A little intimidated in the kitchen? Let me break it down for you into 3 easy steps that will surely set you up for domestic culinary success.
1-Leave your perfectionism at the door. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I learned by doing, which meant burning, over salting, and mashing instead of mixing. None of those things really matter now. They were small errors that taught me a lot along the way. The only way to get comfortable in the kitchen is to actually get in the kitchen and if you are afraid of messing up, it will hold you back from trying. You learn how to cook to taste, the flavor combos that you love, and which ingredient sing when combined by trying things out and making tweaks. Even the best chefs in the world have burnt bread in the toaster at one point.
2-Invest in a good knife. Like right now, today. I know you are probably a little intimidated by the look of most knives, how big they are, how heavy, how sharp. The truth is, you will be much more likely to chop a finger off with a dull blade that you are hacking and sawing away with because you cannot get it to work. A nice sharp well balanced knife will cut right through whatever needs cutting. You also need to make sure to use proper form, that means no thumb stuck out on the knife handle, curl your fingers in; knuckles among the knife, not fingertips, don’t lift the knife fully after each swipe, things like that. I actually took a knife course and it improved my time and made me much more comfortable in the kitchen. Here is the one I recommend. I took level 1 and 2. I also had a friend who is a chef take me to Broadway Panhandler on 8th street in Manhattan and help me pick out a few key knives that would work for me with my little hands.
I got a 10′ victorinox chef’s knife, it’s weighted handle makes it a great knife for me to use on tougher cuts and veggies with very thick skins like squash. The rest of my knives are global (a nice light weight knife for a woman like me), an 8″ chef’s knife, a serrated knife (bread knife) and a paring knife. Those are the 3 my friend the chef said she used the most, and I find they work for just about anything. Huffington post agrees, read about it here. Picking your knives piece by piece is a much better investment than buying one of those huge knife block sets that cost a fortune since you won’t use most of those knives and the quality is usually sub-par. The knives you do use should be sharpened after each use and professionally sharpened every few months as well, depending on how much they are being used. I also keep my knives in protective cases so that they don’t wear down and the tips don’t get busted.
3-Spice it up. My spice rack, lazy susan, and cabinets are full to busting with different spices, I collect them, I covet them. Spices are how I layer flavor and make the most basic food taste complex. Using different spices you can make one dish like brown rice taste Italian one night, Mexican the next and Indian the following. If you don’ t have many spices now, you can start by picking up a few basics then buying a new one to experiment with every time you shop. I have a whole spice rack full of spices we bought on a trip to Poland. I have spices from the Park Slope Food Coop (an amazing low cost spice source), I have a TON of spices from my favorite Indian Spice store on 1st ave and 6th street. I save containers, buy in bulk, and fill up my used, cleaned containers with the new spices. I also buy really cute spice jars from places like Anthropology and display them to inspire to me use them. I even buy chalk board ones so I can create my own spice blends and easily label them.
Here is a rule just to live by, the cook doesn’t do the cleaning. I cook for my hubby, he enjoys his meal immensely, then he does the dishes. Done and doner, it creates the perfect environment where we can chat while he washes and I sip my well deserved wine.