Learning to chill

As I continue my journey of self discovery through cooking, I uncovered something interesting about myself.

I need to learn how to chill out.

As a goal-oriented person, I like to challenge myself. My decision to make two relatively complicated dishes on the same day — and for the first time — with only about four hours of cooking time, turned a fun afternoon into my own stressful episode of “Chopped.”

Earlier in the week, I decided to make a kale salad, baked ziti and tiramisu from scratch for my family. As a novice chef, I didn’t even know what ziti pasta looked like.

The baked ziti and kale salad went off without a hitch, but I struggled with the tiramisu. With time running out, I accidently broke an egg yoke in the egg whites I had been separating. I was starting to stress out because I had promised my family tiramisu and I was running out of time. In the midst of all the chaos in the kitchen, I lost perspective.



I stepped back and regrouped. After a few minutes, I opted to make the tiramisu the following day.

The next day, while eating a generous portion of tiramisu with my lovely wife, I made a vow to stay focused and appreciate the opportunity to cook.

Each meal may not turn out perfect, and there will be a few disastrous dishes along the way, but the challenge to be a chef keeps the journey interesting.

Changing dinner plans

After submitting my proposed menu for tonight’s dinner, my family wanted to make two small changes.

The first request was to use a different baked ziti recipe. The new recipe from the Food Channel sounds like it will taste better and is easier to make. I let the opportunity to learn how to grill vegetables get in the way of a better baked ziti recipe.

The second change is a slight alteration of Giada De Laurentiis’ tiramisu recipe. My wife’s tried-and-true recipe switches out two teaspoons of rum in Giada’s recipe for 1/4 cup amaretto liquor.

Let the cooking begin.

Off to the farmers market

My brother is coming into town on Thursday and I want to fix a birthday dinner for him and my family.

My plan is to start dinner with a kale, apple and almond salad. I have made this salad a couple of times and I hoping my family will love it.

For the main course, I found a recipe for roasted vegetable baked ziti that looks challenging, but doable. I have never roasted vegetables, but this seems like a good time to learn.

For dessert, I am using Giada De Laurentiis’ tiramisu recipe. It was the bittersweet chocolate shavings sprinkled on top that convinced me to make this dish.

I have my shopping list and I am off to the Culver City Farmers Market to get the produce I will need.

So that’s a shallot

ShallotI just spent 20 minutes in the grocery store looking for shallots. I was in the fresh produce area, but I thought a shallot looked a lot like a green onion.

I didn’t ask for help because I was a little embarrassed and I wanted to figure it out on my own.

When I finally asked a clerk, who I had walked past at least a dozen times, he smiled knowing I was clueless and directed me away from the fresh greens and in the direction of the onions.

To add to the embarrassment, my wife bought shallots last week and we still had some in our pantry.

Now I know.

Here is a link to food.com explanation of shallots for anyone who wants more information.

The journey begins with a knife

I signed up for my first cooking class.

On Saturday, I am taking the Essential Knife Skills class from The New School of Cooking. I finally get to learn the proper techniques for chopping, slicing, dicing and julienne.

In the meantime, I am eager to start cooking. I am going to surprise my wife tonight by preparing Pasta with Mushrooms for dinner. I found the recipe in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook.

Wish me luck because I am am also making the vegetable stock from scratch.

More later. I am off to the store.

Hello World

Before I get started, I have to confess that I am not a cook. I am food warmer with expertise in microwaving frozen food.

The thought of being a culinarian is a little overwhelming, so as a journalist, I wanted to share my journey to become a chef with friends, family and anyone else who may want to join the conversation.

The goal is to create a dialogue you might have while preparing food for dinner with friends, so please add your thoughts and comments. Most of the talk will be about food and a little about everything else.

I should also mention that other than eating fish, I am a vegetarian. I know there are a lot of interesting meat sauces and lamb dishes out there, but I will keep my kitchen in the kill-free zone.

I have already started immersing myself in TV cooking shows, cookbooks and online cooking classes. I also signed up for a knife skills class at a local cooking school.

Now all I have to do is learn how to cook.