I love cooking for other people. I pretty much blame my Mom for that one.
After eating in several different homes, restaurants, and countries, I like to think I’ve tasted my fair share of delicacies. Through it all, Mom’s cooking has always been the standard. Even when I’m trying to be objective, it’s easy to say that all of Mom’s dishes are superb; she is just a fantastic cook. Getting to have company over was my favorite, because it meant a huge spread of Mom’s best dishes: fresh salads chock-full of crisp veggies, silky mashed potatoes she made by hand, bright boiled corn with melty butter, thick cuts of tender, juicy meat (clearly this is before I went veg), and something sweet and satisfying for dessert. All these years later, the memory of her food still leaves my mouth watering. Half the fun of visiting home is to see what’s new in her kitchen, what flavors she’s loving, and what dishes she’s created.
What I love almost more than all her delicious food, though, is watching her make it. To this day, I’ll sit at the table or on the counter and am mesmerized watching her whirl around the kitchen. She’s like a composer, with full command over an orchestra of players, bringing all the individual flavors and ingredients together to create a powerful symphony of flavor and texture. I’ve forever admired her confidence and skill when it comes to cooking; her instincts and sureness seem to be sixth and seventh senses.
Moving into my own apartment after college has afforded me the opportunity to really try out my cooking chops. Mom has been nothing but supportive – transcribing recipes, recommending cook books, and sending tools and supplies. I’ve made some standard dishes, some very good dishes, and some t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e dishes, but each time, my confidence in my own abilities has only increased.
Having a place to invite others over to share my own spread of successes, a la Mom? Well, that’s just the cherry on top.
I made this recipe for a friend who came over to catch up over a home cooked meal. My first time making it, I had blindly rummaged through my product drawers and only half-paid attention while cooking it before offering it up to my fearless taste tester (FH). After his vote of approval, I was excited to serve this to our guest. What was more exciting, though, was how comfortable I was sauteing, chopping, and topping – all while carrying on a pleasant conversation with our guest.
Veggie Taco Filling
This is such a versatile recipe. My favorite way to enjoy this is over a bowl of chopped spinach, some steamed rice, and crumbled tortilla chips. Its versatility is sure to please whoever might be coming over for dinner!
Vegan/Parve or Vegetarian/Dairy, depending on the toppings you use. Makes 6-8 tacos or 2-4 salads.
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or margarine, for frying
- 2 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1/3 large onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- 1 medium zucchini, halved then sliced
- 1 can dark red kidney beans
- 1/2 packet of your choice taco seasoning (I’m sure you can make your own from scratch, but we’re keeping it easy here!)
- Any toppings you might want, i.e., shredded cheese, sour cream, taco sauce, salsa, etc.
- Heat the oil or margarine in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute until softened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the pepper and zucchini to the skillet, stirring to combine with the garlic and onion. Allow the mixture to cook until the pepper and zucchini are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the beans.
- Add your taco seasoning and mix thoroughly. Cover and turn heat to low while you prepare your toppings and shells/spinach – however you’ll be enjoying the filling!
People have always told me how much I’m like my Mom: her eyes, her smile, her nature. That’s something I’ve always treasured. While making this recipe, though, I actually began to feel like her: confident, competent, and presiding over an orchestra all my own.
We have some guests coming over tonight, and I’m at a loss as to what to make. Would it be lazy if I made this? …I’m thinking not 😉 Have a great rest of the day, everyone!
Your Turn: Who did you learn your cooking skills from? Mom, Dad, Grandparent? I know a girl who learned the most from her roommate in college – they made the most amazing dishes in their dorm room using only their microwave. Hardcore.