Cucina Fresca: Garlic, My Soul Test Kitchen 2011

Posted on by Jennie

Ladies and gents, family and friends:

The time has come to announce our plan for 2011’s challenge. We’re calling it Cucina Fresca, which translates to “Fresh Kitchen” in Italian. The votes have been tallied, and a vast majority of you want us to make our own recipes up — by way of fresh and seasonal ingredients. Here in SoCal that isn’t so hard: we have a year-round farmer’s market, which makes it easy to find local, fresh, delicious produce all year long.

We make up the recipes for most of the food we prepare. Last night, in fact, MAC and I made a meal that I’ve been making since college. (my garlic pepper chicken, which has been updated since my days on Tileston with Sierra…) And on Friday, Corelyn made up our dinner while we planned this project. Piece-o-cake. So we decided we needed some rules to make this challenge more interesting.

Here are our rules:

We will create three recipes per month.

We’ll keep you in the loop with each recipe we create. We’ll post the final recipe, and tell you what was good and what was bad about it. We’ll let you know if we over-salted or over-cooked it, and if we will be adding it to our wheelhouse.

We will document our R&D.

Each recipes creation will involve research, planning, potential “trial and error” and a final recipe. We’ll post about these steps as needed to keep you tuned in to our creative process. We’ll also cite our research so you have the inside scoop on who we “borrow” from.

We will make one recipe for each goal on the list below.

We brainstormed things we want to explore. The list is long, and has been parred down, but that doesn’t mean genius won’t strike and we won’t be adding to this list…. We also recognize that we will be combining some of these, and repeating as necessary. Leafy greens, here we come!

We will cook seasonally. We will visit the farmer’s market often, and we will buy local produce.

Jennie has been obsessed with this since reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” and, in keeping with this rule, she’s mandating that Corelyn also read Ms. Kingsolver’s book by the end of the year. Both of us believe in cooking locally and seasonally. It can be a challenge: some produce says “USA” and could be from mid-America, and something that says “Mexico” might be from closer to home, due to our southern locale. We’ll explore what is “local” and why it matters.

We will make efforts to locate a butcher. And a fishmonger.

Our state has miles and miles of farm land and access to the Pacific ocean. By our logic, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a local supplier of meat and seafood . Shopping at the supermarket is easy, yes, but is it local? Is it healthy? Is it globally conscious? We aim to answer these questions while finding an affordable butcher in LA, and an affordable fishmonger.

We will track the cost of producing each recipe. And help you manage your pantry.

This one is especially important for those of us aiming to buy less and throw away less. For those of you who cook often, you know that buying ingredients can sometimes mean you have nine jalapenos that go bad or three green onions you just don’t know what to do with. For us, budgeting our food costs and using what we have in the fridge is important. Using up ingredients you may have bought for another recipe is hard, but it’s possible. We aim to take a look at what we need to stock our kitchens normally, from flour to milk to bouillon cubes, and take a look at specialty ingredients that may haunt your crisper.

This is the list of our goals:

  1. Cook fish
  2. Expand our recipes that can be made gluten free
  3. Try new spices, along with fresh herbs and flavorings
  4. Make recipes for baked goods
  5. Make our own cupcakes
  6. Make some gluten free baked goods
  7. Try our luck at sauces, from different ethnicity’s and with different bases
  8. Making our own condiments/salad dressing/mayo
  9. Incorporate fruit into dinner — it’s not just for breakfasts!
  10. Make our own marinades
  11. Create a couple of basic soups
  12. Greens, greens, greens!
  13. Snacks. We need ideas for work, especially snacks that transport well and last for days.
  14. New ideas for Rice/Risotto
  15. Make a roasted chicken
  16. Make rack of lamb
  17. Try our hand at blackening seasoning. This will include test-tasters since Jennie is so painfully sensitive to spice. It makes it hard to explore the world of Mexican, Cajun, etc….
  18. Make vitamin balanced meals – at least 3 colors per meal
  19. Ethnic food. We teetered on Italian, Southern, and American. Expansion of our base is necessary.
  20. Other grain options – ones that MAC can enjoy, too!
  21. Recipes incorporating nuts
  22. More recipes for lunch. We need to spice it up and learn what else can be made exclusively for lunch (sandwiches need not apply.)
  23. Stuffed vegetables – peppers, mushrooms, etc.
  24. The world of mushrooms. We don’t eat these enough (because one of our testers is not keen on them.) Included in this may be how to “hide” them…
  25. Seasonal vegetables. Yum, yum, yum.

There you have it. These are our goals for the 2011 year. Starting in January, Cucina Fresca begins. Thanks for voting!


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