Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kitchen Tips #1 - Little Touches Go A Long Way

I love to cook.  And so do you I bet.  I like to try and make things outside of the norm but there's one problem.  I have this romantic notion in my head that I'm going to look like Giada and don my pastel v-neck blouse with my costume jewelry, hair perfectly coiffed and not a single smudge or smear of any type of sauce on me.  I'm going to slowly and beautifully chop and slice just like a pro all the while narrating how luscious the marscapone (and I'm going to pronounce it mer-SCA-pone-eh) sounds as I fold it into my cavattapi.  But we all know that's not how it's going to go down.

The reality is that I'm going to scramble for ingredients, loose my recipe countless times and dirty up more pots, pans, spoons and utensils then I care to clean.  My kitchen and myself will look like a bomb blew up and the end result will just be "ok" since it takes many times making a particular recipe to really get it right.  So now I've spent more money on groceries then I would've to go out to eat AND I'm stuck cleaning up the mess.  But with a few encouraging words from Cory (ALMOST every time I make something new.  If he's quiet I know to throw that one out.) I feel proud that at least I tried.  With that said, I'm going to reference yet another Food Network "chef" (used loosely for her, sorry) but Sandra Lee has the right idea with Semi-Homemade.  On this night I needed a short-cut. 

Do you ever eat in restaurants and wonder, "Why doesn't my food taste like this?"  Simple.  Fresh ingredients and special touches make all the difference.  Here is an example of how I put that into practice just the other night.

I purchased a pack of Grilled Chicken and Mozzarella Ravioli from Costco.  I boiled it.  I opened a jar of marinara. I nuked it in the microwave.  But here is how to turn an ok dinner into OK It's Dinner!

 Alongside my beloved mint plant stands my basil plant. 
If you've never grown basil it's simple and it takes off like a mofo.  I plucked a few basil leaves off and cut them into a chiffonade. >>>>>

I then took a wedge of delicious Parmesan cheese (not the powder you buy off the shelf people) and grated it finely.

Whallah! These two minor touches on top of my 5
minute dinner elevated it to restaurant quality. It looked professional and tasted heavenly.  Home-grown basil is so fragrant and fresh and the parm is salty and nutty and wonderful. 

Tip: If you don't want to grow your own herbs you can find small packages of them in the produce section of your grocery store.

Sadly I was eating alone this night but I were to serve this to company I would pair it with a classic crusty garlic bread and Pinot Grigio.  I hope this inspires you to try adding a special touch to your next meal!  PS - If you want to borrow some basil, come snip it off my patio :)

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