I love eating out. I am so fortunate that I often get to experience the thrill of discovering a new restaurant, either at home or on the road, when you know from the first bite that you are in good culinary hands and you can just relax and enjoy the meal. I appreciate the emphasis so many restaurants now place on fresh ingredients and I am an enthusiastic supporter of the farm to table trend. I love learning new ways to combine ingredients or flavors and sampling things I would never make at home. And being waited on and having no kitchen to clean or veggies to chop is nice too.
Many people are surprised to learn how much I enjoy dining in restaurants because I also love to cook. But I do not see the two as mutually exclusive. In fact, it is my love of cooking and appreciation for good food that enhances my enjoyment of dining out. My kitchen is definitely my happy place and making meals or baked goods for friends and family is my love language. I think the best smell in the world is bread baking in the oven or a good chicken roasting and permeating the house with the promise of dinner. I love entertaining but I have also enjoyed sitting down with just David for our little tete a tete dinners, and it is a good thing he enjoys leftovers because I still have not adjusted my recipes to cooking for just two of us.
There is something so deeply satisfying about taking a bunch of ingredients and creating something delicious and filling, pleasing to the eye and the palate, that would not have existed but for your putting it all together. I don’t tend to follow recipes much anymore, but rely on things I have made in the past that are tried and true and committed to memory or trusting my culinary creativity to riff off of something I have read (in one of my many cookbooks and magazines) or seen on a cooking show. Cooking is so forgiving that way. Even if something does not turn out as planned, it is often delicious anyway. It is hard to go wrong with good ingredients – you just have to know enough to let them do their thing and not get in the way.
But you also have to have access to the good ingredients – the ability to get to the store (there are still so many food desserts in this country) and the means to buy what you need. It is easy to get complacent and think of grocery shopping as a chore, but I try to remind myself that it is really a luxury, and one I am so lucky I get to indulge. Looking at the rows of fresh fruits and vegetables, knowing that I can pick any of them to take home, is always a great reminder of how very lucky I am to be able to enjoy good food. Eating, cooking, dining out or in… the common thread is the joy that food brings to my life. I am so grateful I get to indulge in this joy, that my cancer did not permanently interfere with it and that I have the means to enjoy it, and that I have a hubby who shares it.
Here is a simple recipe (that was given to me by a friend – the best kind) that showcases simple but quality ingredients and is easy to make and serve. Whether you make it or something else that pleases your palate, know that we are among the lucky ones and enjoy every bite.
Baked Feta Appetizer:
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine blocks of feta cheese, fresh oregano, thinly sliced red onion, diced tomato, capers, thinly sliced garlic, olive oil, black pepper, and red pepper flakes in whatever proportions seem delicious to you on squares of aluminum foil. Seal packets tightly and place on a sheet tray; bake 15 minutes. Carefully open packets, transfer mixture to plates, and serve with baguette slices.