I’ve been teaching cooking classes around the country these last few weeks, and I love it. Not only do I get to meet people I’d have never met otherwise, I finally get to share what I’ve learned researching and writing a new book. For those who haven’t made it to one of my classes, here’s my top ten for this book.
10. Make one big sugar cookie instead of a batch by pressing dough into a 12-inch pizza pan. Baked this way, there’s no need to chill the dough. Store-bought refrigerated cookie dough works too.
9. Meatballs are hard to brown, so make meat “mallows” or drum-shapes instead. A 2- tablespoon measuring cup works well, but if you don’t have one, just halve 1/4-cup of meatball mix, forming each portion into thick patties.
8. Don’t heat a separate pot of water for pasta. Cook it in with the sauce. (For every pound of pasta add 6 cups of water and 3/4 teaspoon of salt).
7. A pastry blender is relatively useless for cutting butter into flour for biscuits and pastry. Grate frozen butter on the large holes of a box grater instead. (For large jobs, use the food processor’s grater attachment.)
6. Use spice blends to add complex flavor quickly. Some of my widely-available favorites—Italian Seasonings, herbes de Provence, chili powder, garam masala, curry powder, five-spice powder, and Old Bay seasonings.
5. For better mouth feel in soups, stews, and casseroles, use smaller petite-diced tomatoes.
4. To quickly mince parsley and cilantro use a sharp knife to shave leaves from stems. Yes, there’ll be a little stem in the mix, but much easier to pick out a few stems than to hand-pluck leaves (and besides, a little stem never hurt anyone).
3. Use shortcakes to make quick cakes. You can make mini frosted layer cakes or make tres leches cakes. Their sponge-like texture and natural well make them a perfect choice.
2. Hands are my #1 tool for mixing, tossing, and scraping. After hands in descending order: cheap spring-action tongs, wooden spatula, rubber scraper, and whisk.
1. You may not need a recipe for salad, but we all need to be reminded now and again how to perk them up. Consider the following: mango, strawberries, grated celery root, grapefruit sections, canned beans, fennel, pistachio nuts, green peas, pimento-stuffed olives, pine nuts.
BONUS TIP 1: One of my favorite simplest salad dressings is orange vinaigrette. To make, whisk or shake equal parts orange juice concentrate, rice wine vinegar, and pure olive oil.
What happens in tip #8 when you drain the pasta?
You don’t drain it, Tom. The pasta cooks right in the sauce and absorbs the water. I tend to cook my sauce and pasta in a heavy-duty roasting pan over 2 burners because the larger surface means everything heats and and cooks more quickly. If you’re cooking in a pot, you may want to use a little less water.
Mike V @ DadCooksDinner says
I heartily agree with #1. The salads were the best surprise in Perfect One-Dish Dinners. I bought it for the one-dish main courses, of course. But my wife, the salad connoisseur, keeps raving about the matching salads.
Thanks for sharing all of these tips, Pam! I read about the box grater for butter in one of Alton Brown’s book and I do that all the time now. That’s one of my favorites. I have to try the pasta cooked in the same pot as the sauce trick – I love to save dishes.
Pam — I love your new book (I taught myself how to cook from “How to Cook Without a Book” – it is my go to gift for all cooking newbies). I made the sausage with white beans and tomatoes this weekend and added some chard from the farmer’s market — it was amazing and made terrific leftovers. I was disappointed that you won’t be at Sur La Table in NY — any plans for a class elsewhere in NY?
Torrie @ a place to share... says
I also made the sausage with white beans… AMAZING
I am so lucky to have your new book… BUT, I’m still bookmarking this for a one-pager “cheat sheet”! Plus, it’ll be great to have as a resource for ‘cooking challenged’ friends and family members… thanks!!
good tips. . .thank you so much for sharing! my mum need this. . I should print this one out=)
Pam, I just made your Cassoulet-Style sausages and white beans and it was WONDERFFUL, both in its simplicity and flavors. This is a keeper. I have all of your cookbooks, and this new one will be one of my favorites, in addition to How to Cook Without a Book and The Perfect Recipe. You’re my hero!
Anna @londonfoodieny says
I love these tips! particularly the pasta one…must try this one out!
Tickled Red says
I love all of your tips 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing them. I wish that I had been able to attend one of your classes.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful tips, I have a question regarding #8, do you make the sauce and then remove the sauce and add water and salt into the same pan that you made the sauce in and cook the pasta?
Pam Anderson says
Hey Chell, You can actually cook the pasta right in with the sauce. Add the water and salt directly to the sauce, bring to a simmer, add pasta and cook until the pasta gets tender.