Friday, April 13, 2012

Flirtation in Aisle 5

'Cooking with love' is not only the goal of every cook, but, the phrase refers also to the process of 'getting there.' The journey we find ourselves on is really like a love affair; we begin with an attraction, develope a familiarity which, we pray, blossoms into a romance.
But, before we get to a head-over-heels, eyes rolling back in your head, swooning affair, we need to do a little flirting.
"O.K., chef...where the HELL are you going with this?!"
Grocery shopping. Go grocery shopping.
Pop culture says the market is a great place for pick-ups, but, I'm not talking about suburban Cougars. 
Nay, the sweet hook-up is with animal protein, bright vegetables and succulent fruit.  Wine is for consumption, not bait, on this kind of hunt. 

Walk into your local market and see what catches your eye; listen to the Siren calls, tempting you from the seafood case.  Allow yourself the seductions of the produce section.  Mosey on over to the meat cases. 

Who will you take home tonight...?

Yeah, those sausages are perfectly lined up and plump as the fingers on a third-baseman's glove, but, I'm feelin' those chops right next to you.  What's not to love about a grilled, thick-cut pork loin chop with a sprinkling of seasonings and grill marks scored into juicy flesh?  Tempting yes, but, I need to see what else is available...ooh, freshly ground pork and beef!  I could make a killer meatloaf with eggs, breadcrumbs and a smattering of diced remnant veggies at the bottom of my crisper section.  It's kind of nice out, though, and meatloaf is more of a 'hunker-down' dish...I need to grill something...

...well, helll-oooo, Salmon!  Three steps down the meat case is the seafood display with a short guy in white lab coat, bouncing around like a boxer before round one.  He's hawking Spring Chinook with the skill of a carnival barker selling tickets to see the Fat Lady. 
"Line caught, never frozen, RIGHT here!"  he calls while arranging shaved ice with a scoop around the green plastic grass border.  We make eye contact and he sees I've taken the bait.  It's 'Fish-On!' for him...

"Hey, buddy, lookin' for some nice salmon tonight.  Well, lemme tell ya, this was caught just off Lincoln City and couldn't be any fresher.  Ya like ta grill?  Well, this'll grill up real nice, all ya gotta do is..." he continues for minutes while I ponder whole fish or filet, checking eyes and gills for fresh, bright colors.  No slime, it's not river fish from the reservation, that's for sure.

" could marinate it in teriyaki, like I like to do or just..." he went on, sensing he hadn't landed me yet.

I interrupt him and go for a four pound side with the darkest color and flesh unseparated.  Sometimes during handling, the guys will bend the sides (name for an entire half of a fish cut from gills to tailfin) causing the meat to segment and split open.  Not aesthetically pleasing.

"Pin bones out?" he offers.
"Nah, thanks anyway."  I like to pull my own teeny pinbones out; wouldn't want a hurried salesman to blemish this gem with his version of 'Operation.'

He places her on the scale, gets a weight, wraps her tightly in freezer paper, prints out the price sticker and gently places it on the center of the filet.  His manner has changed, like he just delivered a baby, there is a wave of serenity washing over him.  He rubs the price sticker for an extra half-second, as if saying goodbye to an old flame. 
"There you go," he softly intones, "have a nice dinner" and gently slides my filet across the stainless counter.

She's a beaut, I think to myself.  The family will be very impressed with my 'date.'  Dress her up for dinner with a light dusting of seasoning blend to bring out a blush and spritz her with a few sqeezes of fresh lime to give her some POP!

We head for the checkout counter, her cool flesh securely tucked under my forearm.  I smile at the clerk and ask her to handle my gal gently; she's a delicate flower.  We stroll towards the front and as the automatic doors slide open, I begin to croon a Nat King Cole hit:
"...arm-in-arm over meadow and farm, walking my baby back home..."

Take care, God bless and remember:
"Food, Faith, Family and Friends,
the Best Things in Life aren't Things!"


No comments: