So you want to cook, but have no idea where to begin? Join the crowd.
Some common questions we’ve been asked include:
What does it mean to “cover” the beans with water?
How do you “pack” brown sugar?
How thick should my slices be?
Does the recipe mean 1 cup cooked rice or 1 cup uncooked rice? And, how do I cook rice?
What does braise mean… or blanch… or zest?
How do you steam vegetables… or soften butter… or dust with flour?
We try to answer many of these questions in our recipes, but sometimes there’s just not enough room to do so. Click on Learn (under the BEGIN HERE heading) or scroll down to the bottom of this page for a link to get to terminology, techniques, tips, and more. Don’t forget to Set Up Your Kitchen first!
A Word about Prep Work
In an ideal world you would have a large kitchen filled with every kitchen gadget you could imagine, along with a sous-chef standing by to do all of your rinsing and chopping—like the chefs on TV.
However, you live in the REAL world. You very likely have a tiny kitchen with maybe 12 inches of counter space and 1 or 2 cabinets. And space might not even be your biggest limitation. Time might be in the shortest supply. If you’re like us, you come home after a long, tiring day at work, zapped of energy and imagination.
That’s why we’ve carefully written out the instructions on each recipe to reflect your world.
There will be instances when you really must chop a few things ahead of time because you won’t have an opportunity to do it while cooking. However, most recipes allow time to chop as you go. However, please feel free to do all of your prep work before you start cooking if you prefer, and if you have the space and time.
Read through the recipes carefully. Even though they are designed to be followed step by step, it’s still a good idea to read through the entire recipe before starting, just to make sure there’s nothing that you need to do ahead of time. For instance, some recipes will suggest that you serve the dish over rice, pasta or some other grain. By reading through the recipe first you’ll be able to decide what you want to serve with it and plan accordingly.
A Word About Creativity
We’ve included variations for many of our recipes at the end. We usually make a recipe once, as it’s written, jotting down notes on a printed copy or directly in the cookbook. That way, we’ll be ready to make minor adjustments for our taste preferences, or come up with a new version in the future.
Keep in mind that circumstances can affect the outcome of a recipe. For example, if your oven temperature is not accurate, your cake might require more or less time than stated in the recipe. (We recommend buying an inexpensive oven thermometer and verifying the temperature each time you bake.) Cooking with electric burners instead of gas can also make a difference, as does the material and size of pots and pans. And of course, you should always adjust seasonings to suit your taste preferences. What’s spicy to one person might be bland to the next. As you become more skilled at cooking, you’ll become more confident and more creative. Have fun!