People sometimes tell me they feel that cooking is difficult or intimidating, especially if you put the word gourmet in front of it. I say cooking can be as easy as you want it to be, just take a little time to think about what you enjoy.
My philosophy in the kitchen has always been practical and healthy. Like many other people, I multi-task and quite often I resort to doing what’s quick, delicious, and easy. What I find really helpful is to create what I call a kitchen map, sort of a Mise en Place, or a plan.
Planning is not just for business or big projects. It is beneficial anytime and especially during the holiday season when stress levels can increase because of family traditions and social gatherings.
When planning small, medium, or large get-togethers, the principle is the same. Start with the number of guests you will be serving, and then follow that with your menu plan.
If you make a habit of sitting down at your kitchen table or counter to plan your menu and from here you create a shopping list, then what follows is how you will be serving that meal. My plan often includes thinking outside the box on how I will present the food, what dinnerware I use, and so on.
I am not always thinking about uniformity at the table, but rather to create something eclectic with a global flair. I opt for bringing elements together that include not just food, but dishes and utensils that may not necessarily be used for the purpose I choose. I think in terms of color and texture, and everything usually falls into place.
It’s relatively simple for artistic minds, but it may be challenging for those who don’t have this ability, so the plan becomes more important as it allows anyone to be competent in the kitchen.
Next time you plan your next soirée, think about minimizing stress for yourself. Making a plan may seem overly simplistic to some, but if your goal is to prepare something special for your dear ones, then take it seriously and have fun while doing it. With proper planning, you’ll soon discover that you are able to enjoy the year-end festivities with family and friends even more.
Here’s a super easy first course that it simple, elegant and straightforward to help your creative mind get started!
Recipe by Chef Amalia Moreno-Damgaard
This salad can be modified according to your taste. You can start with the lettuce of choice plus other ingredients that you may prefer. You can also make the salad below into a main course by adding more ingredients and a protein such as grilled salmon or chicken.
1 head Bibb lettuce, separated, washed
10 cherry tomatoes (red, yellow, orange)
½ cup celery hearts, finely chopped
1 avocado, pitted, in cubes
1 can hearts of palm, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
½ lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Divide ingredients in half.
Assembly. Begin with the lettuce and layer the rest of the ingredients sparingly on top.
Add olive oil, lemon, juice, kosher salt, and pepper to taste right before serving.
AMALIA’S KITCHEN text & photos by chef and author Amalia Moreno-Damgaard. Her cookbook “Amalia’s Guatemalan Kitchen-Gourmet Cuisine With A Cultural Flair” has won 9 international awards. AmaliaLLC.com