food, How To

Getting Started With Cooking At Home

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jugsauce.jpgI received a recent email from Dee asking how to prepare real meals (i.e., not your standard sandwiches, tuna, and fast food items) in a practical way and I’ve been giving the question some thought. 

Cooking is not rocket science, but it does require that you 1., care about the quality of the food you purchase and 2., set aside the the time needed to prepare a meal.  I learned to cook by watching my mother; her meals, for the most part, were simple and prepared from scratch.  Some of my favorite meals included pasta with olive oil, garlic, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, frittata with onions and potatoes, and baked flounder with bread crumbs and hot pepper flakes.  My mother made more elaborate meals for holidays or birthdays but her everyday style was more simple and fresh then fancy and exotic.

Cooking does require some basic tools and I’ve listed them here in an older post.  Preparing a meal also requires some planning and having basic ingredients in your cupboard at all times.  In turn, I like to keep the following food items in my kitchen at all times:

- Olive oil

- Dried pasta (linguine, penne, angel hair, and rigatoni)

Soba noodles

- Olives (in oil)

- Tuna (in oil)

- Sardines (in salt)

- Cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, French feta, Laughing Cow spreadable cheese.)

- Lettuce (cleaned and stored in a salad dryer)

- Frozen free range chicken breast on the bone, ground white turkey, and pork chops

- Eggs

- Red onions, yams, potatoes

- Plenty of fresh, seasonal, fruit

- Beans (black, kidney, etc.)

- Fish (I don’t like to freeze fish, but rather aim to purchase it fresh the day I will consume it which is about twice a week for us.  I like cod, flounder, salmon, scallops, snapper, and trout, but please buy what is fresh and don’t consume too much of the following varities: tuna, swordfish, etc.)

- Fresh vegetables (broccoli, escarole, eggplant, zucchini are all very easy to prepare).

I usually go to the market once or twice a week.  I purchase my fruits and vegetables at good local market (mom and pop shop) or a dedicated fruit and vegetable store (see an older post on how to buy produce).  I like to buy meat and fish at specialty markets and tend to stay away from big chain markets for these items.  If there’s one thing I like spending money on it’s high quality food.  I justify the expenditure on good quality ingredients for cooking in three ways:

 

- It’s much cheaper to buy your own ingredients and cook each night (versus restaurants)

- I have control over ingredients and quality


- Good food gives me great pleasure and makes me feel good (one cannot live like a miser and enjoy life at the same time, everyone needs to feel as though they are living a high quality life and food does it for me!)

 

In terms of some simple, practical, meals here are a few I turn to very often (I’ll aim to post recipes for items later in the day):

1. Frittata (either with red onion and thinly sliced potatoes or a left over vegetable like asparagus or zucchini).

2. Baked wild salmon with salt, pepper, lemon zest, and olive oil

3. Sautéed escarole with olive oil and white beans

4. Free range turkey chili with red pepper, onions, zucchini, and black beans

5. Risotto with saffron and Parmigiano-Reggiano

6. Pan fried wild cod

7. Soup (lentil, vegetable, and pea)

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  • Dee

    Thanks so much for the post!

  • Jen

    Hi Vince. Great post! I love cooking at home with fresh, high quality ingredients. I came over from Smart Spending and plan to look around here. I would LOVE to see your frittata recipe. Thanks.

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