My mother was a riot in the kitchen. She’d look at a recipe (usually in the New York Times Food section) and say, “I can’t make this tonight because I don’t have any parsley.” “Mom,” I remonstrated, “you don’t need parsley. You can use cilantro or just omit it.” But no.
I, on the other hand, use recipes as suggestions, improving on them by using tricks I have learned in restaurants: slice the Brussels sprouts very thin and stir-fry them with dried cranberries softened in water; add a touch of fennel to orange sauce; and so on. Here are a couple of ideas from last summer’s trip.
At the restaurant HISA DENK in Slovenia, they served three flavored butters, made by mixing the best quality butter with an additive that has been passed through a very fine sieve. One was squash butter, which had not only squash but also some spices (I guessed nutmeg) mixed in; the second was tomato butter (the chef had made his own tomato paste from tomatoes in his garden, and used his own basil), and the third was lemon butter, which is self-explanatory, but it also had tarragon added. (The presentation was also great, don’t you think?)
In August, we ate at the legendary three-star restaurant LAMELOISE in Chagny, Burgundy, France. Slices of poached fish were layered vertically with foie gras. Terry ate it, I just watched, but I got the idea of layering fish with something else; maybe flavored mashed potatoes, very tasty mushrooms, or ham.
Our friend, Chef Michael Peters, proprietor of several wonderful restaurants who retired to become a purveyor of wine, gave me his recipe for Blood Orange Upside Down Cake, but it was in grams. I labored over the translations into American measures and made a mistake somewhere, either in the flour or the milk, and the result was like a (delicious!!) thick pudding. I have never been able to replicate the deliciousness of that first effort, but have written down my changes in an effort to make it replicable.
I guess that when it comes to recipes, I am not my mother’s daughter. My father grew up into a world where women did the cooking, and he couldn’t even boil an egg. Who knows what kind of cook he would be if he were around today, but I like to think we would have had fun together in the kitchen.