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Wednesday, 05 August 2015

For cooking, that is!  Oh, I just love to cook.  I've told you before that I got a lot of my own cooking skills from my parents, Leonard and Shirley.  They were both excellent chefs.  Back when I was growing up, it was fun learning some of those cooking lessons from them.  It was even more fun getting to EAT what they'd taught me to cook.  (No surprise there, right?  LOL.)  But understanding some basic cooking techniques can go a long way in ensuring your own recipe success.  In fact, let me tell you about a few of them, my own version of cooking basic training.

Squeezing the liquid out of a fruit is called "juicing".
JUICING.  Not the kind you're thinking about.  I'm not talking about the juicing trend that's become so popular, of putting a meal into a glass.  Simply squeezing the liquid from a fruit is also called "juicing" and many recipes may call for the juice of a particular fruit.  It's easy to do by hand.  To get the most juice from your citrus, first let the fruit come to room temperature.  Then roll it on the countertop, pressing it with the palm of your hand.  This will loosen the membranes inside the fruit, making it easier to extract the juice.  Of course you can also use one of those little handheld citrus juicers for better effect and they're not very expensive, either.
Recipes for sauces and gravies often call for a liquid to be "reduced."
REDUCE.  Okay, I'm not talking about your weight.  (But I hope you're working hard on reducing to your goal weight.)  In the meantime, I'm talking about the kind of reducing that's called for in some of the recipes you may prepare.  Recipes for sauces and gravies often call for a liquid to be "reduced."  That means you need to simmer the liquid in a saucepan over medium heat until a portion of it evaporates.  If the recipe calls for you to reduce the liquid by a third for instance, don't panic.  You won't need to measure the liquid before and after simmering.  Just eyeball it and test its thickness by spooning up a bit and letting it drizzle back into the pan.  The reducing process concentrates the flavors while making the liquid thicker and tastier.  (Yum!)
Ever heard of CHIFFONADE?
CHIFFONADE.  I'll bet that's a word you've never heard so let me explain.  It's fine to hand chop leafy herbs, like basil, parsley or mint.  But for a more interesting garnish, you can create long delicate and pretty ribbons of the herb by making a "chiffonade."  (Pronounced Shif-a-nod), French for "made of rags."  It's easy.  Start by stacking any leafy herb or green in a neat pile then roll them to form a cigar-like shape.  Then, using a sharp knife, cut across the width of the roll and you'll end up with these pretty little thin ribbons of green.  Try this technique to dress up a dish with a burst of green garnish.  Or if you're preparing a leafy green vegetable for a salad or cooking, it's an easy way to make your dish more appealing to the eye.
So there you have it, a visit to my own little "base camp".  A few basics for whipping up your own culinary masterpiece, right there at home.  Hey, sounds to me like you're on the way to becoming your very own Rachel Ray, now that you've had a little basic training!