The Kitchen Counter Cooking School – Kathleen Flinn

Here it is. This is the first anniversary of SimplyFoodTales. While I have gained followers over the last month, there has been someone that has been with me for the last few months. No, it isn’t me (although that isn’t far from the truth (I have to be here to make my posts)). In any case, I am talking about Kathleen Flinn or more her book The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. This book has been a godsend really. It came out in October and I checked it out of the library in December. It is a book in which, Flinn, the author tries to figure out why people don’t cook. Boring, right? Not! She then teaches them how easy cooking can be!

When I saw this book, I was like oh fun! I normally like group cooking shows, and I, being an avid reader needed something for night-time reading. Even though I only have read it for 2 months, this book has taught me more in those two months than I have learned in all my cooking life – which hasn’t been long, mind you!

I was sceptical when I saw this book. I’ve read my fair share of cookbooks and most of them either bore me (this is an onion! Sort of book) or make me really frightened to try things out (this is how you must braise and season, braise and season sort of book). While I do see myself as an adventurous cook these days (who has started a few fires or smoke detectors ping-ing), this book really gave me the confidence to hold a knife to start off with.

What am I talking about, you ask? Well, a big knife has always scared me. I have always been a bit of a coward when it comes to surface cuts (like seriously, I go through a box of 60 Band-Aids in a month on paper cuts (which I get a lot when I do marking and such)) so the potential of giving myself a serious injury with a knife has always scared me. Thus, I stick to paring knives (can you imagine the cuts I get with it?) and a 6 inch, thin serrated knife (that has me hacking through chicken). So Kathleen’s first lesson on knife holding really resonated with me. I had often seen the chefs on television holding knives in a certain way, telling you to keep your fingers curled, so that your knife’s side is resting flat against your knuckles, and that way, you won’t cut your fingers. Great. But what about my knuckles? What’s going to protect them? Oh well. Reading about how these chefs didn’t even know about holding a knife and Kathleen’s oh so detailed instructions, I went to work, armed with a new box of Band-Aids. And lo and behold! I chopped an entire zucchini, potato (boiled), a handful of mushrooms, and green peppers. I was afraid (and I still am), but now a little less so.

The recipe that goes with this is a simply tasty pasta that has been adapted from one of Kathleen’s recipes in the book. Oh yes, she actually provides you with recipes at the end of each chapter so that you can practice. So, get out there, check her book out – I promise you’ll feel the passion that exudes from her witty anecdotes and by the end of it, you’ll feel like one of the girls in that kitchen (that I wish I could’ve been a part of). And thus, it is only fitting that my one year blog post be on the book that has taught me so much in such little time.

 

Easy Pasta – think up a creative name please!

 

1 zucchini diced

1 boiled potato diced

½ green peppers diced

5 medium mushrooms sliced or diced

1 tablespoon garlic

½ cup fusilli

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chilli powder

1/3 cup fresh herbs or 2 tbsp. dried

½ cup cooked chicken

¼ cup sweet chilli Thai dressing

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp. oil

Okay a few notes before starting. I’ve suggested some vegetables here. I don’t think I need to say it again do I? –Sigh- okay, I will. Use whatever you have. If you feel like an eggplant, use that. Feel like avocado? Yum. How about carrots? Fabulous! Just remember to chop everything into uniform pieces. Now, fusilli? I used that since that’s what I had? What? You like rigatoni better? Totally. Use it. Do it! Any small pasta will work nicely. Now that I think about it, I think a long spaghetti or linguini or fettuccini would work too. Don’t have any pasta? Use Chinese egg noodles? None of that either? Well, do you have rice? Couscous? Quinoa? You get the idea – use whatever grain you want in there. Heck, if you’re feeling really creative, use no pasta in there! Lol, creative right? In this case, do a regular stir fry – in which case, julienning the vegetables would work well. Wtf? Okay, okay, cut the vegetables into matchsticks, or just regular sticks. Whatev. What about the spices? I use garlic, cumin and chilli powder. Use all those, use something else. Throw in a bit of curry powder! How about a little cinnamon – on second thought, no don’t do that – I don’t think it would turn out as nicely. The point is, use as much or as little spice as you like. Kathleen’s original recipe doesn’t call for any spices. It only uses garlic, zucchini, salt and pepper. I did try that to be fair, but thought it a little bland. The same thing goes for the herbs – use whatever you have. If you don’t have anything, I don’t see why a sprinkling of Mrs. Dash or other favourite dried herb can’t work. Then we come to the meat. Once again, don’t have chicken? Use pork, use turkey. Open up a can of tuna. Again, no meat, use tofu, use soy protein, or no meat. Just vegetables will work just fine. Finally. The sauce. Use whatever. I used the kind I liked, use the kind you like. I’ve also tried this with a fig balsamic and a zesty Italian. It works delightfully! A tomato sauce would work too – I’m just not a tomato fan unless you can get lots of flavour in there.

Okay you’re ready? Armed with everything? Great. Got a box of Band-Aids. No? Well, whatever. Go to this site: http://kathleenflinn.com/cookinglessons/ . Yes that’s right, Kathleen has her own website. Go and redeem the free knife skills lesson. Then get choppin’!

Is everything diced or julienned? Perfect. Now bring a pot of water with salt in it to a boil and add your pasta. Skip this if you aren’t using pasta. Once it’s cooked, drain the pasta but save a cup of that water! Now get a pan and heat your oil in it. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Hear the sizzle? Good! Now add the zucchini and stir till it gets mushy. If it starts to burn, just add a few tablespoons of the pasta water, or regular water – in case you dumped it. Next, add the mushrooms. When it softens, add the potatoes and peppers. Next, add the herbs, if you’re using them. Add the meat, and the spices. Stir fry it for a few minutes. Then, add the pasta. Toss it all, and add your salt and pepper. Then, turn off the stove, add the sauce and toss it to coat. And there you have it, you’re done. Enjoy!

 

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