Improvising in the kitchen

I’m roasting a chicken tonight.  It’s Saturday, the kids are napping, and I want to get a head start on dinner while it is quiet.  It’s a bright sunny afternoon and I’ve put on Bach’s solo cello suites,  the perfect ambiance for a little improvising in the kitchen.  I get the most satisfaction from improvising while cooking.  It’s part challenge, part creativity and all gut.  I just love it.  You obviously need to have ingredients to work with, but you also need to draw on something for inspiration.  And that is why I love browsing the internet and thumbing through cookbooks.  I rarely follow a recipe to a T, but I always draw on them when creating my own.

I want to make a side that will accompany tonight’s roast.  I want lots of veggies, roasted in the oven with a little something extra so we wont feel like potatoes or bread are needed…  What is in the fridge?  Hmm, a can of chickpeas from yesterdays lunch.  And I went grocery shopping yesterday, so the possibilities are almost endless.  I’ve also been looking through Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook this morning, so all of the parts are in place.

This is what I came up with.  You can follow the recipe, or use it as inspiration for your own improvising session in the kitchen.   Maybe some cauliflower?  Maybe turnips?  Different herbs?  Or maybe some cumin seeds?  So many possibilities!  Have fun!

I used:

  • 4 carrots
  • 2 red onions
  • one fennel bulb
  • a head of garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • one lemon
  • about a cup of chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • a good hand full of parsley



And this is how I put it together:

I preheated the oven to 375º.

I cut the carrots into sticks and the onions into wedges, then drizzled on some olive oil (about 2 tbsp) and sprinkled with salt, pepper, some thyme and rosemary.  I put them to roast for 10 minutes.



Then I added the sliced fennel, garlic cloves, the zest from the lemon, and on went more olive oil (2-3 tbsp), salt, pepper and thyme.  Back into the oven.  20 minutes later, I took the pan out and added the chickpeas, parsley, and capers and squeezed on the juice from the lemon I’d zested.  Back into the over for another 10 minutes.   Now the taste test…  Perfect!!  Ok, maybe a bit more salt, but otherwise, delicious.  I will roast it for a final 10-15 minutes when the chicken is almost done.


Of course, I could have done it all while the chicken cooks, but I wouldn’t have had the right atmosphere for improvising or the light for photographing it.  Looking forward to dinner!

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