Teach Me to Cook
August 22, 2004 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Cooking for the lazy and overworked. I eat a lot of overpriced crap lately - think boxed/frozen/microwaveable, or even just takeout - and for a number of obvious reasons I'd like to stop doing that. I think most of America is in the same boat with me, but can those of you who aren't give me some tips on learning to cook for myself?

Right now I'm a pretty lousy cook, and I'm really slow to boot. I also don't like to cook and don't think I ever really will, so come dinner time after work - when I've just gotten into the time left for MY day - the last thing I want to do is spend two and a half hours chopping, cooking, eating, cleaning, etc. It's a lot easier to just nuke something and be done with the whole process in a half hour.

Now, despite the above, I don't want to keep putting bad stuff in my body, or wasting money on bad food. What I really need to learn is how to prepare varied meals quickly and without much effort. Like I said, I don't think I'll ever really like to cook, but I love to eat, and I want to be healthy, so I'm willing to put in the effort to get to where I need to be.

I'm not really sure where to start, though, so I guess I'm just asking for some general pointers. I think part of the problem is that most of the "cookbooks" I have are really just collections of recipes - they don't teach you the skill of how to cook if you don't already know. How can I pick that up?

Difficulty Level: Vegetarian, but beyond that there's just about nothing in the way of food that I don't like.
posted by tirade to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Food Network has a bunch of video basics.

Or there's probably a local cooking shop that has basic cooking classes. In Chicago there's The Chopping Block.
posted by gramcracker at 7:30 PM on August 22, 2004

I love Cook's Illustrated and Alton Brown for their sorta-scientific approach to why things work the way they do in the kitchen. Cook's has a number of books, but the best introduction would be The Cook's Bible, which you can probably get from the library. It does have a fair amount of meat-based recipes, but as far as technique goes it's still a good book to have.
posted by O9scar at 7:52 PM on August 22, 2004

Stir-frying is one of the quickest, easiest and most addictive ways to foster an interest in cooking. It can be healthy as well. Just line a pan with a litle soy sauce and/or olive oil, chop up some peppers, celery, carrots, radishes, sprouts, scallions, etc. and garnish with spices. Make enough in large quanities, and you've cooked for at least a weekend.
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:52 PM on August 22, 2004

I am sure there are better ways, but I just started cooking.

I have limited talent and ability, but through some trial and error and talking to friends who do cook, I got better, and even learned to enjoy it at times.

At the beginning, I developed a few key staple meals -- each with a protein, a vegetable (or a few) and a starch. That simplified my shopping for ingredients, and didn't require that I learn a lot of cooking methods. As I grew more confident that what I was making was edible, I slowly began to expand into more ingredients and methods.
posted by szg8 at 8:00 PM on August 22, 2004

Desperation Dinners is a good source of quick (20-minute) recipes, but they cut a few more corners than I would. (I use their recipes, but instead of frozen lemon juice, I'll use fresh. I'll grate cheese instead of buying it pre-grated, et cetera. Mostly this doesn't really add much prep time.)

I'd also recommend a local basic cooking skills class -- try your local college's continuing ed department, gourmet stores, and the like.

And The Cook's Bible is great, as is Julia Child's "The Way To Cook."
posted by Vidiot at 8:00 PM on August 22, 2004

Crash course in home economics:

Buy a good, comprehensive cookbook that has a starting grocery list for properly stocking a kitchen - good spices to have on hand, basic ingredients, etc. The Moosewood cookbooks are my friends - good basics, like soups & sandwiches and simple, quick entrees.

Cook pastas, but choose whole wheat or rice pastas with few ingredients. Butter, garlic & parmesan are a good topping, pesto is a good topping, and salad goes well with all of it.

Stir fries, curries, layered italian casserole dishes like tiella can be quick - though the casserole-y stuf might be best made on the weekends and frozen for the week.

Cooking ahead on the weekend and augmenting with fresh vegetable side dishes may be your best bet - I have a rather tight work schedule, and I pre-cook two entrees every weekend in portions for lunches & snacks throughout the week. For my weekly dinners, I prepare ingredients ahead on the weekend (marinades, sauces, pre-cutting vegetables) and then can quickly toss together meals at night when I get home.

