I bought my first computer in 1995, for the explicit purpose of scanning recipes from food magazines I had saved. I knew computers were available earlier, but I needed two accessories in addition to accomplish my goal: (1) a high-quality scanner, and (2) software with OCR capability to enable me to search recipes by ingredients.
Since those days we know how much technology has expanded, and we see so many resources available through the internet that the information available to us foodies has exploded exponentially. I have about 7,000 recipes collected in my food files on Dropbox now, so I can access them from computers or smartphones wherever I am able to connect. This collection is curated. I only add dishes I have made and enjoyed, or ones I have found that I think we will like. They come from my cookbooks, food blogs, friends and family, newspapers, YouTube videos, and my own experimentation.
So what? Why this preamble?
Tonight’s dinner — Moroccan Eggplant and Olive Tagine — was relatively straightforward and very successful. It has been in my files since August, 2013, but this was the first time I tried it. I’d like to use this as an example to illustrate how multiple methods of organizing all these data provides a variety of ways to keep your cooking fresh and exciting.
One of those many organizing techniques was the creative gift my wife gave me for my birthday several years ago. She had taken the printed copies of recipes I used often (or had planned to try), sorted them by category, did the three-hole punch routine, placed the paper in plastic sleeves, and filled two large loose-leaf notebooks (each 5-inches thick). These books included some of the photos from the magazine clippings or internet postings, in addition to the ingredients/instructions for many recipes. Each book contained over 200 recipes — numbered and listed in the Index.
As a result I sometimes choose to BROWSE these books for inspiration, and that’s how I selected #21 — tonight’s Tagine. I knew I wanted something different, featuring Eggplant. I could have easily searched my computerized files using that keyword, but there are so many dishes in the files that I might not have focused on this dish. Browsing enabled me to see it, so it’s a supplemental way to search — slower, but more visual, more contemplative. Not unlike leafing through a cookbook, another browsing approach I use to explore.
Ah, yes…the dish.
I must apologize for the photos. We were so enamored with eating that I did not get any of my usual photos showing preparation or the finished results on the plate. As I was putting away the small amount of leftovers, I did get enough to show you the key elements — Tagine, Quinoa, and pan-seared lemon wedge.
The wine was a marvelous new rosé (Grenache and Mourvedre) from Villa Creek in Paso Robles. Another footnote is that we did not have any chickpeas handy, so I substituted beans already cooked and available. They were Alubia Blanca beans, a small, white Spanish bean from Rancho Gordo. I think they were even better.