Rather than focusing on an actual recipe today, I’ll instead dispense Pez bits of cooking wisdom, most of which have come from three sources: Giada de Laurentis, Alton Brown and Ina Garten.
If you haven’t watched any of those three in action, shame on you. Mostly my cooking conquests are ultra simple and require little work but even those can seem intimidating when you don’t know the basics. One of my Facebook friends had a status about failing at making spaghetti. If spaghetti seems troubling, there’s a serious culinary crisis (I swear I don’t intend to use so much alliteration) around here. So, I’ve come up with a list of easy little things to add into your routine around the kitchen and hopefully alleviate some of those feelings of kitchen alienation. I realize that those who are food savvy might scoff at the simplicity of the generated tips below but they’re an important building block. Let me know the ones I’ve missed!
- Add lots of salt to your boiling pasta water. My high school Chemistry teacher once went on a rampage about how it’s so silly to add salt to pasta water because as much as people want it to, salt doesn’t make the water boil faster. Well I don’t know about that Mrs. Campbell but it does seriously increase the flavor of something that can be pretty bland. There truly is a noticeable difference between say, a piece of penne that was boiled in salty goodness and a piece of penne that was boiled in plain old H2O.
- While we’re talking about the goodness of salt…one of the most basic and easiest ways to add flavor to meat and vegetables is to season them well. One of my favorite things to make is a simple seared steak. Before you go ahead and place it in the skillet though, make sure the skillet is on medium-high/high heat. Put your steak on a cutting board or some other cleanable surface and sprinkle one side with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Don’t be shy now. Drizzle that side with some extra virgin olive oil and place the seasoned side down in the skillet. Do the same to the side that’s now facing up and after 4 or 5 minutes (depends on the size of your steak and how well done you like it) flip it to the other side. It’s the same for vegetables if per chance you enjoy the occasion grilled pepper. Lightly coat it with some olive oil, salt and pepper it and throw it on the grill.
- One thing that people buy frozen a lot is garlic bread. Now I understand spending money on cheesy Texas Toast. I’m not exactly sure how they get so much yum into those, but plain garlic bread is really easy. The main reason I’m bringing this up is because the butter mixture part to garlic bread can be used in lots of other recipes as well. Like for instance, a baked potato or a light coating on roasted asparagus. The recipe I use is combining one stick of room temperature butter, one tablespoon dried parsley, one tablespoon dried basil, about 2 garlic cloves smashed or finely diced and a little kosher salt and pepper (or course). Once that’s all mixed up, take a baguette and spread that evenly on both sides. At 350 degrees that should take about 15 minutes but make sure you check on it. Ovens tend to be finicky.
- One quick recipe is an egg scramble meal that I always make for myself when I’m craving breakfast. I shouldn’t really call it an omelette since it looks more like scrambled eggs with bits of color strewn throughout, but that’s the basic idea. First, get about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil really hot in a skillet. The way to determine if it’s hot enough is by rolling the pan around and making sure the consistency is closer to water than oil. Then, chop up whatever you enjoy in your omelettes, (personally I’m a green pepper and onion girl) and throw them in to the skillet. If you’re feeling particularly heart healthy that day and in need of some trans fats, here’s a more flavorful idea. Instead of putting olive oil in the pan, fry up a piece or two of bacon in the skillet and once those are done, take them out of the pan, leaving the fat that burned off. Then use that bacon fat as a substitute for the olive oil and continue adding your vegetables. Once those have sautéed for a minute or so, just crack two eggs (or however many you want) right on top of the veggies and mix it all up until the eggs look done. I always finish mine with kosher salt, cracked pepper and some grated cheddar cheese.