My passion is food. I know we hear that all the time, but let me just lay this out for you. I grew up on a Midwestern farm so there was an abundance of truly wonderful things to prepare. In the summer we made a huge garden, so there was fantastic fresh produce; my mother canned quarts and quarts of all sorts of good things to use in the winter. We had great beef, pork, chickens, lamb, ducks and geese. We hunted, so there was venison, pheasant, wild ducks and geese, grouse, and rabbits; we fished, too. We did our own butchering, made sausages, mincemeat, head cheese. My mother and I made sauerkraut every fall. She was a fantastic cook; she cooked pure, simple food. And she made pies…oh my God her pies were legendary. I get asked if I’m a “self-taught” cook; I’m not. All of the women in my family cook and cook well. They shared that love of cooking and their knowledge with me. True, I do cook differently than they do/did. Part of the reason is that my husband, our sons and I, have had the good fortune to live in other countries and absorb those cultures and experience those cuisines. Currently we live in an urban area and that offers one a more diverse selection of ingredients and there’s just more available now than they was 40 or 50 years ago. But having said all of that, it still boils down (no pun intended) to great ingredients and knowing what to do with them to make their flavors sing.
Therefore, we’re going to talk about food, food preparation, ingredients, tips to make your culinary life easier, etc. When I teach cooking or give talks on food, my goal is to make cooking less complicated and more easily understood. I have found that when people understand why they are doing something, and it begins to make more sense, they become more confident cooks and begin to enjoy the process. I think the reason people who hate to cook dislike it so much, is that it seems daunting, overwhelming and what are these ingredients and what do I do when I get them, what does “braise” mean, etc. You get the idea. That’s why I think it is extremely important to explain what the terminology of cooking truly means, what to do when you don’t have any oregano in the house and your recipe lists oregano as an ingredient, what the difference between a scallion and a green onion is, etc. I want you to ask questions if you don’t understand my recipe instructions or if you are just wondering why you do something a certain way; whatever you’re wondering or confused about or if you’re looking for a specific recipe…ASK! I want this to be a place where you can find out what you need to know to make cooking an enjoyable and exciting endeavour.
Now, there are a few things you need to know about what you’re getting yourself into–
- Fad diets and food fads aren’t going to be part of this blog; food facts are.
- Recipes will at times use butter, heavy cream, flavored oils, etc. (not all recipes!).
- We will be focusing on flavor. If food has sufficient flavor, one doesn’t feel the need to eat as much.
- Julia Child is my hero. My God, she was a spy, she was 6 feet tall (so am I) and she cooked!
There will be more, but I just want to get that out there now. There will be times when I go off on a tangent; I’ll try to keep my rants to a minimum. Moving on….
Now to basic equipment needs:
- Use very sharp knives and keep them that way. It makes meal prep much easier and it’s safer. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER put them in the dishwasher; it dulls the edge. (Do you think I made my position on that clear!?)
- Tri-ply stainless is great for cookware and Tramontina® makes good, reasonably priced pans/skillets. Pans that can go from the stove top into the oven are a really good idea and rarely do you really need a non-stick pan. I use restaurant quality aluminum sauté pans (yes, they are completely safe to use); they heat quickly and are very durable. An 8-inch and a 12-inch are good sizes.
- At least one, good-sized cast iron skillet/sauté pan.
- A Dutch oven is great for stews and pot roasts, etc…it isn’t absolutely necessary, but it is nice to have a good, heavy one.
- A large stock pot. This works well for pasta and soup, too.
- I love wooden spoons and they don’t scratch, but if you prefer metal, use them. Plastic tends to melt and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to eat plastic!
- I also prefer a wooden chopping board. I do use a plastic chopping board for chicken and pork, then into the dishwasher it goes!
- Also, a colander, graters, a can opener (I use a manual one), an instant read thermometer, pepper grinder, 1 large and 1 small whisk and probably other things that will come to me 5 seconds after I post this.
I think I’ve gone on here long enough. But there is one more thing you need to know in the interest of full disclosure. A few days a week, I work at The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. I use their herbs, spices and seasoning blends. I use them because they are good and they have pretty much everything you might need. The additional bonus is that they are a great price. You can come into the store or order on-line from The Spice Mill.