I love my kitchen. I mean, I think most people who are passionate about cooking love their kitchens (or kitchens in general), but I love what my kitchen is: mine. This apartment in Santa Fe is the first kitchen I have ever had to myself. I get to arrange everything the way I want it, to clean it (or not clean it) to my liking, to put on whatever music or radio or TED talk I please and cook for hours. There is no one to look over my shoulder and ask where I put the peeler or why I haven’t washed the dishes yet or comment that the risotto is too salty.
If I want my salt, I get my salt damnit.
Of course there is something to be said about creating a meal with a friend or lover or stranger; sharing in the experience of cooking, combining flavors, getting creative. It’s a fabulous thing, and some of the best meals I’ve had lately (or ever, really) have come out of cooking with another. There is a different kind of food creativity that a synchronous partnership allows, both in and out of the kitchen. Knowing each other’s skills and preferences and speeds, prepping certain things to be completed by the other…cooking well with a partner is important to me, and I am lucky in having someone with whom I cook incredibly well.
That being said, I love cooking alone.
I really do get to be a complete doofus or idiot or romantic or schizophrenic while alone in my kitchen. I even do fun experiments like occasionally explode a glass baking dish in my oven! (Ok, only once, a month ago. Said dish was full of bacon-wrapped figs that had been soaked in white wine and stuffed with chevre. I decided to add water to a hot glass pan. Thermodynamics prevailed, I failed. And I also shrieked like a child for a few minutes before I debated if they were still edible or not. I decided not. Very sad.) And with no one to scold me for how I really should know better than to blow glass shards all over my kitchen floor, it makes no difference to me (besides the obvious, tragic loss of bacon + figs + cheese + wine) and I keep on cooking. Many of my meals are inspired by a 5-minute staring contest with my open refrigerator, taking note of what I have (and usually what I have had for too long that I don’t want to deal with…ahem, pickles…) and mentally combining flavors.
Hm, fresh cherries…really shouldn’t let myself eat all of them out of the bag for risk of stomach unpleasantries tomorrow…fresh spinach that I kinda don’t want to eat raw cause sometimes it tastes like dirt…ooh, a tub of bacon fat…a yellow onion I’ve had for a week…and voila! Caramelize the yellow onion in bacon fat, add the pitted cherries, a dash of balsamic, salt and pepper, meld the flavors for a few minutes, remove from heat and add the spinach. It’s like a puzzle. Kitchen Tetris, savory Sudoku, culinary crossword – tastebud games are my fave!
Wilted Spinach with Caramelized Onions and Cherries
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted but left whole (or chopped if you so desire)
3 big handfuls of fresh spinach, rinsed
Bacon fat or butter
Dash of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Heat fat in a skillet (preferably one with a lid) over medium heat. Add sliced onion when hot and stir. Let onions cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. Add cherries and balsamic and stir. Turn heat up a bit and cook until cherries are soft. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove cherry mix from heat and put in a large bowl. Add spinach immediately and mix well, wilting the spinach with the hot mixture. Can be eaten either hot or chilled (I almost liked it better when it had cooled completely and sat for a day in the freedge).