5 on Friday: The Foods I've Learned to Love as an Adult
Each Friday, we share five things that are getting buzz around the Cooking Light offices—from what we’re reading around the Web, to what’s hot on Instagram, or even our latest favorite ingredient.
If you've ever been around a picky eater, you know how excruciatingly frustrating picky eaters can be. What do you mean you don't eat green?! My childhood best friend was notoriously picky. Every member of my family knew when she came with us on vacations we could only eat at restaurants that served chicken fingers and French fries. That's it. That's all.
I'm not here to say these picky palates can be won over to love the likes of Turkish Delight and escargot—even I've not found a love for those two foods. Still, palates change. Maybe not entirely, maybe not even really all that much, but as we grow, so do our taste buds.
If you maintain a long-held belief you don't like a certain food, I encourage you to try it again. The best idea: Go to a restaurant and have it prepared by a skilled chef who has experience making that food really shine. This isn't the most calorically-wise example, but it's the best one I have. I have detested coconut my whole life. It's entirely too floral, too perfume-y. Then, last year, we took a friend to Chez Fonfon here in Birmingham for a farewell party. I begrudgingly ordered a slice of their famous coconut cake. I figured I'd grin and bear it, pretend it really was the best thing on Earth. Here's the thing: It really is the best thing on Earth. In the hands of a gifted, skilled baker, the coconut is transformed into a brilliantly earthy, warm, sweet food, and in that cake, it sings.
You may not have your own Chez Fonfon moment when trying to expand your horizons, but just give it a try. Here, five other foods I've learned to love since my tasted buds finally grew up.
1. Asparagus. If you've ever endured an asparagus casserole made with canned asparagus, you know why I've had a less-than-cordial relationship with asparagus for so long. Canned asparagus, in my opinion, is vile. It wasn't until I decided to pan-cook my own that I discovered how much I really like it. The dish that convinced me: Pan-Charred Asparagus. Charring the asparagus does something magical to it. I can't describe it. You must try it.
2. Fish. I still am not a huge fan of salmon, or catfish, arctic char, or sardines. But tilapia and I have developed a rather nice relationship. It's called the chicken breast of the sea for a reason—it's neutral, versatile, and it has made a believer out of me. The dish that convinced me: Blackened Tilapia Baja Tacos. The combination of the spice mixture on the fish, and the cool, creamy slaw and avocado makes this one of my all-time favorite meals. My notoriously picky father even fell for it when I made it for him while we were on vacation last year.
3. Tomatoes. I should preface this entry by saying that I still don't like tomatoes. (I also don't like peaches or sweet tea, so I'm pretty sure that makes me an outcast in the South.) Tomatoes are too acidic for me, and the insides are just... I can't go there. However, Chris Hastings—the renowned chef at Hot and Hot Fish Club here in Birmingham—made me reconsider this. His tomato salad is famous, and rightfully so. Even for this non-tomato person, it makes me weepy. We've got a lightened up version of his classic, and it's the dish that convinced me: Hot and Hot Tomato Salad.
4. Basil. This dish ties in two food discoveries. It has both tomatoes and basil, but the basil is the highlight here because I've come to love pesto. Honestly, it wasn't that I didn't like it as a child. It was completely foreign to me until college. My family had never heard of pesto. What is a pesto?! Turns out, it's delicious, and from sandwiches to soups, pizza to savory pies, it's what's happening. The dish that convinced me: Fresh Mozzarella, Heirloom Tomato, and Basil Pizza.
5. Strawberries. I remember picking strawberries with my great-grandfather as a really young girl. He had a strawberry patch beside their house. Before I was born, their entire backyard had been a garden. By the time I came along, however, they only had a few tomatoes and the strawberry patch. Thing is, I remember picking them, but I don't remember eating them. And honestly, it's probably because of the strawberry's color. I was, as many kids are, sensitive to red dye as a child. Instead of explaining that to a four year old (who would be clueless, of course), my parents just told me to avoid red things. (This might also explain why I don't like tomatoes.) My grandparents would insist I try strawberries or tomatoes, and I would reject them. I can't eat them. They're red! It took me a while to come back around to strawberries. I'm still not one who will sit down and eat a bowl of them, but I've found a place for them in my heart—and my palate. The dish that convinced me: Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart.
What dishes have you learned to love as you've grown older? Share with us in the comments.