My brother is a chef. A highly respected chef in our hometown and in various other places - Kelly McGillis once offered him a job as head chef at her restaurant in Key West. So obviously, I could never measure up to him in culinary skills. And I’ve always felt inferior - it doesn’t help that my family likes to tease me about cooking.
However, I’ve recently discovered that I love to cook. I’m not very good yet, but I’m getting better and I like it. I’m addicted to the Food Network, and my Saturdays mornings and early afternoons are devoted to that. I’m learning to make really good meals from scratch for me and my husband, and I’ve even come up with a few recipes on my own.
But the one thing that’s always eluded me is chopping veggies quickly and well. It always takes me ages and I have never gotten onions right, plus it still takes forever to chop a tomato.
I discovered this morning - I’ve been using a knife that’s too small! I got a big knife from the new knife set we got for our wedding (close to a butcher knife, but not quite that size), and started chopping. I used the tip I heard from a cooking show - always keep the tip on the chopping block - and managed to chop tomatoes and onion in about a quarter of the time I’ve spent doing it before.
I know it sounds like something really silly to get excited about, but it’s a huge thing for me. I might actually be able to hold my own at Thanksgiving this year!
Seeker, I’d love to exchange recipes! Feel free to toss me an email!
And thanks for the recommendation on Cook’s Illustrated. I’ll have to hit up my hubby for a subscription! I know chopping veggies sounds like such a silly thing to get excited about, but when NO ONE has any confidence in your ability to cook (except my hubby - that’s why I love the guy), it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now that I’ve chosen to ignore them and I’m actually getting GOOD at this cooking thing - I’m surprising the heck out of myself.
No, it doesn’t sound like a silly thing at all! At least not to me. I love to cook and part of the fun is getting better and better at the little techniques…not just the getting better at making the food taste great…although that is highly recommended! Keep it fun!
avabeth good for you…keep studying and practicing, don’t be afraid to experiment a bit. You know what you like and with practice you’ll figure out what works. Try making thinks in small proportional mixtures and then try it. I say proportional because if you find that you like the result you can increase the amounts and make whole dishes based on the “recipe”.
When I chop or dice a tomato or onion and similar veggies…I find it real quick and easy to cut both ends off. Then cut it in half, that’ll give me two halves that lay smooth on the board with the rounded end up naturally.
With a long sharp knife I’ll slice the tomato in thin slices while keeping it together, then cut through all the slices at once from the top going from one side to the other and then again from front to back. It works good with onions or whatever and takes a few seconds with a little practice. When I’m done I’ll have the whole thing chopped or diced into lots of perfect little 1/4-1/2" cubes AND it makes very little mess.
Try The Joy of Cooking for an all-around good cook book.
Chiming in on the Cook’s Illustrated recommendation; it’s sort of a Consumer Reports-type magazine as well - but not only does it rate the best of various cooking gear items, it also prints the best (in their opinion) ways to cook different recipes, and explains how they came to their conclusions. Public television stations carry the TV show it’s from, America’s Test Kitchen.
Instead of or in addition to Joy of Cooking, I think that How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman might be better for a novice. The size is imposing, but once you open it up, you’ll note the great care taken in explaining exactly when to do different steps, how to tell if a pan is hot enough, and so on.
Ah-ha - more tips! Thanks! I’ll try that next time I cut up tomatoes and onions.
I do have the Joy of Cooking - it was a gift from my MIL at my bridal shower. I’ll have to break it out and use it more. And I’ll definitely look into the subscription to Cook’s Illustrated.
I’m realizing too that the right equiptment - GOOD kitchen stuff - can make a huge difference. We have a GOOD set of knives now, lots of higher end kitchen appliances, and my favorite - my Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer. The first time I used it, I tried using a spatula to put the mix into the beater, but I didn’t realize that this mixer is SO good (unlike my mom’s mixer) that I just let it run on itself and it mixes everything beautifully. I’m excited to make some dough with the mixer.
Thanks for all of the advice - keep it coming if you want:).