I am not an adventurous cook. Although I've come a long way in terms of culinary skill, I am still very much a recipe-following woman. In my mind, if a recipe calls for 1/8 a teaspoon of a spice I don't have, just forget it. I can't make the dish or the whole thing will be ruined. Putting in 3/4 cup onion when the recipe clearly calls for a 1/2 cup? That's just crazy talk! You get the idea.
But when I looked in my fridge and saw 4 oz of mushrooms, half a green bell pepper, half a red onion, cauliflower, and two celery stalks that were all going to go bad if I didn't use them, even I could come up with "stir-fry."
So I fired up some EVOO in a large skillet and got busy. I was pretty sure the cauliflower would take the longest to cook, so I dumped that in there. Then the onions and bell pepper and some garlic. (I was momentarily panicked when I realized I had leftover red and yellow onion. Do I use one? Both? I went with red only.) Then I dumped in some tamari sauce. Then the mushrooms.
The dish was looking pretty good. Edible, even. I was stoked. Look at me, cooking without a plan. So of course, I got cocky. I rummaged through the fridge and found some spinach and kale. And hearts of palm. And cooked lentils. And green onions.
I pulled it all out but doubt stopped me. Lentils, Dena? Really? Back in the fridge with those. And I'd already had the onion debate. I was sticking with red only. I'd never had a recipe call for adding hearts of palm to a stir-fry and I suspected if it was a good thing, I would have, so away with those as well.
That left spinach and kale. Greens are good. Healthy. I ripped up some kale and threw it in. So much, in fact, that I didn't leave room for spinach. Plus, the pan suddenly didn't look as appetizing with big chunks of green in there. Crap. Had I ruined it?
I let the kale wilt then removed it from the heat. Only then did it occur to me to taste the dish. I know all cooks are supposed to taste as you go, but I've never seen the point. Even if my food is bad or missing something, I would have no idea what that something might be or how to fix it, so why bother? TRUST THE RECIPE, that's my motto.
So I only tasted the stir-fry after it was out of the pan. And you know what? Not bad! Maybe a little bland, but not by much. Blair and I have discussed that I should have my own cooking show on the Food Network called "Good Enough," (Tag line: If it's edible, you've done your job) and this dish would certainly be a contender.
Did I enjoy cooking on the fly? Um, kind of. What calmed me down was knowing that all of these vegetables were going to get thrown out by the end of the week if I didn't use them, so even if the dish was crap, all I'd really done was speed up the process.
I don't think I'll be tackling cakes or quiches on the fly anytime soon but hey--I cooked. Without a net! And it was more then good enough.