Kitchen Inspiration

While I’m on the topic of roasting vegetables, I’d like to share a cooking strategy I learned from Kathleen Flinn’s book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks.

cutting board-carlos portoIn this book, Flinn shares her story of a new culinary adventure that began in her supermarket. As she browsed the aisles, the author and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris noticed how often shoppers filled their carts with processed foods rather than opting for fresh foods. They frequently fall into a pattern of preparing meals from powders and mixes simply because they don’t think they have the time or skills to cook from scratch.

With this in mind, she set out to teach nine volunteers how to prepare fresh, healthy food that is far more delicious than the packaged meals they came to rely on. The classes not only increased the volunteers’ confidence in the kitchen, the new cooks gained a better quality of life.

Many of her strategies offer inspiration on using foods already in your fridge. For example, she shared a recipe she picked up from an Italian friend, tossing vegetables, olives and chopped garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting them in a hot oven. Halfway through, she added fish fillets, covered them with the vegetables and continued roasting them. She explained that she has done the same using chicken breasts.

I remembered this one night as I wondered what to do with a package of flounder. I loosely followed her instructions, tossing thawed frozen green beans, sliced red bell pepper and onions, and black olives with olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a few pinches of oregano and rosemary. I roasted them for 10 minutes at 450°F in a large pan; then I tucked a few flounder fillets under the vegetables and roasted the mix until the fish flaked easily with a fork. It was simple and delicious and tasted so fresh.

The book is filled with great ideas for easy meals prepared from fresh ingredients, including easy sauces, vinaigrettes, “flavor splashes” for vegetables, homemade artisan bread and soups. Although everything is not heart-healthy, it’s easy enough to choose slimmed down variations or tweak some of her techniques.

Next, I’d like to try her recipe for Fish en Papillote — fish, vegetables and seasonings that are wrapped in parchment and then baked. A flavorful option with an easy cleanup!

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto/

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