No New Thing Under The Sun

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”  King James Bible.

Jade and I had an interesting conversation about originality in cooking.  She seemed to think that a “real” cook or chef creates or invents their recipes from the ground up and that those who receive their inspiration or ideas from another are mere mechanics or, at best, rank amateurs :)  I begged to differ.

In cooking, there is really nothing new under the sun.  Rather, there are imaginative, creative persons, and sometimes personalities, who are capable of refreshing and renewing a particular dish by using their unique resources of education, experience and individuality.  Jamie Oliver is a good example.  Dave Bridges is another.

It’s not that Jamie or Dave were born creating.  They watched their parents cook, they went to restaurants, they read cookbooks, they bought into some of their teachers’ ideas and philosophies, they were influenced by a myriad of chefs and, finally, with considerable confidence and bravado, they decided to do it their way.

I am certainly dazzled by the ideas of quite a few cooks and chefs but also, sometimes I dazzle myself.  And while my successful creations may not be exactly “new”, they are accomplished with considerable confidence and bravado.

We’re off to Strasbourg, France to look at a boarding school.  Straighten her out.

Asparagus and Leek Frittata

8 eggs

1 tbsp cream

1/2 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped

Salt and pepper

3tbsp butter

1 cup leeks, finely sliced

1 1/2 cups asparagus, in 1 inch diagonal slices

1/2 cup bacon, diced and fried crisp

1 large tomato, seeded and diced

1/2 cup feta, crumbled

Beat the eggs together with the cream, tarragon, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Saute the leeks in the butter until tender, add the asparagus and continue to saute for 6 minutes.  Remove from flame and sprinkle with the bacon and tomato.

Return the pan to the flame, add the egg mixture and cook until almost set.  Add the feta and broil in the oven until the cheese is melted and the frittata is set and vaguely brown.

Wine suggestion:  Champagne

About cookinginsens

An American living in Burgundy, France
This entry was posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to No New Thing Under The Sun

  1. Karen says:

    A very pretty dish and creative…even if someone else has done it before. I would be very happy with a slice.

  2. I’m glad Jade’s not running a restaurant or, indeed, cooking dinner. Hearing the line ” I never follow recipes, I just make it up as I go along” sends a shiver down my spine and accelerates my thought patterns into devising believable excuses to get me the hell out of there:)

  3. The hubby and I are both keen cooks but, the way we approach cooking couldn’t be more different. He will happily “make stuff up” and turn out a meal that is delicious and quite simply beyond me, unless I have a recipe to follow. Which is the way I do it. Follow a recipe to the letter, at least until I’m confident in the way all the ingredients play together, and then I’ll tinker at the edges of it. I don’t think either of us is better cook than the other, just wired to cook differently :)

  4. Kavey Eats says:

    Most people who cook “without recipes” have simply absorbed a great deal more techniques and broad recipes than they realise. In most cases, they’re not super-creative so much as have a good memory/ understanding of what ingredients work together and which techniques will suit. There’s very little truly new, in the world of cooking and restaurants, though of course there are a small number of chefs who are at the vanguard of creativity and do bring something fresh.

    Also, a disdain for what is established, classic if you like, simply means closing yourself off from so many dishes that have evolved over many centuries/ generations and are the result of long, long trial and error and honing. I’m not a traditionalist that believes one shouldn’t mess with the classics, but at the same time, I have respect for them and commonly find that those who meddle don’t improve as often as they might think.

    Most cookbooks I see, especially celebrity chef ones, are full of same same recipes which are gleaned from those around them. Some are more honest about it, namechecking friends, family and even other restaurateurs in the recipe titles or at least introductions. Others would have you believe they’ve invented their own version of dishes from across the whole world.

    Of course, we all have our versions, we tweak and personalise according to what we like and don’t like, what we can or are willing to do… and can fairly call these recipes our own, I guess, though not claim them as anything original, surely.

  5. Mad Dog says:

    That looks amazing!

  6. I agree with you as whole heartedly as is possible for someone with as little energy as I have. YES. Lovely frittata! Doesn’t asparagus just go so well?!

  7. Spoon Feast says:

    Even the most talented chefs have been influenced somewhere by someone or something or some experience. Being able to “create” dishes from what’s on hand, creating as you go depends on how well the ingredients and techniques are understood. Those who do not understand the ingredients and the ratio of interplay to other ingredients need recipes.

    Those who understand you would braise a top round and grill a filet Mignon really don’t need a recipe to tell you how.
    If you don’t understand the cut of meat you have, you will need guidelines, hence a recipe.

    As a professional chef and culinary educator, my goal is to teach students not to depend on recipes but to study the recipe, break it down into parts and analyze ratios of ingredient interplay.
    What ingredients are in their hands? How does it feel, smell, is it tough or tender? Explore where the bones are, the seed patterns in vegetables, thick or thin skinned? How does it react to heat? other ingredients? Our brains will begin to make new connections.
    This way, the foundation on knowledge allows them to be creative and use the foundation as a springboard to new discoveries. Some work, some don’t but there is learning from every attempt.

    Understand the ingredients you are using. Learn and perfect the basic cooking techniques. Those who depend on recipes will discover they can wander away from the recipe with confidence as understanding of cooking grows.
    Following a classic recipe is a great lesson to begin to understand what works well, that is why such recipes are classic.

    Nice frittata and thanks for bringing up the subject!

