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Thread: Cali's 'learning to cook' resources thread

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    Elite Member Cali's Avatar
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    Default Cali's 'learning to cook' resources thread

    I'm working on learning how to cook for myself for the first time in my life, and I've come across some resources that have been really, really helpful. Thought I'd share. I may keep updating this thread.

    SuperCook.com
    An incredible site for discovering new recipes and ways to use up odds and ends you have on hand. You enter all the ingredients you have on hand and the site searches cooking sites and generates recipes for everything you have on hand.
    Supercook: recipe search by ingredients you have at home

    Herb & Spice Substitution Charts
    Along the same lines, when you don't have a particular spice or herb, here's a great substitution chart:
    Herb Substitution Chart - Home Cooking
    Spice Substitution Chart - Home Cooking

    Tovolo Mixing Bowls
    Have made my life sooo much easier. Just the perfect mixing bowls and salad prep bowls. They have a pour spout on one side, and an indention so you can hold it easy. I also love that they are heavy and weighted on the bottom with a rubber bottom so they won't slide off the counter. They come with lids so they also work for food storage. I bought mine at Bed Bath & Beyond.
    Tovolo

    JA Henckels Forged Synergy 5" Santoku Knife, Hollow Edge
    Love this knife. It cuts veggies and everything else so easily- especially good for chopping. I like how its taller and has indentions- makes it easy to put chopped stuff into a bowl. Its just a great all-around knife. Also from Bed, Bath & Beyond.
    J.A. Henckels International - 5" Santoku Knife, Hollow Edge

    Avocado Slicer- Completely useless.
    It doesn't fit into most avocados. Seemed like a good idea but its not.
    Bed Bath & Beyond - Avocado Slicer

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    Elite Member chartreuse's Avatar
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    i have that same henckels santoku & LOVE it!
    white, black, puerto rican/everybody just a freakin'/good times were rollin'.


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    Super Moderator NoDayButToday's Avatar
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    Poking around the SuperCook site, and it's pretty cool, I never knew it existed. I'm bookmarking it. I spend a lot of time going "OK, have to use up these few items before they go bad, what can i make?", that should actually help.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    avocado slicers are useless, i agree.
    the easiest way to slice an avocado is to cut in half, then cut vertically along the skin, peel back each side of the skin, put the avocado half face down on a plate, and slice length-wise.
    if it's a small avocado, you can remove the half from the skin using a big spoon.

    agree that good knives are essential. and it's not until you have them that you realise just how much easier cooking is with them. whether it's the santoku or another brand, knives are definitely a good investment. plus, in the long run, i'm sure it's cheaper to have 4 or 6 good knives that will last for years and years, than a whole bunch of cheap ones that you have to replace all the time.

    eta: i just checked out that supercook.com site, it looks awesome. will definitely be bookmarking that for days when i'm not feeling very inspired.
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    Elite Member Honey's Avatar
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    Cali you should post pics of stuff you cook x

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    Elite Member Cali's Avatar
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    I'm so excited- I think I have actually made an amazing authentic seafood gumbo from scratch! I actually did really well with the roux which is the most difficult part- I managed to get it to an almond skin brown- like the color of a cappiccino- without burning.

    I haven't added the seafood yet- I'll do that tomorrow. But the veggies are simmering in the roux right now and it smells really great.

    I'm so proud- maybe there is a cook in me afterall!

    I'll let you all know how it turns out tomorrow. I'll take pics and post the recipe I used if its good.

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    If you want the recipe for chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, mine is very good. The hardest part is the roux and if you got that down the rest is easy.

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    Elite Member Cali's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ya-ya_sister View Post
    If you want the recipe for chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, mine is very good. The hardest part is the roux and if you got that down the rest is easy.
    Thanks so much for the offer but I don't eat meat- only shrimp and maybe crab. I'm a mostly vegetarian. But I'd love to see the recipe to compare it to what I used so I can tweak it and improve.

    And while I have you- do you think I browned the roux enough? I know there is an art to it and I wanted to push it. My mom said she usually chickens out when the roux is the color of peanut butter. I got mine to about this color, and a bit darker:

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    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    Cali - if you're just starting to cook...you will make every dish amazing by generally starting with unsalted butter & olive oil and using kosher salt and fresh garlic. I get raves for the Crazy Mixed-Up Pepper on meats and you can never have too many veggies. But the no. 1 thing is really kosher salt.

    Good luck! I started cooking about 10 years ago and absolutely wish I had been smarter when I was younger and gone to cooking school instead of law school.

    Trust your taste buds and have a ball!!! Finally, pick up Cook's Illustrated. Their recipes never fail there is so much fantastic information on the the best products.

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    A good knife is probably the most important tool of all. My only advice is to keep it simple at first while you gain confidence so don't pick complicated recipes or things that require too much technical skill. And pick foods that you actually like eating. Once you get the basics organised you can start to have some fun experimenting. Good luck and enjoy!
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    Elite Member Cali's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMama View Post
    Cali - if you're just starting to cook...you will make every dish amazing by generally starting with unsalted butter & olive oil and using kosher salt and fresh garlic. I get raves for the Crazy Mixed-Up Pepper on meats and you can never have too many veggies. But the no. 1 thing is really kosher salt.

    Good luck! I started cooking about 10 years ago and absolutely wish I had been smarter when I was younger and gone to cooking school instead of law school.

    Trust your taste buds and have a ball!!! Finally, pick up Cook's Illustrated. Their recipes never fail there is so much fantastic information on the the best products.
    Thanks so much for the advice! I have a question: what is the difference between sea salt and kosher salt? As a gift from a friend who is a gourmet foodie, I have a bottle of sea salt with a grinder that I use for most recipes. And I agree, it is far superior.

    When my recipes call for freshly minced garlic, I've been using bottled 'minced garlic'- is it really a pathetic substitution?

    And I'm going to look into the Cooks Illustrated- thanks for the suggestion.

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    Super Moderator NoDayButToday's Avatar
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    Kosher salt, as with most things kosher, is more pure than other salts. It's similar in construction to sea salt (they're both large, coarse crystals), and I believe that some kosher salt is also sea salt. I have both in my kitchen and cook with both, just depends on which I grab from the cabinet.

    For the garlic, fresh garlic will always taste more flavorful than the jarred. I've also noticed that the jarred burns more quickly than fresh garlic. You can't even compare the fragrance either. It's totally worth the minimal effort to chop up a fresh clove.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cali View Post
    Thanks so much for the offer but I don't eat meat- only shrimp and maybe crab. I'm a mostly vegetarian. But I'd love to see the recipe to compare it to what I used so I can tweak it and improve.

    And while I have you- do you think I browned the roux enough? I know there is an art to it and I wanted to push it. My mom said she usually chickens out when the roux is the color of peanut butter. I got mine to about this color, and a bit darker:
    That looks right. I do mine a little bit darker. I do find that olive oil does better than regular oil to brown the flour.

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    Elite Member Sassiness's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoDayButToday View Post
    It's totally worth the minimal effort to chop up a fresh clove.
    Totally agree. Or invest in a garlic press - one of these


    Should only cost you $5-10 and makes fresh garlic easy. Peel the clove, chuck it in this, squish = fresh minced garlic. Easy, simple and much, much better than the bottled crap.

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    Elite Member Beeyotch's Avatar
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    Ohhh, I want a garlic press so bad. I hate mincing garlic because I get all OCD about it, I have to cut it perfectly even and just so...PITA and takes longer than it should.

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