This is all pretty generalized, but a good cookbook can be a great foundation - I set my kitchen up with help from the Midwestern Bible of Food (i.e. Betty Crocker's cookbook) and collect recipes from all over the place.
posted by annathea at 8:03 PM on August 22, 2004

I used to work for the publishing company that puts out Vegetarian Times and Better Nutrition magazines, though more directly with BN than with VT. BUT I do know there are a lot of good, fairly simple recipes in VT and perhaps either the "Fast Food" or "30-Minute Recipes" departments of the magazine (by their names they would seem to accomplish the same thing) would be of some help. I'm not a vegetarian, but the dishes the food editor would bring in for the editorial staff to sample were usually delicious.

VT's web site isn't very helpful, but there are some examples from those two magazine departments here.
posted by emelenjr at 8:07 PM on August 22, 2004

It won't suit you for every meal, but I recommend you learn to cook kickass omelettes (or eggs in any variety). Once you master them, you can cook one in, literally, less than 5 minutes--in fact, I have a number of cookbooks that say you can do the egg portion in under 1 minute. They're wonderfully varied, healthy, fast, and a well-made one impresses the opposite sex like you wouldn't believe. I recommend this book.
posted by dobbs at 8:12 PM on August 22, 2004

Even better - a frittata. Turn on your burner, take a fork to 4 or 5 eggs, pour them into an oiled non stick pan on the fire, add whatever the hell you want - onions or peppers or nothing even - sprinkle some shredded cheese on top (the secret is to pat the cheese into the wet eggs, messy but makes all the diff) shake the pan gently until it's clear the bottom is solidifying, and then run the pan under a broiler until the top bubbles and browns. The whole thing takes five mins start to finish and man it's good. Traditionally it's served lukewarm but you won't be able to wait.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:22 PM on August 22, 2004

1) Get a manual chopper and a mandolin slicer. These two inexpensive kitchen tools will cut your prep time in half, honest to pete. (These links are not product endorsements, just illustrations of what I mean.)

2) Stir fry, as Smart Dalek mentioned, is fast, easy and you can get a wide variety of results depending on what you put together, so it doesn't get boring.

3) Tomato sauces are also quite easy. Crush a clove or two of garlic, chop two or three small white onions, and sautee both in olive oil on a medium heat until the onions go transparent. Then, you can a) add lots of fresh, peeled tomatoes or b) canned tomato sauce, tomato puree, and tomato paste, a splash of red wine, a dash of salt, and cover and simmer for hours on end. Tomato sauces taste especially good when reheated the next day. The only proviso is that just adding tomatoes means you will need to tend the pot- stirring and smooshing as the tomatoes break down. With the canned tomato products, you can just set it on low and go. (I suggest Red Gold; that is a product endorsement.)

With this basic sauce, you can add (in the last half hour) any number of spices and ingredients to get different results. Oregano, rosemary, basil, and bay- basic red sauce that you can punch up with mushrooms, zucchini, etc., good not only over pasta, but also an ideal sauce for pizza and lasagne. Or, you can add a can of stewed tomatoes, chopped green peppers, a little bit of onion powder, and have a goulash (which you could firm up with the veggie crumbles that some vegetarians use in place of ground beef.) Or, you could add some chili powder, red beans, and veggie crumbles for a nice, thick chili. These are all easy to make, and if you make in bulk, they freeze beautifully. Then all you'd have to do is make the side dishes (garlic bread, fresh pasta, what have you,) to have a complete meal on the table in less than an hour.

4) Soups are also pretty low maintenance, and easy to make over a long period of time. You can make them in a pot on the stovetop on a very low heat, or throw everything into a crock pot the night before, and it'll be done in time for dinner. Your basic vegetable soup is tomato juice, water, chopped celery (or celery seed,) boiled for a bit to make a nice stock, then add whatever vegetables you like (peeled and sliced.) I usually put in potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, green beans and sometimes turnips, some salt, some pepper, and you're good to go. If you use canned vegetables, just dump them in with their juice, it adds flavor.

A good basic vegetarian noodle soup is just as easy; for your stock, again, water, celery, this time add parsley and salt, bring to a boil, then add noodles and carrot slivers (or whatever makes you happy; it's a nice, neutral base, so you can go wild with it.) If you do dairy at all, you can add a can or two of cream of mushroom or cream of broccoli soup to make a nice cream base, which will create a heartier soup. Soups also freeze exceedingly well, make a big batch and freeze most of it for later.

