General Info & Cooking Tips
Our Style You might notice that our approach to providing recipes is a bit different from normal recipe books. Specifically, we don’t typically provide composed dishes unless they are one-pot meals. So you won’t see things like “Grilled steak with mashed potatoes.” Our method of breaking down the recipes into simple categories such as meat, veggie, and seafood allows you to easily mix and match dishes to make your meal. Of course we often provide recommendations but it’s truly up to you!
Cooking Times will vary depending on many factors including what type of pan you use (e.g. stainless steel vs ceramic or cast iron), the size of the food you are cooking, etc. So, even though we provide general cooking time guidelines, we recommend you don't simply cook for a specific amount of time. Pay attention to the descriptions of what the food should look like or feel like and use that in addition to the time as your guide.
Net vs Total Carbs For each recipe, we provide an estimate of what the total and net carbs for the entire dish are. The net carb count is the total carbs minus the amount of fiber.
Salt & Pepper You may notice that in our recipes we don't usually give an amount of salt and pepper to add. The reason for this is simple, the saltiness and pepperiness of a food is a very personal preference and once you over-season something you can't easily go back. So we leave that up to you. For every dish though you should be adding salt and pepper to bring out the flavors. We recommend salting from 10-12 inches above the dish, which helps the granules spread out more evenly and can give you a better sense of how much you have added. Feel free to give it a little of your personal flair also. Taste your dish as you go to make sure it’s seasoned well. So, if you find a recipe that doesn’t include salt and pepper in the ingredient list or doesn't say "salt and pepper to taste" or "add you salt and pepper now", please take the initiative to add it yourself - your taste buds and your dinner guests will thank you.
When Should I Salt My Food Well, it depends what you’re going for. Salt takes time to penetrate food (longer for veggies and cold food, shorter for meat and during cooking). So if you want even seasoning and well-rounded flavor, you want to salt your foods early in the cooking process. However, if you prefer a more concentrated, superficial salt coating that you can immediately taste, then salt at the end. What this also means is that if you ever look at a recipe that has a certain quantity of salt to add in the beginning of the cooking process and you forget, do not throw all of that salt in at the end. Since this salt will not have a chance to diffuse throughout the dish and will just sit on the surface your food will taste overly salty.
When Do I Add my Herbs & Spices It depends on what you’re using and what you desire. Regarding what you’re using, if it’s a delicate herb such as basil, cilantro, or mint or a ground spice, generally add it toward the end. We even add our cilantro after everything is off the heat because we like the flavor to be strong. If you are using more hardy herbs like bay leaves or whole spices add those toward the middle or beginning. Regarding what you desire, if you’re looking for flavors to all blend together, add the herb or spice earlier. If you’re looking to get more of the flavor from a particular herb or spice, add it at the end.
Do I Add Oil to a Hot Pan or Heat the Oil with the Pan? This is a hotly debated issue. Within each recipe, we describe how we go about heating our oil, but in case you want to make your own decision, here’s a couple points to consider.
Why you might heat up the oil and pan together:
The oil is a reminder that the pan is heating up and should not be touched.
If you add oil to a hot pan instead of allowing them to heat together, the oil is going to get hot very quickly so you have to be ready to go with your ingredients.
Heating an empty non-stick frying pan can damage the pan and release unhealthy fumes.
Heating the oil with the pan allows you to watch for the shimmering of the oil to gauge how hot the pan is.
Why you might heat up the pan and then add oil:
Some say it helps prevent food from sticking to the pan, but this is a contested topic. Also, for a lot of people food sticking is more often a result of trying to turn meat too soon as opposed to when the oil is added.
Some also say that the longer fats/oils heat without anything else in the pan, the quicker they’ll break down and burn. However, there is also evidence that oil doesn’t significantly degrade through normal heating below its smoke point especially if the oil only goes through a single heating cycle.
You Don’t Need a Recipe Especially as you get more experienced cooking, you will rely on recipes less. For us, often we find some beautiful veggie or meat at the farmer’s market and make up a recipe for it or adapt a recipe we’ve used a hundred times. Or we end up having a bunch of odd bits of veggies and meat left and we just how stuff together in a few minutes. We want you to get there too so we have included tips with each and recipe and recipes called “Blueprints.” These will help you develop some foundational skills to make coking a breeze no matter the ingredients.
