(clockwise from top: girl, girl, boy).
Hello. I never told myself that I’d apologize for something as silly as being absent from this blog. That’s much too small a thing to apologize for in the world of so many more important, big things. When I started to cook a little more, I naturally learned little tips and tricks, made a lot of mistakes (sorry to some of Peter’s pans and knives), and discovered fun stuff that I’m glad I know. Here’s a tiny list of facts I’ve found to be true that have really helped me out over the last few years and months (including those between January and July).
1). How to put down wine. I’m glad I know that wine should always be stored so the cork stays wet. Bottles should also ideally be on a cold, cement floor. Peter and I have a small basement, so we just lay the bottles on their sides right on the ground.
2). When to flip over pan-fried chicken breast. I learned this tip while listening to The Splendid Table and it’s really helpful but hard to practice (patience!). When you’re cooking a chicken breast in a pan, refrain from turning it over until it is naturally unstuck from the bottom of the pan. It takes a while, as even just one minute can feel long while just staring into a pan. I try to lean against the counter with a glass of wine. Or I do something else that inevitably needs doing around the house. It’s really hard to wait. You may think you’re burning the hell out of one side and you’re doing it wrong, but you’re probably really not. Just wait a while, test it occasionally by trying to jiggle it a little (carefully), and once it moves easily it’s ready to be flipped.
3). How to properly cook rice. One to two. This can be tricky because cooking rice depends on factors like altitude, which is so annoying. I always try to cook rice with a liquid other than water, which is usually vegetable or chicken stock. For white rice, I’ll put oil or butter in a small saucepan, let it melt, then add one cup of rice. At this point, I add salt and pepper and I just stir it here and there on hot heat until I can smell it getting a little bit toasted. Here, if you have some lemon juice and some dry white wine, add a little bit of both (I’ve used rice wine, rice vinegar and vermouth, too). Let this evaporate, then add two cups of liquid. Let it get to a boil, stir once, turn it to low, put a lid on, and set a timer for 20 minutes. Toward the end, you can add a thin vegetable like snow peas for a few minutes to steam them, which is so easy and adds a bit of flavor to both.
4). Never, ever try to make fresh tomatoes work in the winter. Ever.
5). Always wash bag lettuce. Of course it’s always best to get a fresh head of lettuce, but sometimes being supremely lazy is a necessity. Even if the bag indicates it’s already washed, just give it another rinse. NPR has an interesting article which prompted me to practice this all the time.
6). It takes approximately 3.5 hours to digest an egg. I’m unfortunately not a huge fan of eggs, but I recognize they are a good source of a lot of protein in a small package and we always have them in our fridge. They’re good an hour or so before a workout, or if there’s just nothing much around to eat. Check out Radiolab’s short titled “Guts” or William Beaumont for some interesting facts on digestion.
7). It’s not Champagne unless it’s from Champagne. If you’re unsure, it’s just a better idea to say “sparking wine”. I’d like to do an entire post on this one, but for now that’s it.
8). Eggplants have genders. I know. What? But they do. I’m not sure why this kind of grosses me out. Peter is the one assigned to looking at eggplant asses when we shop for them, as it’s still harder for me to tell the difference sometimes (also I think maybe he kind of likes it). We’ll mess it up occasionally, but it’s good to try, because male eggplants tend to have less seeds and are likely less bitter than their counterpart.
9). Don’t freeze coffee beans. There are so many different beliefs on this one. I overheard a co-worker telling a group that it’s the best way to preserve the coffee, but it’s just not true. If you can’t grind fresh beans every morning (we don’t), grind a bag of them in your local grocery store and store them in an airtight, cool, preferably dark place. Ours is in a convenient spot in a little tin right next to the coffee machine, and it tastes great. It’s also always better to buy a little bit, use it up while it’s fresh and buy more when you need it.
I remember when Peter and I decided to move in together. He asked me something very specific. He said, “When you do the dishes, do you rinse out the sponge and squeeze the water out before you put it back by the sink?” I said, “Yes”. He said, “We will be just fine, then”. So maybe a list of nine little and (hopefully) helpful things is more valuable than I know. Maybe it compensates for about six months.