WINNER OF THE IBPA BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AWARD for "BEST COOKBOOK"
For some people, cooking a meal is as easy and effortless as a walk in the park. But for others, even frying an egg may seem like a hike up Mount Everest. Designed for everyone who feels clueless in the kitchen, Your Time to Cook is a true “first” cookbook, packed with important kitchen essentials and cooking fundamentals—as well as a collection of basic, easy-to-prepare recipes.
Kicking off the book is an introduction to kitchen gadgets and gizmos, essential guidelines for stocking the pantry, and a review of common cooking terms and food-preparation techniques. Hundreds of magnificent full-color photos help make the information clear and accessible—whether it is a description of how to chop an onion, scramble an egg, cook the perfect steak, or brew the best cup of coffee. Over 230 foolproof recipes include everything from breakfast favorites and party appetizers to hearty soups, salads, veggie side dishes, pastas, and seafood, as well as chicken, beef, pork, and lamb dishes. There is also a dessert chapter that’s packed with your favorite sweet treats. To ensure a perfect meal every time, photos accompany each recipe’s step-by-step directions, while practical tips and “tricks” make sure that each meal is not only picture perfect, but perfectly delicious.
Whether you are a newlywed struggling in your first kitchen, a single out on your own, or just someone who’d like to gain more culinary confidence, Your Time to Cook is a valuable reference—one that will become the cornerstone of your cooking experience. May it help make your kitchen a happy place where you share good food, good times, and good memories.
Robert L. Blakeslee earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts at the California College of the Arts (CCA) in Northern California. He has been a college professor at the International Fine Arts College in Miami, Florida, and is an internationally published award-winning graphic designer, art director, and creative director. The author is also a gourmet cook and a cookbook illustrator and photographer.
Words from the Author, xii
1. Welcome to Your Kitchen, 5
2. Stocking the Pantry, 23
3. Terms and Techniques, 53
4. That’s Entertainment, 71
Recipes for Love
5. I Love Breakfast!, 87
6. Bottoms Up!, 107
7. Appeteasers, 127
8. You’re My Hero, 145
9. Salad Days, 165
10. In Hot Soup, 183
11. Simple Sides, 199
12. Pasta . . . That’s Amore!, 233
13. A Little Fishy, 255
14. Chicken Tonight, 281
15. What’s Your Beef?, 305
16. Pig and Lambs, 327
17. Holiday Feast, 345
18. Just Desserts, 359
Metric Conversion Charts, 392
Welcome to life as a couple! What an exciting time. There is so much ahead of you . . . so much to look forward to. Developing your skills in the kitchen and learning how to cook (or improve your existing skills) is one adventure that you can enjoy together. Cooking for two is certainly a lot more fun than cooking for one. And if preparing meals turns out to be more of a solo act, you'll now have someone who appreciates your food. (If you’re lucky, it is someone who will help you clean up the dishes.)
Your Time to Cook is the perfect starting place, especially if you are clueless in the kitchen. It is a true "first" cookbook, packed with important kitchen essentials and cooking fundamentals—as well as a collection of basic, easy-to-prepare recipes. One of the reasons this book is so helpful to the novice cook lies in its unique visual approach. Cooking is an art, and it's no secret that people tend to learn much better and quicker when they are guided visually rather than verbally. For this reason, throughout the book, you will find hundreds of full-color photos and illustrations to help make the information clear and accessible—whether it is the description of a cooking technique, a listing of staple ingredients, or directions on how to set the perfect table or uncork a bottle of wine. Photos also accompany each recipe's reader-friendly step-by-step directions that further guide you to perfect results every time.
Although Your Time to Cook is designed to build a solid foundation for the inexperienced cook, if your kitchen skills are better than basic, you will also find it beneficial. In addition to discovering some great new recipes, you are likely to come across a new technique, a helpful shortcut, or a better method for preparing certain foods. No matter what your qualifications are as a cook, you will find Your Time to Cook to be a valuable reference—one that will hopefully become the cornerstone of your cooking experience. May it help make your kitchen a happy place where you share good food, good times, and good memories.
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BEFORE YOU COOK, READ THIS
To help ensure that your cooking experience is an enjoyable one, especially if you’re a novice in the kitchen, keep the following recommendations in mind:
Keep it clean
After preparing and enjoying a delicious meal, the last thing you’ll want to face is a huge kitchen cleanup. But it doesn’t have to be that way. While preparing a recipe, try to “clean as you go.” Put away utensils and ingredients after using them—put dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher, dry goods back in the pantry, and fresh items back in the fridge.
During any breaks in the preparation—while the soup is simmering or the cake is baking try to clean up as much of the kitchen as you can, especially before serving. No matter how delicious the food is, a big mess in the kitchen can take the fun out of cooking. So try not to let it get out of hand.
It’s also important to clean dirty dishes and utensils as soon as possible. The longer the food remains, the harder it becomes to remove. If, however, the pot, pan, or casserole dish has a difficult-to-clean baked-on mess (from long oven-roasting, for instance), presoaking it in hot soapy water is recommended before you attempt to clean it.
Many people who say they cannot cook simply don’t pay attention to what they’re doing. Unless you are simmering a pot of soup or stew, cooking on a stovetop requires constant attention. Food that is cooked on the grill must be checked every few minutes. And baked goods should be checked a few minutes before the recipe’s recommended cooking time, and then every minute or so until ready.
Give it a taste test
When you prepare a recipe, especially for the first time, let your taste buds test the dish before you serve it. Even if you have followed a recipe exactly as written and the dish looks and smells good, you might find—depending on your personal likes and dislikes—that it needs something more. You may, for example, find the food to be bland for your taste, so a pinch of salt or some other seasoning or herb may be needed. But no matter what you add, be sure to do so a little at a time. You can always put in more, but once you have added too much, the dish can be doomed.
Use the suggested testing methods for doneness
Cooking times for most foods will vary depending on a few factors, including the type of oven and/or stovetop that are used, and even the altitude in which you live. For this reason, cooking times are approximate, not exact. Along with estimated cooking times, this book also includes recommended tests for doneness. For instance, you’ll know that a cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For roasts and large fowl, a meat thermometer, which reads internal temperature, will indicate doneness. And pasta is ready when it is soft yet firm to the bite. Many other methods for testing doneness are presented for all of the different foods found in this book.
Follow baking directions exactly
Here is an important culinary fact—cooking is different from baking. With cooking, you can usually alter a recipe (throw an extra clove of garlic in the soup, add more salt to the casserole) and still have it come out great. Baking, however, is more like chemistry. In order to ensure successful results, you have to measure the ingredients and follow the preparation methods exactly as written.
Take care in your presentation
I typically design my recipes to produce dishes that not only taste delicious, but also look delicious. Always take time to organize and present your food. Don’t just fling it in a bowl (like the “slop on the gruel” technique you’ve seen in prison movies) or thoughtlessly dump it onto a platter. And consider adding a garnish or other finishing touch to give your delicious food even greater visual appeal. Keep in mind that when food looks good, it is always more appetizing.
Cooking should be enjoyable. Once you understand cooking basics, feel free to use any of the recipes in this book as starting points—springboards to which you can add your own creative touches. And most important, remember to have fun. Revel in your successes and learn from (and laugh at) your mistakes.