Let’s Reinvent some Kitchen Classics
Salad Niçoise Strawberry Shortcake Roasted Asparagus
We love the classics, those staple recipes that our mothers served up, and they are an important part of our cooking repertoire, even if we only visit them occasionally. However, many of them do not reflect how we want to eat today, or the availability of the world’s pantry now at our fingertips, so I’ve reimagined some of these tried-and-true delights from my family, sometimes with just a simple twist.
I grew up in rural New Hampshire. We did not know panko breadcrumbs, quinoa, black rice, Bonita flakes, goji berries, squid ink, or the dozens of varieties of peppers or olives I can now find in any supermarket. We never ate seaweed or raw fish (at least intentionally). We didn’t drink bottled water or anything blue. We had lots of ugly tomatoes, but no ugli fruit. We had oranges and asparagus only when they were in season, and lemons were precious.
The world is now at our fingertips
The spice rack was much smaller than what most of us use today as we’ve expanded to include the exotic – Indian garam masala, Chinese five-spice, Middle Eastern za’atar, and the North African ras el hanout. These spices are the easiest way to take our local foods on a trip around the world.
Although the offerings at our markets have changed, the backbone of the grocery list remains the same: fresh fruits and vegetables, local whenever possible, farm-fresh eggs, butter, cheese, fresh baked bread (by ourselves or someone else), meats and fish, also local when we can. Many of us have traded our dairy for alternatives, the same with bread products when gluten is a concern. Everything else we find is decoration and exploration, and there’s a lot to be found.
All you need is a few simple twists to make it yours
For my salad Niçoise, I swapped out roasted fingerling potatoes of many colors. These have more vitamins and minerals than white potatoes, and they are more interesting to look at as well. I’ve used soft-boiled eggs rather than hard because I like the flavor so much more, and the creaminess of the yolk is heavenly. The biggest swap is using lightly seared fresh tuna for the jarred or canned. It simply elevates this dish to new heights, and transforms it from a lovely composed lunch to a special dinner with company.
Roasting Makes Everything Better!
I use to think that steaming asparagus was the best method. However, asparagus is so much more delicious when roasted! The flavor intensifies and does not get watered down or steamed out. Just 7 or 8 minutes and you’re done. Served with crispy prosciutto, pancetta, or nitrite-free local bacon, and some homemade lemony mayonnaise or shavings of Parmesan, you have a side dish to be honored.
The strawberry shortcake is my mother’s recipe with the addition of orange zest in the dough, and orange liquor in the macerated strawberries and whipped cream. Sometimes just a little twist is all you need to enhance it and make it your own.