A Note from the Chef
When it comes to cooking delicious food that is also super healthy, creativity and resourcefulness are must have skills if we want to eat. What’s that saying?
“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
During the last year or so I’ve had to adapt many dishes to suit various diet restrictions in my cooking classes, published articles and other professional services. I’ve come to see how these challenges have helped me to exercise my creative muscles and force me to think outside the box.
When it comes to gluten-free cooking, especially, creativity has to be cranking or we can end up with dishes that taste like cardboard. And this pasta loving Italian gal has eaten too much cardboardy spaghetti to ever want to again – so I made my own. Here’s the recipe in case you missed it.
In the process of reinventing some of the recipes in my archive, as well as coming up with new ones made to appeal to a diversity of diet and lifestyle choices, I realized one thing.
If it doesn’t taste good…I’m not eating it. (or cooking it again)
And I bet you won’t either – at least not for long.
It’s in my chefy blood that taste be paramount. If something’s really good for you that’s great. But if it doesn’t taste good, is it something you want to set the table for?
If you drink it, swallow it, chew it because you have to, then it’s medicine, not food.
Food is meant to nourish our senses as well as our body. It’s meant to delight us with it’s intoxicating aromas, motivate us to celebrate the pleasure we get from sharing it with loved ones. It creates memories and connects us to the earth and with people everywhere. We could be the political enemy of a country, but if we love their cuisine, we’re united there.
In my quest for creating recipes that totally please the palate while offering a high level of nutrients that saturate our bodies, I’m being put to the test. So when I come up with a super healthy recipe, you can bet…it’ll also taste good.
But now, I want to let you in on a little secret…
Most good cooks are masters of reinvention – not just chefs. We all need recipes that work for our particular preferences and lifestyle choices so we’re always fussing with them; adapting them to fit our family needs, our personal moods, cravings and our precious time. But first we have to find something tempting enough to warrant making a mess of the kitchen. That’s why a recipe has to make our mouths water and inspire us to cook it. When it’s said that we eat first with eyes…it’s true.
People always put their individual stamp on everything – especially what and how they cook. Even when we follow a recipe exactly, use the same ingredients and cook it on the same stove, it never comes out exactly the same as someone else’s. I’ve seen this happen consistently in my classes over the years. Why? Because, each of us does each step of a recipe a little differently – even when we’re shown how: How consistent are your slices and dices? Are you stirring with a wooden or metal spoon? What exactly is a pinch, or a medium dice, or how high is high heat? See what I mean? And there’s more…
How we feel about what we’re cooking and for whom, effects how it tastes and how nourishing it is.
A bold statement – I know. But this is even more significant than one might think because it invokes the power of intention – an essential ingredient in inventing or reinventing anything – not just food – but life itself.
What I know for sure is that the mind-set, or intention with which we approach our time in the kitchen effects what comes out of it.
Are you approaching the task with a “have too” attitude, or are you embracing the challenge with the energy of creative inspiration, patience and faith that even if you mess it up, you can always start over?
What gets you inspired to cook?
Do you find cooking healthy dishes that also taste good a challenge?
What kind of recipes would you like to see more of?
I won’t know unless you tell me, so leave a comment.
photo via eatocracy.cnn.com
Love this article, Silvia. It makes so much sense. The same is true in art, design anything that makes your heart and mind stretch.
Shana, I can totally see how this would apply to art and design. I had the opportunity to design a whole house from the foundation up and though that certainly presented a whole new set of challenges and inspiration it didn’t require nearly as much out-of-the-box thinking as when I had to redesign my kitchen using the existing restrictions of space and money. It resulted in something so unique that I wouldn’t have done if I had carte blanche. Thank you for your comment and insight.
Silvia–you are not only a wonderful chef, but a wonderful writer as well. Your multi-talents are a blessing to the rest of us. This article is so true and really hits home. My family has gone gluten free in the past few months. So many of my tried and true family recipes are out of the question now. I need inspiration to expand my repertoire. As you said, I don’t want to eat it or make it unless it is wonderful. It’s on my to do list to get away from just making a protein and vegetable. I want to find new wonderful recipes to try. I know you will continue to provide some of them for me!
Lorna. Your comment is what I woke up to this morning and it’s already made my day! Thank you for this. I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I love writing. And you’ll be please to know that I’m teaming up with a holistic nutritionalist, the fabulous Nathalie Chantal de Ahna to create an ebook of recipes that are not only good for you but great tasting too. So yes, I will absolutely keep them coming.
Oh, I so so so believe what you said about how we feel about what we’re cooking and for whom. (Reminds me of the movie “Like Water for Chocolate” when Tita has to cook the wedding dinner for her sister, who is marrying the man Tita loves, and everyone is at the table weeping after they eat the meal!)