Keep Non-Perishables Well-Stocked Take a look at our handout “Kitchen Staples” that you received during your first work and be sure to keep these building blocks on hand. They will generally keep for weeks or months if stored appropriately.
Befriend Your Butcher or Fishmonger If you need a meat or fish prepped in a certain way (e.g. deboned), ask your butcher or fishmonger if they’ll do it for you. This will save you time and the hassle.
Plan Ahead Time is one of the major excuses for not cooking at home. To save time and brainpower create a weekly menu to post on the fridge. You don’t even have to create a new menu every week. For example, you can have 4 weekly menus and then rotate them over the course of the month every month. You can also make associated weekly shopping lists to make shopping a breeze. Bonus: as you cook the dishes more and more you’ll get noticeably better and produce higher quality meals - practice makes perfect! If you get bored you can always sprinkle in new and creative recipes now and then.
Chop Your Veggies Ahead of Time Sometimes the thought of prepping veggies is enough to turn us off cooking altogether. We’ve all be there - washing and drying kale and then roasting it? No way. I just got home from work and I’m tried. Setting aside just half an hour a week can be enough to prep all your veggies. Store them in air tight containers and then they’re ready for you whenever you need them. Whether as a snack or as part of a meal. You can also consider purchasing pre-prepared veggies but they’ll be a bit more expensive.
Pre-Cook Onions One aspect of recipes that takes forever is cooking onions. Recipes always say this takes 1-2 minutes but if you don’t want crunchy onions this is usually more like 10. Pre-cook a large batch of onions on a weekend and keep it in the fridge. Then yo’ll always have some on hand when you need it.
Cook Double Portions You can do this for just parts of a meal or full meals. For example, if you are making steak, cook double your normal amount and then use the leftovers throughout the week to throw in salads, add to eggs, etc. Or cook extra portions of whole meals and eat them later in the week or freeze them. Some foods lend themselves better this than others (e.g. crispy goods re best eaten right away or else they lose their texture).
Get Some Basics Besides a fridge, pantry, freezer, stove, and oven you need a couple of additional items to help you out. Don’t feel the need to invest in anything right now if you already have cooking equipment. We’ll talk in our sessions more about non-toxic cookware and specific brands, so you might even want to wait until then.
High quality 10-inch chef’s knife (paring knife optional)
12-inch cast iron (or enameled cast-iron) skillet
Cast iron, enameled cast iron, or non-toxic ceramic dutch oven (or really any big oven-safe pot)
Stainless steel, non-toxic ceramic, or enameled cast iron sauce pan
Several cutting boards
Stainless steel stock pot
Glass jars of varying sizes
Glass storage containers for leftovers
Invest in Gadgets and Gizmos Wisely Cooking does not require every gadget under the sun or every implement they try to sell you. For example, you probably don’t need a crepe pan at this point. Some items however can be incredibly time saving. Here are some of our favorites.
Microwave: We don’t really use our microwave, but for some it can be a great way to reheat leftovers on the floor or to help cook veggies that take longer to cook with more traditional methods (e.g. root veggies).
Food Processor: Useful for grating, chopping, and puréeing. We regularly use ours to make pate and pesto among other dishes.
Blender: Great for smoothies, soups, sauces, and any other more liquid-y food you want to mix up.
Pressure Cooker: Speeds up cooking and works well for braised meats, roasts, hard-boiled eggs, veggies, and more. Especially useful in the summer when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen more than necessary.
Slow Cooker: Your cooking time will not decrease with this but the benefit is you won’t need to tend to the stove. Throw the ingredients in the pot and let it work. Like the pressure cooker this is a great tool for the summer.
Salad Spinner: Dry your lettuce and herbs in seconds. Drying greens can be a pain but it’s important to prevent the greens from losing their crisp texture and no one wants a watery salad.
Garlic Press: Garlic is in almost every recipe. If you are tired of chopping, just use a press to add that fresh minced garlic flavor to your dish.
Thermometer: For measuring meat temperatures
Stick Blender: For your instant-blending needs.
Mandoline: Useful for creating super thin vegetables slices as noodle substitutes.
Freezer Chest: A great addition if you need extra freezer space to stock up on high quality, wholesale-priced meat.
Ice Cube Trays: Not only for ice, these allow you to store small portions of fresh herbs (frozen with a bit of water or stock), tomato paste, wine, stock, fruit or veggie purée, sauces, and pesto.