Monday, August 10, 2009

Kitchen Miss Adventure

I am not a skilled cook. So I usually make easy, spartan meals--salads, rice & beans, roast chicken (the store actually makes that), sandwiches, crockpot soup. But occasionally I get an urge to do something more, preferably something healthy. I was inspired by eating with my friends this weekend on their sailboat out on Bear Lake. (The sailboat is another story, but it was lovely being out on the water, and I did the flailing-arms-I'm-halfway-on-the-dock-halfway-in-the-boat thing just once.)

My friends are both on Weight Watchers and becoming vegetarians to boot, so everything we ate was strictly good for us. And for the most part delicious, with the exception of the fat-free cheese in the quesadillas--I think they replaced the fat with polymer. My friend Elizabeth made a particularly tasty black bean and yam filling for tortillas, topped with fat-free sour cream. I wanted more than one, but following their lead, I stopped at just-full-enough.

When I got home tonight I decided I wanted to replicate that supper for myself, partly because I had started the day with a Kuoing Aman from Les Madeleines. If you haven't tried one, you must do it at least once. It's the most delicious pastry on earth--buttery, crunchy, caramelized on the outside and soft on the inside. I was bringing some to my coworkers, but I opened the box and ate mine in the five short blocks from the bakery to the office. To be fair, my health-conscious boss ate hers in about five minutes.

So when I got home, I wanted to eat healthy. I proceeded by my vague memory of what Elizabeth did--sauteeing onions and garlic in one pan, cubing yams to boil in another, smashing up some beans in the sautee pan and adding spices. Since I had run out of black beans, I substituted red and white beans. Then I decided to use tomatoes instead of vegetable broth. When the yams were finished cooking, I decided that rather than leave them cubed as she had (we assembled our own with the beans and cubed yams, etc.), I would just go ahead and mash the yams up with the beans.

I come by this haphazardness honestly. Many days when we would ask mom what was for dinner, she would waggle her spoon around in the air and say, "Oh...a mixture." This could mean either vegetables stir-fried with an ingenious sauce, or leaden grey leftovers stirred together and microwaved. (It wasn't too often the second; my mom was a pretty good cook.) She never attempted to give any of these "mixtures" a specific name, and never attempted a repeat performance. A mixture was a mixture.

When I was done mashing, unfortunately this mixture had the unfortunate look of a large pan of vomit. (I've spared you the photo.) But I was committed now, so I soldiered on and got out the tortillas. Loaded one up, sprinkled it with cheese and some greens, and rolled it up. Just about then my dog was begging for some (bless her), so I was distracted for a minute. And then realized that I had set down the plastic bag of tortillas on one of the burners, turned off but just recently.

Oh well. I took a bite. It was actually quite good. Needed some salt, but doesn't everything? Thanks, mom. Good mixture.