5) Probably not particularly healthy, but rather tasty, slice zucchini, cucumbers, break down cauliflower and broccoli to small florets, dip in water or milk, and roll in bread or cracker crumbs. Or, if you're feeling particularly frisky, look up a good beer batter recipe, and dunk, then deep fry in vegetable oil. Mmmmmm!

6) Um, I forgot what six was for. Heh.

Anyway, these are some good, basic starters, and as you get confident with sauces and soups, stir fry and deep frying, you can move up to bigger and more complicated recipes. Good luck (and thanks for the question, because we're a carnivorous household, and it was interesting to go through my recipes to figure out which ones would work for you!)
posted by headspace at 8:23 PM on August 22, 2004

I'll second the Moosewood cookbooks: stocking your kitchen is worth the time and initial investment. It will make your life a lot easier down the road and will make recipes actually very easy to deal with -- you'll already have the ingredients on hand.

Three more suggestions for you:

First, buy the Chez Panisse Cafe cookbook. It has a lot of recipes that are very simple and involve relatively few ingredients, but which will taste great and reward your effort. And Alice Waters, the author, is not only an amazing chef, but also a great evangelist for cooking in general; she will make you care about food and enjoy cooking a lot more. Her emphasis is on super-fresh ingredients, which leads me to my second point:

Buy good -- really good -- groceries! Find a good grocery store, like a Whole Foods, near where you live. Buy your vegetables super fresh, every day on the way home if you live in a big city or if it's otherwise convenient. The fresher the food is to begin with, the less you have to dress it up with fancy recipes and weird ingredients. If you buy a package of good pasta (not Barilla, but fresh pasta), two or three fresh tomatoes and fresh basil, dinner will take you 10 minutes and taste great. If you buy mesclun salad mix every (or every other) day, your salads will taste great with just oil and vinegar -- no chopping required. You'll still save a ton of money even buying nice groceries, and you'll be a lot happier. In my own experience, nothing has made as big a diference in the speed with which I prepare meals, their healthfullness, or their tatse, than just springing for good, fresh produce and meats. (Plus you get all the benefits of really eating right -- healthy fresh veggies, no nasty additives.)

And one more: get the book Home Comforts. We got this book recently and it's amazing; one of the big subjects it covers is how to handle your groceries. For instance, she recommends washing all of the leafy greens you've bought as soon as you come back from the store; you dry them out in a salad spinner, then store them in the fridge wrapped in a paper towel inside a zip-lock bag. This takes us ten minutes at most, and means that we can buy spinach or kale on Monday, and it still tastes great on Thursday or Friday. It also has a ton of other helpful domestic science tips.

Cooking simple, quick meals out of the freshest possible ingredients is definitely the best way to get started as a cook.
posted by josh at 8:33 PM on August 22, 2004

I'm largely the same way, but my schedule is even weirder. Sometimes I have an hour to cook and clean and stuff, but most days I don't, and cooking low-fat vegetarian stuff without spending 45-60 minutes each day is hard.

I agree with the recommendations for AB and Cook's Illustrated, and I read/watch just about everything they do, but when I know I need to eat in and don't know what to do, my first resources are Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure and Lorna Sass' Complete Vegetarian Kitchen, both by Lorna Sass. [Disclaimer: both are affiliate links; they always seem to last longer. Buy where you want.]

These two books and an AB-approved pressure cooker have made it possible for me to cook and eat here far, far, far more times than I ever would have otherwise. The first book has a recipe for "Saffron Risotto with Vegetables Du Jour" that makes a real, creamy, low-fat risotto in about 15 minutes, including 5 mins of cooking under high pressure. The veggies? A bag of frozen stuff I nuke for four minutes while the rice cooks. I can make this thing any day of the week in less than the time it would take me to go out, get the food, and get back. I don't always, but I'm trying to more often.

Not every recipe is a winner, and I'm not very fond of Sass's other cookbooks (though I have a few), but these two are absolutely full of things I can make in one pot (the pressure cooker) in 30 mins or less. (AB's latest episode of "Good Eats" used a pressure cooker to make chili, so it was done in 25 minutes instead of 6-12 hours.) The thing even cookes a mushroom-leek brown rice dish in 35 minutes.

