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Finding Inspiration? (Or how to figure out what to cook next...)

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I lack inspiration these days. Since I am a student when I come home I usually grab some money and go to the supermarket to get some ingredients but once I am there desperation sets in. "What should I cook this week for my girlfriend and me?" is the questions which is always on my mind "Risotto? No, I did that last week. A homemade soup? Too boring. Boeuf Bourguignon? Too time consuming and expensive..."

 

How do you find inspiration and ideas? I'm someone who really enjoys cooking but rarely has the time to make truly complicated or time consuming dishes and faced with that dilema I often find myself wondering what I should cook...

 

What's the way to inspirations?

post #2 of 10

You should make the meal decision before you get to the store ideally. This way you know what you need and can control your shopping. Sure, you should be flexible for a quality ingredient or good deal on something like fresh produce a special cheese, or bread that is just at the height of perfection, but shopping hungry and without a plan is dangerous for one's budget and leads to wasted food.

 

Flip through your cookbooks. If you don't have many cookbooks, the web is full of cooking sites that will serve the same purpose. Plan out a list of meals for the week. Be flexible about their scheduling as your mood may change when they come up in the list.  Or simply list recipes that look interesting to try and pick from the list before shopping.

 

You should be stocking your home with storable goods that are versatile and enjoyable. Various rice, pasta, canned beans, canned tomatoes and so on are useful in a wide range of cuisines. There's a lot to be said for shopping from one's pantry too besides just stores.

 

You should also have on hand some ingredients you can combine simply and quickly when pressed for time or if you're not feeling well. This may be some frozen leftovers from an earlier meal, or maybe based around boxed chicken stock for example.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 10

Before going any further, Le Francais, I'm dead curious how your cooking experiment went for your girlfriend and her mom?

Raconte!

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBelgium View Post

Before going any further, Le Francais, I'm dead curious how your cooking experiment went for your girlfriend and her mom?

Raconte!



Oh quite well! biggrin.gif

 

I did a rehearsal first and it didn't really work because I tried to do a whole chicken. It ended up burnt on the outside and not properly cooked on the inside.

 

The second time I only used legs and wings and it turned out great it was amazing! Thanks for all the advice gentlemen!

 

 

post #5 of 10

So you already struggled with chicken. No problem however, chicken is notoriously difficult to get it right!!!

 

You already know you need to expand your "playlist" of home recipes. I would suggest to get one of Australian's foodwriter Donna Hay's books. They're in english but translated in many languages. She's the undisputed champion of delicious, simple, quick, cheap and good looking presentation!! In fact she won prizes for her publications and many cookbooks and their illustrations are inspired on her work! Many young people, my own daughter included, are big fans of Donna Hay.

 

It's always an eclectic ensemble of European recipes in general and more specific Italian, French and Asian food, stripped to the bare essentials and no-nonsense recipes. In fact I think of her more as an Italian capable of making sensational food with very few fresh ingredients. You may find some of her books in second hand stores...

 

I like to take pictures of my own experiments and save them on my computer, giving the pictures names of the most important ingredients. I almost never store the recipes in writing. It takes a few seconds to shoot the food. It's nice to browse in my collection to get inspiration for next try-outs and it stretches my own "playlist".

post #6 of 10

 

Firstly, I take strolls and scan all in the Central Farmer Markets and the Central Nieghborhood Market as well as the El Corte Ingles Supermarket Club Gourmet ... what is prevalent, fresh, local, has an unique texture, colors and has visual impact ?

 

Then, I sit down, look at my notes and sketches or even photos now, and go through a cookbook or two ... I decide whether I wish to do Italian, my paternal legacy or experiment if home at weekend with time on hands ...

 

Risotto can be prepared with  numerous vegetables coming into season now: artichokes, asparagus ( White stalks or Green spears ), shellfish with citrus in season and / or Ceps ( mushrooms ) ...

 

Blood oranges and ruby red grapefruits are quite prominent in Madrid´s Farmers Markets now, so a salad with fennel, red onion and citrus ... Citrus with game or duck or pork  ...

 

Rices: a wonderful seafood Paella could be an alternative to a Risotto or a Romesco Sauce with grilled fresh fish.  

 

Websites can be of assistance, however, there is nothing like a walk scanning in the Markets.

 

Bon Appétit or Food and Wine Magazine or Saveur in English :   a subscription could be a good idea ...  

