And as with anyone with a self-taught education, one will make mistakes along the way and La Diva has certainly had her fair share! Through the years, I have really tried to learn from them and have worked hard to improve my culinary skills. Like any thing else one becomes good at, diligence and persistence pays off.
I didn’t know. And, Little Baby Diva was impatient. I wanted a piece of that cake!! I was only interested in the outcome, not the process!
I’ll admit, some of these ideas are common sense. Some of them seem obvious. But, if no one has ever told you the reason why it’s important to do these steps, you won’t heed the recipe and could miss out on a really good dish instead of a just “okay” dish. Or even avert kitchen disaster! Or even get that “a-ha” moment. It’s important to note that little extra steps can make a BIG difference in the success and taste of your dish. So, I’m happy to share with you what took me years to learn on my own!
Speaking of tomatoes
Cucumbers are wet too!
La Diva watched a girlfriend make mashed potatoes once and being the Diva she is, hada very hard time biting her tongue while watching her friend make kitchen blunders! With a pot of water boiling furiously on the stove, La Diva watched in horror as my friend haphazardly cut potatoes and threw them willy-nilly into the pot, gabbing away and unaware of her culinary crimes!
First of all, you don’t add potatoes to boiling water but to cold water and then bring to a boil. So now, she had potatoes that were cooking at not only different times but also were different sizes. Naturally, the result was some potatoes were water-logged and mushy and others were still a bit hard which resulted in a lumpy, inconsistent mash. Mashed potatoes are very simple to make, yet by not taking the time to cut them properly or pay attention to what she was doing, she messed up a very simple dish.Remember, darlings, it’s the little things that can really screw you up in a kitchen!
Darlings,always use a sifter to combine salt, baking soda or baking powder together with the flour when baking, even if the recipe doesn’t call for it. La Diva doesn’t have have a fancy cake sifter but simply uses a mesh strainer that I tap gently to release the dry ingredients into the batter. La Diva learned the hard way when one time years ago, I brought in a freshly-baked ginger bread to work and a co-worker bit into a huge, salty ball of baking soda and spit my cake out with a nasty look on her gob. Naturally, this was not the reaction La Diva was aiming for and it ruined the entire would-be yummy experience!
Silky, savory soups
When making a broth for soup, add the vegetables you want to eat in the soup the last 45 minutes of cooking. When making a stock or a bean or pea soup, I start using a quartered white onion, celery, carrot and bay leaves for flavoring to the bones. After slowly simmering the stock to get good flavor and color, I strain the soup using a colander over a large bowl. I put the strained broth back into the pot and then add the cut up veggies and cook until tender.
If I’m making a bean soup, I cook the beans separately and then cook the stock with the bones and cooking vegetables. Once I get flavored stock, I take out the bones and cooking vegetables (if they are still in one piece!) and THEN add the beans to cook down more and finally the veggies to cook last. I can’t tell you how many times when I first started cooking that I ended up with mushy veggies before I finally learned this bit of common cooking sense!
I also always brown onions, celery, carrots and green peppers for risottos, casseroles, meatloaf or chili for the same reason. You’ll eke out a lot more flavor from those veggies than just throwing them raw into the mix! Think about it: raw onions and carrots in soup are just boiled onion and carrot. But browned and caramelized onion and carrot will add sweetness and a rich hue.
Another trick La Diva employs for moist meatballs is to use ricotta cheese with ground chicken or turkey meatballs. The cheese will add a lovely and light texture to meatballs for soup. This will take your meatballs from tough to tantalizingly tender!
Follow the recipe
Darlings are you making any of these mistakes? Are you trying to save time by omitting steps? I hope that now you’ll see the reasoning behind what seems like time-wasting steps and that these are just some of the little extra things La Diva does to make my dishes come out with the right texture and taste. What little tricks and steps do YOU take? La Diva wants to hear all about it!
Ciao for now, darlings! Only three days to go before I jet off downunder!!!
Originally posted 2010-02-17 13:13:00.