I'm still considering ideas for some type of cooking project. Paul suggested a couple of things. He suggested I cook recipes from the cookbooks I have that were written by great chefs. There seems to be something missing in this idea. I can't figure out what I could do to flesh it out into something I could get excited about.
And he suggested I could focus on making recipes with lower fat and calorie content. He says I'm good at it. I'm always having problems with the recipes when magazines like Cooking Light or Eating Well or Weight Watchers recreate recipes. I know they're following the current health guidelines, but they insist on using food I call "fake ingredients". I'm not eating Jello sugar-free pudding made with nonfat milk and topped with fat free Cool Whip. I'd rather eat a fresh peach, plain.
Or the finished dish is so different from the original that the flavors aren't what the person who gave them the original were looking for. When I reduce the calories and fat in dishes, they're lower than the original, but usually not what you'd consider "diet food". This is something I'm doing a lot of these days, though, because I signed up for Weight Watchers online and have lost 13.5 pounds. (Go, me!)
The main problem with this as a project is that it doesn't really excite me as a fun project. And it doesn't really tie into my goal of learning to be a better cook. It uses my current skills in a different way. That's a good thing, but not what I'm after for this project. I think this one is more my everyday cooking life, not a special project.
Another thing I've been noticing about my cooking interests is that I've been cooking a lot more vegetarian meals these days. Good quality meat, poultry, and fish are not cheap meals anymore. So by cooking more vegetarian meals, I can stretch my budget. I'd rather eat top quality less often than poor quality every day. So maybe focusing on more variety in my vegetarian food would be a good project.
I read the New York Times health section on a regular basis. I love both Mark Bittman's blog and Martha Rose Schulman's healthy recipes. I have Mark Bittman's books. I've been looking for Martha's but apparently I'm going to have to buy them online. I could do their food, but it has the same problem as Paul's first idea. I can't figure out what that would do to improve my cooking skills, although it might give me ideas for new recipes.
I also would like to explore Asian cuisine more. I love to eat it, but am pretty unfamiliar with cooking it. I have a few Asian cookbooks, but I have no idea how authentic or good they are. I don't know how to choose Asian cookbooks that would be good for a student to learn from.
World cuisine is appealing to me. I love variety and trying new things. I have several international cookbooks. I could choose one cuisine I'm unfamiliar with every month or two and explore their food. That would be fun and definitely improve my skills as I try techniques unfamiliar to the food I've learned to make so far in my life.
See what I mean about having too many ideas? I've always been an idea person. It does me in every time because I can't choose one. Maybe I need to list pros and cons of each idea with regards to how they fit into my goal of cooking better. Then choose the one that fits the goal best.
I think I need to give myself a week to research and consider various ideas for my project. I'm going to pick one by next Friday. If I don't set myself a deadline, I'll dither for weeks and never get started on it.
Meantime, I need to go start the tomatoes I'm roasting. Tom Colicchio's recipe takes three to four hours to do properly. Today I don't need to bake bread, so I can use my oven for the tomatoes without worrying that the bread will need to go into the oven. I'm planning to use the tomatoes to make a black bean and roasted green tomato chili. I'm roasting pasillas and jalapeños with the tomatoes. We'll see how the whole thing turns out.