As mentioned in my previous post, I am taking on more of the cooking responsibilities at home. Serdic still does the majority of the cooking, but I'm trying to branch out a little bit. I am not a very imaginative cook -- I can follow the recipe and recreate the dish competently, but I'm not good at improvising, or coming up with a meal without a recipe (something at which Serdic excels, by the way). One of my other issues is that I used to be a very picky eater, and while I still am to some extent I have really broadened my horizons in the last few years. A big part of that was when I lived in Denmark I forced myself to eat everything as I didn't want to be rude or difficult (and I am quite proud of myself that the only dish I didn't finish that entire year was the jellied eel), but also in the last few years I have been pushing myself to try new things, including things I didn't think I liked when I was a kid, and while there are of course still things I don't like it's surprising to me just how much is out there that I do like.
I have also realized that when I used to cook for myself before I met Serdic, I would cook very bland meals and rely on the salt shaker to make them taste better. Not exactly the most healthy choice! I realized after a few months of eating Serdic's cooking that I was rarely reaching for the salt anymore, and that was because he cooked much more flavourful meals to begin with. I still like my food salty (and chips remain my biggest weakness, while chocolate can sit on the table for months before it's eaten!) but I rarely add salt after the cooking process anymore. We also have discovered the joys of sea salt, in all its varieties, and use it almost exclusively now. A little pinch of that will do more to flavour a meal than a tablespoon of table salt!
So all that is just the lead in to what I really want to blog about, which is the fantastic meal I cooked (with Serdic's help as sous-chef!) for our dear friends Jay and Dee this past Sunday night. When Serdic left his job in January to go back to school several of his coworkers gave him a going away gift which included a nifty new cookbook: Bite Me. One of the recipes in there seems to have been crafted just for me, given how many of the ingredients are things I have learned to love over the last couple of years -- pasta with spinach, feta, sundried tomatoes, parmesan, and carmelized onions. I made it for us a couple of weeks ago and we loved it, so I decided it would be a good thing for a dinner party. It's not an easy recipe, as it involves a lot of ingredients and several steps, but the end result is worth it. I improvised (!) and added some chicken breasts (just baked in the oven with minimal seasoning as there are so many flavours in play already, then chopped up into bite sized pieces and added to the rest) to up the protein. I did a spinach salad to go with it -- kept it simple (again because I didn't want to add too many flavours) with spinach, dried cranberries (wanted pomegranate seeds, but no pomegranates to be had anywhere in Ottawa this week!) and red onion.
Dessert was planned based on the dishes. As a wedding gift Serdic's Grandma gave us a set of crystal trifle dishes, which are lovely, but not something we use on a daily basis. So I decided to choose a dessert we could serve in said dishes, as they're too pretty to just sit in the cupboard. I settled on chocolate mousse (this recipe, to be exact) and it was DELICIOUS. So yummy. Fresh raspberries and whipped cream to go on top, and had planned to drizzle Bailey's over the whole thing, but Serdic suggested instead mixing a splash of Bailey's into the whipped cream as it was whipping. Divine. Two thumbs up on that idea, let me tell you.
So by the time it was all said and done, I was pretty proud of that meal. The best part, of course, was getting to spend the evening with fantastic friends and having a nice long visit, something we have not been able to do a lot of recently. But the food was pretty damn good, too.