D: If you’re reading this blog with any intent of trying out the stuff that gets put up here, I think it’s important to understand my philosophy about food and cooking. I tend to be pretty opinionated about certain things, and understanding those opinions will help you understand why I cook what I cook. I’m sure K will disagree with half of the things I say here, but that’s ok.
K: The reason we tend to disagree on cooking styles is that, as you’ll see later in the post, D is a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of cook, where as I prefer to cook by a recipe a few times before venturing out into my own turf. We also disagree on when to wash the cutting boards during the cooking process (I vote to wash as you go, D prefers to wash at the end), but that doesn’t affect the end product quite as much. At the end of the day, we’ve found ways to blend our cooking styles into meals that ultimately are tasty and serve as a great way to entertain. But, back to D:
What supplies do I need to cook a meal?
Surprisingly little, actually. I’m not going to go into a laundry list of items, but suffice it to say that you can cook pretty dang good food without a lot of fancy gadgets in your kitchen. In fact, I would argue that until you are capable of cooking something by hand without the fancy gadget, you shouldn’t be using the fancy gadget! Obviously, you can’t do this for everything (I don’t expect you to learn how to make a stove before you cook hot things), but make your pie crusts by hand a few times before you resort to the food processor. It’ll teach you to appreciate the gadget, and more importantly, it will teach you what the food is supposed to be like.
Anyways, I digress. What do you need in your kitchen? You can probably get away with a good set of knives, some cutting boards, some pots and pans, and a good cookbook. Just about everything else can be faked. Oh, and if your knives aren’t good and sharp, I don’t know why you bother trying. Also, if you’re looking for a good cookbook, I can’t recommend Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything strongly enough. It is phenomenal (Karen would probably disagree with me here and say that Joy of Cooking is better).
What kind of food should I be cooking?
That’s a more loaded question than you might think in this day and age. There are a lot of options! First, I’ll talk about where to get good ingredients. I might as well get this out of the way up front — don’t bother with Organic stuff — it’s not worth your time or money. It’s just another buzzword to make overly-processed food seem healthy, and it gives them an excuse to charge you more money for it.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cooking with fresh ingredients! Use vegetables and fruits — lots of them. If you have a local farmer’s market, do your shopping there. (I don’t keep this rule nearly as well as I would like. It’s not very convenient, which is a terrible excuse.) Otherwise, just buy stuff that looks fresh and tasty at your local grocery store. Avoid WalMart if you can. Try to buy local, but don’t kill yourself over it.
As for the question of what to cook, here’s what I do for dinner every night: I figure out what I want to eat, and then I cook that. If you cook something you don’t want to eat, why should you expect anyone else to want to eat it, either? If you don’t know how to cook it, make it up as you go. Or look up the recipe. But make sure you want it — otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.
How should I cook things?
Here’s my next point: I tend to think recipes are over-rated. I use them, sure, and I get lots of good ideas from them — but the absolute best dishes I’ve ever made, I’ve made myself. Now, I recognize that not everyone cooks this way, and that’s fine, but I think it’s the best way. It’s easy to do, too! Just start throwing things in a pot, and see what happens. You’ll make some pretty spectacularly disgusting things at first — I’ve definitely had my share* — but the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Just be sure that you’re not making things for other people until you’re confident that they’ll turn out. Otherwise, you might not have any friends left.
What color should my food be?
Here’s the general rule: almost always, the more colorful a dish, the more appetizing it looks, and the more appetizing it looks, the more appetizing it tastes (usually). Now, it turns out that this can go a little too far (remind me to tell you about the green and orange meals we got served in undergrad for Halloween. Oh, wait, I already did), but in general, color in your food is good. It usually also means that your meal is healthier (K used to tell me this all the time, and I’d laugh at her, but now I agree with her). If you’re making a dish, in general there should be something green, yellow, orange and red in it. Of course, this rule has many, many exceptions, but in general it’s a nice rule of thumb. (Get it? Thumb? Finger? The blog name? Oh, never mind…)
*Ask me about my saag paneer sometime. Or my first attempt at Alfredo sauce.