The pervasive expectation that women should absorb the role of June Cleaver the dutiful housewife sank long ago, but a blind eye shouldn’t be turned to the fact that a woman’s approach to preparing food can actually say a lot about her (calm your bra burnin’ britches– this sentiment merely suggests that I’ve noticed a few sociological patterns corresponding to ways in which women get their cook on).
The Mistress of the Microwave: She piles her grocery cart high with Hot Pockets, Lean Cuisines, and everything fuss-free. Once home, she stores her loot in oversized freezers meant for deer carcasses because the average freezer isn’t built for women of her kind. Often overworked and exhausted, she lets her loyalties lie with the things that matter to her, none of which include food prep that requires effort beyond punching numbers on a keypad and removing plastic wrap. Just because her eating habits are low maintenance doesn’t mean she is.
The Eggs-n-Bacon Babe She’s great with the staples: eggs and bacon, mac and cheese, pasta and canned marinara. She gets an “A” for effort, but lacks inspiration across the board. She sees food as fuel, and doesn’t concern herself with variety or experimentation (caution: may hold true in other domains of her life as well). She tends to be a rule follower, and rarely goes above and beyond the call of duty to impress anyone. She sticks to what she knows and what she’s good at.
The Fad Diet Punisher: She hops from fad diet to fad diet like a frog diagnosed with ADHD, proclaiming her love for the flavor of the week (Shakeology, juice cleanse, gluten-free, grapefruit– you name it) by making her loved ones suffer right along with her. Her admirable desire to be healthy manifests in semi-neurotic ways, and she has a difficult time hiding her vanity. She is hard-working and dedicated– until something better or more promising comes around. Her kitchen pantry is decidedly one-note, showcasing whatever the moment’s commitment is and nothing more. What if you try to break free of her diet plan Shawshank Redemption style? Expect her to go heavy on the shaming, complete with a carefully crafted mini funeral pyre for that last unopened bag of Cheetos you tried to hide from her. Watch out, kids, mommy’s on a juicing bender!
The Spice Girl (Wannabe): She speaks fluent culinary jargon, dines at the finest restaurants, and has a (never-been-used) sous vide immersion cooker on full display in her pristine kitchen, but when it comes to skills, her presentation doesn’t match her performance. She’s passionate and eager to learn, but looks like an awkward duck while attempting to julienne an onion. Her hubris and desire to impress are at times obnoxious, but forgiven in the name of education. She has so much room for growth, and she’s determined to fill the gap (even though she won’t admit the former OR the latter part of that statement).
The Ina Garten: She’s a masterful cook. And she will instantly make you feel insecure about your own culinary aptitude. She experiments like a mad scientist, pushing the envelop to create amazing things with the freshest ingredients money can buy. She can often be found in her natural habitat (the kitchen) doing what she does best. She is a rare breed in reality and exists ALMOST exclusively on the Food Network. She is not immune to failure, but even her kitchen fails tend to be prettier/tastier/better than some of your finest kitchen achievements.
Whatever your approach to cooking, I believe that every woman (and man!) should have one recipe she keeps stuffed in her back pocket for those times she wants to elicit the “wow factor” without spending hours agonizing in her kitchen. This recipe should be deceptively simple, delicious, appealing to the eye, impressive, and easily memorizable. You don’t need to be an Ina to produce it, but it certainly requires more effort than slapping a box on a dirty microwave turntable.
The following recipe is that “one” for me. It’s a fool-proof tastebud pleaser that draws fans back for seconds. The hardest part is waiting for the oven to hit 400 degrees.
Walnut Encrusted Honey Dijon Salmon
Serves 4 (or two hungry hungry hippos)
4 fresh salmon filets (with skin on botton)
Salt and pepper to season
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
2 heaping Tablespoons coursely ground dijon mustard
2 heaping Tablespoons lavender honey
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking dish with aluminum foil or parchment paper
2. Place salmon filets skin side down on the foil/parchment
3. Season filets with salt and pepper (use your hands to rub seasoning into the meat for greater depth of flavor)
4. In a small bowl, mix together melted butter, dijon mustard, and honey
5. Generously coat the tops and sides of filets with the wet ingredient mixture
6. In a separate bowl, mix together bread crumbs and walnuts
7. Sprinkle dry ingredient mixture over filets until fully covered
8. Bake salmon for about 15 minutes, or until salmon flakes easily with a fork (since salmon filets often vary in thickness, it’s very important to check salmon periodically after about 12 minutes have passed; some filets may cook through more quickly than others!)
9. Use a knife to remove the skin before eating
10. Slice lemon into wedges and squeeze juice lightly over filets
11. Serve with remaining lemon wedges