If you're a harried vegeterian who wants to eat quickly at home, I can't imagine starting anywhere other than with those books and a good new pressure cooker. Soups in ten minutes, risottos in five minutes, potatoes in nine minutes - heck, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Many thumbs up on this combo.
posted by mdeatherage at 8:37 PM on August 22, 2004

The freezer is your friend. Set aside one night each week for cooking one or two recipes - and triple them. Make a soup or stew, roasted vegetables, stir frys, whatever. Freeze them in individual portion sizes in ziploc bags, and then you can follow your usual come-home-and-microwave routine for a fraction of the cost & calories.

For cookbooks, I'd also recommend Donna Hay's excellent The New Cook and then, once you're no longer a new cook, Mark Bittman's fabulous How to Cook Everything.
posted by judith at 9:02 PM on August 22, 2004

Learn from someone you know. Someone you are used to being around allows you to get a rhythym for the pace. Cookbooks are just science projects--lists of components and methods assembled to achieve a result. You need to get into the muck with someone you know. Help out with a homecooked meal or two and you'll get it. A lot of it hinges on practice. The first time I made spaghetti sauce from "scratch", it took 3 hours and nearly every pot pan and utensil I owned. Now, I can go from ingredients to simmering sauce in 10 minutes using only a knife a cutting board and a good saucepan.
posted by sharksandwich at 9:42 PM on August 22, 2004

Soups and stir-frys. They're easy, and the prep is complimentary. When chopping veggies for the stir-fry, just toss all the cuttings (minus anything rotted, of course) into a container in the freezer. Then at the end of the week, empty the container into a large pot of water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on very low heat until the veggies basically turn to gray mush. Toss in some salt and your favorite spices until the liquid tastes just the way you like it. Strain out the cuttings, and presto you have a nice stock. The rest of the week, you can combine that with whatever suits your fancy: legumes, rice, tofu, potato, pasta, etc. To raise the difficulty, segregate different types of cuttings, then experiment with different proportions/combinations to get more variety in your stock flavors. (What you don't use after a day or so, freeze. If you use ice cube trays, it's easier to control portions.)

Another possibility is to forget about starting easy. Start with one dish that you or (someone special to you) LOVE but consider too extravagent for mere takeout (souffle, mmmmm) and far too difficult for a mere mortal like you. Then search cookbooks and recipe websites for a dozen or so recipes for this dish and just give a shot at making each version. Some will be flops, but who cares--it's supposed to be too hard for an amateur anyway, right? You get a big, motivating ego boost from the versions that do turn out well, plus the process of comparison will teach you a lot about how each ingredient and step affects the overall outcome. After a few iterations you'll have mastered the dish, and come away with the confidence to experiment with your own variations on its basic formula. It's also fun to be able to impress a friend or date with your homemade delicacy.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:08 PM on August 22, 2004

If I may be forgiven, I'd like to self-link to my Gado Gado recipe on my chef blog. It's an easy-to-make veggie salad with peanut sauce, and if you make lots of the peanut sauce, you can use it with any grilled food. (And while we're plugging away, the blog is updated about twice every week. Keep checking back. :)
posted by madman at 10:54 PM on August 22, 2004

Maybe the world has moved on from this old mainstay of cookbooks, but I recommend "Joy of Cooking", for its "about" sections. They don't assume you know much, they will tell you the simple things too. And often they have something amusing to add, too.

It pays to read different recipies for things. Find who makes things the hard way and who the easy way. Then make a habit of comparing the two. This way you can learn what shortcuts work, which don't. Maybe even why.
posted by Goofyy at 2:10 AM on August 23, 2004

Hey, look! A few "Pseudo-Mexican Gringo Bachelor Vegan Recipes"!

My advice for acquiring cooking skills, is really just not to worry about it too much. Since you are not interested in cooking as a hobby you aren't going to be tackling elaborate recipes, so it's really all down to common sense and the ability to read. Once you begin to cook a bit, I think you'll find yourself straying from the recipes more to create dishes in your own way, and perhaps even coming up with your own recipes. Learning to cook is kind of like learning to use a computer - you can read books about how to do it, or you can just jump in and learn as you go along. (But it's always good to have a great fundamental guide like "The Joy of Cooking" for whenever you need to look up some basic information.)

I never actually learned how to cook, but I make fast delicious meals from all-fresh ingredients all the time, and most of them are my own recipe. Hardly what I expected those many moons ago when stood in the center of the kitchen in a complete panic, knowing I had to prepare a simple red beans and rice dish for company. My friend laughed her ass off when she realized I had put aside something like six hours to accomplish this monumental task. Once I got over the initial fear-hump, I realized that most things are actually pretty easy, and even started getting into cooking rather exotic gourmet dishes, but these days I'm more into fresh, seasonal and simple. So, anyway, rule one is "be fearless"!

