Thoughts on cooking real food from one of my favorite writers, Nigel Slater:
I passionately believe that anyone can make themselves something good to eat. Cooking is a whole lot easier than many people think. Good cooking–real cooking–is within the grasp of anyone with an appetite and a few pots and pans. There is nothing difficult about it (it is only supper after all), so we can pretty much ignore all that stuff about it being “an art,” “a science” or “a gift.”
It takes no expertise to heat some butter and a squashed clove of garlic in a shallow pan till it froths and bubbles, then slide in a piece of chicken. Let it cook till its skin is crisp and golden, then squeeze in half a lemon and serve it with its pan juices and a leafy salad to mop them up. Anyone can slap a lamb chop on a hot grill pan, throw a handful of pasta into bubbling water or put an apple to bake in a hot oven. I work from the not unreasonable premise that if someone can make a cup of coffee then they can probably roast themselves a chicken.
Real cooking is not about making fancy stocks and sauces, piping purees and perfecting spun-sugar baskets. Real cooking is about making ourselves something to eat that involves a bit of simple roasting, grilling or frying. Nothing complicated. But it is cooking, rather than opening a packet or a tin. As you will see, real cooking is also about the little things–the small points that turn straightforward cooking into good cooking. The attention to detail that makes a simple supper into something sublime.
What makes something really good to eat? What is the difference between cooking something that is merely fuel and something that is a joy to devour? It is certainly not the need to make our cooking more complicated, neither is it an art that we must have at our fingertips. It is simply the understanding of the little things that make something especially good; the golden, savory goo that builds up under a pork chop you have left to cook slowly in its pan; the intense flavor of the bits of lamb that have caught on the bars of the grill; the gravy that you make from the sticky bits left in the pan after you have sauteed some chicken thighs. This is real cooking. The roast potato that sticks to the roasting tin; the crouton from the salad that has soaked up the mustardy dressing; the underneath of the crust of a blackberry and apple pie, rich with purple juice; these are the things that make something worth eating. And worth cooking.
Grilled Peach Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella & Arugula
6 peaches, cut in half and pitted
3-4 large handfuls arugula, washed and dried
1 small red onion, slivered
5 oz. buffalo mozarella or other fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces
4 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. dijon or whole grain mustard
2 Tbs. minced chives
1/3 c. olive oil
2 Tbs. creme fraiche or 1 Tbs. heavy cream
Light a fire in grill and let it burn down to med-hot. I like to build the fire on one side of the grill so I can move things around to different temperatures. Lightly salt the cut sides of the peaches, drizzle very lightly with olive oil and place cut side down on the grill. When the peaches are charred and just beginning to soften, remove them to a platter and set aside. Make the dressing: place vinegar, honey, mustard and chives in a small bowl. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil until emulsified. Whisk in the creme fraiche or cream. Toss arugula and onion with vinaigrette and place on serving platter or dish. Nestle peaches and mozzarella amongst greens and drizzle with a little more dressing. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and serve.