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Olive oil, salt, and pepper

June 15, 2012

In classic French cooking, many recipes begin with carrots, onions, and celery. This combination, also known as mirepoix, is sort of the holy trinity of classic cooking.

Contemporary cooking, I’ve come to believe, is based on another holy trinity—olive oil, salt, and pepper. (Or maybe it’s California cooking—what do you think?)

I mean, is there any decent recipe these days that doesn’t begin with olive oil, salt, and pepper? And is there any meat or vegetable that isn’t fantastic with just that simple preparation?

I first learned the beauty of this triad from my dad, and touched on it in last year’s Father’s Day post. But it’s been confirmed many times since.

A few years ago, for example, we were preparing for an upcoming luncheon at the now-defunct COPIA. We tried our grilled steak entrée two ways—fancied up with an herb rub and simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper. About eight of us from the food and wine teams tasted both, and which steak do you think was the hands-down favorite? Yep—olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Hands down.

Here’s a related lesson, also learned at my father’s table—while you’re grilling your chicken, fish, steaks, or chops for dinner, there’s no easier summer side dish than grilled vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper (pictured here).

But this holy trinity isn’t appropriate for just grilling. It’s great for anything pan-seared, sautéed, or roasted, too. Sometimes I think I could live on roasted vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Occasionally I enhance the olive oil, salt, and pepper combo by adding herbs or draping something like pesto or salsa over my otherwise-simply-prepared foods. But that’s icing on the cake.

If I start with good ingredients, a simple preparation of the neo-holy trinity lets their inherent deliciousness shine.

Thanks, dad. And happy Father’s Day.

Grilled Vegetables

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