Cooking and Gadgets

nudo_lemon_front.jpgI didn't really think much about food and what went into making a nice meal until I was somewhat forced to learn how to cook when I was laid off (again) about ten years ago. I needed something to do with my free time and felt like I should contribute something to the household, since I was no longer bringing in any dough, so to speak. While I had certainly thrown things together over the years, this was a new quest to eat better and see if time and effort really made a difference.

I know that seems ridiculous, but I honestly had no frame of reference. My mother always did all the cooking when I was growing up, preparing hearty meals from scratch for her family of six. Of course, this was in the days where the whole family sat down to dinner every night and you had to finish everything on your plate before you were excused and then were promptly put to work cleaning up the kitchen. It was her domain and we ate what was prepared. Now I got to choose what graced our table.

With a subscription to Cooking Light and The Betty Crocker Cookbook in hand I began to create and in time to actually innovate and uncover the joys of foods I never thought would ever enter my mouth. One of my biggest revelations in the intervening years has been the deliciousness of the olive. I am addicted to everything about this "fruit" and now instead of picking them out of things I put more on. I think I could actually subsist on crusty bread dipped in e.v.o.o. (at least for a weekend). If the oil is infused with something, even better. One of my favorite cooking "tricks" is to add a bit of infused olive oil, usually garlic or basil, to the dish to brighten it up and deepen the flavors. I'd always pick up a tin here and there to keep on hand, never very concerned with the producer. That's all changed now that I've found Nudo Olive Oils.

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thermometer-illustration1.jpgAll my knowledge of cooking comes from a lifetime in the kitchen with family. My grandmother, my mother, my father, my chef friends, my farmer friends, you name it – if I can glean something from them I will.

Many lessons have been learned through trial and error which I suppose is a good way to learn. I’ve made many mistakes and continue to make many mistakes (you should have seen my Korean song pyeon I tried to make the other day, I don’t even wanna talk about it). I thought I’d begin a series of things I’ve learned along the way and subject you to some bad illustrations I painted. Sometimes you just have to step away from the camera and change things up a bit. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Matt's Kitchen Wisdom Volume 1.

Kitchen Thermometers Are Your Friends.

There was a time when I tried to wing everything. The result? Soggy fried foods, destroyed melted sugar gloop, burnt butter (which isn’t a bad thing exactly but you know what I’m saying). And since deep frying plays a big part of On a Stick!, it’s important to know your temperatures and know when you’re where you want to be.

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ImageI LOVE risotto. It's one of the many things I had never eaten before I moved to California. Never even heard of it in my two decades of growing up in Western Massachusetts. I know that seems hard to believe, but I made my parents risotto when they came out to visit 5 years ago and they had no idea what it was. Seriously. Italian food growing up was lasagna, pasta with red sauce or pizza. I can't remember the first risotto I ever ate, but I know I was instantly hooked because it's the dish I always order whenever I see it on the menu...or hear it as the special. I just can't help myself. I love the creamy, chewy consistency of it, the homeyness, the endless possibilities. It's a dish I make at least 3-4 times a month, as it's fairly simple and hard to screw up. Or so I thought. Apparently, I've been serving it all wrong.

I got a hint of my wrongdoing when I watched a recent Top Chef All-Star show and Tre, one of the chef/contestants, got lambasted by Tom Colicchio and Anthony Bourdain, two of the judges, for making risotto that was too thick and sticky. Apparently, it's supposed to be more fluid and al dente, spreading out to cover the plate without any help – like a wave. He offended their risotto sensibilities and was sent home. It got me thinking. Clearly I had rarely eaten a "proper" risotto and never, in all my delicious attempts, ever made one either. Apparently, I was making an Italian rice bowl. I had to do better. And that's where another All-Star contestant comes in.

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mustardroastedpotatoes.jpgIn addition to being an absolute pasta freak, I am passionate about potatoes. I could eat pasta everyday and potatoes, probably every other day. I love them every which way. A number of years ago Oprah's personal chef at the time wrote a cookbook called In the Kitchen with Rosie. It was a huge bestseller and featured very low fat recipes. There were some good recipes and techniques in the book. One of the recipes that made a big impression on me was called Mustard Roasted Potatoes.

The Mustard Roasted Potato recipe was red potatoes tossed with Dijon mustard, cumin, paprika, chili and cayenne. The potatoes roast in the oven and become all crusty and delectable. It's a great technique and can be endlessly varied. I've incorporated plain yogurt, fresh herbs, and different kinds of mustard. I like the Moroccan mustard from Dulcet Cuisine for this recipe because it has so much flavor you don't need to add any additional spices, but feel free to experiment and try any spiced mustard you like or add some spices.

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The TEN THINGS (even if you don’t cook) to keep in your KITCHEN at all times (so you can make yourself something decent to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner) even if you only shop for real food once a month:

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