Apologies to the wonderful and legendary phrase, “Practice makes perfect,” but I have a similar phrase that I’m pretty fond of. While my phrase is only a legend in its own mind, “Focus makes perfect” will serve you well in or out of the kitchen.
Five years ago, I came up with a new type of New Year’s Resolution – a culinary one, if you will. Each New Year’s Eve, I’d sit down and make a short list of foods or ingredients that I wanted to experiment with, learn about, and try to “perfect” in as many recipes and meals as possible.
Over the years, the following foods and ingredients have had the spotlight….
- homemade bread
- onion rings
- sweet potatoes
Last year, my focus foods/ingredients were salads, cheese, hamburgers, gluten free pies, and grits. I researched cheeses to the ends of the earth and back again and made a wonderful new friend that I don’t know how I ever lived without, Gouda. In experimenting with recipes for grits, I found that this Gouda character brought out the best in grits and they’ve been happy ever since.
Like all great couples, they bring out the best in one another. Awww…
I also tried different approaches with hamburgers over the past year and have determined that:
- Like most things, an Iron Skillet (capitalized out of respect) makes magic happen with burgers.
- A sprinkle of garlic powder along with the salt and pepper is also highly recommended.
- Sauteing onions with a lot of black pepper, removing the onions, then frying your hamburgers where the onions just hung out is amazing.
- A hamburger wrapped in a big leaf of Romaine or Leaf lettuce actually beats bread, in my opinion. You taste the burger more this way.
This year, my focus foods are a mix of “oldies” that have to be re-done (more on that in a minute) and a few new obsessions.
Since my body decided a few years back that gluten/wheat were poison (it’s melodramatic, that way), I have to now go back to a few foods I’d perfected with wheat flour and re-perfect them with gluten free flour blends. Talk about a challenge.
Gluten free flours have their own temperaments and everything I learned before has to be un-learned in order to learn a whole new approach to baking. I’m not complaining, mind you. In the grand scheme of things, this is a tiny blip on the radar. Besides, I love a good challenge. Keeps me on my toes.
So, on my tiptoes, I’m going to revisit and refocus on…
- pizza and strombolis
I’ve also added the following new obsessions to the mix…
- salmon (I have suddenly become ALL about the taste of salmon)
- sushi (the recent discovery of gluten free imitation crab meat has opened a whole new world)
- sauces, dressings, and dips – the more of my own sauces and dressings I make, the more I vow never to buy pre-made again.
- lemon, limes, oranges – I want to experiment with as many recipes calling for citrus juice and peel as possible. The flavor is so bright and vibrant, I’m excited to see where it takes me.
Finally, a few recurring favorites (old standbys) will also be focus foods because they’re like family…
- eggs (if you love eggs, too, you’ll want to check out my next post – some very brilliant minds have made poached eggs as easy as frying an egg)
- candy (fudge is a lifeline)
If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy some of your focus foods so much that you’ll carry them right over into the following year… and maybe the year after that. That’s my relationship with kale, soups, and salads. It seems that each year – whether I even write the words on my focus list or not, I find myself consistently looking for more ways to jazz up salads and soups and more ways to sneak kale into them and everything else for that matter.
You may look at my list and wonder, “Why so many?!” Well, there are several reasons. First of all, having quite a few will prevent you from burning yourself or your family out on the same foods over and over again. Second of all, the more the merrier – it keeps things fun. I like fun.
Before we get much further into January, think of some foods that intrigue you – whether they’re new to you or even foods you’re already familiar with.
Remember, focus makes perfect – and perfect tastes darn good.