JUNE 4 2011

This year, like every year, New Year's Eve came and went without me ever considering what to declare as my "resolution", something I should do or change for 2011. I know that's the tradition, but I've never given it much thought. Why must I change my life today? Why not in March or October when the mood strikes me to exercise more or take a trip or whatever it is people resolve to do? This year, the thunderbolt came around three days ago when I was flipping through a cookbook I've had for about a year and quite enjoy, The Frankies Spuntino : Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual. I've made a few things from this book that have all been awesome and was blown away by their restaurant, where I spent an evening for a friend's wedding.

Maybe, I thought, I should make all the recipes in this cookbook. Yes!!

This is the result. Today I start my summer resolution to cook every recipe in the Frankies cookbook. And I've set one important rule for myself. I must cook it exactly as the recipe states, no substitutions, no throwing in 10 additional ingredients. If the recipe calls for white pepper, I had better go buy some. Grapeseed oil? No, canola oil will not work. One whole cup of olive oil? Measure it out! (This summer could possibly go down in history as "The Summer we OD'ed on Olive Oil")

Why am I doing this? I guess I'm hoping to learn a few things and challenge myself. I've been cooking for years and have gone through all the stages from tentatively trying to sear a pork chop to spending 8 hours laboriously assembling six types of sliders each with a different homemade bun and paired condiments. Last summer, I think I finally matured as a cook when I decided to just relax! If I use high quality ingredients and let them shine, the food will be good.

But, I had developed some bad habits that are proving hard to kick. Let's just say, simplicity is not my forte. I can't make a salad without compulsively adding every type of veggie, nut and cheese in the fridge. The results are often a muddled mess. So, by forcing myself to stick to the recipe, I hope to convince myself that I don't need all the extras. That a salad with only arugula, pecorino cheese and red wine vinaigrette can be delicious!

Also, I've been cooking for years and, as they say, the bloom is off the rose. I need a little novelty! And a challenge (ie chapter 8: desserts). So, as much as I hope to learn something, I also just want to throw some excitement into planning dinner. How many recipes can I use in one meal? Where do I get 6 pound of veal bones or Castelrosso cheese? Poring over a cookbook is, to me, an excellent way to spend an afternoon, but now it's even more fun because I also have to scheme how best to complete my goal.

So, it starts today! Per my count, there are 89 94 recipes in the book including eight desserts and two drinks. They range from ridiculously simple roasted carrots to a 2 day braised lamb ragu over homemade pasta. I will cook every one of them before the end of the summer with a grande finale sometime in September where I will make the ever-so-important "Sunday Sauce" and invite everyone I know.

So... what should I make first????

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