I just read a great opinion piece in the NY Times about Blue Apron – the company that sends you your pre-measured meal in a box. It seems they just had their initial IPO and it was a bit underwhelming.
I have to admit that I just don’t get the concept. As the author stated:
My deepest problem with meal kits, however, is that I worry they’re not teaching people how to cook, but are instead teaching them how to prepare meal kits. The recipe cards that came with some meal kit boxes sounded like word problems, full of measurements, times and temperatures, and if there’s anything I hate it’s this insistence on turning cooking into math.
I totally get this. I have written many, many recipes in my life – and the one thing that always stands out is you can’t just follow a recipe – you need to be involved in the process. You need to look and feel, smell and taste. The most difficult thing in the world for me is to tell someone how I made something. I don’t know… I just did it! Recipes are guidelines – not chiseled in stone absolutes.
But the neophyte cook wants chiseled in stone absolutes.
In this regard, something like Blue Apron can give someone the confidence to try something new, but cooking is about just going in and doing it.
I had a conversation with a woman at work today about cooking and planning meals for the week. She has a friend who every Sunday plans the weeks meals, buys the groceries, etc… both of us said that there’s no way on Sunday that we know what we want to eat on Thursday… It seems totally alien, to me. She also said she just has stuff in the house and puts things together, but she wasn’t a good cook. I told her that if she can walk into the kitchen and put dinner together without a plan from what she had on-hand, she was a fantastic cook!
We talked about reading recipes and changing things around – never really following them – using what was in the house or things we just liked better. It’s all perspective, I guess. That’s exactly how I cook – and it’s how Victor’s pasta came out, today.
The plan was that since I had to work until 5pm, he would feed Nonna early and we would have a leisurely dinner, whenever. He had picked up some shrimp the other day with the thought of doing a fresh pasta and shrimp dish. I had no knowledge of the dinner plans – if someone is cooking, I’m eating. I am not fussy and I do not make demands. I sit down, eat, and love every minute of it.
He started off with his egg pasta recipe for the tagliatelle, but when it came time for the sauce, he took a totally different route.
Fresh Egg Pasta
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
Spoon 2 3/4 cups of the flour into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Beat the eggs, olive oil and salt together in a small bowl until blended. With the motor running, pour the egg mixture into the processor. Process until it forms a rough and slightly sticky dough. If the mixture is too dry, drizzle in a very small amount of warm water and continue processing. Scrape the dough out of the work bowl onto a lightly floured counter.
Knead the dough with the heels of your hands until it is smooth, silky and elastic – 5 to 10 minutes of constant kneading.
Flour the work surface and your hands lightly any time the dough begins to stick while you’re kneading.
Roll the dough into a smooth ball and place in a small bowl. Cover and let the dough rest at least an hour before rolling and shaping.
We have a pasta roller – hand-crank, you can buy them for about $70 – or you can roll the pasta out by hand and cut it into strips.
The sauce was spectacular with the fresh pasta. Light and summery – with the basil and lemon making me smile with every bite. We don’t have a mortar and pestle – got rid of it years ago – so he didn’t turn the basil into paste, made it with two egg yolks, not one, and didn’t measure anything else.
It was flipping delicious.
Lemon Basil Pasta
- 2 egg yolks
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
- zest of 1 lemon, plus juice
- 1 small bunch fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together the egg yolk, olive oil, Parmesan, and lemon zest.
Finely chop basil and add to the egg mixture.
Cook the pasta until al dente, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Place pasta in a large bowl and stir in the basil-egg mixture. Toss well to combine, then add a bit of pasta cooking water until the pasta is coated in a creamy sauce.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, and top with additional grated cheese.
If you’re really unsure about cooking, by all means get a Blue Apron meal and have some fun. But realize that you can do it on your own, too.
Just don’t think that every meal you make has to be five-star restaurant quality. hat’s not what cooking is all about.
Trust me on this.