone with questions about whether the saag has too much turmeric. I will clean up the same night! The menu is mostly Indian: Saag with tofu, masala subzi, samosas, raita, chutneys, broiled asparagus, and strawberry-rhubarb pie. This pie thing is a real strech on my part, pie crust and I are not quite on a first name basis, but the rhubarb at the farmer's market looked way tasty.
Curry is easier than anyone thinks. Also, I think it is the easiest/tastiest way to appease vegans when you must bring something to a potluck. Start with a thumb sized piece of ginger and a head of garlic, and whip them up in the food processor, or grate them together. You can add chillis here too. I like serranos best. Fry that up in a pan of olive oil until it browns a bit, and add a medium onion chopped fine-ish. Let the onion darken a bit and then scoot that all over to the side of the pan. Put a little more oil on the clean side, and dump your spices in. I like about a half-palm of cumin, half that of corriender, some turmeric and some paprika as a base, but you can get crazy with the cardamom and cinnamon if you want. Stir the spices into the oil until you can really smell them, and then stir the whole thing together. A wooden spoon is handy here, as you really dont want the spices to stick to the pan and burn. Add a little stock/beer/water. Dump a couple cups of chopped veggies in and toast them a bit, then add a can of chopped tomatos. Add the tomatos early if anything seems like its about to burn. Cover and simmer till tender. Correct spices. I usually juice half a lemon in too. Add stock/water/beer if it seems dry. I add a handful of chopped cilantro at the end, but some people think it tastes like dirty socks, so play that by ear. Serve with rice and plain yogurt. (Pretend you never eat yogurt if at vegan potluck.)
If anyone wants to come have dinner, its at my house, 8pm. Comment for directions.