You Suck at Cooking, Let Me Help You.

Many people probably don’t know that I am an avid cook, like to the point where I sit at my work desk and daydream about new recipes. Honestly it borders on an obsession. I’ve always been a lover of food. I come from a long line of good Italian cooks (including my mother and grandmother who have taught me everything I know). I even went to dress-up career day in elementary school as a chef (that’s when you know it’s real). Basically since I came out of the womb I’ve been a foodie.

Summertime is my favorite time when it comes to cooking because I’m actually home, which means I have a kitchen to cook in and a mom to buy me food to cook with. However I’ve realized that something that comes so naturally to me is not so natural for everyone. So today I decided to give my tips and tricks to being a basic chef:

1.Olive oil is everything

I don’t think there’s a single meal I cook that doesn’t involve olive oil. Any time you put a pan on the stove (unless it’s for like pancakes or something sweet) put olive oil in it. The key to building flavor to any veggie, meat, egg, whatever, is olive oil. Plus it keeps your food from sticking to the pan which is obviously important. It’s also nice because oil is great for getting that nice brown, crispy coloring on anything you’re cooking. Added bonus: cooking with olive oil is 10x healthier for you than cooking with butter (not an actual statistic but you get it). Part of the reason why everyone is skinnier over in Europe is because they cook with oil and not butter.

2.Seasoning

If you don’t season your food it’s gonna suck, but at the same time seasoning is a delicate balance between good flavor and disgusting flavor. My tip to all of you is to stick to the basics if you’re nervous. I rarely ever cook a meal that does involve these three spices: salt, pepper, and garlic. Those three things are the key to making anything taste good. But if you’re willing to take things a little bit further don’t be afraid to use paprika, crushed red pepper, minced onion, cayenne pepper, or basil. The more seasoning you add the more flavor you’ll get, just don’t mix too many conflicting flavors and don’t go overboard with your amounts. Sprinkling a little bit over whatever you’re cooking is good enough, but you should still taste your dish on and off to see if you need to add more. Always remember: you can add more seasoning but you can’t take any away. So start small and build.

3.Cooking time

The worst way to destroy a meal is to overcook the food. Meat will become dry and veggies will become soggy. It’s best to just judge for yourself what you think it’s finished cooking or not, but if you’re more comfortable with concrete numbers than make sure you stick to packaging instructions or look online for normal meat cooking times. I always say if it looks done it is done, don’t second guess yourself.

4.Deglazing the pan

Talk about flavor and you must talk about deglazing the pan. This sounds all fancy and stuff but really it’s quite simple. It basically means that after you’ve cooked your meat or veggie or whatever, take a little bit of water or broth and add it to the pan. This will cause all the dark parts that have gotten on the bottom of the pan to release their flavor and create a sort of sauce for your food. Your dishes will instantly become more flavorful and impressive looking if you add this step.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’m sure that this won’t be the last of my food related posts so feel free to stick around if they interest you.

(I would add a fifth step that says “Have fun!” but I think that’s even a little too cheesy for me).

From me for you,

Julie