I am very much a creature of habit when it comes to...well, anything, and that holds true in the kitchen, as well. However, I've found that many of my long-held rules in terms of meal preparation have gone right out the door the longer I've spent apron-clad next to my husband. (The man can cook, y'all.) And it's amazing what proper gadgets and supplies can do to one's ability to tackle new techniques and recipes. (I'm proud to say that we have already used every single kitchen/cooking item that we registered for!)
Here are the current rules of this simple veggie cook...
1. Just because a recipe has more than 6 ingredients (not counting salt and pepper) doesn't mean it's impossible, nor will it necessarily take forever.
2. Salt is your friend. It's OK to invite your friend to the party. In fact, you should definitely do that.
3. But stick with kosher or sea salt...unless you're baking.
4. Baking is scarysauce. Unless it's a potato. Or cheesy casserole. (Mmmm, cheesy casserole.)
5. Season every layer of whatever you're making. Not just at the beginning; not just at the end. Give every step some love. You'll taste the difference.
6. Spice is nice. Don't be ascared.
7. Cilantro is good on nearly everything.
8. When you're making several elements for a meal (ex. a standard American dinner of a protein and several sides), keep the oven on warm and store finished elements in there to ensure your meal is evenly warmed...but not like microwaved warm. It's just not the same.
9. Clean as you go. Not that difficult, and so worth it when you can sit down and not stress about the disaster area that is your kitchen in the wake of the lovely meal you're about to inhale (in 1/25th of the time it took to make it, no less).
10. Keep your hair pinned back. May not be as attractive, but go throw on a nightie or something if you're worried about it. Hair in food (even if it's your own) is not awesome.
11. When it comes to grilling veggies, shoot for less time on higher heat. They'll stay crisp but still get those beautiful marks and that delicious flavor.
12. Butter is good, m'kay. But you can often times get really good flavor by adding some additional herbs and spices, opting instead to cook with olive oil.
13. Freshly grated parm is the only parm worth having. (Invest in a microplane. It's a must-have.)
14. Put freshly grated parm on everything.
15. Toast can be one of the most decadent snacks you've ever had if you fancy it up. My personal favorite: rosemary sourdough toast, topped with roasted cherry tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper, olive oil, and...you guessed it, freshly grated parm. (I've called this dinner on more than one occasion.)
16. Always keep on hand: garlic, onions, cilantro, olive oil, garlic salt, red pepper flakes, toasted sesame seed oil. You can make anything taste pretty fantastic using a mix of these staples.
17. At least two veggies should make their way onto your dinner plate. The closer to raw, the better.
18. Mushrooms, as it turns out, are not gross.
19. Random, seasoned veggies earn the title "meal" the moment you place them atop rice. Keep rice on hand, and get you a rice cooker if you can. (They're totally hands-off and you can save quite a bit buying rice in bulk.) Never again will you have to waste a lone bell pepper or squash.
20. Immersion blenders necessitate deep bowls. Don't get one without the other...unless you've got a spare drop cloth laying around your kitchen.
21. Get a grill pan. STAT.
22. Know yourselves. If you don't like certain leftovers, scale back the recipe so you don't waste. If you're a fan of certain foods the next day (Italian and Mexican fare bodes well for us), make a little extra while you've got all the stuff out.
23. Master a flavor profile. It is great times to totally branch out and try a recipe you wouldn't normally attempt without checking (and re-checking...and re-checking) the instructions a zillion times, but there's a lot to be said for getting a firm grasp on flavors and ingredient combos that can come in handy to throw just about anything together quickly and without much effort. This is a weekday lifesaver if you're trying to eat healthy and/or at home more often. (I've spend a lot of time with garlic, shallots, tomatoes and crushed red pepper. Thank you, Giada.)
24. Organic is more expensive, I know this, but food is fuel, my dears. Splurge. Save elsewhere.
25. Eat at the table at least once a week. We are fans of parking on the couch and enjoying a meal on our TV trays, but it is such a treat to make a regular effort to sit at the table, light a candle or two, and look at each other while you eat. (You will, of course, have to mind your table manners in this scenario, but what is a proper dinner if not your beloved gracefully suggesting that you remove the cous cous from your bangs.)