Love in the Kitchen / by Anne

cocina.con.amor.anne Last Friday I was excited to teach a cooking class -- "Cocina Con Amor" -- a Spanish-themed meal for February.  Yes, I wanted to take Valentine's Day into consideration, but really that kind of love was not the sole inspiration for the class.

The central ideas--and a huge driving force in my cooking--had to do with increasing joy in the kitchen and having that translate to even more delicious food for your beloved family, friends, & guests.  The techniques and tips focused around decreasing annoyances & avoiding feeling overwhelmed (as with a dinner party).  I talked about the mostly make-ahead dinner and gave a sample plan for the week before a dinner party, and I gave some concrete cooking and anti-annoyance prep tips.   The evening was so much fun, thanks to the lively and wonderful class participants!  I'll list the menu at the end of the post.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately about how to keep my mood joyful when preparing food.  I mean, moods happen.  What do you do when you're feeling tired, grumpy, sad, or distracted?   Here's what I've been doing lately:

  • Play favorite guilty-pleasure music.  This one is huge for me!  I have one CD that will make my tired and grumpy body start dancing, in spite of me.  I feel a little like a marionette, tugged upward against my will by guitar strings, but it spreads to my brain eventually. It shocks me how well this one works.
  • Think about some things I'm grateful for, especially the people who will be eating the food
  • Pay close attention to the thing I'm doing right then.  This most often occurs to me when I'm cutting things.  Thank goodness, right?  It's nice having my fingers.  It's also fun to listen closely to the rumbling bubbles of pots boiling.
  • Drink water.  This helps the tiredness, anyway.
  • Don't cook, after all (frozen pizza is our lazy last-minute standby)

What are your tricks?

Caramelized Onions & Idiazábal Cheese; Marcona Almonds; Castelvetrano Olives

Cocina Con Amor Menu

  • Tapas/Pintxos - idiazábal cheese skewers with caramelized pearl onions; marcona almonds; olives 
  • Salad - mixed greens with dried apricot, hazelnuts, and sherry vinaigrette
  • Main -cerdo al chilindrόn (saucy braised pork with serrano ham, tomatoes, and fresh & dried peppers)
  • Side -  fideo con azafrán y limones preservados (short capellini scented with saffron & preserved lemons)
  • Dessert - traditional spanish flan