  8. ceciliag says:

    This is a beautiful dish, has to be tasty and if I may add, i believe that everyone is an artist, we collect little gemstones of information as we travel through our lives and then we create. It may be gardens, curtains, food, children, clothes, writing, telling. Even creating a farm. In each one of us is that artist. Some of the artists like you cook, create and teach. Now, Make sure it is a nice boarding school with a flattering uniform! Jade is way too beautiful to be dressed in something frumpy, even if the education i superior! c

  9. Jon says:

    I agree with you on this issue, and as you say above if you know how to cook you undertand a recipe more than simply follow it. Great shots of the frittata!

  10. A few harsh words and she’s packed off to boarding school ! I’m trying to imagine the punishment for say opening a can of baked beans ;)

  11. I agree with you. I just went to a conference about this and at the round table, everyone agreed that it is easy to come up with recipes. Anyone can do that. But what counts is execution, the technique, muscle memory and instinct that you develop over time by doing the same things over and over again.

    There are a lot of hotshot chefs who open up restaurants just because they think they have a new perspective or new ideas. I always feel like those restaurants only work if you have mastered the basics first, and you approach your work with humbly. Thomas Keller did not become Thomas Keller just by coming up with new stuff.

    And that is a beautiful frittata.

    Let us know how the straightening out goes ;-)

    • Thank you Daisy. I didn’t really mean to sound off but I really believe what I said. As far as Jade is concerned, the school is close to the German border and I think she’ll be straightened out :)

      • You didn’t sound mean at all! I take real umbrage with people who conflate greatness with creativity. There are a lot of creative people out there, but greatness is achieved through discipline. And lots of studying. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you should know how to at least make one!

        The German border, eh? Yeah, that sounds like it might do the trick ;-)

    • My husband’s next assignment is Stuttgart, Germany about an hour away from the school. We’re all on the move :)

    • Cooking in Stuttgart! Some how that doesn’t quite have the ring.

  12. I agree with you. There are some restaurants that are so far out there, foam this, eggshell that, I can’t even remember what it’s all called. If that’s new, I’ll just have the classics. This looks wonderful.

  13. Spoon Feast says:

    Foams are just a wet spot on a plate. Are you relocating to Germany? When? Oh, my heart skipped a beat for you.

  14. Michelle says:

    Nothing new under the sun indeed. I do look forward to your takes on German food. If anyone can make a currywurst look good, you can!

  15. How wonderful of Jade to express her opinion.. now send her off to that Boarding school, will ya’?.. just kidding.. she’s got a point… who really does create something new each time?? I think it would be tough to “prove” that something is original.. because someone’s mother’s grandfather’s (I know, that’s a stretch) mother’s brother’s sister could have made it once before. It’s rare I see something completely new appear in the food horizon (but Momofuku’s cereal steeped milk certainly was new?) but I like to think it is the love that is baked and rolled and kneaded and flipped and seared into the food.. I think it is the process above all.. and the love.. I’m not sure this makes sense.. I ramble.. and ramble.. xoxoxo I adore your food, your blog, your whole “other part of the world” point of view.. I live in France vicariously because of you! xo Smidge

  16. rsmacaalay says:

    I love all the flavours in that slice of fritata, I guess its the combination of tomatoes, feta and eggs that attacted me the most.

  17. Intriguing topic.

    I believe everything we create is a product of our education and experiences. In this case, trained chefs and world travelers, will typically have an easier time “creating” new recipes. However, I spent time in culinary school with people who could not cook (no matter how much education they received) and worked in kitchens with people with little training who were excellent and creative chefs. So, clearly, it is more than what we have learned and where we have lived. It is also a passion for food and an ability to taste and experiment. In the case of blogging, it also includes the ability to communicate your ideas.

    I also agree that very little is completely original. We all get ideas from elsewhere. On my blog, if a significant portion of what I create is adapted from another recipe, I give them credit. For example, I could never have figured out how to make Bisteeya without reading Paula Wolfert’s glorious cookbook and then practicing the recipe umpteen times, so, of course, I gave her credit. However, my recipe, while noted as “adapted from” hers, is mine and not hers; and, quite honestly, I don’t think she would want credit for mine. If anyone took my recipes and changed them, I would only want credit for inspiration and not for the revised recipe.

    CookinginSens – I don’t know your training or experiences. What I do know is that your clear language and beautiful photos personalize all your recipes in a very special way — regardless of your recipe’s starting point. So, whether they are entirely or just partly yours, they are ever so inspiring.

  18. Totally agree with you and this seems to have generated a lot of comments! So, you´re on the move with the family and your extensive collection of skillets..I wish you all well :) And anyone who can recommend champagne with frittata is bound to find joy in their life!

  19. Villy says:

    1. I totally agree with you!
    2. Fantastic frittata! Love the asparagus combination!

  20. debjani says:

    Beautiful blog with great recipes and beautiful photos! The drink suggestion is great!
    This frittata looks good and sounds good. I have to try this out. Love the versatility of eggs…a big fan! Hope to discover more new recipes here! :)

  21. Paula says:

    I agree so much with your reflexions!! Nice to read them, cos I also think that anything is new, but at the same time, everything has a personal touch, a personal touch you receive from other person, recipe, restaurant dish, or favourite flavour, for example.

    For example, I love this frittata, as I love the asparagus, but even if I save the recipe, then I’m sure I’ll introduce some change ;)
    But I’ll keep the feta, it gives a nice colour, and I’m sure a fresh taste!!

    Sorry for my bad english!!

  22. I`ve tried this recipe and i`m really impressed, it has a very good taste. My both child tried it and they like it a lot. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  23. Pingback: Invention, inspiration, influence | olivesandartichokes

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