FLS reporter Katie Thisdell serves up news on local food finds, tales from home cooks and inspiration to help you have fun in your own kitchen.
Home Cooking with George Solley
Home Cooking is a regular feature on The Front Burner that offers a peek at how home cooks around the Fredericksburg area work in their kitchens. If you’d like to answer our questionnaire, download it here and return your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org with a digital photo of yourself, or pass it along to anyone you think would like to participate.
Tell us who you are and why you cook.
I work full-time, have a “second job” that takes much of my time [Solley is a Fredericksburg City Council member], and I’m a single father of a teenager. I cook because I got really tired of take-out. Actually, cooking’s a release, a chance to create something tangible and pleasurable where you know right away how well you’ve succeeded. Plus, I really like good food, particularly the basic, “down-home” cooking of different cultures.
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Competent, eclectic, intuitive
The Joy of Cooking – as much a reference work as a source of recipes.
What is one dish on your menu this week that you’re excited about?
Since I’m writing during Restaurant Week [downtown Fredericksburg's restaurant week promotion ran until Jan. 24], I won’t be cooking much. However, for the Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence’s “Empty Bowl” fundraiser [Jan. 30, details here], I’m making harira, a Moroccan soup traditionally eaten to break the daily fast during Ramadan. It’s mainly lamb, lentils, tomatoes, chickpeas, vermicelli, lemon juice and a wonderful array of spices.
What is one thing that must be in your pantry at all times?
I like to keep a lot of things on-hand, but if I had to pick one it would be olive oil. I do agree, though, with the axiom that everything is improved by either butter or bacon.
What one kitchen gadget could you not live without?
Chef’s knife, although I’m not sure that’s a “gadget.” Next would be my coffee grinder.
It’s 6 p.m., the people in your household are hungry and you just walked in from work and need to get something satisfying on the table as soon as possible. What’s your favorite thing to whip up in this situation?
One of two things: pasta, either with pesto made and frozen during the late summer or with some variation of tomato sauce from local canned tomatoes, or stir fry. Both are quick, with much potential variety.
It’s a snowy Sunday, you’ve just done the grocery shopping and have the rest of the day to spend in the kitchen cooking a meal that will bring comfort. What’s for dinner?
Cold weather comfort food at my house usually means either chili or beef stew. Chili was the first dish I ever made, from the Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook my mother gave me when I was a Cub Scout. I’ve been refining the recipe ever since.
What is your favorite dish to make for pot-luck dinners?
Dessert, ranging from the simple (bread pudding or fruit crisp) to the more complicated (trifle or tiramisu).
Do you have a favorite food source in the Fredericksburg region?
During the warm months, it’s the farmers market. The past couple of years I’ve been freezing fruit and canning tomatoes and other veggies so I can enjoy fresh local produce year-round. The market also has a good selection of meat, bread and herbs.