Friday, December 11, 2009

Have Fun with Cooking!

Longtime readers know that I mostly blog things from cookbooks but I often improvise with what I have on hand.  Here was a recent experiment.

I saw a fig tree a block away from where I lived.  I know that wrapping things in fig leaves is a popular way to cook fish so I figured, hey, why not?  I asked the tree's owner if I could grab some leaves and he told me to grab as many as I liked.

Now, fish wrapped in fig leaves.  Hmm.  I went to the local fishmonger and looked over options.  I settled on the ling cod because it was relatively affordable and because I've enjoyed it in the past at Commis.

I walked home and thought to myself, hmmm, what do I do with this piece of fish.   

I looked in my fridge and spied leftover harissa.  A ha!  I'll rub the fish with harissa!  I also had some leftover coconut milk so I decided to mix some harissa and coconut milk for spice paste.  Seem weird?  Not really.  In Cambodian cuisine, there is a dish called amok trey.  It's basically a fragrant curry paste mixed with coconut milk which is rubbed on fish.  The fish is then wrapped in banana leaves and the banana leaf packages are then steamed.  I figured chili paste (harissa) and coconut milk is similar enough to the Cambodian original so no biggie deals.  Done.

From here, it was easy.  I put some thinly sliced red onion underneath the fish and some very thinly sliced Meyer lemon slices on top of it.  Wrap fish in fig leaves and bake (initially, I figured 375 degrees for 15 minutes would be sufficient but that seemed a little underdone so I threw it back in for another 5 minutes.  At that point, the fish was a little over done.  Ooops.).  I served it with leftover hummus and some oil cured black olives.


Anyhow, things here at the Budget College Cook aren't always perfect...witness my undercooked and then overcooked fish but who cares?  The end result was still totally delicious.  I've always thought that cooking should be fun.  Sure, mistakes will be made but it's just food.  The Food Network mentality of perfect food everytime is poisoning our minds.  It's an unrealistic expectation which keeps Average Joes out of the kitchen.  Real people (and even professional chefs) screw things up but, most of the time, even the mistakes are edible.  Just smile, move on, and please don't let failure prevent you from trying again.  It sure hasn't stopped me over these past few years.  :)


brittany said...

I agree! I try to remember Julia Child's rule -- Never apologize!

curlywurlyfi said...

I have a friend who puts a fig leaf in the water when she boils potatoes. Gives a faint flavour of bay leaf.