If you talk to anyone who loves cooking, more often than not they have inspirations for their style of cooking. Maybe they were raised with a certain kind of food, or perhaps a certain cookbook changed their way of eating. Perhaps a certain cooking show taught them techniques that now are a part of their daily cooking repertoire. Maybe it is a friend, a roommate, or their spouses who inspire them. Or a trip to another country.
For me, my creativity in the kitchen stems from many different things. I am definitely influenced by the foods I ate when I was young, such as Eggplant Parmesan or Spinach Pie. While in college, I learned to love vegetables eating from the salad bar. After graduating, I spent a lot of time watching the Food Network, becoming completely enthralled by the way chefs like Giada DeLaurentis or Mario Batali cooked. I learned a lot from them -- the history of food, different techniques, and different styles of cooking. I resonated with the way they appreciated food, the way they savored each bite. Since moving to Portland, I haven't had a television, but recently have been able to get my Food Network fix at the gym -- sometimes it's my only motivation for working out! When I started cooking in my own kitchen, I ate for both health and taste. Fresh vegetables and fruits dominated my dishes, along with lovely local eggs and tofu. For a gift to myself, I bought my first new cookbook Moosewood's Daily Special. My friends also got me the amazing Vegetable Love, a book I'd recommend to anyone who has ever eaten a vegetable. I started playing around with the recipes, making substitutions to fit what I could find at the farmer's market. Eventually I started to get creative, play around, and have fun cooking. When I met Andrew, eating and cooking together was something we treasured. We started eating all of our dinners together, cooking at either my apartment or his. Sharing a meal with someone brought cooking and eating to a whole new level -- the experience is something I still look forward to every day. When I became gluten free (eventually Andrew developed the same intolerance) I really had to get creative in the kitchen, and use things like quinoa and millet, which I hadn't done much with since working in a health food store when I was a teenager. We also had a summer where we ate strictly local foods, which taught me a lot about seasonal cooking.
This past summer, I immersed myself in studying ayurveda and along with that came a love for Indian cooking. While not all Indian recipes are ayurvedic, I found that I loved the spices that are traditionaly used. Cumin, turmeric, and coriander were all spices that I hadn't used much before, and I love how they accent food in such a brilliant way.
One chef who I love, not only for her cooking but also her bright personality, is Aarti Sequeira from the show Aarti Party.
Aarti Paarti in 2008.
An online cooking-variety show? It's pretty amazing. She has such a passion for food, fun, and cooking. While I love her Food Network shows (you can watch some videos here), her personality really shines in her independently filmed shows on Youtube. After watching this video on Pealafel, I knew I had to make the recipe.
Pretty fun, right? And it looks delicious, too. I love when chefs can teach me something new, while inspiring me to be creative. I'm also all about belly dancing. (Watch the video --at 4:45 you'll see what I mean). Maybe one day I'll make video recordings of me cooking in the kitchen.
For now, I have photographs.
Aarti's Pealafel with Arugula Hummus
Modified from Aarti Sequeira's recipe here: pealafel (yes I got creative with it and lauren-ized it)
- 1 bag frozen peas
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh baby arugula, chopped
- Sea salt
- 1 large onion,roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- about 1 cup rice flour (although chickpea is what Aarti used)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cumin (don't worry -- some is in the falafel and some is in the hummus)
- 2 1/2 cups cooked and drained chickpeas
While the pealafel is making magic in the oven, make your hummus dip. Blend the chickpeas, your remaining onion, cumin, garlic, arugula, and olive oil in the blender. Add a bit of salt, to taste. I didn't bother to clean the blender in between -- things are going to get mixed anyways.
Serve together, in a pita pocket if you like. Makes 16 pealafels.
Who or what inspires you in the kitchen? I'd love to read some stories.