Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Best Friends You’ll Ever Have

A quick and simple way to add complexity of flavor to your cooking is to always start with a few humble ingredients: sharp onions, firm carrots and crisp celery. Peel the onions and carrots, being careful not to trim away too much. Rinse them under cold water and pat dry. Rinse a stalk of celery, trim the ends, and place all three vegetables on your cutting board. Now chop them very fine. When you go to cook something like spaghetti sauce, a piece of chicken, a pot of beans, or, if you are adventurous, a soup from scratch, begin by cooking these three vegetables. In French cuisine they form a kind of holy trinity, and are used to add depth of flavor to hundreds of dishes. You can almost begin by sauteeing these three vegetables in some fat before you have even decided what it is you want to make!

To experience one of life's countless little joys, take a healthy pat of very fresh butter, heat it slowly, add these three vegetables, stir, and close your eyes. If the whole world could inhale such things collectively, there would be no need for war. Sprinkle in some salt and fresh-ground pepper and then try to contain your animal passions; remind yourself that the good life includes both indulgence and modesty.

Onions, carrots and celery will become your faithful friends if you call on them often, treat them with respect, and don't let them wither away in the reaches of your refrigerator. They will greet you when you come home cold and tired from a long day of work. If you have no work to go to, they will not judge you for it. And, best of all, your dining companions will begin to notice that your food is more pleasant, that it seems somehow different, perhaps a touch more soulful. If someone should inquire directly as to the changes you and your food seem to have undergone, you need not say anything in response. Shrug, smile, and continue quietly on your path to perfection.

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