Intimidation in the kitchen could very well be the primary reason that many people shy away from cooking from scratch. I can’t blame anyone for that. As a culture, we have shied away from what used to be the central nervous system of a home.
After many studies from top universities, the prevalent thought is that the family table, a dying attribute of modern society, is experiencing resurgence. Eating with your family is critical, especially when there are young children involved.
But then it’s not just the eating portion, is it? It’s the discussion that should be taking place as you eat. And it’s definitely not “eat your broccoli or you don’t get dessert.” It lies in more of the discussion of day-to-day life.
As much as we adults might hate to admit it, it’s tough to be a kid. It was tough when I was a kid, and now the extra burdens of video games and technological gadgets (which are outmoded the moment they hit the store shelf) and social networking, our youth might be experiencing a setback in social awareness and healthy outlets by which to air their grievances.
Ask your children or grandchildren how school was and you get an almost-hilarious play-by-play of the political partisanship of their third grade class. You are offered the nuances of modern life in high school, different from when we were kids yet strikingly similar at the same time.
Let’s get back to my opening statement. The only reason I make the comment about people feeling uncomfortable is because I understand full well how it feels to not be comfortable. In my case, I have done home improvement the cheap way, which translates into using my thumb and pointer finger as the final volt meter to make sure a circuit is dead before I hang a new lamp. I know it’s not too smart, but then I’ve never claimed to be.
Timidity aside, once I learned how to properly check a circuit, that fear of the unknown shock has dissipated or at least has been tempered by my novice and anecdotal electrical experiences.
Which brings me to the discomfort that some feel in the kitchen. It’s OK, and in fact it’s the very fabric from which great cooks are borne. The idea of someone just being a good cook is unrealistic. Like everything in life worth undertaking, cooking takes practice and it takes a decent mentor. Fortunately, we can find plenty of mentors on YouTube, Rouxbe, et al.
In the past month, I have had the privilege of teaching two adult cooking classes, one in Ocean Pines and one in Salisbury at Shore Appliance Connection. These will probably become regular things, as they were exciting and invigorating to say the least.
What I noticed at the outset of each class was that there were a few people that were apprehensive at the notion of ‘having’ to cook. But, once we kicked off and teams were picked, everyone in both instances jumped in and we had great lunches at the end of it, and that is what it is all about, ladies and gentlemen.
So how does this all tie together? Last week the class was on Mediterranean food. After a couple of hours of work, good laughs and a general sense of teamwork, we paused to reflect at how colorful our table became. The fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables came to life as we all marveled at the fact that everyone did their part.
And when we sat down to eat the common theme was how easily these foods could make it to our table on a regular basis, something that needs to happen in our ever fast-paced lives.
Serves 8, maybe not traditional, but ’in the style of’
2 ea. Assorted baby greens
1 ea. English cucumber
1 ea. Sweet Red onions
2 ea. Fresh tomatoes
4 oz. Feta cheese
¼ c. EV Olive Oil
¼ c. Red wine vinegar
¼ c. Fresh chopped oregano
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
sugar, salt & pepper to taste
The greens should be washed. If not, simply wash them to free them of any dirt or sand that might be lingering
Cut the ends off of the cucumber. The beauty of English cucumbers is that you do not need to peel them. They are more tender than your usual cucumber, plus they come sealed in plastic, foregoing the traditional wax coating that makes typical cucumber skin less than pleasant
Also, you do not need to seed the cucumber but I prefer to. To do this, simply run a tablespoon down the length of the cucumber and remove; remember this is completely optional
Julienne the onion and dice the tomato. Then crumble the feta cheese
In a bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, fresh herbs and whisk well. This will make a temporary emulsion that will have to be re-whisked prior to service
Once your mise en place is complete, it can be set aside under refrigeration until service time. You do not want the dressing on for more than 15 minutes, as the greens will wilt fairly quickly
When ready to serve, simply combine everything and platter it up. There are many other ingredients you can use, such as oil-cured black olives, anchovies or other Mediterranean ingredients. Make it your own.