A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor called the sudden interest in the theater of food and the culinary arts in America a sort of "Italian Renaissance in food an intellectual elevation that is turned into something durable through media." But is it really a Renaissance or is it that we finally get it here in the US? We finally understand what Europeans have known for may years.
We finally have come to understand that food is not just for eating to satisfy hunger; food is art, food is life, food is a conduit for social and family gatherings and memories. Think of how many memories you have that are tied to a recipe or food, or how your mood changes when you eat a specific food or dish.
I recently did a live demonstration at an event that involved cooking a few recipes and was amazed at how many people came to watch a chef putting together a few recipes and talking about the memories associated with these dishes. But many, many restaurants, culinary centers, and events put on cooking shows regularly. It has become an art that is critiqued by critics, showcased on stage.
People don't just go to the supermarket to get their frozen dinner: they plant their own gardens, pick their own produce, get it to their table, and prepare their meals with it...in true art fashion. But I am not complaining, it's great that we have caught up with the rest of the world!
It is all about expressing your own creativity through food, creating your own dishes. And when you take out a cookbook or watch a cooking show, try the same recipes, adding a dash of your own style, flavor or creativity and experience your own food renaissance. Make it your recipe!
Here's one to start. This simple appetizer uses mushrooms,scallions, and Comté cheese. Experiment by using different cheeses and vegetables instead of the mushrooms,scallions and Comté. Use your imagination and share your creations with us!Mushroom Tarts (from The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions, 2nd edition)
¾ pound fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
Pinch of salt and black pepper
1 large puff pastry strip, or 4 small strips
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces grated Comté cheese
3 finely chopped leeks
You'll also need four small ceramic or glass baking cups, about four inches in diameter.
Peel and finely chop the scallions. Carefully wash, clean, and thinly slice the mushrooms. Place 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan and sauté the scallions over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and let simmer until all liquid has been absorbed. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and let cool.
Use the remaining butter to butter the baking cups. Place puff pastry in baking cups to cover the bottom and sides of cups. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, pinch of nutmeg, pinch of salt, and grated Comté cheese.
Cover bottom of each pastry-lined baking cup with mushroom slices, then cover with chopped leeks. Pour egg mixture on top.
Cook in oven preheated to 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then for an additional 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
Best served hot.