Monday, October 7, 2013

Makes my day!

I have been challenging myself in the last few months, trying to learn things that are not all together unfamiliar but the nuances of pulling this endeavor off have been daunting, at times.  I am a lifelong learner, however, that was instilled in me as a child.  And, I tell myself that my brain will continue to function at a much higher level if I keep learning new things.  Was it Oliver Wendell Holmes that said, "a mind stretched to a new idea never returns to its original shape" or something like that.  Forgive my rather sad effort at quoting him but I think you get the point.
In any event, in the cooking arena (where I am very comfortable), I am happy to say I have several people who attend my classes regularly.  One of my "regulars" is quite gifted and creative and emails me often when he comes up with a new dish.  I received one of those emails this morning as I was toiling away at my PowerPoint presentation that is critical to my new project.  His creativity, excitement and desire to share with me makes my job more than satisfying and confirms that this new project (yes, food-related) is precisely what I need to be doing.  He thanked me for providing him with great ideas.  He had just attended a Cuban cooking class where we made the traditional sofrito so important in Cuban cuisine.  He had, of course, taken the idea from the class and then pushed the creative envelope with a whole chicken on the grill under a brick, etc., etc.  I have no doubt that it was absolutely delicious.  His fearless experimentation is the essence of what I endeavor to teach in all of my classes.  Cooking has so little to do with following recipes but much more with the attitude and enthusiasm that you bring to the mix.  That's what makes it fun and makes it worthwhile not only to others but to yourself.
So, thanks, Mike for sharing.  You make my cooking and teaching meaningful and more than worthwhile.
For those of you who might be just the least bit curious and were not able to attend our Night in Havana, here is the sofrito recipe....and please, don't hesitate to be fearless!

Cuban Sofrito
Serves 6

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
2 bay leaves
2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)
¾ cup canned tomato sauce

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic, and cook until onion is translucent. Add the bell pepper, and saute until tender.  Season with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano and bay leaves.

Continue cooking until the mixture becomes a paste.  Stir in the tomatoes and reduce slightly.  Gradually stir in the tomato sauce simmer until the color changes to deep red.  Taste, and adjust seasonings if desired. 
Remove bay leaves before serving.

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