One thing that might be very helpful and make you more inclined to whip up your own meals is to sit down (while you are watching a movie on tv, for example, or having a nice chat with a friend at home) and chop up loads of green pepper, onion, and garlic, then put these in little ziplock freezer bags. Not having to chop these basic ingredients for most dishes can really make things go faster. If you get ambitious, you can do the same thing with vegetable stock; make a big pot of stock on a lazy Sunday and freeze it in smallish containers to last for months. This will expand the number of dishes you can make quickly.

And, finally, remember these five words: Olive oil and lemon juice! Fresh-slice, steam, boil or bake any vegetable, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper (if you like) and perhaps basil or oregano for a great instant dish.
posted by taz at 4:13 AM on August 23, 2004

I found that sticking with one culinary tradition -- in my case, Italian -- and learning that slowly helped my confidence and ability. I bought Marcella Hazan's "The Essentials of Italian Cooking," which is pretty good at getting you into the rhythm of the recipes as well as presenting a range of levels -- one of the pasta sauces involves only putting three things in a pan and letting them cook for a half hour, another involves manually deboning a chicken (and most are in between).

In any event, French cooking differs from Italian cooking which differs from Chinese cooking which differs from... you get the idea. Some, like French, involve a lot of chopping and stirring and spicing and slow cooking. Some, like Chinese, involve a lot of chopping but not much cooking. Italian tends to be good for few ingredients per recipe, so you can stock your kitchen pretty quickly (thyme, oregano, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, and you're done.)

So you might want to pick your favorite cuisine and just work your way through a beginner's cookbook. Then once you have those techniques down, you could branch out.
posted by occhiblu at 5:58 AM on August 23, 2004

Also, Marcella Hazan tends to have some really great simple vegetable recipes, as well.
posted by occhiblu at 5:59 AM on August 23, 2004

A good stainless steel pressure cooker makes it really easy to make lots of healthy, one-pot meals with fresh ingredients. Quickly. Eat cheaper that way too. Crockpots are practically free too.
posted by mecran01 at 6:48 AM on August 23, 2004

A book like The Joy of Cooking will give you recipes plus background information on the selection and preparation of ingredients. If your recipe calls for fennel, you can flip around to the "fennel" entry and learn all about it. This isn't really a shortcut but my advice is that you not look for shortcuts. Instead, pick a few simple meals and practice them. Preparation time will go way down after you've gotten the hang of a particular meal. It doesn't have to be onerous. If you're cooking for yourself then you'll probably get a lot of leftovers -- you can probably eat for a week on stuff you've only spent three nights preparing.

Also: do you like fish? Get an alder wood plank and the fish recipe book from these guys. I don't know why but it just seems a lot cleaner and easier to prepare fish than chicken or beef.
posted by coelecanth at 7:24 AM on August 23, 2004

I don't enjoy cooking either. I do these 3 things:

I make really quick, simple meals i.e. the above mentioned omelettes or meats & cheeses, wraps, etc.

I prepare food in bulk and eat it throughout the week.

Buy salad bags, i.e ceasar, ranch, etc. I poach salmon or steelhead trout (takes only a couple of minuts) the night before, put it in a ziplock bag and bring it to work to eat on top of the prepared bag of salad.

I keep a lot of prepared foods on hand like yogurt, cheese, deli style meats, tuna, frozen burgers, etc. I also grill a lot.
posted by Juicylicious at 9:14 AM on August 23, 2004

It's all been said already, but let me also add that watching cooking shows can be very educational for the fearful cook. Even if you will never make most of the recipes, you learn basic tips and tricks as a lot of cooking is chemistry. A new favorite show of mine on the Food Network is How to Boil Water because, even though I am an excellent cook, it is so basic that you learn things like how not to posion yourself while still preparing rare lamb (not that a veggie has this issue, but you get my point).

Cookbooks are by no means little bibles. I don't have a single cookbook that doesn't have tons of scribbles in the margins. I make notes "use more water" or "never cook this again" or "use less lemon juice" since it's all just a matter of taste. The only times recipes are really crucial are in baking because baking really does rely on science and physics.

