Always Be Prepared
Cooking is giving recognition to the miracle of food. And food really is miraculous, isn’t it? It’s at the heart of celebrations, comfort, connection, and culture.
There’s lots to know about cooking, and it’s more intuitive to some of us than to others. However, it is within each of us to provide nourishment for ourselves. The cooking experience evolves differently for each individual, yet the foundation is the same. Don’t let the sheer volume of cooking possibilities distract you from starting.
After 10 days, my goal is for you to know how to work within what you have right now and feel equipped with minute steps to drive your hunger to cook more (I couldn’t resist). The more you cook, the easier it becomes. You become more comfortable; you understand more, and your curiosity grows.
The First Tenet: Always Be Prepared
Today we’ll talk about being prepared. Always measure out each ingredient before you start cooking. And read through your recipe twice, fully. Also, make sure you have what you need.
As you explore recipes and cuisines, you’ll find that certain foods and flavors are in everything. You’ll want to keep these items on hand so you’re never in the position of leaving out something important or wasting time running to the store at the last minute. A prepped cook is a good cook. So let’s start here.
Using a combination of a dry goods pantry, fresh ingredients, standard condiments, and frozen items, you’ll be ready for nearly any recipe or cooking freestyle. “Freestyle” is a unique talent—being able to pull together ingredients without a recipe through creative inspiration and cooking by taste. Not all good cooks have this unique talent, just as not all good musicians learn by ear.
In dry goods, always keep a few grains, nuts, pasta, and dried legumes. Grains are great as a foundation or to bulk up lighter meals like soup or salad. As a foundation, grains make grain bowls, or buddha bowls, to mix with a couple vegetables, a protein, and a savory dressing. Or mix grains with a few vegetables and a light vinaigrette for a “salad.” Don’t worry—you don’t have to come up with this on your own. Later on, I’ll share my favorite recipe books that can lead you through these uses.
Pasta serves a similar function. Pasta is also a solid ingredient to start cooking successfully. We’re aiming for little victories in the beginning to keep up your excitement and commitment.
I specifically call out dried legumes because they are cheaper than canned beans and taste considerably better. However, canned beans are better than no beans. Cooking with dried beans gives you more opportunity to control the salt levels and the flavor. You’ll use beans for bulking up lighter meals or as standalone dishes.
In fresh ingredients, lemons/limes, garlic, potatoes, onions, and herbs can be kept for weeks at a time. In the refrigerator, you’ll want eggs, sriracha or hot sauce, cheese, Dijon mustard, capers, and butter and/or ghee.
Let’s not underestimate the freezer. Frozen vegetables are a valuable resource for shortening the learning curve to cooking more. You can also keep meats for up to six months, precooked beans, and even sliced bread. The freezer is a wonderful tool for preserving food—not only so you can save money, but also so you can cook large batches and save smaller portions for later. We’ll go into this more later on.
At the end of the course, you’ll have an opportunity to download a full checklist of essential ingredients to keep around. For now, it’s enough to know that preparation is an integral piece of the strategy to “feel ready” to cook. Tomorrow, we’ll go into more depth on two surprising condiments to immediately uplevel your dishes.
Recommended book by Highbrow
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