Thursday, July 03, 2008

How to Cook When You Don't Know How to Cook


What's that you say? You can't cook? Can't boil water?

Nonsense! That's crazy talk.

Anyone can cook. Everyone should cook. If you can read then you can cook. You just need to know what the words in the recipe mean. After that, it's all cake (and you can eat it too, literally).

If the thought of firing up your stove's pilot light or wielding a paring knife freaks you out, fear not, my culinarily challenged Friend. There are places you can go to get the info you need to be a superstar in the kitchen. Check out the Resources page on the Epicurious website. Or take a cyberstroll through the Guides on The Food Network website. These sites will teach you the basics about food terminology, cooking techniques and almost anything else you need to know about preparing a tasty meal.

If you want to kick it old-school with an actual book, browse through a couple of my favorites. I especially like The New York Times Cookbook (1961 edition) because there's a handy guide in the back that tells you how to use herbs and spices to flavor your food. Also, feast your eyes upon The Gourmet Cookbook (Ruth "Food Goddess" Reichl, editor), which is full of amazing recipes and fantastic how-to sections.

So, are you feeling ready to take the plunge? Ready to whip up a four course meal for you and yours? No?

That's okay. We can take baby steps. Salad is a great place to start with that first, tiny baby step. You can't burn it or undercook it. And the possibilities are endless, which allows you to be creative without accidentally setting your kitchen on fire or giving your guests food poisoning. Usually.

This is my favorite salad. I hope it becomes one of your favorites too.

Fruity Arugula Salad


6 cups arugula (do not pack down the arugula when measuring)

1 thinly sliced small, unpeeled Fuji apple (if you can't get a Fuji, try a Gala apple or your favorite)
2/3 cup red seedless grapes or pitted cherries, cut into halves (you can use thawed frozen pitted cherries, drained very well)

1 large shallot, minced

handful of basil, chiffonade (this means cut into thin strips)

Dress with:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons good quality white balsamic vinegar

pinch of sea salt

smaller pinch of sugar

Plain goat cheese would be a good addition to the salad, particularly if you want to eat the salad as a light meal by itself. Or, try an herbed goat cheese if you're feeling fancy. Slice the cheese and put it on top after you dress the salad, so that it stays white and pretty.

Serves 2 as a light meal, 4 as a side or starter.

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