Sunday, August 25, 2013

Are you keeping it personal?

I know, I'm asking crazy questions again!

But are you keeping your cooking personal?  And, by that, I mean, is your kitchen space personal to you, is your cooking the kind or the way you like to do it?  If it's not, then I bet you don't enjoy cooking (or at least, not as much as you could!).

Now, you're going to either say, huh? or, Candace, what are you talking about?  I don't know HOW to keep it personal! are a couple of tips for keeping it easy and fun that will help simplify your life.  Remember, this isn't rocket science so don't make it that way!

But first, a little background...I'm all about making things easier for my students in my cooking classes.  My goal or maybe I should say, my mission is to show you how to make great food that will impress your family and friends and be as easy as possible to cook.  So, I try to show you sensible ways to have it going on in the cooking arena and not dazzle you with my fancy footwork.  That means that you take what we learned in class and do it at home.  So...keeping it personal is just an extension of what I teach in my cooking classes.

I don't emphasize recipes that need exact measurements (for me, that's most recipes, really).  I use ingredients that are not difficult to find but are not your run of the mill, ordinary meat and potatoes.  And, I show you techniques that will make your life easier.

Case in point, I get tons of questions about knives.  What knife should I get?  Frankly, I don't know.  You are the only one who knows what kind of knife you need.  So in class, I provide everyone with an inexpensive but very sharp knife to begin finding out what kind of knife they like.  The weight, the shape of the handle and the blade are all important but above all else, it must be sharp.  So you can have great success with a very inexpensive knife IF it is super sharp.  You can also have a disaster with a dull, expensive knife.  There's one way you keep it personal...get a knife you like.  And, don't buy a big set like that salesperson wants you to buy at the gourmet kitchen store.  Buy your knives one at a time so that it makes sense when you add a new one to your personal kitchen.  And, then keep them sharp.  Learn to use a knife steel that straightens the blade (that's another story) and then have them sharpened professionally when needed.  "When needed" is also personal because everyone uses knives differently.

Bottom line is choose knives, tools, equipment and food to suit your personal style.  You like Asian food...get a wok, go to the Asian market, familiarize yourself with ingredients and flavor profiles for Chinese, Korean, Japanese, or Vietnamese foods, search the Internet for ideas, that's what I do when I want to personalize my cooking or cooking classes.

Wouldn't it be cool, though, if there was a resource out there that provided you with a step-by-step method for personalizing your kitchen and cooking and making it super enjoyable.  Well, stay tuned my is on the way!

To that end, you know that I have to include a little somethin', somethin'.  Here's a great recipe for Grilled Romaine Hearts and the house vinaigrette from Urban Kitchen.  With Labor Day coming, this will change up your grilling routine.
Be sure to play around with it...make it you're own!

Grilled Romaine Hearts

Serves 8
4 romaine hearts
1 red onion, thickly sliced
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese                                                             
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Rinse romaine hearts and remove any blemished outer leaves.  Cut hearts in half lengthwise. Drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Drizzle red onion slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Heat grill to medium high.  Place sliced onions (oiled side down) on the grill and drizzle the other side with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill for 2 – 3 minutes until they have grill marks.  Flip onions and allow to cook until softened and slightly caramelized, about five minutes.  Remove from the grill.  Allow to cool and then chop the onions.  Set aside.

Place romaine hearts cut side down on the grill for about a minute until the edges start to wilt.  Remove from the grill.  Dress with your favorite vinaigrette (mine is below).  Followed by chopped grilled onions and crumbled goat cheese.

White Balsamic Vinaigrette
 Makes about one cup of dressing

1 garlic clove, smashed
1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp brown sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
¼ - ½ cup canola/olive oil blend

In a pint jar or squeeze bottle, combine all ingredients and shake well.
And as always...
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Come join the fun and take a class with us!  
Visit my website at Urban Kitchen on Cherry Street and check out the Class Calendar.

I continue to get great feedback about my Complete Resource Guide to Stress-Free Entertaining.  If personalizing your cooking and making it fun is interesting to you, you might enjoy this free guide.  Check it out by clicking on the link.

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