Take Five

The ambition of every good cook must be to make something very good with the fewest possible ingredients.
- Urbain Dubois

I read today that “You’re a combination of the five people you spend the most time with.” For me, that evokes a combination of fear and relief. These emotions present themselves in the same sense that they do with my parents – being afraid that I’ve inherited only the bad qualities from both, while being glad that there are good qualities in each to which I’ve been exposed. Unfortunately, these things aren’t like items on a buffet line – “Yes, I’ll have some of the humor…but I think I’ll pass on the temper today”, but I do think it’s possible to learn from what you see in the people around you and then make the choice on whether or not to let them integrate your personality.

For instance, I know that if I had the opportunity to adopt my husband’s positive nature and ability to enter a room and change the atmosphere within seconds, thereby drawing people in and making them happier, I’d take it. On the flip side, if I am faced with taking on the characteristic of my mother and how easily she gets ruffled (that is, if I don’t already possess that quality), I’d politely decline. All in all, I know that the five people I spend the most time with – my husband, my friend Jessi, my mother and her husband, and our animals (do they count?) – I’d undoubtedly be pleased at the concoction which would result from very different and unique perspectives, tastes, and personalities.

On a similar note, think of the five ingredients you use most, or the five meals you eat most. Couldn’t these be taken into consideration the same way people are? They are based on your choosing (and I’m led to believe most of us have the ability to choose who we spend time with, as opposed to being forced into companionship); they are more likely than not all the same, or at the very least they’ll have some notable differences; they are undoubtedly called up for different reasons, based on different moods; and they are always reliable and available.

On any given day, you can look in my kitchen and find the following five items: chicken broth, edamame, pasta, cheese, and sweet potatoes. This does not include the snack staples such as tortilla chips, popcorn, and fruit. I’m talking about ingredients that I always have on hand. Now, obviously these are not ingredients that could necessarily be thrown together to create a meal. Close, but not quite…and a meal comprised of those five things is certainly not balanced.

In terms of the five meals we eat most in our house, based on convenience, ease, and most importantly, preference, I’d quickly rattle off chicken pot pie, baked pasta, steaks, salmon, and beef stroganoff. This certainly doesn’t mean we eat nothing but those five things – but on average, that’s what pops up the most. Reason? We can pull each of them together in less than 30 minutes, with little effort and minimal cleanup afterwards.

There's also the matter of the 5-ingredient meal - this has almost become a game in our home, a challenge of sorts - especially when it's time for a trip to the grocery store or farmer's market and I'm trying to cull together a meal with the odds and ends we have around the house. This recipe came about on such a night.

Steakhouse Stuffed Potato

Medium baking potatoes scrubbed and pierced several times with a fork
Steaks (any cut you prefer I used filets)
Crumbled blue cheese
Prepared horseradish

Salt & pepper to taste

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake potatoes until tender, approximately 35 minutes.

- Meanwhile, grill or pan sear steaks to preferred level of doneness (I did medium-rare) and slice into thin strips.
- Remove baked potatoes from oven and allow to cool briefly, then slice the top of the potato lengthwise and scoop out the pulp into a medium mixing bowl.
- Mash potatoes with butter, blue cheese, and horseradish, and then fold steak slices into mixture.
- Scoop mixture into potato shells and return to the oven for 10 minutes or until potatoes are slightly browned on top (may use broiler function for this).