Just as a painter is struck by color, a singer by melody, or a journalist by story, a chef is inspired by sensation.
Art in all expressions, appeals to the senses. Creativity undeniably provokes a sensational mind-body experience. Cooking however, is the one form of artistic expression that promotes the arousal of all five senses harmoniously. The sound alerts and attracts. The smell arouses. The sight excites anticipatory satisfaction. The taste intices the sweet, satisfies the salty and indulges the umami.
Indubitably, the success of a chef is dependent upon participation. A clean plate and happy belly merit a chef’s success. Their passion to create is driven by our inherent necessity to eat.
For those of us who aren’t dreaming in croquettes and beurre blanc’s, there’s hope indeed! Everyone possesses the ability to cook well. As my extraordinary personal chef (and mom) taught me, it’s a matter of understanding basic principles and putting them into practice.
You see, the key to successful cooking is not about following recipes and mastering a select few. It’s about understanding principles and trusting your intuition.
What do I mean by principles?
Principles boil down to an understanding of basic construction. Let me explain by example…
Vinaigrettes are traditionally a 3:1 ratio (some prefer 2:1) 3 part oil, to one part acid Salt and pepper to taste
Oils Olive Avocado Hempseed Coconut Walnut Flaxseed
Acid Lemon juice Lime juice Apple cider vinegar White vinegar Rice wine vinegar Red wine vinegar Balsamic vinegar
Emulsifiers Mustard Egg yolks (or whole egg) Garlic (roasted or fresh) Miso
Invigorators Cayenne Sage Capers Olives Shallots Fresh ginger Tarragon Thyme Mint Basil Chives Cilantro Dill Parsley Citrus zest
Sweeteners Honey Agave Maple syrup Molasses Sugar
Now it’s time to play! Experiment with your ratio’s, and your ingredients. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, try adding emulsifiers, invigorators and/or sweeteners. The variations are endless!
Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette
3 TBL organic extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBL aged balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard (I prefer the brand Mailie)
Fresh ground pepper
Himalayan sea salt (optional)
1/2 tsp organic maple syrup (optional)
Whisk together oil, vinegar and mustard.
Add salt and pepper to taste (I don’t salt this recipe due to the salty flavor of the mustard).
Option to sweeten slightly with maple syrup.
Classic Oil + Vinegar
3 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBL red wine vinegar
1 TBL fresh lemon squeeze
Pinch dried or fresh thyme (optional)
Himalayan sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Whisk together oil, vinegar and mustard and lemon.
Season with salt and pepper.
Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette
2 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBL champagne vinegar
1/2 lemon squeeze
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground vanilla bean
Pinch Himalayan sea salt
Whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon, maple syrup and vanilla bean.
Season with sea salt to taste.