What a year 2008 had been! And what a year 2009 will be. The biggest news was the global financial recession following the collapse of big corporations in America. Individuals and entities engaged in the food business are reeling along with the rest but, if they’re smart, they’ll see the inevitable trend for 2009 — home cooking is going to make a big comeback as people will eat out less often to save money. Fancy and gourmet ingredients and food items will take a back seat as the wise home cooks go back to the basics — less processed and more fresh meat and seafood, more vegetables and fruits, and hearty soups and desserts that can be made at home. Recycling leftovers is likely to be elevated to art form as home cooks rise up to the challenge of being less wasteful yet more creative and inventive. What can I say? The financial scares make some mope and gripe but for others it is an opportunity to reassess spending priorities and eating habits.
But let’s look back at 2008. I’ve had some kitchen disasters but, all in all, there are some dishes that I am mighty proud of: smoked salmon and cream cheese canapés (a lesson in how to stretch expensive smoked salmon to satisfy a lot of guests); salmon and tomato soup (made with fish heads that a lot of Westerners think aren’t fit for human consumption); chicken, mushrooms and potato salad (a very low-fat meal that even serious carnivores can’t find fault with); the complete salad (made with leftover lechon manok); crispy catfish and green mango salad (because I am now a huge fan of Thai cooking); and chicken, pesto and yogurt salad (cut down on the mayo and substitute fruit-flavored yogurt).
Chicken and mushrooms burger (less meat without sacrificing protein intake); buffalo chicken wings (never mind bottled marinades — make your own using fresh ingredients); chicken and mangoes in yogurt (yogurt instead of sour cream cuts down the amount of fat in your food); Southern-style fried chicken (if you fry your chicken properly, it shouldn’t be soaked and dripping with oil); chicken and mushrooms pasta (fatty meat is not essential for making a great pasta dish); and Vietnamese honey ginger chicken (a savory braised chicken dish that does not require marinating).
In the sweets and baking department: tiramisu, party style (limit intake with pre-measured servings); banana walnut cake (make good use of overripe bananas); vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (turn baking into a family activity and teach your kids the valuable lesson that cooking is as much fun as it is work); food for the gods (boxed food for the gods for gift-giving are terribly overpriced — bake your own, the recipe’s simple); blueberries and cream (baking is not essential to create yummy desserts); and chocolate fudge brownies (bake these and learn that most commercial brownies are, at best, second rate).
I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and more practical and easy recipes for home-cooked meals and the most comforting of food.