Why is it so much easier to criticize ourselves than it is to celebrate our hard-won successes? It’s the same principle that makes us shoo away a well-deserved compliment. “Oh, it’s really nothing at all.” Are we afraid of sounding too boastful or is it something else? I frequently tell you of my kitchen disasters and meals that have been pushed away with disgust. It’s so easy to be self-deprecating. I can generate tales of cut fingers, dull knives, burned breadcrumbs and flavorless fish like nobody’s business. But it’s not often that I use this space to congratulate myself. I had a recent victory and I’m going to pat myself heartily on the back. Right here. Right now.
Think about a child you see everyday. You know they’re growing, but you don’t necessarily see it as its happening. But then there are those moments that make it quite obvious – didn’t I just buy those pajamas last week? How can they already be two inches too short?! Kitchen skills follow a similar trend. As you sharpen them and become more comfortable in the kitchen, your growth may not be immediately evident. But then there is a point at which you know you’ve come a long way.
A few weeks ago, I was enjoying a salad at the P Street Sweetgreen with my lovely and talented friend Amanda. Actually, we were sharing tales of dull kitchen knives and nearly amputated our fingers (hers, while on camera no less). I was holding the salad bowl with a heavily bandaged left index finger while using my right hand to shovel forkfuls of this salad greedily into my pie hole. And I knew I just had to bring this salad to you somehow. So I poked around with my fork a bit and scribbled down the flavors, making a note to try it at home. In the past, I’ve tried this restaurant-to-home-kitchen thing with minimal success. You may recall the frittata from Tryst (not cheesy enough) or the brussels sprouts from Palena (not even in the same ballpark, maybe not even playing the same sport?!). Most of the time, I make something tasty, but nothing like the dish I attempted to pirate.
And this is where the self-congratulation comes in…I made this salad and it was precisely as I remembered it. I nailed it on the first shot. This has never happened to me before. And frankly, it may never happen again. But it gave me a boost and brought me to that “these pajamas are too short” moment. Yes, I know my way around a kitchen. But no longer do I need to rely solely on recipes pulled from my zillion cookbooks or magazines or other blogs. Sure, the concept was lifted from elsewhere. And it’s just a salad. It’s not like I’ve reconstructed some difficult souffle. (And here I go again…talking myself out of my success!) But what I’m celebrating today is my new ability to identify a dish and successfully execute it from scratch. It feels good to revel in it, even just for a few minutes.
What’s in Season?
What’s for Dinner?
- Warm Grain Salad with Kale, Portobellos and Sweet Potato
- Chicken and Orzo Casserole
- Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks with Herb Dipping Sauce
1 large sweet potato
8 oz. portobello mushrooms
1 small bunch kale
1 red pepper
1 small bunch scallions
Fire-roasted bell peppers (jarred)
Old Bay seasoning
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-1/2 pounds tilapia fillets
6 oz. goat cheese
7 extra large eggs
Whole milk ricotta