(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column whose title says it all. Enjoy! -Max)
Yes, I Cook
by Jason Hissong
15 March 2010
On Thursday night I cooked for the first time since Sunday night. This is a common occurrence. Thursdays are usually my first day during the week that I have no post-work obligations. This is all by choice, of course, but those choices make me better in other areas of my life. So Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are usually leftovers or a stop at Potbelly's, or a Clif Bar, or cereal. Something that's not cooking.
Thursday, though, is different. At times during the day I sit and think about what I want to make that night. Thinking about it now makes me excited for the upcoming spring and summer, and with the return of the warmth and sunshine comes the return of the farmer's market that sets up shop right across the street from my office. I digress.
When I arrived home Thursday I only knew my protein: the salmon fillets I had put in the fridge to de-thaw the night before. Checking my cabinets it occurred to me that my mixture of different kinds of basmati rice would work well with anything, really, but especially under the salmon because of the textures.
But those two items, alone, seemed sort of bland. What to do to spice it up? I had some leftover roasted red pepper and tomato soup on hand. I love this stuff. I get it at Trader Joe's and the flavor is rich and deep and it goes great with a grilled cheese sandwich. Thursday night though I wanted to transform the soup from pure soup to sauce. I did this by pureeing diced yellow pepper, for its sweetness, onion, and garlic, with the soup in my food processor. The result was a sweeter version of the soup, that, when added to the salmon as the final element, provided a nice complimentary taste to the salmon and rice.
I did not come to this meal from a recipe. I rarely cook from recipes, unless I'm baking. Baking is a formula, cooking is a recipe. That's a topic for another time. My point is this: it's not that I'm a great, on-the-fly cook. It's that I'm willing to try things. Thursday night, it worked. The next time I make salmon, I'll probably try a different preparation. It's the experiment of cooking that appeals to me. What happens when I do this? What does this combination taste like? What's its texture? That's why I love cooking. Part of the reason, anyway.
So, yes, I cook. Not as much as I probably should, but probably more than your typical 28 year-old single male. The salmon and rice dish was delicious. While I enjoyed the modified sauce, too much would have killed the dish.
What Others Cooked For Me, What I Cooked, Where I Ate
I huge thank you to my friend Katie. She's a newer friend in my circle, and over the weekend we got to spend some time together. In exchange for me helping move a couple of pieces of furniture for her, she sent me home with her home-made scones, and biscotti. All I can say is: I can't wait to have more. They were both delicious.
What else did I cook this week? On Saturday afternoon I finished the aforementioned soup and ate it with some toasted pita. On Sunday I made pancakes and Applewood-smoked bacon for Jason and myself. On Sunday evening I made risotto with Italian sausage and garbanzo beans. I have enough that I'll be eating the same dish for dinner for at least two of the next three nights.
I had two significant culinary outings this week. The first was Friday night. I met up with a group of friends- Rich, Tina, Tara, Ashley, Todd, Brian, and Erin- at Pequod's Pizza. When I told my co-worker Andres that I was going there for the first time his face lit up. This isn't the borderline casserole that is Chicago Style Pizza. But it's not the same thing as New York Style, either. This is a pan pizza, so it's thick and substantial, and delicious, with some cheese falling between the crust and the pan and getting crisp and almost burnt. We also had beer. Six of the eight of us then went to Goose Island for one last pint before heading home. Goose Island makes great beer.
Then on Saturday night a group of us went and celebrated my friend Jonathan's birthday. Jason, Jonathan, Nate, Luke and I started with dinner at the Logan Bar and Grill. I had the bacon and blue cheese burger, after splitting BBQ wings as an appetizer. I think all five of us had a burger. I like Logan's burgers. They're hearty and delicious and they do bar food right. We then went to a newer Logan Square location called Revolution Brewing. They, too, make good beer. Especially the Black Power Oatmeal Stout. Smoky, silky, and smooth.