Once upon a time, I LOVED cooking, and would leisurely spend hours making meals, But since I had my kids, I’ve had a very “just gotta get something on the table” attitude about it, and I’ve found my creativity in the kitchen completely stifled. I mean there are days when I literally stand in front of my open cupboards and want to throw my hands up and bust out a frozen pizza. I don’t, but if my family has to eat turkey bolognese one more time, there might be a mutiny.
It’s really important to me that my kids have not only a healthy relationship with food, but great memories of our time in the kitchen and the ability to cook delicious and healthy meals for themselves and the people they care about, so this is something I need to put my attention on.
What I would be so grateful to see from you are recipes that quick and healthy. I generally only have about 30 minutes to get dinner on the table before we start edging up on bedtime so fast is important. Another thing I need help with is sides – I’m all about the main dish but I often just throw a simple green salad on the plate, which is fine sometimes, but I feels kind of lazy and boring. Anything you could offer in these areas would be immensely helpful!!
Funny you should mention “like Water for Chocolate” people have been telling me I remind them of that book or movie since my early restaurant days. Loved both the movie and book.
I can certainly understand how having to get dinner on the table every night when you’re exhausted would totally zap the joy from cooking. It’s the same for me too…especially if I’ve been cooking all day for an event or class. And when my kids were little I had a restaurant so I couldn’t cook at home. But what I found helps is first, not to feel guilty. Don’t cook every night. Have food in the freezer or a list of really quick go to meals for those nights when you just don’t want to deal with it. When you have an out and there’s things you can feed your family that require no or little cooking you’ll begin enjoying cooking (especially if you can get the kids to join in if they’re old enough) again. And then I bet you’ll find that you want to cook more. Personally I love having quarts of soups in the freezer. Whenever I make soup I always make a big batch and freeze a quart or two. Then I whip up a quick salad and dinner is on the table in well under 30 minutes and it’s delicious and nutritious too.
I know you’ll get lots of ideas from the easy recipes you get when you opt-in but always feel free to email me with any questions and I’ll for sure be working on more easy recipes in the weeks and months ahead.
Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment.
Silvia, you are a true poet! And what you are saying is so true. Sometimes, when I have to race around between work, kids, playdates, walking the dogs and listening to everyone’s needs, cooking really can be something I “have to” do though I actually don’t want to. And then my kids usually won’t eat! But today, after reading your post, I approached the kitchen with a completely different mindset, created something really nice – and everyone almost licked their plate :-). To food, poetry and healthy living! I can’t wait to read more from you.
Nathalie, i think there’s so many young mothers in this situation. I just wrote a long answer to Andrea which applies to you as well. I’m so glad that a shift in attitude resulted in a delicious dinner. How good you all must have felt. And if I contributed to that in some small way…I’m totally thrilled.
Thank you so much for such a wonderful testimonial to the power of words. I just love them!
Chef Silvia, I recently discovered you. I’ll be telling my clients about you, they need you – and so do I!!
Keep those creative recipes coming!
Thank you Alejandra. Glad to help however I can.
Silvia, you’re SO RIGHT!!
The times when, half way through a recipe, I’ve thought, “This is NEVER going to turn out right! I hate doing this!” are the times when it usually *doesn’t turn out right.
I’m going to bear this in mind with my next meal!
I completely agree with you not only that food has to taste good, but I also agree that the love that goes into the creation of a meal affects the nutritional value of a meal. This is a recurring theme that comes up with my clients. When you come from that “have to” space, it impacts the way the meal turns out..and the way the people eating it can enjoy (or not enjoy) it. I love this quote: “A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” ~Thomas Keller.
Thank you, again, for another insightful post.
Silva: I ONLY want to eat good tasting nutritious foods and find that cooking simple recipes makes for great quick meals. For example, the main breakfast every day but one or two is a green smoothie, complete with most of the daily requirements for fruits and veggies, nuts, chia seeds…yum. Salads made fresh each morning with some protein (egg, tuna, beans, cottage cheese) are what you’ll find in our lunch boxes and dinner…grilling veggies and some protein is easy and yummy!! I make many of the recipes you share and want to say that I finally made the creamed kale…I was skeptical of the water soaked cashews, but my golly, it worked and was so delicious!!! We like things spicy, so I added a little more of the red pepper flakes and I could eat that every day!! THANK YOU FOR REINVENTING RECIPES TO MAKE THEM HEALTHY AND DELICIOUS!!
Val, I’m thrilled that you liked the kale recipe and that you make others as well. Nothing could make me happier. Thank you for letting me know.