 

Take a peak at some of the bloggers here at Cheftalk ... There are quite a number of lovely recipes.

post #7 of 10

It's a good question and one I think about often.  Lately I've had little inspiration and time to cook considering I have a newborn to take care of.  I'm sad to say there's a lot more take out in our lives these days or I go to my old standbys like spag bol or warm potato salad with boiled eggs.

 

In general I'm surrounded by cookbooks and look there first for ideas.  I also collect recipes on my computer and check there as well.  Sometimes I'm inspired to whip something up using whatever I have on hand, it's a chance to be creative.  But mostly I decide what we want to eat for that day, like pasta or seafood as a general guide and then go from there.  Sometimes I carry an idea with me for such a long time that it seems I'll never get to it.  I've been thinking about making KYH's chicken croquettes for months now and still haven't gotten to it!

 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #8 of 10

but rarely has the time to make truly complicated or time consuming dishes

 

And just where is it written that you have to?

 

It's a common idea among less experienced cooks that complex, fancy dishes are necessary. More experienced cooks know that just the opposite is the case: simple dishes, made with the best ingredients available, really go over best.

 

Simplicity is even more important for someone like you, who has limited equipment available.

 

What, for instance, is wrong with a pan-fried fish filet, served with a simple green salad? If you want to fancy it up, make a pan sauce for the fish.

How long do you think it would take to run through all the possible changes on pasta; exploring the numerous shapes and sauces.

There are probably as many cookbooks devoted to chicken as there are chickens at a factory farm at any one time. No reason you have to struggle with ideas for chicken and other fowl.

Similar to chicken, in that regard, are eggs. What's wrong with a frittata or tortilla? And you can ring the changes on those, as well.

Is there anything more simple than a lamb chop?

 

I do take issue with you on one comment: There is nothing boring about soup. Or, rather, there doesn't have to be. There are at least as many ways of making soup as there are for making chicken. How could something that diverse ever become boring.

 

As we discussed on one of your other threads, soups, stews, and braises do require time. But most of that is cooking time, not time you have to invest. You could, for instance, put up a stew the night before, then reheat it for dinner the next day.

 

Keep in mind, too, that "fancy" is often more in the plating than in the preparation. F'rinstance, take a couple of chicken breasts. Pound them slightly, so they're evenly thick. Season with salt & pepper, dust with flour, and pan fry until cooked through. Serve the chicken topped with black olive tapenade, leaning against a mound of mashed rutabaga. That's three incredibly simple recipes, combined to make an elegant meal---and all it takes is your two burners.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post

You should make the meal decision before you get to the store ideally. This way you know what you need and can control your shopping. Sure, you should be flexible for a quality ingredient or good deal on something like fresh produce a special cheese, or bread that is just at the height of perfection, but shopping hungry and without a plan is dangerous for one's budget and leads to wasted food.

 

Flip through your cookbooks. If you don't have many cookbooks, the web is full of cooking sites that will serve the same purpose. Plan out a list of meals for the week. Be flexible about their scheduling as your mood may change when they come up in the list.  Or simply list recipes that look interesting to try and pick from the list before shopping.

 

You should be stocking your home with storable goods that are versatile and enjoyable. Various rice, pasta, canned beans, canned tomatoes and so on are useful in a wide range of cuisines. There's a lot to be said for shopping from one's pantry too besides just stores.

 

You should also have on hand some ingredients you can combine simply and quickly when pressed for time or if you're not feeling well. This may be some frozen leftovers from an earlier meal, or maybe based around boxed chicken stock for example.


I tend to work the other way, Phatch, i go first to see what's appealing in the store and market, and then base my dinners around that.  In general i also go against most people's technique and base my dinner around the vegetables - not that i don;t make meat, but i make the vegetable the most interesting part of the meal. 

Then i go home and look in my cookbooks for what i can do with those ingredients. 

 

 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #10 of 10

In the past I have found myself caught in the "lack of inspiration sandpit" many times. Being a musician, and an artist in other forms as well it is a common problem. The best solution seems to be picking the last dish (maybe from a week or two ago) that I screwed up, or that was not good enough. I Put my head down and do...... determined to exceed my own expectations. Accomplishing success in that way usually gives me a "run" of inspiration that can last for days or weeks. Just repeat as necessary. 

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