What’s for Dinner? I hear this often, asked by my husband, my eldest son, I even pose myself the question and recall interrogating my mother on the subject when I was a kid. My Uncle André has the tendancy to ask my Aunt Jacqueline this very question just as she’s clearing the lunch table. Desserts – baking tarts, flans, cakes, cookies, muffins and cupcakes have always been easier for me. But Dinner? I used to rack my brain to find ideas, innovative meals, different dishes than the same ones we have week after week.
I enjoy trying out new recipes, experimenting with new ingredients and flavours, discovering, learning, creating. But I didn’t always. Often a new recipe can appear overwhelming. All those steps. Ingredients I’ve never used before, know not how to cut, what they should even look like in order to buy them. And then cooking alone in the kitchen, no one to ask questions to when you get stumped, no one to give you pointers and tips… And of course doing anything for the first time takes a lot more time to do than what is familiar and quick, extra time to read the recipe once through, more time to look in the different aisles at the supermarket to find unfamiliar ingredients, more time still to read the recipe over and over again as we prepare and cook the food, time we don’t always have, or are too tired to make.
While I lived in Brazil, the first Friday of every month, my French friends and I would get together for Tasting Workshops. We would spend the afternoon cooking new and different recipes in one of our kitchens. Each time, we’d meet at a different one of our houses and pick different themes – Verrines, Italian, North African, Asian… sometimes we’d meet on other occaisions to make jams, or pastries, or French classics. In the evening, we would each return with our husbands to the house where we prepared the food and all together carefully and appreciatively taste our various creations. Earlier in the week we’d meet to choose the recipes and delegate the shopping lists – one to buy pantry items, another to buy fruits and veggies, meats and one to buy the exotic ingredients. It was for sure a fun and stress-free way to throw dinner parties!
I learned that in new recipes, all the steps listed aren’t really that overwhelming to tackle. I learned that just because a recipe calls for an ingredient I am unfamiliar with doesn’t mean that it is impossible to make. I learned that it is not that difficult to order a new cut of meat from the butcher, or an unfamiliar spice at the delicatessen, even in a foreign language! It was fun to cook with friends, to prepare a full course meal complete with appetizers, entrees, dessets and after dinner treats. To work together as a group, a team, all the while chatting and laughing, and sharing in the kitchen.
Thanks to these Ateliers Dégustations, I am more eager to try new recipes, experiment with new ingredients, prepare new and exciting side dishes, season main dishes a little differently, and find creative ways to present the dishes. I feel less stressed when choosing what to make for dinner and more confident when planning a menu. I am getting better at adapting recipes and substituting ingredients…
I try to find recipes that are easy, quick and especially convenient. Something I can prepare quickly and leave to bake or simmer while I give baths and get the boys ready for bed. (I bathe my boys at 6:30pm, we eat as a family around 7pm, then we brush teeth, read bed time stories and tuck the boys in by 8pm). My photos here are of recipes from Everyday Food, but I also collect recipes from Modes & Travaux, Esprit Femme, Marie-Claire Idees, O, Martha Stewart Living magazines…
Other noteworthy recipes that I’ve tried but didn’t take pictures of…
Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
Braised Chicken with Shallots
Chicken and Basil Stir-Fry
Mediterranean Tuna-Noodle Casserole
Pan-Seared Turkey Cutlets with Wine Sauce
Pasta with Goat Cheese and Roasted Asparagus
Spinach Risotto with Peas
Tomato and Olive Penne
Zesty Chicken Salad
BON APPETIT !!