Amy has tagged me for 5 things I love to cook. The verb to cook means different things to different people. To me it means to change something to make it more palatable. Usually this means applying heat in one form or another, but not always. I can denature proteins or tenderize veggies with salt or acids. Scandinavians use lye to make the strange delicacy known as lutefisk. Heck, some meats are simply air-dried to create a finished product. But my favorite things to cook, not necessarily to eat, are much simpler because they are so incredibly versatile. This might not sound like the list of a chef who has worked for three James Beard Award winning chefs, but...:
5) Dried Grains and Legumes - lentils, barley, quinoa, oats, etc... are all incredibly easy to prepare and can be prepared in dozens of different ways. Salads, soups, side dishes, .... you name it.
4) Tomatoes - I hate eating raw tomatoes but I love to cook with them. Their acidic properties and sweetness, which can only be achieved through cooking them down, can completely define a dish. Summer is here and I am in heaven now that real tomatoes are in season rather than their hothouse imitations.
3) Soups - OK, this is kinda' cheating, but nothing makes me happier in my kitchen than looking that the various byproducts and leftovers in my cooler and making soup. I am a complete sucker for a good puree or brothy soup, but if you must know my weakness, it is gumbo. And I make a damn fine one, at that.
2) Rice - See #5. And I might add, if you want to understand rice, cook it every day for a year. Try doing something a little different each time. Make your pilaf with a different stock, or a few added veggies. Add your aromatics while "toasting" your rice. Cook your risotto in a pressure cooker rather than stirring it for 1/2 an hour. Use your leftovers for fried rice or jambalaya. After a couple of years you will understand why 2/3rds of the world consider rice their main staple.
1) Eggs - There is an old legend that the 101 folds in a chef's toque (hat) represent the number ways you can cook an egg. The legend is off by at least a few thousand. Eggs are just about the most versatile food on the planet. And if you really want to get perplexed, ask a dozen cooks the best way to boil an egg. You will likely get 10 different answers. If you want the best scrambled eggs you've ever had, add a little sour cream when you beat them and then add a slice or two of American cheese as you cook them. Light... moist... and they will last for a couple hours without getting rubbery. Oh, kids really love them too.
So there you have it...... 5 things I love to cook.