I'm inspired by the restaurant review thread here. Because, well, last night I had a fantastic meal ... at my house.

So maybe some of you like to cook or want to learn how to cook. I'm a recent convert. In my former life, working full-time at a law firm, I worked 60 hours a week (minimum) and ate out all the time, I'm talking every day. After only a few short years, I packed on 40 pounds, and eventually freaked out from the stress. I soon wised up, quit my job (and the money that came with it), moved to California with my ex and went freelance.

Here, I was faced with what became a life-altering situation. The restaurants were WAY too expensive (especially on a less-than-steady income). But within walking distance of my house, 4 days a week, there are farmer's markets that feature some of the most exotic produce I've ever seen. (little yellow tomatoes shaped like pears, herbs I had never even heard of, fruits that look like sea creatures).

And there was all this cookware in the kitchen ...

"**** it," I told myself with a quiver of fear in my voice, "how hard can it be?"

Well, turns out it's not that hard. What I did not understand before starting out was that a cooking recipe is merely a guideline. It's the preliminary sketch before you paint the painting. As long as you stick with some general do's and dont's you really can't go wrong.

Contrast that with baking cakes and pies and other bread-based goodies: baking is an exact science. One slight deviation, one change in a single variable can dramatically alter the end product. Baking is for the scientists, the "follow the rules" types. It's for the people that aced chemistry in High School, not the artists among us.

Anyway, I've spent the last couple of years figuring out my way around the kitchen. Not too often, mind you, just a couple of nights a week. If you've read this far, you might still be wondering what the hell I had last night to inspire a new thread.

Here's the list, followed by one recipe:

FOR STARTERS:

The World's Greatest Guacamole (my own recipe, to follow in a later post) This stuff makes angels sing and women throw their braziers at you.

ON THE CHARCOAL GRILL:

- 44 ounce London broil prepared with a more than ample coating of rock sea salt and fresh ground white pepper corns, cook 6 minutes a side, remove and rest for 5 minutes, slice on the bias. Feeds 4.
- Summer squash halved into two disks, coat the cut side with olive oil, sprinkle dried basil, dried mint and red pepper flakes, place on the edge of the grill face down and lightly brown, turn half way to cook evenly (turn, don't flip).
- Red corn on the cob, turn regularly. being from Indiana means that I'm a corn snob. You just can't get good Indiana sweet corn here, so I've come to appreciate the more exotic red variety.

IN THE GLASS:

- Don Julio Anejo Tequila - on the rocks with a squeeze of fresh tangerine. This was unbelievably good, and a perfect compliment to the southwest grill thing we had going on.