Jackie and I have been traveling, so there's been no home cooking for a couple of weeks and won't be for another week or so.
But that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about cooking. One of the benefits of eating in restaurants is that you can pick up ideas -- big ones and little ones -- about what to cook for dinner once you get home.
Here are some ideas that could find their way into my home kitchen and perhaps into "Cooking Off the Cuff."
This first group is from the excellent Restaurant As in Amsterdam. To start, a light and refreshing cocktail! When asked what we wanted to drink, we said "Something Dutch," which wasn't the expected answer at all. The chef-owner, Sander Overeinder, thought for a moment and returned with a little young Dutch gin (genever), even less elderflower syrup and lots of seltzer, plus plenty of ice. Subtle, aromatic, refreshing and mood-setting. I've already bought myself a bottle of elderflower cordial, so we can have this drink as soon as we get home. (I'll probably use regular gin, not genever.)
At Restaurant As, they cream together butter and buttermilk with a tiny bit of salt. This was a great spread for great bread: light, slightly fermented-tasting, but still recognizably butter.
They also shave raw Jerusalem artichokes into thin slices and use them to top carpaccio (here of venison, but it would be great with beef). They look like the cheese shavings (I'll be using parmesan, not the aged Netherlandish goat cheese they use at the restaurant), but have a mild flavor and snappy crunch. Kind of like water chestnuts.
A final idea: Restaurant As has a wood-burning oven, and they take advantage of its smokiness in many ways. One was to cook leeks: they're roasted in their outer leaves for a very long time; they become very tender and limp with a smoky flavor and a built-in sauce-like juice once you've stripped off the outer layers. And again, they taste of what they are, plus. I'm not sure how I'll approach this one. Clearly, the smoke will have to go but the notion of long-roasted leeks is an appealing one.
There were, of course, more restaurants and more ideas. There'll be another small selection of them next week, I expect, unless I find myself a kitchen in London.