Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Cooking or Baking (01/04/07)
TITLE: Rockin' Rice
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Lauren (radio talk show host): Today I invite our listening audience join us for a live interview with chef Alicia Morgan, author of the best-selling book Concept Cooking. Alicia prepares tantalizing dishes WITHOUT RECIPES, and she’s here to talk about this acquired skill. Alicia, welcome to our studio!
Alicia: Thank you, Lauren. It’s great to be here.
Lauren: You must be quite a risk-taker – no recipes!
Alicia: (laughs) It’s not so scary, really. Using concepts to prepare food involves learning a few basic rules and then daring to experiment!
Lauren: So did someone inspire you to pursue cooking this way?
Alicia: Actually my grandmother was a resourceful farm wife and a role model; she dreamed up lots of delicious meals in her kitchen based on what she had on hand.
Lauren: In your book you mention experimenting “under cover” – in other words, presenting dishes to your family as “a new recipe” when in reality they were your own concoctions. How did this get started?
Alicia: Good question! As a young mother I had very little free time or opportunity to be creative, so the kitchen became my playground. I started altering familiar recipes and then making up my own, but initially didn’t have the courage to admit what I was doing. Eventually I learned I could trust myself.
Lauren: So do you ever use recipes now?
Alicia: I rely on my recipe file for baked goods simply because the proportions of ingredients are more critical. But mostly everything else I prepare by “feel.”
Lauren: Wow, that’s amazing! Can you describe a dish you recently invented?
Alicia: (chuckles) Right before I came to the studio I whipped up a little something as a demo.
Lauren: You’re kidding!
Alicia: Let me grab my lunch cooler – just a second – here it is.
Lauren: (laughs) Too bad folks out there, I’ll have to eat your share!!
Alicia: Here you go …. open this container and ….
Lauren: I can smell something yummy!
Alicia: (laughs) So grab this fork and dig in!
Lauren: It looks like…
Alicia: Now don’t give it away!
Lauren: All right, here goes.
Alicia: (whispers) Listening audience, here’s the truth. Lauren is eating leftovers combined to make a scrumptious on-the-go cold lunch!
Alicia: Like it?
Lauren: Absolutely! So I think it’s time for you to tell us what this IS, and how you knew it would turn out so well.
Alicia: Well, let’s get down to a basic concept, using this salad as an example.
Lauren: (laughs) SALAD! So that’s what you call it?
Alicia: Yeah, lots of crazy mixtures can pass for salads!
Lauren: Let’s hear about the CONCEPT that helped you create whatever this is I’m eating. Oh, does it have a name?
Alicia: Only if YOU want to give it one!
Lauren: Gosh, I’ll have to think about that. Go ahead.
Alicia: I guess I’ll share my abbreviated salad tutorial. In restaurants, salad bars often offer greens and other chopped vegetables, but also raisins, croutons or rice noodles, eggs or cheese, sunflower seeds or nuts, and dressings. So if we form loose categories, that means our CONCEPT of salad could include combinations of fresh vegetables, fruit, grain, protein, nuts and dressings – any or all of these things.
Lauren: (pauses) Ah, are these things components of the - - - ”Rockin’ Rice Salad?” That’s it! What a great name!
Alicia: (laughs) Okay, let’s go with “Rockin’ Rice” for the name, and yes, in this case ingredients from each category were included.
Lauren: What e-x-a-c-t-l-y did you use to create this salad?
Alicia: Here’s what happened. I looked in the frig, and there was a bowl of leftover brown and wild rice I cooked for dinner last night as well as some chopped Bermuda onion, carrot, and red pepper I used to top a spinach salad. So I threw the rice and chopped veggies together, added handfuls of grapes, shredded cheddar and pecans - and then tossed it all in homemade celery seed dressing I keep on hand. See? Grain, veggies, fruit, protein, nuts, dressing – its all there!
Lauren: And you knew it would be good?
Alicia: Of course! It has all good things in it, so how can it be bad?
Lauren: So there you have it folks, the un-recipe for “Rockin’ Rice Salad!” Please stay tuned during this commercial break and we’ll soon be back to learn more from Alicia Morgan about the fine art of concept cooking!
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