Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Inspires You In The Kitchen?

My focus of this blog is food and wine, so I look to the Internet, cooking shows, bargain food and wine books, food and wine pairing guides found on the wineries websites and my imagination for inspiration. Sometimes I get ideas from my monthly delivered Food and Wine magazine. My style of cooking takes its roots from New Orleans style cuisine, but with the focus being on wine and food pairings.

Going to my local Fresh Market and seeing different new products also inspire me to "stretch out" a bit of my comfort zone and try something new. I am usually game, but my family may not, so I have to play it safe or fix them another meal!

Going to wineries websites and looking at the tasting notes of the winemaker along with their suggested food pairings (if available) will provide you with a guide to develop your own recipes or menu.

The seasons and what fruits and vegetables and other seasonal ingredients that are available in my area also dictate what dishes I prepare. Fresh herbs, especially basil, thyme, rosemary and sage are planted in small terracotta pots and kept in my kitchen window sill or outside on the deck to be used in my cooking; I think it is a waste to buy herbs in those plastic packages in the grocery store. The never look fresh and the spoil quickly. I "literally and figuratively" have a "brown thumb", so growing things has not been easy for me. I've noticed sine I moved to Little Rock I seem to be able to keep some plants alive.

Salts and Spices do matter when you want maximum flavor in your dishes. I have a passion for Victoria Taylor's Australian Flake Salt; this makes a fried french fry taste like a gourmet treat when lightly sprinkled when the fries come out of the fryer. I also love their Trapani Sea Salt for cooking.  Note: These were samples provided for review. I am all out and need to order some for my pantry; I am hooked!

I love to grill, but have to be up to cleaning the grill before using it. I must admit I hate cleaning the grill! But, if the weather is not too hot, I'll stand on the deck and use my old "hand me down" Weber Kettle. My brother Keith bought it when he and his family lived in Little Rock when Katrina hit my hometown of New Orleans. We had so many wonderful times grilling foods and drinking wine in our shared apartment in West Little Rock. The patio was small, but big enough for us to "get our grill on!"

Grilling can open up a whole new world as it relates to cooking. More people are eating grilled fruits and vegetables off the grill and introducing their children to eating healthier foods because of the great taste grilling imparts in food. Grilled pineapple is great alone or with ice cream or frozen yogurt for dessert. It can be tricky, but grilled oysters on the half shell are great with a sauce of garlic, butter and a bit of Parmesan cheese.

Wine inspires me in the kitchen. When I am drinking wine and cooking, I always think of ways to make the dish better or take it to another level. Maybe the wine relaxes me, and I begin to think beyond the daily grind and to focus on something I enjoy doing. Also, the flavor profiles of wines seem to placed in some sort of "memory chip" in my brain which allows me to match the wine, food, herbs, spices and sauces with ease. Sounds hard, but I've been lucky with my methodology so far; I think it is because of practice and the opportunity to sample so many great wines and products. Right now, I'm in love with crisp white wines with hints of melon, pear, and orange blossom; so mostly Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blancs.

Honig 2010 Sauvignon Blanc

Rose's have a great place in spring and summer as well as sparkling wine. I can drink sparkling wine all the time! Also, Cabernet Sauvignon is a must for a steak or gourmet burger off the grill. Right now I'm in love with the Rodney Strong 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the Honig 2008
Cabernet Sauvignon, both are wonderful!

Honig 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Rodney Strong 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Note: These wines were samples provided for review. Tasting notes for these wines are provided on this blog.

One of the things that many may not think of is a pleasing space to cook in. I love my kitchen. It is not a designer space, but it has warm Tuscan colors and most of the appliances and gadgets to cook with right at my fingertips. The space is airy with my gas cook top that I could not live without. When I moved into this house, there was an electric cook top. I was blessed enough to have the resources to do a kitchen face lift and the cook top got replaced with my beloved cooking source, gas. I love a pretty kitchen, it makes me happy. I found a pretty paper towel holder that fit in perfectly with my style along with some other object's d' art for my kitchen.

The color is a deep rust and it can be found at I own some pieces of this collection and they really brighten up a kitchen.

What inspires you in your kitchen? Let me know; I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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