Friday, February 26, 2010

The World of Cooking

You can get away with knowing very little about cooking. You live on your own (you do, don’t you?) so I’m going to assume you know how to boil an egg, slap together a sandwich and cook pasta. Beyond that all you need to know is how to cook a meal for a dinner party, a meal for a dinner date and how to mix a few drinks.

You do not need to be able to make anything fancy or complicated. You just need to be able to feed people and serve all the appropriate food groups.

To give you some basic ideas of what you could prepare for dinner party and a dinner date, see below:

Dinner Party Meal, serves six

Appetizer: One package of water crackers and 12 oz. of a soft cheese (brie, double cream, a fancy cheese spread but no cheese balls!)

Starch: French Bread with garlic, basil and parmesan. You can buy this ready-made but I suggest you buy a loaf of French bread, mince some garlic, chop some fresh basil and mix it into half a cup of butter and spread on the loaf (uh, that is, inside the loaf). Warm in the oven for ten minutes at 350 degrees.

Vegetable: Simple Salad. Never use iceberg. I don’t think iceberg is even food. Greens and chopped up tomatoes work fine. Offer two dressings, one creamy and one vinaigrette.

Main Dish: Lasagna. It soooo easy to make. Just about any lasagna recipe you come across--including the one on the back of the lasagna noodle box--will be good. If you want to make it more interesting, add carmelized onions to the red sauce ( Tip on the noodles: use no-boil noodles. If you don’t, when you drain the lasagna noodles, pour a little oil over them to keep them from sticking together. And you may want to cook more than 6 noodles in case you tear or ruin a noodle.

Dessert: Offer a selection of sorbets (three is a good number) and thin crisp cookies, such as ginger crisps or almond crisps.

Dinner Date Menu

Appetizer: not necessary

Starch: Sweet potatoes. The pre-packaged cubes at Trader Joe’s have an excellent recipe on the bag. Or simply fix grits (always a nice pairing with fish.)
1 lb yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into half-inch cubes
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp triple sec or other orange liqueur
1 tbsp orange juice
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
Steam cubed sweet potatoes for 8 minutes or until tender. (Steaming: use a steamer inside a pot of boiling water. Cover the pot to steam.) While potatoes are steaming, melt butter and brown sugar in a separate pot. Add chopped walnuts. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add triple sec (or other orange-flavored liqueur) and orange juice. Heat, stirring constantly for five minutes. When sweet potatoes are tender, add them to the butter and brown sugar and mash.

Vegetable: Green Beans. Simply steam in a small amount of boiling water on the stove (for about three minutes) and sprinkle sea salt across the top before serving.

Main Dish: Flash Fried Cod. Get nice, thin cuts from your local butcher, ½ pound per serving. Shake in a bag with flour, salt and pepper. Fry on the stove in a little bit of oil, a couple minutes on each side.

Dessert: Crème Brulee. Always impressive. Just having the little torch to scorch the top of the dessert is sexy. ( Okay, so you could also buy the frozen ones from Trader Joe’s. Not so impressive…

Now you know all you need to about cooking dinner for guests! Just don’t have them over more than once... :)

Up on Tuesday: Finances


  1. Um, yes. Hopefully, I'm not completely alone this... It could take some serious analysis to figure out why I find it sexy. Maybe because it shows competence in kitchen--competence is always sexy. It also shows you thought of every detail in taking care of your date, down to the perfect implement for the perfect scorching of the creme brulee.

  2. Interesting point. It's just that I've worked in a kitchen for a while, and in my current job I end up using the blowtorch ever couple of shifts. Sure, it's fun, but I never thought of it as sexy. Maybe it's because I'm thinking of the industrial size, foot long canisters. I believe the home use ones are a lot smaller, and probably more genteel.