Making Room for Inspiration: Three Kitchen De-cluttering Methods

February 13, 2011 - Leave a Response
kitchen clutter

Clutter, by Michael Basial (it's not his clutter either)

When The Chef was first married and attending university, the sum contents of her kitchen were a good chef’s knife (which she still has), a medium saucepan (now gone to The Great Kitchen Beyond), and two cast iron frying pans that she shamelessly stole from her landlady at the time because they were gathering dust on the floor of said landlady’s pantry. To say that this was the ultimate in pared-down kitchens might be a bit of an understatement, but it highlights an important point: inspiration in the kitchen doesn’t take a ton of fancy tools or equipment.

Somewhere along the way, The Chef has collected more than her fair share of equipment and tools. Arguably she doesn’t need it all. A strong decluttering effort might actually benefit her, though she has already gone through at least one Great Purge. (It was in response to a plea for help from a Freecycle member who had just moved into her neighborhood. Ah, the happiness of simplifying that shown in her face that day!)

For cooks struggling with the idea of how to even begin, think about these possible ways of decluttering a kitchen. Each one presents a different way to go about things, but each one will get you to a state that allows you begin immediately with your inspiration rather than digging your way through a drawer or cabinet while something burns on the stove. Read the rest of this entry »

Kitchen Tools: Your Refrigerator

February 5, 2011 - Leave a Response
Fridge

Fridge Closeup by Liza

Developing a life-long passion for cooking rests on a foundation that includes not only understanding your ingredients, but also understanding the tools you use to work with that food. Yes, your knives, your pans, all those little hand tools that make your life easier are dreadfully important for each of their tasks. Arguably one of the most misunderstood tools, however, is the refrigerator. It is quite likely the sole tool in your kitchen that Chef Alton Brown would accept as a “uni-tasker.” Your refrigerator was meant to keep its contents at a constant temperature and stay fresh longer by retarding the growth of the bacteria that would otherwise spoil it.

It’s important to understand that bacteria that causes your food to spoil isn’t always the same as the bacteria that can make you sick. For example, fruits and vegetables that look a bit “past their prime” aren’t necessarily bad, per se, just ugly. They may well be quite useable for a variety of things, even when their appearance indicates age. It’s the harmful bacteria you need to worry about, bacteria like E. Coli and Salmonella that thrive and multiply rapidly in those temperatures just above the what your refrigerator should stay below.

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Film Food: Finding Inspiration at the 21st Century Movie Theatre (Part 1)

January 22, 2011 - 2 Responses

We seek inspiration from all arts, cooking or otherwise. A feast for the eyes and the mind exists in the movie industry with hundreds of movies that include wonderfully rich scenes of dinners, brunches, lunches, and food in general. While just a scene may be good enough for most people, true foodies believe the whole of the film must embrace food. What’s unfortunate is that only a few films actually take the time to make food the central reason for their existence. But when they do, oh how tasty those few. When it comes right down to deciding which films call to her favorites, The Chef insists that an outstanding food film must inspire her to search frantically for her food notebook, the treasure trove of uncooked masterpieces, or propel her forcibly into the kitchen.

What does The Chef keep in her movie pantry? From this century alone, the following are some of her choices in no particular order.

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Mastering Cooking Mistakes

January 15, 2011 - Leave a Response

“There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves,
no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn;
whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go.”
~ Richard Bach

Garnering skill and confidence in cooking is much like any other learning process: you try something, you succeed, you fail, you move on. Where most people trip up and fail is not when they make a spectacular blunder, but when they fail to move on from that blunder and learn from it. Worse still is the cook who never makes mistakes. Everything seems to move on an even keel. The timing goes well enough for the meals and the food seems tasty enough. But are you satisfied with just “tasty enough”? How do you know when a dish has gone from good to great if you’ve never  made a mistake? When mistakes seem to be crowding you out of the kitchen, think about these things.

Expect mistakes and when they do happen, breathe.

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Saturday Shortcut: Take Right Turns

January 8, 2011 - One Response
Turn Right to Go Left

Photograph by Paul Heaberlin

Sometimes the rush rush rush of the regular work day is enough to put you off your feed, seduce you into ordering that only so-so take-away pizza, and force you into your slippers and jammy pants far earlier in the evening than you ever intended. In your rush to get your grocery shopping or other errands done on the way home from your day job, dear Chef-In-Training, take this advice to heart:

Turn right as often as possible.

Most roads and traffic laws in the United States are designed to make turning right easier than turning left. Turning left simply takes more time, even when a turn light is available. Are there times of the day that make left turns a non-issue? By all means take those times into account. But keep in mind that those times can change at a moment’s notice and all it takes is one holiday vacation week to completely throw off your routine. Read the rest of this entry »

Four Ways of Finding Inspiration

January 1, 2011 - Leave a Response

When new cooks falter in their quest to become better, lack of inspiration may be a factor. Ingredients don’t seem fresh. Cooking techniques get repeated so frequently for the same dishes that food becomes (is it possible?) boring. And they fail to (re)experience that “Eureka!” moment that makes them realize that they can cook. That they have learned something. That they have the opportunity to do more.

Do you feel this way? Do you need a boost? Start by changing things up in your cooking world:

Leave your familiar surroundings.

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Coming soon…

January 1, 2011 - Leave a Response

We begin a brand new year with inspiration. Check back around 6:00 am EST for our first installment.

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