Sunday, July 17, 2011
TEN EASY WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR COOKING
As often happens when you discover a favorite new blog, My French Corner led me to another, which led me to yet another, which...well, you know how it goes. One of the many amazing, French-inspired blogs I ended up stumbling across was David Lebovitz: Living the Sweet Life in Paris. David is an American pastry chef who spent 16 years working with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkley. In 1999 he left there to work on the first of his six books, then in 2004 he moved to Paris, where he now lives fulltime.
On one of his blog posts I found this list of easy ways to improve one's cooking, and it just tickled me no end to discover that I could check off almost everything on the list (they don't sell Lentilles du Puy here at our little grocery store), for they are all habits I have picked up since moving to the Hill Country. Without further ado, here they are -- ten easy steps which are guaranteed not only to improve your cooking, but to add a bit of joie de vivre to your life as well!
1) Use fresh herbs.
2) Use shallots. Lots and lots of shallots.
3) Upgrade your oil.
4) Rethink your vinegar -- try sherry vinegar instead of your usual red wine vinegar, and if you get the chance, try a real balsamic vinegar, from Modena. I hear it tastes absolutely nothing like the fakes they sell in America, but I've yet to try it. I'm afraid it will spoil me for life, the way that tasting my first bite of foie gras did.
5) Keep a good amount of decent bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate on hand. (We all know I've got that one covered!)
6) Salt -- treat yourself to some fleur de sel, or at the very least, a big box of kosher salt.
7) Try Lentilles du Puy, the caviar of lentils. These French green lentils from the Auvergne are grown in volcanic rock, and dry naturally on the vine, which gives them their special flavor. Also, they contain less starch, so they don't go mushy when you cook them. At least, that's what I've heard.
8) Try whole wheat pasta -- Lebovitz says Barilla is making their own now, though he's not sure if it's available in America yet. He also suggests trying Latini farro pasta. One of his favorite quick dishes is whole wheat pasta tossed with sundried tomatoes, red chili flakes, chopped sausage, greens and extra virgin olive oil, then topped with some good feta cheese.
9) Get thee some decent cookware.
10) Wine -- don't be a Two-Buck-Chuck. There's plenty of decent wines out there for less than $10 a bottle, that are very drinkable.
Above you see the very basic roast chicken we had for dinner a couple of nights ago. The chicken came straight from one of our Bountiful Sprout growers, Richardson Farms. It was seasoned with nothing but kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, and a few pats of butter were tucked under the skin. The veggies, and some fresh thyme from my garden, were first browned in a bit of good olive oil, in my treasured Le Creuset pot that Dear Hubby presented me with last Christmas. The chicken was then placed atop them, and it went into the oven to roast for about 75 minutes at 375 F. It couldn't have been simpler, but you will rarely taste anything finer -- especially if you pair it with a decent glass of wine and tear off a piece of crusty baguette, as we did, for sopping up the juices! Try these 10 simple steps, and you'll be eating like this most every night.