advanced home economics

The most formal training I'd ever had in cooking was in seventh grade during my home economics class where we learned how to make pancakes and fry an egg. Something obviously didn't stick because it took fifteen years to become interested in taking another food related course.

This past weekend I spent the day at the new lab kitchen of London Cuisine in Southwark. I found them online during the Christmas break after getting frustrated about not understanding the basics. Like, why does my oil always burn? What does all that steam mean - good or bad? I know it may sounds ridiculous to you long-time chefs but that's where I was at. Totally clueless. While trial and error is often the best way to learn new things, I didn't love that approach when food was involved. Getting things wrong kept resulting in a big wast of money and leaving us with a bowl of cereal for dinner. So, the way I looked at it was this one time investment in a class would save us money in the long run by giving me the confidence to cook well and more often at home ... Joe can't do it all of the time! Actually, I was perfectly fine with him doing all of the cooking but now I want in.

The class was called "Cooking For Blokes" but of course, ladies are welcome. It was a small group of five and the men who were there had been given the class as a Christmas gift.  We started at 10am and had two separate cooking sessions with detailed instructions and demonstrations before each one. It was a nice surprise to realize that we'd be making actual dishes and not simply learning to boil water! Those basics and principles were taught, however, through the preparation of each dish and open Q&A's throughout the day. We made nine items ranging from parmesan biscotti to french potato soup but my personal favorites were the neapolitan peasant pasta, smoked mackerel and herb fishcakes, and mediterranean tabelleh. Everything was super easy to prepare and to cook but what made all of the difference was understanding the methods to achieve the best consistency, texture, and get the most flavor.

Here are some of the tips I learned...

• never put oil into a cold pan. to get the most out of your oil before it reaches its smoking point you should always heat the pan first, add any high moisture ingredients and then add your oil. otherwise you waste the oil's lifespan and effectiveness for flavor.

• always add dry herbs last and cruch/rub in fingers before doing so to release essential oils.

• there's no need to add oil to water when boiling pasta nor after the pasta has been drained. instead, drain the pasta and immediately run cold water over it to stop it from cooking. then place back in dry pot to keep warm.

• salt burns before fat so unsalted butter is best when cooking with it.

• flour should be high in protein for the most flavor. supermarket brands are often low on this so it's best to compare when shopping.

• the thinner the cucumber the better because the wider they get, the more water content they have (less flavorfull)

• not one oil can/should do it all: olive oil is best for everyday cooking, virgin olive oil is best with indirect heat but should be not directly cooked with in a pan, and extra virgin olive - which has the lowest smoking point - should only be used for on-the-plate coating once ready to be served.

Did any of these surprise you? Agree or disagree? I'd love to hear from you seasoned cooks out there ... I've got more confidence now but I know that there's still a lot to learn!

weekend, we

borough marketpop of color pop of color cooking class! pub mantra cozy home textures marylebone farmer's market marylebone farmer's market marylebone farmer's market marylebone farmer's market haul

Hi, how was your weekend?

As you can tell mine revolved around food so it was definitely a good one. Things kicked off with a full-day introductory cooking class where I learned practical principles of cooking and created simple yet impressive dishes. I'll share details in a separate post but for now let's just say that I've got a brand new sense of confidence to get my hands dirty in the kitchen! It's a good thing because earlier that morning I wandered into Borough Market just as vendors had finished setting up. Everything from cheeses, meats, produce, to spices looked incredible and only served as further motivation to get creative with my homemade meals.

Lately I've been surprising myself every time we clean out the fridge and have to make another grocery run.  My once chore-like mentality has turned into excitement to shop for fresh items and try new ingredients and luckily for us, one of our fave neighborhoods, Marylebone, holds a great little farmer's market on Sundays where we can do just that. It's amazing how much more enjoyable a farmer's market can be when you see possibilities instead of road blocks. Can't help but think of all of the great meals I missed out on when I lived in LA and only bought fruit and fresh-baked cookies from my local ones! Oh well, better late than never, right?

the pinterest cook

IMG_6118 If you know me personally then you probably know that I've never been one to get excited about cooking or baking. In fact, I've always been the first person to offer to bring drinks or utensils to potlucks...just don't ask me to make anything!

These days, however, I've been turning a new leaf and becoming much more interested in getting creative in the kitchen. If I'm being honest, it has a lot to do with the fact that I'm no longer coming home from work at night exhausted and dying of hunger. Cooking was never fun or relaxing for me, instead it usually felt time consuming and intimidating.

But now that I have more time and energy I've started tearing out recipe pages from magazines, looking to Foodily for on-hand ingredients ideas, and even making things I've pinned on Pinterest like these BLT bites. Now, I know that BLT sandwiches are nothing extraordinary but what is special is that I made these for Sunday's Blognic event. The old me would have gone to Whole Foods, bought a pasta salad, and called it a day!

I guess what I'm learning is that if I can be creative in other aspects of my life, why should I be so intimidated by getting my hands dirty in the kitchen? It's just food, after all. And I like food.

If you have any favorite recipe websites or cooking/baking blogs (easy ones, I'm still a beginner) please share them in the comments section below. Would love your tips!