Food | Parenting | Family
11 Genius Cooking Hacks I Wish I Had Known Earlier in Life
My kids and me are blessed.
One thing that is common between my wife and my mom — both are great mothers. They have one thing fundamentally in common — they are mega efficient planners. They habitually soak their food and ferment it ahead. My grand dad who lived until he was 104 swore by fermented food.
Unfortunately, I waffle my way to the pantry when I am hungry and want something soon. Like most of us, I like to whip things up when needed. I wished I had known these 11 hacks earlier in life.
1. Insanely tasty pasta sauce, hailed as world’s best, is only 3 ingredients in one pan.
Personal story: You watch recipe videos — ingredients are often prepped. In the real world, prepping before cooking and washing after cooking take time. And there are no guarantees that the food tastes good — repeatedly. The raw truth at a sublime level is not talked about often.
Once in a while, a radical recipe comes along that it is so easy and tasty — you are dumbstruck with the lighting of your luck. Pasta recipe in Marcella Hazan’s first book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, is one of them.
You’ll need one 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes; one medium peeled onion, halved; and 5 whole tablespoons of butter. And salt to taste.
Put everything together in a single pot and set it to simmer over medium heat on the stove for 45 minutes, uncovered. Give it the occasional stir. At end of 45 minutes, toss out the onion halves, and pour the sauce over your favorite pasta. You are done!
Friends, this radically simple recipe works against our inner most fears.
The best part — salt to taste! To each his own, customized to perfection without frills.
2. Rice reheating with ice cubes. Works like magic.
Personal story: Good chunk of the world eats rice as staple food. I grew up in one part of that world- deep parts of south India. My grandpa was a farmer and cultivated rice aplenty on the water soaked banks of Cauvery river delta.
And rice has one problem. You can’t cook just right quantities especially with growing kids at home. Leftovers are a norm. For most of us, microwaves help us. With ice cubes — it’s the icing on the top.
Put an ice cube on top of the rice before you reheat it in the microwave. The ice won’t melt (!); instead, it will actually steam the rice, making it perfectly fluffy and delicious once again.
3. Pineapple leaf — if it comes off easy, it is ripe enough to cut. No second guesses.
Personal story: Just like her dad, my younger daughter loves pineapples. One daddy task is cutting them. There is something therapeutic about this chore — sharing the fruits of labor, immediately.
The most annoying part , through the years — timing the cut — not too early, not too late. So, the tip with the pineapple leaf is a leading insight to the fruitiness inside the fruit. Loved it, ever since.
4. Magic words (rolling and curling) that changed the way I used knives
Cutting hand: Chop with the rear part of the blade, not the tip, in a rolling motion.
Other hand: If you can’t see your finger tips, you can’t cut them. So curl your fingers.
I have two pet peeves about life education — financial literacy is not taught in school and cutting skills at home.
In our first 25 years of life, my wife and I were using scissors differently! We both used the thumb. The other finger — I used the index, she used the middle finger. One day, I happen chanced to notice the difference — we googled it up and had a laugh. My wife was right.
For knifing skills, this video is a must watch.
5. Best advice about heat: “If it’s done in the pan, it’s overdone on the plate.”
When most of us worry about getting the right ingredients and right proportions — this elementary advice stands out like a gem.
6. The truth about pasta water: should taste as salty as the sea.
Seasoning food properly is the thing that separates good food from great food. When it comes to salt — it depends, is a good line.
Do you want your pasta to be delicious? Well, then kind of a lot, to be perfectly honest.
7. Clean as you go: the quickest and most efficient way to clean the blender is to add some water and dish soap and blend it.
I find clean as you go easier than clean afterwords. This tip is worth the weight in gold for the easiness.
8. Clean as you go: Microwave high for 5 minutes with a bowl of water, vinegar and toothpick.
2 is a good number.
2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of vinegar with one ( or 2?) toothpick to help keep the water from boiling out over the edges of the bowl.
Fives minutes in the microwave. And leave it shut for another 2 minutes to let the steam continue to work. The dirt and food will come right off with a sponge. Easy, peasy.
9 and 10. Tools,tools, tools: Immersion blender and pressure cooker saves you chopping time and utility bill respectively.
Personal story: I had a proud dad moment. My middle schooler daughter loves experiments. We were talking about boiling point. I made a statement. You don’t need to heat water to 100 degrees Celsius to make it boil. She gave me a quizzical look. 100 degrees implicitly has one assumption. The world around the water is a normal room. If you change the pressure around the water, it boils at a different temperature. This can reduce the energy use. That’s the magic of the pressure cooker.
I had her attention. Science and sustainable living are big in her radar.
On a more subliminal level — whistling, when done right, is a wonderful form of self expression. A pressure cooker reminds me about the simple pleasures of life.
How handy you are around the house depends on the handy tools you have at home. In a similar vein, I found the immersion blender the best in terms of pre and post cooking. It eliminates my chopping time and reduces my washing time. Priceless in my opinion, second best to the dish washer.
11) Truth about spice: One is more than enough
A story I share with my daughters.
Once upon a time, spice (not spicy) was in every bodies mind. It was cherished more than silk. The world craved for it so much that they named one of the three mighty oceans after a country that was a source for it. Not only that, Columbus sailed the wrong way and discovered America. Believing he had reached his spice destination, the explorer called the natives accordingly.
It was pre-internet days. He couldn’t google ahead.
My daughters listen with wide eyed wonder — especially my younger one. Roots are powerful. An image has been cast. And she knows one of the three ocean name with context.
On the flip side of daily life, I struggle cooking with spices. The elephant in the room — the combinations are mind boggling. Unlike Columbus, I am spoiled with abundance of spices in the kitchen rack. Burst of flavors has a consequence. You have to watch the recipe like a hawk and mimic it without guarantees. My best ah ha. Double down the one spice you like for that day and move on. Works wonders — if you know what you like.
I naturally gravitate towards cumin soups, fennel dishes, mint rice, oregano pasta, basil thai curry and cardamom pudding.
Variety is indeed the spice of life. My variety is in the dishes, but each dish is a singular sensation.
To each their own comfort food and nostalgic memories.