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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Passion Play

One of my favorite features in cooking and architectural magazines is when they showcase a chef's home kitchen.  These are people who cook for a living, people who can make a gourmet meal out of a pickle, some bran flakes, and a lemon.  These are people who know their way around a kitchen.

You would expect that professional chefs would all have home kitchens equipped to the hilt.  And many of them do, but just as many have home kitchen that are well, rather modest.

On the other hand, I know a lot of home cooks.  These are people like you and me, who cook for their families, friends, and an occasional bake sale.  I also know a lot of people who are masters of takeout or prepared foods.  While they are not quite as serious about the whole cooking thing as I am, they cook when they need or want to.  Hey, different strokes...

Many people I know have huge, stunningly beautiful kitchens, equipped with Wolf ranges, Sub Zero side by side refrigerators and freezers, warming drawers, multiple dishwashers, double ovens, and the like.  They have countertops made of stone beautiful enough to have been used in the construction of Versailles. Other people I know have more modest cooking spaces with fewer top of the line appliances and Corian countertops.  There are even those home cooks who live in tiny apartments where the counter space is so small that the dining table has to do double duty.

But here's the thing.  You don't have to have a gourmet kitchen to be a gourmet cook.  The deliciousness of your food does not depend on the quality of your countertops.  It does not depend on whether you have a big kitchen or a small one, nor does it depend on whether you have top of the line Wolf double ovens or  an old oven, although appliances that work are a definite plus.  While gourmet appliances are nice, they are not required equipment for being a great cook.

I think the thing you need most in the kitchen is passion, plain and simple.  To be a great cook requires passion.  Having passion, for whatever I'm doing, is how I show my love to my family and friends and what makes me feel best about myself.

Bon Appetit, May 201

Recipe:  Cucumber and Avocado Salad
(Bon Appetit, May 2012)

Note: Chiles de árbol are sold at some supermarkets and at Latin markets.


24 sprigs cilantro plus 1/4 cup coarsely chopped leaves
1/4 cup chopped peeled ginger
6 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
2 dried chiles de árbol
2 English hothouse cucumbers (about 2 pounds total), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon (or more) kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal


Combine cilantro sprigs, ginger, garlic, and chiles in a resealable plastic freezer bag; seal. Lightly pound with a skillet or rolling pin until ginger and garlic are well mashed.

Add cucumbers, 1 tsp. salt, and sugar. Seal bag; shake to mix. Squeeze bag firmly to slightly mash cucumbers, 1–2 minutes. Place bag in a large bowl; let macerate at room temperature, turning halfway through, until juices form, about 35 minutes.

Empty contents of bag into bowl; turn bag inside out and scrape out any small bits. Discard cilantro sprigs. Mix in celery, juice, and oil. Season with more salt, if desired.

Divide avocado among plates; spoon salad over. Garnish with chopped cilantro and basil.

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