On Nov. 23, 2005 I moved to The Hague from Washington, DC. This is my new Dutch life.


Learn To Cook Update

It's been a slow week with B- out of town. Still, I've been working on this whole cooking thing.

Ever since B- and I took our first trip to Paris together a couple of years ago, I've been obsessed with "secret" ingredients. The French are masters of this. The best thing I ate that weekend were a couple slices of carrot and zucchini. They were infused with such complex flavors, and yet they looked so plain sitting on my plate that I almost didn't eat them. When we were in Paris last month, we ate a similarly mysterious carrot mash that knocked us out of our chairs.

I've started uncovering these secrets, and it's got nothing to do with butter. Note that I dunno if these are what French cooks use, but they certainly add an unexpected kick to otherwise ho-hum dishes.

1) Add a bit of vanilla. A lot of people add sugar to savory dishes to balance the flavor. But consider a little bit of vanilla pod (remove the seeds or it's too intense) when seasoning vegetables, particularly root veggies (like potatoes, parsnips, etc). And don't be afraid of the uglier vegetables. They're yummy mashed and pureed. I made an excellent mixed root mash with a touch vanilla bean.

2) Try milk instead of water when boiling potatoes for mash. Back off the butter and salt. Add flavored olive oil instead.

3) Add cinnamon to pasta sauce. This seems to work as a replacement for sugar to curb the acidity, and adds a bit of mystery to the dish.

4) Not salty enough? Try a bit of lemon juice before adding salt. Lemon juice brings out the flavor of other spices, brightening up the dish. Probably not the best thing for creamy dishes, though. ;)



Blogger Sarah Caron said...

Another interesting thing you can do is steam your veggies with a strong flavored fruit juice like pineapple - it lends a slight sweetness to them that makes things like green beans taste awesome.

12:19 PM GMT+1

Blogger Reid said...

5) Thousand Island. And lots of it.

2:43 PM GMT+1

Blogger PeeKay said...

wow, last week you were saying you didnt need to cook and this week you are exposing secrets? this is an amazing self taught program you are on. you must have skipped a few grades in school.

3:34 AM GMT+1

Blogger akaijen said...

ha thanks PK! Hardly the truth, but I'm trying. My goal in sharing is to demystify this whole cooking thing as well.

I think my overall problem is that I have trouble committing anything to memory. So watching cooking shows and reading recipes isn't going to get me there. I have to play around.

I can't say enough good things about these two books: The improvisational Cook and Cook with Jamie. Unfortuantely, I think you can't get Cook with Jamie in the US yet, but you can get it from Amazon.co.uk if you don't mind the shipping.

9:39 AM GMT+1


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