I also second the frittata comment. They rock with a side of greens and balsamic vinegar.
posted by archimago at 9:36 AM on August 23, 2004

James Barbar's The Urban Peasant rules.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2004

I've recently learnt that if you throw enough crap into a pan with a bunch of spices and leave it long enough, it tastes good.
posted by Orange Goblin at 10:32 AM on August 23, 2004

my wife and i recently bought a rice cooker - not a super-expensive one, but it holds a lot. 1 cup brown rice plus 1 cup lentils plus 5 cups water = a great start to whatever you want to make. the rice cooker takes hardly any time to set up, it cooks it up pretty fast, and it keeps things warm for 10 hours afterward - you can fill it in the A.M. and come home to a hot meal.

we started putting things like veggies or salmon or chicken in the top steamer rack. it makes a nice main dish for the lentils and rice, although lentils and rice are damn good by themselves.

have had varying luck with adding other things to the rice - minced onions or garlic, for example, seem to decompose into a brown sludge at the bottom of the pot. anything we put into the steamer rack seems to hold up well though.

that, and remember that (a) anyone can make chili* and (b) chili freezes remarkably well.

*note that although anyone can combine the main ingredients and simmer, not everyone can make good chili. but, see orange goblin's comment above.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:50 AM on August 23, 2004

Check out your local Adult Ed. or cooking shop for some courses. "Learning to cook" is a big task. Start by learning to cook a few things you really like. Ask friends to teach you to cook a favorite dish. Everybody likes to be an expert (Just look at Ask.Me)
posted by theora55 at 1:29 PM on August 23, 2004

On top of the already excellent advice so far...

Learn to make a few (simple) things well. Your favourite dishes. Don't worry about variety until you get the skills.

Cook books & shows are great for inspiration & getting started but don't be a slave to them. Learn how to freeform. Go nuts. Experiment.

Do what the majority of cooks all over the world have done for centuries - make homely, simple, tasty food from the best ingredients available. Quality to start with will make it a lot easier to get good results.

Like comedy, the secret of good cooking is timing. If you're using a few pans &/or the oven getting things to be ready at the same time takes practice.

Ah yes, practice. Like anything else it takes practice so don't worry about having to eat some weird stuff on occasions. Or having to revert to nuking once in a while.

Make sure you have at least one good knife, a sharpener (sharpen the knife everytime you cook) and board.

If you're using a fair few ingredients &/or time is a factor (eg stir frying) make like the TV chefs & have everything in it's own container. I bit more (minor) washing up but worth it.

Stir frying - fun and you can be a badass chef. Not as quick as you think as the chopping can take a while. Easy to vary. Learn the basics of what makes a certain style work (Japanese, Chinese, Thai etc) and play around.

Never be afraid to ask for a recipe.

Learn the rules & then learn to break them.

Ask us more in a couple of months & good luck ;-)
posted by i_cola at 3:56 PM on August 23, 2004

Cooks Illustrated Magazine and the Moosewood cookbooks are great resources, but my favorite cookbooks are The Best American Recipes. Each year the editors try out hundreds of recipes from cookbooks, magazines, newspapers and the internet, and the result is an adventurous juxtaposition of comfort food to ethnic dishes to high culinary fashion. I have yet to be disappointed.

Here is a quick, easy soup that tastes like liquid butter:

Cut up 4 yellow bell peppers into quarters and remove the seeds and stems. Place in a pot with enough broth or water to cover. Cook on medium for 15 minutes until peppers are very soft. Purree in the blender with 1/4 cup of toasted (dry cook in the oven or on top of the stove for 4 minutes) pine nuts.

Fabulous summer goodness.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:36 PM on August 23, 2004

"Make sure you have at least one good knife, a sharpener (sharpen the knife everytime you cook) and board."

I assume you're talking about a steel here, and not a stone? Using a stone every time you cook seems excessive.

(Related knife care: rinse them off and dry them after use. Leaving them around wet's no good.)
posted by kenko at 4:57 PM on August 23, 2004

Response by poster: Wow, thanks so much to everybody who posted. I've got a ton of great advice to work through now. I'll be hitting up amazon for some of these books soon.
posted by tirade at 8:34 PM on August 23, 2004

I assume you're talking about a steel here, and not a stone? Using a stone every time you cook seems excessive.

To be honest I wouldn't recommend a stone or steel to a beginner. A good sharpening device is good enough.
posted by i_cola at 9:34 AM on August 24, 2004

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