Cooking for Newbies, Oldies and Shut-ins
Updated: Apr 22, 2020
I Have to Start Cooking Now?!
A month ago, we all found many restaurants closing and our food options limited due to stay-at-home orders. It had been a long time since I did any serious business in the kitchen, relying instead on dine-in restaurants and the grocery prepared foods section. And, quite frankly, I was never Julia Child material. However, I found that with Google and some help, I could make dishes that were more than passable. I bet you each have had similar experiences. I’ll go first, and tell my story. Maybe, some of you can contribute or correct me. If, like me, you are a certain age and are not comfortable in the kitchen, let me suggest you give cooking a shot. If you are already a good cook, then maybe pass this on to someone who needs a hint to get out of the “Coronavirus Blues” and do something new.
The "6 P Rule"
The biggest lesson I learned was that, like everything else in life, cooking is governed by the 6 P Rule: Poor Preparation Produces Piss-Poor Performances. It is important to apply this rule of preparation to cooking for those who are either new to the art or have forgotten lessons from long ago. To start, it is good to have spatulas, measuring cups, rolling pins, big bowls, a mixer, and most important of all, a set of wooden spoons. Don’t ask me why you need wooden spoons; the great Carol Chirichiello of Ft. Myers told me decades ago that this was a must. Everything else can come later as you buy what you need when you need it. When the Corona goes away, you will begin to go to places like Bed Bath & and Beyond (assuming that they are still in business) and learn all about the hundreds of cooking gadgets hanging on the walls. Have the attitude that this is going to be fun! For me, it was better than the many days in my life spent learning about tools and gadgets in hardware stores. BTW, where did all those tools go? Did my kids take them? Anyway, my daughter reminds me that you can always buy just about any cooking-related item through Amazon.
Learn from the Great Masters
You can’t get too far without a good cook book. Do not buy anything that is designed for beginners. We’re better than beginners, even if this is our first attempt. This attitude is part of the magic of cooking. We can do anything if we get a little help and have decent tools. My favorite recommendation for easy-to-understand cook books is the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten). Her books are a joy. In fact, she touts her Family Style cook book as “easy ideas and recipes that make everyone feel like family.” How can you go wrong with that? Follow her recipes exactly, and you will surprise yourself and those who know and doubt you. You also need a coach. Someone in the family who is a good cook and would love to answer your questions. Be really nice to this person. If there are no cooks in your world, find a friend in the hopes that two sets of eyes are better than none.
Before you cook, get all the ingredients, measuring cups and things that a recipe requires out and ready. This is where your coach can help. For example, the famous Chef Mary Ann Pettorini taught me that one can never have enough butter and that butter must be
at the right temperature before being added to baking recipes. Who knew? A coach will teach you why things failed, like the time I slammed the oven door while the cake was rising. I learned that the cake was still tasty, just oddly shaped - kind of like a gummy brownie (I promise it was still good).
Since nothing reinforces a lesson like success, I am going to include an incredibly simple recipe for each post. Today, it is Chick Peas and Carrots which can be used as an appetizer with a glass of wine or as a side dish. I first saw this dish on the Pettorini stove and thought it was delicious. Later, my nine year-old granddaughter served it up to her family with great success. To start, you will need a cookie sheet and an oven preheated to 400 degrees.
2 cans chick peas (garbanzo beans).
1 package shredded carrots
1 small onion, minced
Spices, pinch of each: salt, pepper, cumin, garlic salt, and some hot spices (red pepper or cayenne)
A bunch of parsley
Put plenty of olive oil in a cookie sheet - 2 glugs. Add the chick peas after draining all the water from the cans. Then add the shredded carrots, minced onion and spices. Add salt and pepper a little at a time. Toss evenly to coat. Bake for 40 minutes paying close attention during the last 10 minutes to ensure that the chick peas are buttery, flavorful and spiced to your taste. Pull from the oven, add chopped parsley and enjoy!