Like I say, we all have to eat, so we may as well learn to cook so we can eat well. And since you’re here, you must feel the same way. Now the question becomes “What should I cook?” I ask myself that question sometimes multiple times a day, so this section is designed to help all of us out, myself included. First, we’ll look at buying fresh, seasonal ingredients. Your meals will almost always taste better the fresher and more locally you can source what you’re going to cook. There’s a reason why tomatoes don’t taste good in the winter and why you can’t find pie pumpkins in the summertime. Work with your local seasons when planning meals and deciding what to cook, not against them.
Another component of always being able to answer the question, “What should I cook?” is a well stocked pantry. From staples like canned stock, rice, pasta, dried beans and olive oils to more specialty pantry items like demiglace, oil packed tuna and anchovy paste, to refrigerated ingredients such as lemons, limes, eggs and milk, if your pantry and cupboards and fridge are full of possibilities, dinner is that much closer to being on the table. When stocking your pantry, especially with shelf-stable ingredients, don’t hesitate to shop at your local warehouse store such as Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s. As long as you have the space to store them, there is nothing wrong with buying 8 boxes of pasta at a time, especially since you will realize significant savings per box. And don’t forget to look for specialty ingredients at the warehouse stores. These days, I find everything from cryovaced ribs to artichoke hearts to marinated mushrooms.
And the wine section? We all know that cooking with wine adds flavor as well as bringing out some of the alcohol soluble compounds in foods that stay locked away when cooked in a water-based liquid. The rule of thumb is to cook with a wine you would want to drink, so the wine section will focus on just that: wines that go well with food. The wine you choose can either enhance your meal or fight against it, so it’s important to know how to pair the right wine with the right meal.
|Ingredients What ingredients do you want to have on hand so you don't have to run out to the market every day? Just like my must-have kitchen tools, you may consider having these staples in your kitchen so you can whip up a delicious meal at a moments notice. Most of these items you can find in your local supermarket and some...|
|Basic PantryIt’s important to remember that some products with long shelf lives, like spices, lose their flavor over time. So you may want to toss the ground cumin that hasn’t seen the light of day since that special grilled shrimp dish three years ago. And if you have a deep pantry like mine, you may want to check...|
|Advanced PantryIf the basic staples are your go-to ingredients for day to day cooking, advanced pantry staples are the flavor accents that can turn an ordinary pantry meal into one fit for company. You might not use some of these flourishes every day, but as long as you like them and they have a reasonably long shelf-life, they definitely belong in your pantry.|
|Fridge & Freezer All hail the refrigerator and freezer. Having the ability to refrigerate and freeze ingredients allows us to have fresh and fresh-frozen meat and produce on hand all year round. Check this section to make sure that your refrigerator is well stocked with everything from eggs, to milk to aioli and mayonnaise to a variety of mustards.|
|SubstitutionsThis may be one of the hardest things for home cooks to learn. When learning to cook, we try to follow recipes exactly, and I can’t tell you how often I used to run to the store to pick up just one ingredient. Relax and realize that, while you might not achieve exactly the same results with these substitutions, you’ll still end up with something tasty while focusing on cooking with what you have on hand and not on running to the store.|
|Alcohol / WineMy wife and I really enjoy wine with dinner, and we’ve enjoyed getting to learn more about wine. We even put in a wine cellar as part of our home renovation. Here are articles I have written about different wines that we have really enjoyed. I think you might enjoy them too. Also, learn how to make the most of your food and wine pairings so that the wine enhances the meal rather than fighting against it.|