I had no idea going into this year long cookbook writing project that I’d learn so much from the people I cook with each month. It’s a breath of fresh air to me that 1). People are so open about what they know and 2). People are very open about what they do not know.
As I learn about the barriers people face in cooking from scratch every day, it helps put everything into perspective. It helps remind me of what I truly need to share with the amazing community of people actively interested in enjoying a healthy lifestyle through cooking. It’s the simple, no-nonsense tricks I use all the time in my home kitchen that keep showing up as the best lessons learned thus far. Trust me, I use these straight forward tips regularly when I, like you, have no time and little interest in tearing myself away from work to finely chop everything in sight. 🙂
The solutions I’ve found to enhancing people’s enjoyment and confidence in the kitchen thus far are three:
1. Be mindful of the dish.
Here is my mom in front of a clean, dish-free, happy as a clam!
The amount of dishes that pile up in cooking a full meal can be a huge deterrent for any living being. Me included. So I recommend quickly rinsing and reusing bowls, measuring spoons, stirring spoons and even pots and pans during your cook time instead of grabbing for new ones each time, so that things don’t get crazy in the sink. Keep up on dishes as you go, and you’ll find that committing to this tip will be a game changer for you. Not only does it save time, it’s also a way to stress less in the kitchen and enjoy your food more.
2. Learn efficient, basic knife skills.
Here’s my dad practicing his mincing! Families that chop together…
…stay together, with all their fingers intact. Don’t feel confident holding a knife? Does it take you ten minutes to finely chop an onion? Knowledge is power here. Cooking is truly a set of cultural tools, and your knives (sharp ones, of course!) are a crucial part of your kitchen toolbox. Hone your skills in a cooking class or commit to learning online, if not directly from me in a hands on cook with dinner party or private lesson🙂
3. Ease up and work with what’s around you.
Here Enrique and Michelle wing it with a zucchini-hazelnut fritter recipe.
Forgot to grab the scallions from the store? Missing a key ingredient to a sauce? Don’t have a 1/2 cup measuring spoon, only 1/3 cup? Don’t sweat it! Learn to ease into substitutions. Eyeball it. Practice using a healthy pinch of common sense and a 1/2 teaspoon of trial and error and work with what you have. Troubleshoot: Over salting happens. Slightly burning happens, too. Learn how to balance undesired flavor results and you will suddenly feel as a free as a wild strawberry in your kitchen. The only way to learn is to practice. Trust your instincts and I’ll help you, too!
In the next few months I’ll be writing these three topics into sections of my cookbook, to address them in more depth and provide some helpful insights to make your overall cooking experience even easier and more fun. I’ll be very excited once my Flavor Balance Guide (aka Troubleshooting Guide) is complete and ready for view on my website! Until then, keep cooking, keep the hope alive, and keep the sink basin as dish free as possible. 🙂