Today we’re going to keep things simple around here. Instead of taking a deeper look at my childhood escapades, the novels I’ve authored over the years, or the love I had for my now trashed blue Eddie Bauer sweat pants (though all fascinating topics, I know), today I’m making a special appearance to share the one thing I’ve learned about cooking. Because I’ve only learned one thing. That’s right. And it is:
Taste your ingredients raw if possible, taste them in combinations, taste them halfway through cooking, and taste them before serving.
By the way, that picture up yonder was taken during the notorious Pioneer Woman weekend trip of yesteryear. Yes, I am licking the Pioneer Woman’s bowl. And you can’t make me say I’m sorry.
As I was scrolling through past blog posts, I realized I have been trying to convey the importance of tasting for a while now. Just look at the pictorial proof:
A little freshly ground chili powder that I used for my seared salmon recipe . . .
Sugar encrusted batter from those delectable mini pumpkin muffins . . .
Raw meat for the Tuscan Soup . . .
Okay, maybe not the raw meat.
But let’s proceed.
Black peppercorns from the Pasta Fresca . . .
Creamy tomato sauce from a half-finished pot of Penne Rosa . . .
Biltong seasoning freshly arrived from South Africa . . .
A torn-off hunk of bread and parmesan sneaked away during the making of a creamy and perfect garlic soup . . .
And that’s all I’ll subject you to for today. I think we’ve just seen enough pictures of my fingers to last a lifetime.
But I figured I’d bring all these pictures together just to drive the point home. Now I’m no creative culinary genius–in fact just weeks ago I actually had to throw away a horribly failed attempt at homemade ravioli (think slimy; think greasy; think vomitous)–but tasting spices, vegetables, and herbs has given me a better sense of how to combine them. It gives me insight into what their ‘true nature’ is. And the best cooking is based on an understanding of the essence of an ingredient, and how to highlight and preserve it in the final dish.
Plus, on the level of personal motivation, getting up close and personal with my food is a 100% stimulating experience. It makes me excited to hop on over to the cutting board and thrilled to turn on my gas range. If I know I can nibble at the hunk of parmesan, I will be that much more enthusiastic about starting dinner. Get to know the food you are cooking–and get to know it in all its stages. And of course, always taste your finished dish before serving it; this will allow you to adjust seasonings and add a little more of this or that, which can be the difference between a mediocre dish and a stellar dish.
And just in case you think I’m a freak of nature and this is totally ill advised, look!
Erica does it too.
And Heidi! Whaddya know. It’s like we all came from the same family. And were sired by the same . . . um, loins. Forgive me, my son, for I have sinned. I didn’t mean to say the word ‘loins’ in connection with my parents.
Deleting word from short term memory–deleting—deleting–deleting.
And because I’m not ready to stop talking yet, let me go ahead and share Culinary Lesson #2. Just a couple more minutes on the soap box and my need to preach it should be satiated for at least the next 2 weeks . . . or 2 days. Whatever.
It’s called the ‘blogging high horse,’ and it’s the next best thing to being here:
On an actual horse, living the dream.
Culinary lesson #2 is: use sharp knives.
I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough, folks, friends, and frenemies.
By the way, what the heck is a ‘frenemy’?
First of all, dull knives are more dangerous–you have to push on the knife harder and sometimes even saw back and forth to get it to cut through. This only creates further opportunity for a finger to get in the way. Plus, if you do cut yourself, a very sharp knife will leave a nice clean cut, but a dull knife will leave an ugly, jagged cut. Ugly and jagged = not a doctor’s dream.
Second, it just ain’t no fun to cut things with dull knives. It makes me lazy even thinking of chopping up an onion with a serrated old piece of crap–it takes too long! With a sharp knife, dicing and mincing and chopping is fun, easy, and quick. Drop the money and buy a nice knife. That was the voice of your conscience speaking.
I SAID DROP THE MONEY AND BUY A KNIFE.
Okay, Conscience! You can take it down a notch–I think they got the point the first time.
I distinctly remember–back in our college days–the emotional pain of watching our friend Tyler cut up bell peppers with a serrated dinner table knife. He patiently sawed off piece after piece of those peppers in an immeeeeeeensely long process as I watched, desperate and starving. See, in college I was very hungry–all the time. And very desirous for those bell peppers to be off the cutting board and on my plate. Tyler, I hope that you now have a sharp blade to aid you in making your famous fajitas. By the way, do you still have the recipe for that Spicy Macaroni? Because the world needs it. But more importantly, I need it.
So are you guys tasters? Choppers? Tasters and choppers? Anti-tasters? Proponents of the dull knife for some mysterious but enlightened reason? Tell me everything. I want to know.