26 Apr 2012
My interest in minimalist cooking began at the edge of a forest-green Coleman camp-stove, the kind with two small burners that can easily go out if the wind blows too strongly or you suddenly run out of kerosene mid-cook and need to refill the tank.
We used to camp a lot when we were little and I have strong memories of Dad making corned beef hash over the stove – made with nothing but beef that came in a rectangular tin with a metal twist-tab you wound around the side of the tin to open- plus potatoes and onion. We also made baking powder biscuits that we’d eat soon after they came out of the “oven”, an oven we’d create using a cast iron pan and tinfoil. Sometimes I’d top it with butter, but sometimes nothing at all. Eggs were simply scrambled with a dash of salt and a dab of ketchup – if we still had any left and hadn’t used it up our rations at yesterday’s breakfast.
Though the tinned corned beef hash has now been substituted with local grass-fed steak and the plain biscuits replaced with dense whole rye bread studded with hazelnuts and currants, the memories and awareness of how delicious simple food can be when you do very little to it, has never changed.
The theme that we’re addressing this month at Attune is “real simple”. Knowing that you can strip a dish down to very basic components and still having it taste like you labored over it, is one of the signs of confident cook. Sure, using fresh, high quality ingredients helps, but even without the still-warm farm eggs or the tomato plucked hours before purchase, if you follow the “rule of three” you can create an exceptional dish.
What is that rule? For any dish if you add nothing more than three ingredients (along with the main ingredient) you can create a masterpiece. And what’s simple about it- the first two stay the same: olive oil and salt. The third is then one other “seasoning” of your choice: a plant (garlic, onion, spinach), an herb (thyme, basil), a spice (curry, cumin), an accent flavor (soy sauce).
Eggs Florentine: olive oil, salt, spinach, basil (ok that was four but the basil was technically garnish (as seen above)
Sauteed Kale: olive oil, salt, garlic
Roasted Carrots: olive oil, salt, rosemary (dry or fresh)
Stir Fry Beef: olive oil, soy sauce (instead of the salt), garlic
Squash Soup: olive oil, salt, onion (plus a great soup stock!)
Is there more that could be added to those dishes to make them taste even better? Sure. For example cheese in the eggs, curry in the squash soup (a personal fave of mine) but the point is to remember that whipping up something home-cooked and nutritious does not mean you need complex or copious ingredients. If you default to olive oil, salt plus one more, 99% of the time your minimalist dish will deliver maximum taste. Oh and if you can get your hands on a Coleman stove, use it – I don’t know if it the sweet fumes from the kerosene or what it is, but anything cooked on a Coleman tastes better.
Your recommendations for how to simply your meals?
MichelleCheck out my latest posts here