Friday, March 7, 2014

coming to terms with my cooking style

I notice whenever people learn that I went to culinary school and enjoy cooking, they’ll usually ask me, “what’s your favorite thing to cook?” or “what’s your signature dish?” You would probably assume that someone who spends most of her day in the kitchen and daydreaming of the next thing she’ll make, would have a quick response. Sadly my mind goes blank or if Michael is with me I’ll often say “ask him!” I know it’s bad but there are so many things that I love to prepare, and I find it rather impossible to choose one thing. Because there’re breakfasts, lunches, dinners and desserts that I love to prepare that I can’t just choose one out of a bunch of favorites. With that being said my boring answer to those questions would be, “I’m not sure, there’re bunch of things I like to cook… I’ll bring you something next time you see me.” Lately I feel like I’m really coming to terms with what my style of cooking is, and what I’m not interested in. I believe that my style shines through what I serve my family and friends.

Understanding my style of cooking has been a long and interesting process, but definitely has a lot to do with how I’m feeling on that day and if I’m inspired. My inspiration stems from memories of cooking with mom as a kid, reading cookbooks, browsing Pinterest and graduating from the Natural Gourmet Institute. Before going to culinary school my cooking skills weren’t bad, but my cooking needed oomph or as chefs say umami. I learned things at school that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else and my passion for cooking deepened. My favorite part of the program was learning about the connection between food and healing which I now desire to share with others through my cooking. While I have a huge respect for chefs and their drive and creativity, I find myself uninterested in the lifestyle of working long hours in the kitchen and being away from my husband. I am fortunate that we are in the place where I can work from home as a freelance chef, learn more about nutrition and plan for an eventual food truck or café; it’s all in God’s hands.

Right now, my style of cooking is a combination of using fresh ingredients, quality meats, and lots of veggies. All of which are linked to my Puerto Rican roots. Simple, comforting, healthy and most importantly, from my heart. Cheesy but true. Because I am afflicted with food sensitivities and  I’m a natural foods chef, I enjoy the adventure of swapping out unhealthy ingredients with more wholesome ones. I often replace eggs for ground flax meal, butter with coconut oil or applesauce and milk for non-dairy or goat milk. It’s very rare I’ll follow a recipe from top to bottom without making my own adjustments. Cooking healthier versions of traditional savory meals is a lot easier than baking without eggs due to accuracy, consistency and leavening. In some cases my desserts haven’t been a pretty sight and I’m still apprehensive to share my vegan or gluten free desserts with others. I’m pretty sure I can write a book about all the gnarly cakes and cookies I’ve made in the past and present. I will spare your souls though by practicing more and will continue to learn from all my little mishaps! Practice makes perfect, right? 

Anyway, I’ll end this random little collection of thoughts by saying, my style of cooking will always be a lot like my personality: simple yet eccentric, rustic, clean and surprisingly flavorful, which is probably the sofrito you taste. Wink.


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