On Cooking

Studying at Le Cordon Bleu Paris

Cooking is one of my life long passions. I find that it feeds both my artistic soul as well as my scientific interests. The art of cooking, in creating a masterpiece that is both visually and gastronomically appealing is a thrill. At the same time, one cannot be completely successful in the kitchen if the scientific aspect of cooking is not understood. The way leaveners are activated, the smoke point of oils, the way flour can be overworked to develop too much gluten, the point at which whipping cream becomes butter, all these things and many more must be understood and practiced in order to produce the best quality meal as possible.

My passion for cooking first came to me from my mother. She was a home economics teacher and a fabulous cook. At age 7, my family moved overseas to Tripoli, Libya, where my parents taught in the American school. Living in a place where there are no “fast food” establishments or even a pizzeria, my mother was left with the daunting task of having to prepare all of our meals. I loved watching her in the kitchen, the way she improvised when certain ingredients were not readily available to us in the stores or when she just didn’t have it in the house. My mother saw recipes as a starting point from which to launch her creativity, a suggestion of how to prepare the dish that she would then make her own. On the occasions when we would travel outside of Libya and go to delicious restaurants, she would study the meals we had, try to determine all the ingredients, so she could recreate them once we were home and couldn’t return to the establishment easily to have the dish again. Our shopping trips would always include the exciting adventure of trying to find items like oven proof bowls to make French Onion Soup or heatproof glasses to recreate Irish Coffee. I know it was an extra burden on my mom to cook ALL the time for us, but she made it fun and delicious. And best of all, she taught me how to cook so I could help her – a task that I loved to do and have all my life. I wasn’t so crazy about the cleaning up part, but you have to take the good with the bad. Thank goodness for dishwashers!

One of the best things about growing up overseas was my exposure to so many different types of cuisine. I can remember my first taste of wienerschnitzel in Germany, the first time I tried Calamari in Greece (I thought they were onion rings), and the first time I sipped French Onion Soup in Paris. These experiences helped to shape my palette and my appreciation of all types of food and preparation methods. It was a priceless education, which I feel lucky to have had.

The great thing about this passion is that I never stop learning more about it. Through college as a Food and Hotel major I learned to hone my technique and about cooking for large groups of people. As a breakfast Chef in a restaurant in college I learned the pace of a professional kitchen and getting orders out timely, hot, and delicious. I’ve had side businesses such as catering and cake decorating and through it all I learn more and more. I’ve been inspired by teachers, my friends, meals I’ve had, professional Chefs and TV personalities like Ina Garten, Tyler Florence and the infamous Julia Child.

The all time pursuit of my dreams has been this trip to Paris and taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu. I have learned so much in the past 5 weeks that I can’t even put it into words. I definitely want to return for more. Not only have the classes been a learning experience but the restaurants, cafes, patisseries, and the boulangeries of Paris have inspired and educated me. It has been so exciting to see the items that we learn to cook in class in the pastry shops and I always think to myself, I can make that now!

Cooking is a personal thing for each person. Some people I’ve met find it difficult, some find it a chore or task that must be done on a daily basis, others see it as a hobby or a profession. Whatever cooking means to you, I hope you can find the joy in it, whether you think you’re good at it or not. I have a friend who LOVES to sing. She’s not very good at it and she knows it’s not her strong suit. She always apologetic about singing around me but I don’t care that she’s not a very good singer. I love to see the joy on her face and the happiness it brings her when she sings. Learning to cook can bring the same joy to a person and it’s my goal on this blog to help you learn how to cook and to have a good time at it!

In honor of National Chocolate Covered Peanut day, let’s make something easy and Delish!

Chocolate Covered Peanuts

1 bag of Chocolate Chips (12 oz)

1 bag of Butterscotch Chips (6 oz)

1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter (creamy or chunky – it’s your creative choice)

1 pound Peanuts (or cashews, almonds, whatever you like)

Pour Chocolate and Butterscotch chips into a heat proof bowl. Melt chips either in microwave or over a double boiler. When chocolate mixture is completely melted, remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter and the nuts. Spoon out chocolate covered nuts onto waxed paper or parchment paper. Let cool till set and hardened. Enjoy!

A bientôt mes amis!