5 Things I Learned About Cooking From Our Neighbors

Samosa time!
While Christopher and I have had some amazing experiences living abroad this year, one of the things we're going to cherish forever is our friendship with our neighbors Aleks and Greg. I seriously can't imagine this year without them.

We've had a lot of fun moments together, most of them involve cooking at each others' apartments (well, cooking at ours usually involves borrowing most of their kitchen gadgets and bringing their dining room table into our place, so we've kind of stopped doing that and just go over to theirs' most of the time...)

Our latest dinner party started around 2pm and lasted until midnight--it was pretty epic. Chef Greg taught us how to make spring rolls and samosas. I was going to dedicate this blog to the recipes for those dishes, but I figured I'd go deeper and talk about what I learned about cooking from the two of them. (If you really want the recipes, email me!)

Our fearless leaders & the spring rolls from scratch
1. It's fun to repurpose food- I used to stick to recipes exactly, but since living here and seeing how they cook, we now experiment with leftover ingredients. Have some extra veggies lying around? Cook them and toss into a pesto pasta. When we made spring rolls, they experimented the next day with the leftover wrappers and made baklava (Aleks reported it had a weird consistency but it wasn't bad.)

2. Cooking is an activity, not a chore- I used to huff and puff when I had to make dinner. It just wasn't one of my favorite things to do. But that's all changed this year. You know that quote "It's not about the destination, but the journey that counts?" Exactly....

3. Presentation is everything- (*Disclaimer- I also learned this one from watching a lot of Chopped episodes this year.) I used to plop food on the plate with no regard to how it looked, but it's amazing how much that affects the taste of the meal. I'm not saying I'm making these beautiful dishes with the brushed sauces that look like masterpieces (major props to anyone who does), but I'm definitely putting more of an effort into it so that what I'm serving doesn't look like mushy dog food.

Haha. They tasted the hot pepper ;)
4. Taste while you cook- You would have thought I would have learned that lesson a few years ago when I read the instructions wrong on a Food Network magazine recipe for potato salad and ended up adding a quarter cup of salt (yes, I'm still ashamed...) But I now understand how important it is to add spices here and there. Greg actually made his own garam masala for the samosas. Just be careful when tasting hot peppers. The three of them learned that the hard way....

5. Try new things- Back in New York, I have a recipe binder with maybe ten dishes in it. I used to go with the idea that practice makes perfect, so if I made the same things all the time, I'd be an amazing cook. But that's not really the case. While having a few signature dishes is good, it's really fun to throw a few out-of-the-box meals into the rotation. I would have never thought I'd be making handmade spring rolls, but guess what--I did, and they turned out great!

What's the biggest lesson you learned when it comes to cooking? Share in the comments!

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