When I was young, my family enjoyed fine dinning and eating well. The following is a funny family story. When I was quite young, my parents wanted to eat at their favorite Seattle restaurant Labuznik (meaning the lover of good food in Czech). They did not serve children. My parents knew the owners well and when making the reservation my mother asked if they could bring me. When the answer was yes, my mother asked of they had a high chair. No they didn’t, so I sat on the Seattle phone book and was the first child to be served at Labuznik (open almost 30 years, closed in 1998).
As I mentioned, Michael and I love great restaurants. So much so that our wedding revolved mostly around the food. But that’s a story for another day. Somewhere in between being married and engaged, I decided to research a cooking class. I was really looking for a class in the fundamentals, something that taught knife skills, tools and techniques and some basics. Nothing was to be found in my area and I didn’t really want to commit to driving to Seattle.
My solution: I decided to make my way through a cookbook. I didn’t know much about Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) at the time, however I did like her approach and philosophy when I flipped past her show on the Food Network – pretty straightforward, simple, full of flavor (or so it seemed from TV), classic, and little fuss. I found out that she had a book called How Easy Is That? After checking it out at the bookstore, I thought indeed Ina, we shall see just how easy it is. The challenge was on and the Facebook posts started.
It’s no secret that I have really come to love Ina and her books. What continues to touch me the most, is her approach and philosophy to cooking. It’s all about soul warming food that tastes good but is not flashy, pretentious or stuffy. Most all of the ingredients can be found at your local store. Little special equipment is needed. Her recipes are really user friendly. And I LOVE the photos in her books. Seeing a beautiful photo of a dish makes me decide weather I’m interested in making it or not.
I really enjoy working with a new ingredient, something I’ve never worked with before. Recently I cooked mussels for the first time. I knew they needed to be immaculately clean. When cleaning them I noticed a dirty bit of fibrous netting coming out of the mussel shell. I referred to my Tools & Technique book by Williams & Sonoma and found out this is the “beard” (what the mussel uses to attach themselves to the colony in the water) and must be pulled out in the cleaning process. Who knew! I’m learning and I loved it.
Each time you cook, you’ll learn something new and when you return to that recipe the next time, it will be easier. Two important lessons I learned recently: when filling a piping bag of frosting, fill it ONLY half way. No one said why. So, being the efficient person I am, I thought, I’ll just fill it a little more. Well . . . let’s just say I had frosting all over the place. You need to twist the top of the bag closed so when you apply pressure to squeeze the frosting out, it doesn’t ooze out the top of the bag. Like I said, I’m learning!
The second lesson was with a wonderful piece of common kitchen equipment, the Cuisinart. I was making pureeing soup and, again I thought I’d be efficient (clearly my downfall in cooking). So I filled the bowl quite high and began to puree. Well, the center of the bowl fits around the spike for the blade to attach and is lower than the outside of the bowl. Needless to say, I had quite a mess when I pulled the blade off and lifted the bowl. Cleaning up a mess is a great incentive to not repeat the same mistake twice!