Nina’s 13 easy basic lessons for excellent gourmet cooking
You must want to cook, and keep your kitchen pristine, all receptacles: pots, pans, dishes, platters, bowls, etc. as clean as if you expected Elijah to swoop down from Heaven and be your surprise guest
Be creative and enthusiastic–use your energy wisely! Recycle your anger and slap together a gourmet dinner to avoid abusing your spouse!
Be generous with portions and be willing to please those who are going to eat all your foods and delicacies at your table. Never skimp on anything. Who knows what tomorrow brings? Remember Auntie Mame’s motto:”Life is a banquet and most poor fools are staving to death.” Blessings upon Patrick Dennis, her creator.
Enjoy the cooking process, or get the hell out of the kitchen. If you’re cooking, use the time wisely, thinking of words or phrases for poems, a bit of dialogue for a scene, the colors you’ll use to paint a canvas, the threads to weave, the materials to quilt, etc. So that when you step out of your queenly, domestic space, or if you are a guy, your kingly kitchen with the cabinets too high, you’re ready to write or be productive in another way: perhaps playing checkers or tennis. Your mind is always active even when you’re adding salt and pepper–use brain and seasoning wisely.
Lesson # 5
Taste what you prepare–if it’s garbage, toss it out the window. (This is not good advice if you live in an apartment building, so disregard. On the other hand in a private home, you could really start a great compost pile.) By the way, I do not taste …ever, but I know what I’m doing, so do as I say, not as I do.
Always buy the freshest of everything–from fish to veggies to cuts of meat!
If it’s been frozen, is that fresh? Bull roar!
Steal recipes from everyone–be forthright and ask them what is that unusual flavor in the soup or sauce, and be open and accepting when they say: pagliata, which translates to baby veal intestines.
Lesson # 8
Share your recipes with everyone, lest they think you are a sorceress, trying to steal their mate.
Lesson # 9
If possible, shop in Farmer’s Markets, Open Markets, Restaurant Depot, Costco, Sam’s, Walmart, Albertson’s, Publix, Safeway, or wherever they sell real groceries.
Lesson # 10
If you’re not baking bread yourself, then buy it freshly made from a bakery, never already packaged and never, ever under any circumstances buy canned whipped cream–it’s so easy to make with fresh and delicious good and nutritious Whipping Cream!
You don’t have to spend a great deal of money to make a great meal: simple can equal excellence! Inventiveness is the key–most “peasant food ” is the new chic dining. The Four Season’s serves grilled octopus, mind you, (you can fish these free from the ocean!) and wild arugala. Now come on, folks, I used to pick the stuff in any field in Rome, San Felice Circeo or Netunno.
Lesson # 12
Have as many spices and condiments, dried nuts and fruits, etc. always handy. This includes, capers, champagne vinegar, fillets of anchovies, and truffle oil, sesame seeds, but of course, this goes without saying.
Try eating exotic foods and determine how they’re made without asking the chef of the restaurant or your hostess, and then go home and cook them. Of course this doesn’t apply to those restaurants where the wait-person delivers a prepared speech with a phone book’s worth of ingredients–in which case, stop them and say, I’d rather not know, surprise me.