I love cooking. I find it relaxing and enjoyable. I know a lot of my friends don’t necessarily feel the same way. I’ve asked a few of those friends why they aren’t crazy about cooking. Overwhelmingly, it’s because they either don’t know how, or are afraid of making a mistake. As with anything, practice improves ones’ skills. Cooking isn’t brain surgery, pretty much anyone who can read a recipe can cook! I’ve made tons of mistakes and had to throw a lot of dishes out. So what? With each mistake, you will learn something. (Never walk away from nuts under a broiler!) Because I went to culinary school, there are certain procedures and that I assume. I’ve written this section as an overview of techniques and terms that I use frequently.
1. When I use salt, I’m always referring to kosher, coarse or sea salt, rather than fine or table salt. The only time I use fine salt, is when I am baking. For more information on different types of salt and their uses, click here.
2. Unless I am baking, I always use the terms “season to taste” or “check seasoning”. Why? First of all, everyone has a different idea of what properly seasoned food should taste like. Since taste is subjective, a teaspoon of salt in a stew might be fine for one, too much, or not enough for another. Second, in cooking school, the chefs would always say, “check seasoning”, frequently. Get into the habit of checking seasoning after the addition of ingredients, or after something has cooked for a while. Keep in mind that as liquids evaporate, the dish will become more concentrated and saltier. You can always add more salt, but it’s very difficult to fix an over-salted dish!
There is sometimes confusion in recipes over measurement terms. Have you ever seen a recipe that said, “1 cup nuts, chopped” and “1 cup chopped nuts”? While slight, there could be a difference between the two procedures. Here’s how a recipe should be correctly written and interpreted, 1 cup nuts, chopped, means you measure the nuts FIRST, then CHOP them. 1 cup chopped nuts, means you CHOP FIRST, then MEASURE. This applies to all recipes.
Sometimes I’ll say, “a handful of herbs” or whatever. For the most part, it’s like seasoning, if you love basil, your handful could be much bigger than someone who just likes a hint of basil. Will an extra tablespoon or so of oregano make a huge difference in your marinara? Probably not.
Do you have any other culinary questions? Feel free to email me or leave a comment.