May 15, 2013

“One Eats First With One’s Eyes”


This truism is a foundation of French classical cuisine but true of virtually all cuisines all over the world. It reminds me of the complaint my car-executive late father heard from his best friend, a multi-millionaire General Motors dealer in Switzerland regarding a new range of GM models developed on my father’s watch: “Mais alors, Gene, ca coute pas plus chere for les faire jolies.” (It doesn’t cost anymore to make them beautiful.)


In our cooking class yesterday we focused on presentation, along with deliciousness and healthfulness. Our junior chefs made a French “salade compose”, a salad of fresh greens, radishes, green beans, carrots, and fennel that was presented in a beautiful manner: Instead of mixing and mushing everything up all together each ingredient was laid out next to each other.  Colors, textures, and tastes complemented each other as each student received some of each ingredient dressed with a classic vinaigrette.


Of course this class was not just for herbivores. We also made an Italian frittata, a main-course worthy omelet filled with potatoes, sweet peppers, onions, a little garlic, quartered cherry tomatoes, fresh torn basil, and Asiago cheese. Many people add some half-and-half or even heavy cream to a frittata (think Ina Garten or Paula Deene) but we do not in the spirit of Cooking for Life. The naughty ingredients weren’t missed at all and all agreed the end products were delicious.  To cook the frittatas we used two of my old cast-iron pans, one square and the other traditional and round. The square one proved to be the more non-stick and the frittata came  out of that one in one perfect and beautiful piece. The other one not so much, probably because I was too parsimonious with the olive oil. Oh well.


PS: My favorite food is the national dish of Brazil, where I was born. It’s a stew of black beans and assorted meats cooked for a long time and served over white rice with collard greens and a toasted manioc-root condiment called “farofa”. The dish is called “feijoada” which means a big bean cook-up and is magnificently delicious. However, good-looking it’s not. Think a huge pot of Boston baked-beans except black, and meats blackened by the cooking with the beans. Some people probably take their first bites with their eyes closed…..