Monday, April 11, 2011

The Importance of Being Flexible

I want to start today's post with a funny story. At least it's funny to me. Around the beginning of my third year at Oberlin, I was in the Old Barrows kitchen getting ready for Pizza Night. As the head cook, I arrived in the early afternoon before any prep people started. I would make the dough, start the huge pot of sauce, and get any special toppings ready. On this day, I must have been very distracted. Or maybe I had a bit too much to drink before the party started... Whatever it was, I somehow forgot about the giant pot of tomato sauce on the stove. When I remembered it was there (maybe it smelled like burning? I don't remember), I ran to it with a long-handled spoon and stirred. Damn! Totally burned. Can you believe I burned the sauce? I thought, there's no way I can serve this. It's going to taste burnt. Just then, a few prep people arrived, and maybe a cook or two. They said, "What's that great smell? Smokey! What did you do to the sauce? It smells delicious!" No joke. I thought, are they serious? Well, yes, they were, and then I tasted it. ...And it tasted smokey! Like a nice chipotle kind of smokiness. It was pretty rad!

Now, while I don't advocate for burning tomato sauce intentionally, my point is, sometimes "burnt" is salvageable, especially if you are able to reconceptualize your original plan as something else.

Yesterday morning I tried to cook some black beans I had soaked overnight the night before. I rinsed the beans from their soaking water, filled the pot an inch from the top with clean water, added some salt, a chopped-up carrot, and a whole dried chili. I turned the pot onto medium heat, and I hopped in the shower. And then I sat on the couch, and then I caught up on emails, and then I watched some guilty-pleasure television. And in the middle of watching a show, I heard a noise like "shhhh". I thought, what's that noise? Is it the heater? no... Is it the sink running? definitely no... I told myself to forget about it. A few minutes passed and I jumped up! SH*T! I completely forgot about the beans! Darn darn darn darn darn! What a waste of a pot of beans! I turned off the heat. I removed the pan from the burner. I put on the tap and ran water into the pot of burning beans. I stirred. I tasted. Still hard. I put the beans and the new liquid in a deli container.

That evening, I chopped up some veggies, onions, garlic. I heated the diced onion and garlic on the stove. I added the beans with the newer liquid back into the saucepan. I put the heat on medium and I brought it to a simmer. And can you believe it? In about 20 minutes, I had cooked, smokey-tasting beans! So tonight and last night, I dined famously.

Green tortillas with homemade spanish rice, beans, a light pickle of vegetables, ripe avocado, and some white cheddar. Man.

Light vegetable pickle
1 c shredded red cabbage
1 1/2 carrots, grated
2 persian cucumbers, sliced into rounds or half-moons
1 red pepper, diced
3 T red wine vinegar
1 T lime juice
2 t sugar
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients. Eat alone or atop rice and beans and avocado and cheddar. Yummm.

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