11 September 2009

cooking school: the first week

This was my first week with the Martha Stewart Cooking School cookbook and my Cooking 101 adventure. I started with the chapter entitled basics. I chose this as the first book because I knew it would be straight forward and well edited. Not too wordy, highlighting the best and most important of the cooking basics. The photo styling is always so fab, as well. Martha did not disappoint.

For the first week, there was quite a bit of reading and assessing my kitchen, tools and cooking style. I went through my cupboards and reorganized things. I got rid of a few things that I either had too many of or just never used. I looked at my current kitchen habits and thought about what could be adjusted or overhauled.

The very first subsection was entitled "The Cook's Golden Rules". Here are a few gems I gleaned:
  • "Read a recipe all the way through before you begin cooking." I tend to be fairly seat-of-the-pants in the kitchen, so this nugget could help me to make less mistakes.
  • "Keep notes while you are cooking...Taking notes is the best way to remember what happened the first time you attempted a recipe." At first this seems totally overkill, but this week as I went through my various fall canning rituals, I found my own little notes on the edges of various recipes and realized how helpful it could be. "Don't add too many peppers to the pickles or they will be too spicy for the family Christmas dinner."
  • "Ingredients are your most important tool. Buy wisely and with an eye toward quality, not quantity." As a stingy thrifty person, I have definitely been know to scimp on quality because it seems to pricey. I think that learning when you can and can't cut costs is the key.
  • "Replace spices and other pantry items each year, as they lose their flavors over time." Again, my desire to save some cash and not waste is my undoing in the kitchen. I am also trying to grow more herbs in the garden so I don't have to buy, but freshness is definitely the key.
  • "Get in the habit of doing what the French call mise en place, or preparing our ingredients (chopping, peeling, measuring, etc.), before beginning a recipe." I used to be really good at this, but got out of the habit. It definitely makes things much smoother and you feel like you have your own cooking show, with everything ready to go!
Rachel over at Heart of Light recently shared her tips for a Zen kitchen and they were very inspiring even before I started the book. What's your favorite tip for making your cooking go smoothly?


Beegirl said...

Okay, my spices need a complete over-haul. I keep notes on my recipes too. I love to read my now deceased grandmother's cookbooks to see her notes. Makes me feel like she is there cooking with me.. Good luck on your project!

autumndaesy said...

For me, cooking requires a lot of math. I like to schedule my dinners to the minute so that everything is ready to eat at the same time! This means knowing exactly how long it takes for my stove to boil water, for my microwave to steam veggies, for my bread machine to make dough, etc. And I always calculate chopping time, and how "needy" a recipe is. (Some things need to be stirred constantly, so you won't get much else done) It takes awhile to figure it all out, but writing out a schedule helps. Especially with major meals like Thanksgiving or something else with multiple dishes. It's far less stressful, and I usually have time to sip some wine while I'm cooking, which helps with the enjoyment of the process!