In January, I borrowed my first e-book from the library. Crazy.
I’d read about this kind of innovation while researching tablets for an electronic media class, but since I don’t own an e-reader, I didn’t anticipate trying it out.
I love libraries, and any option that enables them to offer more resources is worth pursuing. Still, I prefer to read ink on paper. While it was intriguing, clicking to check out didn’t give me much of a thrill.
Duane’s encouragement to use recipes as templates rather than formulas (and Thomas Keller’s guide to getting there) resonates with my love for cooking “by guess and by golly,” as my great-grandma put it. Yet, I lack the knowledge to apply this mindset universally.
That’s where Duane’s observation comes in—fledgling cooks can’t make the jump to this approach without learning a host of new techniques, which actually do require detailed explanation.
Learning those skills requires serious motivation. To cultivate that passion (a sort of pre-step to Keller’s sequence), I recommend experimenting with recipes that give you a taste of creativity in the kitchen. Like stuffed peppers, fruit smoothies, or this trifle.
Apple Plum Trifle
First, choose your fruit. Apples and plums are a great combination, but don’t take the title too seriously. I made my choice based on color as much as taste—a trifle bowl really shows off the contrast.
Cook the fruit however you choose (or according to the techniques you have already mastered).
Add spices to your taste. If you doubt your ability to improvise, look to a favorite recipe for inspiration. I added lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg to the apples.
You may also want to thicken the cooked plums. I sweetened the mixture with honey and added cinnamon and allspice.
Then choose your favorite creamy ingredient for a smooth, white layer. I used cottage cheese, but yogurt, ricotta or cream cheese would also work. Throw your favorite option in a blender with some vanilla, and sweeten it to your taste.
Next, the crumbly layer. I made something similar to my Spiced Chewy Granola, and you can certainly use your own favorite granola for the simplest option.
Here’s what I did:
Blend 1 banana, ½ C water, ½ C dates, 2 T honey, tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp salt, dash vanilla and 2 egg whites in a blender. Pour over 3 C oats and mix well.
Spread the mixture on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 300°F (150°C) for 15 minutes.
When you’ve finished all this prep (and each element has cooled), layer the different mixtures in a glass bowl.
You should make sure each layer reaches to the edge of the bowl so it’s visible from outside. But beyond that, just let gravity create its own random beauty.
You may want to let several different layers show through on top. Or sprinkle some chopped nuts over the softer crumble. Do whatever looks most appealing to you.
No matter how far you are below chefdom, this is a fantastic way to spread your wings in the kitchen. It’s easy to taste your work as you go, too, so you can make sure it’s delicious before you present it to guests.
And if you find cooking “by guess and by golly” to be as much of a blast as I do, join me in taking some lessons from Thomas Keller.