I always find myself favoring Nigella Lawson‘s philosophy towards cooking – that it is something one does out of pleasure, is about fun and the enjoyment of life, that it is supposed to be relaxing and not rigidly stressful. True, cooking is an art – and even a science – but what’s the point of living it if it only creates tension and is not enjoyable?
Not that I’m biased towards her, but she has a very meaningful point there.
So, recently, while I was feeling unmotivated to cook or innovate recipes (I prepare most of the food I eat now), I had the insight that if I don’t feel inspired, then so be it, let it go, and it will just come back. Otherwise, one runs the risk of “forcing” dishes, thereby fostering an air of pretentiousness, wasting one’s efforts and energies in creating something they do not really like anyway.
But on the other hand, I also realized that home-cooking innovation doesn’t have to be elaborate or that tastebud-tickling – just do what you feel like doing. If you don’t like it, then don’t make it next time, lesson learned. If you like it, then good for you, record it down and you could be a hit among your family and friends. 😉
I like the notion of just putting together what you have on hand – in fact, my favorite soup, minestrone, was and is the product of such. Nigella herself markets her 2007 Nigella Express recipe Noodle Soup for Needy People as one she makes with “whatever [she’s] got in the house”. This was the idea that came to my head for breakfast yesterday, when I felt as if I didn’t know whether the culinary Muses had gotten to me or not.
I started scouring through the fridges at home and found a half-finished packet of salami.
I first asked Manang Fely, our maid, to prepare just the salami, but I doubled back and thought that there must be a better way to enjoy it. So I asked her to make some toast as well.
On the way back to the verandah, I took out from the fridge a pack of cheese I bought from Japan. The package has two packets inside, containing the same product – a white-rinded cheese with a subtle taste that grows on you after a few moments.
When the toast and salami arrived, I felt that something else was missing. I went back and retrieved a bottle of Annette’s Mexican Salsa and a pack of cheese. The eponymous maker of the former is my best friend’s aunt, and they gave it to me.
I poured some of the salsa into the dip partition of the plate I had the salami placed in, then set to work on my experiment. I quartered each slice of bread – just enough to put one slice of salami on top. Then, I applied some salsa on top. Of course, in true responsibility fashion, I used the same knife I sliced my bread with (instead of getting a butter knife) for the salsa, but in the end I had to resort to using a teaspoon instead as I couldn’t get the liquid out using the knife anymore.
Hence, the name “salsami”. :p I then added a small slice of cheese to the whole thing and I knew it would be good.
I put the whole thing into my mouth at once to get the full taste in one bite. And, honestly, it was heavenly – three of my favorite tastes all at once, hitting me – the sweet nuttiness of the cheese, the cool sourness of the tomato, and the demure hotness of the salami. With the toast, the picture, or rather redolence, became completed.
And it wasn’t as if it tasted overwhelming. In fact, the flavors blended in perfect harmony with each other, no one taste attempting to overpower another. It was as if they were giving each other the chance to manifest in my mouth – in fact, my mouth is now watering as I write this.
Since I had three slices of toast, each quartered, I was able to make twelve of these little Italo-Mexican sandwiches. I even had some leftover salami, so I ate those on their own as an extra treat.
Unfortunately, I had insisted on finishing the whole pack of salami, so I won’t be able to make this again until we go to the supermarket or deli. But that’s to be expected, isn’t it? You make do with what you have, cleaning out the fridge and larder in the process. Then you restock them freshly, dig through them little by little, and the process repeats itself. Now that’s what I feel responsible cooking is like, and I adore people like Nigella for it – she insists on no wastage, and can turn what appears to be a (dis-)cornucopia of small quantities of leftover groceries into paradise-in-a-plate.
Toast with Salsami and Cheese
Cooking time: 5 minutes Prep time: 10 minutesIngredients:
- (2 slices) toasted bread, quartered
- (8 pcs.) sliced salami, or any similar sausage
- (1½ to 2 tbsp.) salsa
- any kind of sliced cheese, to serve
- Toast the bread for no longer than five (5) minutes, and cook the salami or sausage as directed.
- Arrange the cooked salami and cheese, as well as the salsa, on the side of the toasted bread.
- Place one piece of salami on top of the bread, followed by a slice of cheese. Pour a small amount of salsa on top, enough to cover the toppings but not to drip on the plate.
- Pop the whole thing into your mouth and relish the flavors. Having a pot of breakfast tea alongside would be a great idea, too.