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Flavour Guy: The hallmarks of a refrigerator chef

You see an empty fridge. A refrigerator chef sees possibilities.

You see an empty fridge. A refrigerator chef sees possibilities.

So, a man walks into a bar and says … (and at this point, dear reader, you can supply a favourite story). Actually, a man opens a refrigerator and says: “What can I make for dinner?” This is different from a woman opening the refrigerator and asking: “What are we having for dinner?”

The man is engaged in an act of creation. The woman just wants to get something on the table. For the man, a meal is a problem to be solved, preferably with some degree of creativity.

The goal is not to get food on the table, it is to get his mate to remark: “Peanut butter lasagna” (and I do know a man who once made that) “How did you ever think of that?” The true refrigerator chef is incapable of separating irony from admiration.

So a man opens a fridge and sees a 5-day-old, poorly wrapped parcel of cilantro, a container of yesterday’s sliced potatoes and mixed vegetables, and a piece of sausage that looked really interesting in that Portuguese supermarket the other weekend. If he is smart, he throws out the cilantro—shades of grey may make for an interesting conversation but it is usually an indication of unhealthy herbs.

The rest can be tossed together as a fry-up. Add an egg and we have a frittata. Put it on some dough and slide it into a very hot oven and we have a pretty decent pizza.

The key is to know where you want to go and be willing to experiment to get there; off-road driving is preferred.

The true refrigerator chef knows that this journey—from refrigerator to dinner—should also provide an interesting experience.

“Yeah, it might have been better without a tablespoon of Tabasco, but I thought that would give the salad dressing some zest.”

Anyone can follow a recipe and make a good vinaigrette with olive oil and vinegar, salt, garlic and a dash of Dijon to bind it together.

Tabasco reveals the soul of the refrigerator chef, who, true to his calling, is always trying to kick it up a notch. Knowledge, while helpful, is not essential. Chutzpah is, gumption is, wilful—even stubborn—creativity is his hallmark.

So a man walks into a bar and says—of course the true refrigerator chef knows that there can only be one ending to this story. A man walks into a bar and says … ouch.

 

Salad Balconville

As I write this, although we are in the midst of days of falling snow, I am informed that spring has arrived. I have had enough of winter’s austere fare with sides of colourful but tasteless imported veggies.

I am salivating for a simple salad of lettuce and thickly sliced tomatoes topped with a peeling of parmesan. Over this, a sprinkling of coarse salt, splashes of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, bits of freshly torn basil and maybe a grating of black pepper to “kick it up a notch.”

To satisfy my heart’s desire, everything must be fresh (well, 2-year-old cheese is fine). In particular I yearn for locally grown, plump but not too firm tomatoes. This will be worth waiting for.

Once made, I want to let this sit a bit so that the tomato juices, salt, oil and vinegar meld at the bottom of the dish. A crusty baguette will be very useful for soaking this up after the salad is eaten.

This is a dish for eating outside, on one of those warm spring days for which Montrealers lust.

There should a picnic, or at least a perch in Balconville. Nothing can be better.

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