Here’s a big question with plenty of answers:
Taste is already not very objective. Tastes good, bad or indifferent isn’t very reliable. Some like it hot and others sour and with some qualifiers things can become clearer: 5 chili beans, 3 lemons or 4 little tenderizers.
Can smell be rated? Does Harzer or Limburger cheese smell good or bad? How about garlic and onions? Ginger on your stir fry? Freshly baked muffins? There’s just no way to measure, the only way is to describe how it smells, or supposed to smell if things go wrong.
To judge looks is difficult in the frame of Cook-Like-a-Guy. Most of our efforts go into getting it done and getting the taste right. Presenting it on an oversized square plate, drawing smiley faces with the sauce and top the perfectly rounded rice ball with a mint leaf is just not going to happen. Unless it’s a high maintenance date, then we want to hear all the details, but you’ll have to get your recipe over there ->
Feel and sound would get all five senses engaged. And the sound of fajitas served on a hot iron skillet certainly adds to the atmosphere, but describing how that slice of pizza felt in your hand is clearly over the top.
Then there’s how difficult it is to make and the time how long it takes to prepare. How many ingredients are needed and does it need constant supervision while cooking. We want low scores here for our purposes.
Can the dish be salvaged when something goes wrong during the cooking? What happens if 3 more guests show up? And not to forget, important for the bachelor cook, can the dish be re-heated without much loss. What happens if an ingredient is missing, something not uncommon for the visitors of this site? We either didn’t have it on the shopping list, or we just forgot to take it out of the cabinet when we started.
And here’s one of my favorites: How many utensils do I need to prepare the dish? How much work is it to clean up afterwards. A single pot for stew is great, but knives, cutting boards and ladles count as well.
I haven’t come to a final conclusion, yet. Taste should be in there. You want to hear “Hmmm, that was yummy” or “I didn’t expect you can cook” as well as the scraping noise when they scrape the last pieces from the bowl. The second rating should certainly be how easy it is to make the dish and how low the chance is to create a mess. Two criteria. Sounds good to me so far.
In a Hurry?
- Cook pasta
- Dice tomatoes, mozarella, onions
- Cut basil
- Mix, add olive oil, balsamico, pepper, salt
- Pour over pasta
Many years back, I spent a month in summer in Sicily, invited by an Italian family. Among the greatest things I remember where the meals on the big table on the front porch. Of course, there were plenty of dishes I had never seen and the potential to learn a lot. But who knew that I needed those 30 years later or that I would even talk about them. One of the surprising dishes was pasta with fresh tomatoes. The tomatoes, balsamico and the basil gave the dish a light and refreshing flavor. A great meal for a summer day.
There are many variations of pasta pomodoro on the internet. Some of them are asking to heat up the tomatoes together with the onions, but using the fresh tomatoes is exactly what makes this dish a great dish to eat on a summer night on your porch. If you are feeling adventurous, don’t even saute the onions and the garlic, just add them raw. That makes it taste sharper, which might take the romance out of the meal, but it’s certainly tasty as well.
|Recipe: Pasta Pomodoro|
- 1 pound of pasta, spaghetti, penne, farfalle, your pick
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 medium sized onion, diced
- 2 gloves of garlic
- 1 cup of fresh basil, cut into strips
- 5-8 oz mozarella (optional)
- 3 tablespoons balsamico
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Boil the pasta
- Dice the onion
- Peel the garlic
- Saute the onions lightly and add the garlic using a garlic press
- Dice the tomatoes
- Cut the basil leaves into strips
- Pull the mozarella into chunks
- Put tomatoes, onions, basil and mozarella together in a mixing bowl
- Add the balsamico, olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Mix well
- Drain the pasta and let it sit for a moment.
- Serve the pasta in a bowl and top it with the pomodoro mix
If you don’t have mozarella at hand, leave it out of the base mix and just add grated parmesan when the dish is served.
In a Hurry?
- Quarter tomatillos
- Fry with diced onions, garlic and peppers
- Blend, add cilantro, lime juice, spices
I got a small box containing about one pound of tomatillos from my CSA The Produce Box. Guess what, I’ve never seen tomatillos in my life before. I might have walked right past them at the produce stand without realizing what they were, nor did I really care. And if life hands you lemons, or tomatillos, you make salsa verde.
I picked a large banana pepper for this recipe to keep it mild, and because I didn’t have any hot peppers. But that’s where you can add them. For the blending, you can use either a small food processor or like I did, a hand blender. I am using Cuisinart Smart Stick. The advantage of a hand blender is the fact that it is so much easier to clean them afterwards. Usually a rinse will do fine. However, you better make sure the pot or dish you are blending in has high walls and that you keep the blender upright. Otherwise, you have a lot of green flying through your kitchen and on your white t-shirt.
|Recipe: Salsa Verde|
- 1 pound tomatillos
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 can chopped green chile (7oz)
- 1 large banana pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1 lime
- salt to taste
- Remove the husks from the tomatillos. Rinse them well and cut them into pieces
- Fry them together with the onions, garlic, banana pepper and the chile in a pan for 15 minutes.
- Transfer the mix into a blender, add the cilantro, lime juice and salt and blend until smooth
I saw and tasted pesto for the first time in college. My mom didn’t make it and the Italian restaurants in my area didn’t offer it. Or I just ignored it, because I didn’t know about it. A group of students studying German stayed in the dorm for the summer. Some of them were Italian and occasionally cooked for the people who spent their summer there as well. I was among them. And they offered me some dark green mass to go with my pasta. Of course I had to taste it. Wow. It was a very intense and wonderful taste. I didn’t really know fresh basil until then either. I was impressed and eventually tried to find out how to make it. Here’s the result:
|Recipe: Pesto Genovese||
- 2 cups of basil leaves
- 1/4 cup of nuts (pistachio, pine nuts, even cashew or walnuts)
- 3-5 cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
- Put the nuts and the garlic cloves into a small food chopper
- Pulse it a couple of times and start adding the basil leaves
- Add olive oil until it becomes a paste
- Add the grated cheese
- Add pepper and salt to taste.