I am truly blessed to have friends who are willing to spend an afternoon in the kitchen - friends who understand that "hey, want to go grocery shopping with me?" is not a request to run my errands, but rather an invitation to a grand tactile adventure. Hence, through the years, my friends have become my culinary instructors as well as partners in kitchen chaos. My incredibly multi-talented friend Kathleen, who can say things like "oh, let me just whip up some garlic-jalapeno spinach salsa," and can then do so while discussing Victorian literature and looking glamorous all at the same time, is partially responsible for the extent of the duration of my inability to cook "satisfactory" meatballs, because she once spent an afternoon showing me how to make The perfect meatballs, and then I spent the next 6 years unable to replicate the unparalleled flavor, tenderness, and texture of that afternoon! Kathleen, may I have a refresher course, please?
When we first met our now very dear camping and cooking buddies Frank and Jen, we invited them over for dinner - and knew we would become fast friends when they offered to bring dessert and then showed up with creme brulee and a blowtorch!
Frank showing Zach his blowtorch technique...
Jen supervising the blowtorching...
Zach trying out the blowtorch...
Zach's creme brulee is caramelizing!
A triumph of blowtorching.
On the opposite side of the kitchen, sometimes low-tech cooking can inspire delicious ingenuity. My aforementioned college roommate Lisa taught me how to make the most soothing, cozy dish of all time - homemade applesauce, prepared in our dorm room. With nothing but a tiny fridge and a microwave to serve as our kitchen, Lisa turned a bowl full of perfect pink lady apples into the most intensely flavorful applesauce I'd ever tasted.
I use the stove-top now, and I've added a few pears, but I've never stopped fixing Lisa's applesauce recipe...
2 T light, non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
2 Bartlett pears, cut into 1" chunks
3 Pink Lady or Golden Delicious apples, cut into 1" chunks (or your own favorite varieties of pears and apples)
1 cup orange juice
2 T cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
~ In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, melt the marg. Stir in the pears, apples, and orange juice and gently cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples and pears are very tender and beginning to break down.
~ Stir in the cinnamon and honey, and simmer for 5 more minutes.
~ If you like your applesauce chunky, you can serve it at this point. If you prefer a smooth texture, pour the apple-pear mixture into a food processor and puree, taking care to allow an exit route for steam, until smooth.
~ Serve warm, for breakfast, a snack, or for dessert... With a dollop of whipped cream on top, it tastes like apple pie in pudding form!