There’s a time for madeira spiked 5-hour onion soup. There’s a time for making mole with 40 ingredients. There’s even a time for making tempeh from scratch. Unsurprisingly, there is also a time for absolute simplicity in food and cooking.
I have been cooking fairly intense foods lately. If it had eggs, cheese, cream, AND bacon, I wanted to make it. If it had more than 8 steps, 12 ingredients, and took more than 2 hours, I wanted to make it. If I had to run all over the city to track down a key, hard-to-find ingredient… I wanted to make it. (Un)Surprisingly, a few days ago, my food mood did an about face, and I went from wanting to make rich, intricately prepared gourmet food to monastic, vegetable-heavy Tassajara style food.
Since then, I have been cooking and asking myself, ‘how simple can I make this?’ and ‘is this still going to taste good?’ — a balance that is much easier to achieve than one might expect.
As the old saying goes, sometimes the simplest way is the best way. This is something I feel like I have known for a long time, but tend to forget for a few months every now and then. When you strip away all extraneous flavor layers, you are left with pure, plain foods which are actually quite delicious in their natural state.
Some other dishes that fall into this category are:
– fresh sliced tomatoes with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
– chunks of watermelon or papaya sprinkled with a little salt and chili powder
– apples with cheese
– steamed carrot coins with a little melted butter and parsley
– plain roasted beets
– shredded mushrooms sauteed with butter
– boiling water poured over fresh mint for mint tea
– rice with chopped parsley
– plain cubed tofu sauteed until brown on all sides (serve (or not) with a soy/sesame dipping sauce)
… and so many more. What are your favorites?
Absolute Simplicity: Cucumber and Cantaloupe
2 long English-style cucumbers, peeled, and cut into small chunks
1 ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, and cut into small chunks
a few leaves fresh mint or parsley (optional)
Place cucumber pieces in a strainer and sprinkle with about 1/2 t. salt. Mix and let stand for about 20 minutes to get rid of some of the excess water and intensify the cucumber flavor. (Or skip this step)
Mix cucumber and cantaloupe pieces in a large bowl. Garnish with fresh slivered mint or parsley, if desired. Enjoy!