When Culinary Inspiration Strikes

It’s not always easy to say what inspires me when cooking. Whenever I cook something that requires more than three ingredients, my roommate asks me how I “thought of that” — and I don’t usually have an answer. Certainly I pick up techniques from television and food blogs, and a visit to my local Greenmarket is often inspiring, and through experience I’ve learned what I think goes well together. That’s not to say I always know what I’m going to do with ingredients that I pick up at the farmer’s market. In fact, sometimes I pick up an ingredient only to find myself at a loss as to what, exactly, I’m going to use it for. Once in a great while, though, I find an ingredient and I know EXACTLY what I want to do. Take these pole beans, for example. As soon as I held one in my hands, I thought that it had the shape, the color, and the feel of fresh pasta. And the dish jumped into my mind.

So here’s what I did. I made some of my basic tomato sauce, jazzed up with some chopped mushrooms and some lemon juice. I boiled some fresh pasta in salted water, and about two minutes before the pasta was ready I added handfuls of trimmed pole beans (both white and green). I wanted them cooked through, but not mushy. Then I tossed the cooked pasta and beans with the tomato sauce, and topped it with some grated pecorino cheese. The result was exactly what had hoped for — the blend of shapes, flavors, and textures made for a great dish. I hope I get that kind of culinary inspiration more often. And I have to ask: What inspires you to cook?

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