Saturday, May 26, 2012
Improvisation is this home cook's favorite ingredient
"Look Who's Cooking" spotlights successful home cooks in our area. Today, we meet Cathy Crawford.
Courtesy Cathy Crawford
Much of what Cathy Crawford cooks comes from her own garden.
Name: Cathy Crawford
Occupation: Partner at Circa Homes, LLC; landscape gardener.
Nominated by: Friend Beth Macy, who is a reporter for The Roanoke Times, wrote: "Everything [Cathy makes] is really healthy but just bursting with flavor. I'm telling you, there's nothing she can't cook to perfection. And a lot of her food comes from her own garden."
Why I love cooking: Two top reasons: I love to eat; I love to share what I eat.
But also, I love the sensual experience of creating something delicious — the chop, chop, chop of onions on the cutting board, their sizzle in the pan with fragrant herbs and spices; shiny red tomatoes, bright green kale, creamy white grits; the heavy eggplant peel falling away and plopping into the sink, destined for the compost; the sharpness or creaminess playing off a tasting spoon. Finally, I love the challenge of seeing what's available in my pantry (and garden) and then imagining ways to combine them into a great meal.
Who taught me: Growing up, I was such a picky eater I never thought about learning to cook. So when I moved into my first apartment and had to cook for myself, I cleverly decided to become a vegetarian so I wouldn't have to learn to cook meat.
Mollie Katzen's "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest" became my kitchen bible and my culinary world expanded. That lasted a year or two and then, mainly because I enjoyed sharing meals with non-vegetarians friends and family, I reintroduced meat into my diet and cooking.
Since then, almost everyone I come into contact with (relatives, college roommates, villagers in Hopkins, Belize, market vendors, potluck buddies) teaches me something about cooking. I read a lot of cookbooks and check out blogs and surf through the Food Network. Lately my cooking (and eating) is coming full circle.
Since January 1, my husband and I have been eating a vegan diet, and it's been amazing to learn new delicious recipes.
My claim-to-fame dish: I don't usually like to serve the same thing twice. Everyone who has eaten at my house knows they will be judges (guinea pigs) for whatever I'm into trying at the moment, such as shrimp and grits, wasabi deviled eggs, Belize-inspired stew, or fried banana bread pudding with rum sauce.
My epic food fail: Usually involves cake. I think cakes stand out because they are the food focal point for special occasions.
Once I made a large pound cake to welcome relatives from California. When half of it fell, I just spelled out "Ooops!" in icing and served it anyway. We had a good laugh, and I don't think they were offended. I've since tweaked the recipe and have had much better luck. In fact, it's my "go-to" dessert.
Best appliance I ever bought: I haven't bought it ... yet. I most often use a crippled food processor that turns off and on by the electric plug, and a smoothie blender that has trouble grinding bananas. I can't count how many hand mixers I've massacred.
Favorite utensil: The cutting board that my husband made for me, and several good knives that I've gotten as gifts over the years.
Favorite cookbook: Anything by Mollie Katzen or Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Favorite place to eat besides home: I love sushi but don't trust myself to make it, so Ben Gui, Tokyo or Wasabi (as I was writing this, my husband tried his hand at making Maki. It was delicious. I guess we won't be eating out anymore).
Best advice for other cooks: Keep a well-stocked pantry of your favorite ingredients. Don't avoid recipes when you don't have all the fixings — improvise.