Sunday, January 10, 2010

Now We're Cooking

As some recent posts have shown, we're getting increasingly into food here at Common Sense Dancing. Recently, Kitchen Window, NPR's food blog, recently posted a great article about cooking with whole grains. Buying whole grain bread or pasta is one thing, but how many people actually cook with whole grains? Certainly not me. We picked a recipe from the list - the polenta with leeks and chard - and went to Whole Foods to buy the ingredients.

At the risk of sounding like a yuppie, Whole Foods is really growing on me. I have previously blogged about its "Whole Paycheck" reputation, and it is entirely possible that New Yorkers don't get sticker shock in that store because we pay more for groceries are regular grocery stores than most people do. The prepared foods, obscure cheeses, out-of-season produce are expensive, but then, you sort of expect them to be, and a lot of the staples at Whole Foods - milk, bread and other bakery stuff like bagels and pastries - are priced the same, or cheaper, than they are at most regular grocery stores. While I was there, I thought a lot about the profile of Whole Foods' CEO John Mackey from last week's issue of The New Yorker. Its a big corporation, but I think its a good one - for instance, its bakery section is a real bakery, instead of just selling bland white bread shaped like a circle and calling it a bagel.

Back to the polenta. We poured ground, corn into boiling, salted water to make the polenta, then cooked the shard, leeks, rosemary and olive oil in a sauce pan. We grated gruyere and parmesean cheeses. We layered the bottom of the pan with polenta, then added the vegetables, then gruyere cheese, another layer of polenta, then topped it with parmesean cheese, salt and pepper. It took about an hour to prepare, but the final result was worth it. As we cooked, I was reminded, not for the first time in the past several months, that so much of the 'cooking' I've done in my life is really just the combining of ingredients - taking pasta out of a box and putting it into bioling water, heating up a can of Prego or Newman's Own pasta sauce, then combining the two. Both involve using the stove and making a mess, but one produces something new that is greater than the sum of its parts, while the other is exactly the sum of its parts. I certainly don't have time to prepare food in more than a "sum of its parts" kind of way more than once a twice or week, but now I recognize the difference, whereas I never did before.

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