Glossary: Things Everyone Should Know

Wash your hands before starting to cook.

Never buy an expensive artichoke. Buy them in season and on sale. Remove tough outer leaves, cut off tops (watch your fingers), and soak in lemon water upside down so they don’t turn colour. Then find a recipe that calls for fresh, leaves-removed, tops-cut-off, lemon-water-soaked artichokes.

Asparagus goes great with eggs (e.g., as part of a frittata) or in spaghetti cream sauce. Break the bottoms off with your hands. To serve as a side vegetable, just steam or boil in a little salted water (e.g., in a frying pan) and then add oil, salt, and pepper, and sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on top.

Preheat on high (to burn off the remains of what you cooked last time), then turn down and brush the grill with oil (or spray with Pam) so the meat won’t stick. Then fire that puppy back up and have at ‘er.

We use basil everywhere, especially with tomatoes. If using fresh basil, tear the leaves with your hands (don’t cut them with a knife).

Romano beans (also called borlotti beans) are used in Pasta Fagioli. Red kidney beans go in chili and bean salads. White kidney beans (also called cannellini beans) and Great Northern beans are good in spaghetti sauce, bean salads, and dips. White beans (also called navy beans) are delicious cooked on their own, and chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are great in soups, salads, and spaghetti sauce.

Canned chickpeas and red kidney beans are firm while most other canned beans are soft. Other than these, try to use dried beans where possible. Dried beans must be soaked overnight in lots of cold water. In the morning, boil them in fresh water, drain, rinse, and use in your recipe. During boiling, froth will form on top; skim this off and put it in your neighbour’s plants. Gently boil the beans until they start to crack. As a general rule, you boil romano, kidney, Great Northern, and white beans for 45-60 minutes. Chickpeas take forever (around 1½ hours). In any case, do whatever the package says.

Note: 1 cup dried beans yields 2-2½ cups cooked. And beans don’t cook well in tomato, so make sure they’re fairly well done before adding any.

Butter comes salted and unsalted. Usually unsalted is used in cooking and baking. Salted is for eating directly, like buttering your bread or putting on toast. If your mother sends you to the store for butter, she could mean either one. Better to ask first.

These are staple vegetables (you’re constantly cooking with them). Always keep them on hand along with potatoes, canned plum tomatoes, and cooking onions.

Both are good as a side dish. Boil or steam and drain well. Pierce stalk with a fork to see if done, and then season with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon or a shake of chili pepper. P.S. You can cook both veggies separately using the same water and a slotted spoon.

Parmesan is for soups, pasta, and making things “parmigiana.” Mozzarella is for pizza and chicken Parmesan (though this doesn’t make sense). Bocconcini is better on pizza and goes really well with tomatoes in a salad. Feta is for Greek salad, and Asiago is just good for eating. Try to stay away from all those Edam, Goudam, Got’em, Need’em cheeses—they’re for Dutch people.

There are four types of chicken: fryers, which are small and good for frying; roasters, which are a little bigger and good for roasting in the oven; boiling chickens, which are older chickens good for making soup; and utility chickens, which are imperfect fryers or roasters (e.g., missing a wing or with a broken leg). If leaving the skin on, remove any excess fat (e.g., around the little fella’s bum), and always cook until there is no pink near the bone.

Note: Boneless chicken cooks much faster than bone-in, so adjust cooking times accordingly.

A simmer means a light boil—just a few bubbles acting in control. A boil means lots of bubbles going wild. Always boil soup or sauce briskly for a minute before turning down to a simmer (this way you’re sure it was boiling in the first place). And when covering, leave the top off a little; you don’t want it on tight.

The more you have, the longer it takes. For example, a 20-lb. turkey needs more time to cook than a little 10-pounder, and a 4-can spaghetti sauce takes longer to simmer than one made with just a single can.

You’ve got your whipping cream, you’ve got your table cream, and you’ve got your half-and-half. Homogenized milk is 3.2% fat, half-and-half is 10%, table cream (also known as cereal, coffee, or heavy cream) is around 17%, and whipping cream is 33%. Whipping cream is used as a topping for pumpkin pie, table cream is used in cream sauces, and half-and-half is for coffee. If you’re a little chubby, use half-and-half instead of table cream in sauces (the weight will just fall off).

Something small like fish or a chicken breast can be defrosted by submerging the package in cold water and waiting an hour. A roast has to be taken out when you go to bed the night before and left out on the counter. In the morning, put it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.

There are three types of fish: steakfish, shellfish, and fillets. Steakfish should not be marinated for more than one hour or it will fall apart. Fillets and shellfish can be marinated longer. Never defrost fish in the refrigerator (it doesn’t work right)—just run it under cold water.

Unbleached flour tastes the same as all-purpose but has no additives, so try to use it when you can. Semolina is for making homemade pasta and really good bread.

Refrigerate it in a paper bag and it will keep. If you refrigerate it in a plastic bag, it will turn soft and lifeless. And if you leave it out on the counter, it will go stale within a day. Bread made with semolina flour is best. To freeze, first wrap in a plastic bag. To defrost, leave out on counter or warm in oven for 10-15 minutes.

Don’t add food to oil unless the oil is properly heated. If the oil is cold, it will soak into your vitals, and if it’s too hot, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked. Add something small to the oil as it heats (like a chunk of onion). When it starts to sizzle, add the rest.

If you use garlic often, store it in a ceramic garlic container in the cupboard. Otherwise, keep it in the refrigerator. When chopping or dicing fresh garlic, first squash the peeled clove with the side of your largest knife, remove the skin, and then chop or dice.

Do not belong in spaghetti sauce, soups, or stews but are good barbecued, fried, in salads, and on pizza.

Always use lean or extra-lean. Lean has 17% fat, extra-lean only 10%. Lean is good in hamburgers since some of the fat cooks away. Use extra-lean in dishes where the fat stays (e.g., spaghetti sauce), or when mixing with ground pork (since pork is a little fatty). If they only have regular (30%), you might want to brown it, drain the fat, and then rinse the beef through a strainer.

This may come as a shock, but God only intended ketchup to be used as a topping for hamburgers, hotdogs, French fries, and maybe eggs. It’s not a secret ingredient for meatloaf, chili, spaghetti sauce, or anything “cacciatore.”

Use them, clean them, and then put them away. And never put a good knife in the dishwasher.

Lentils are part of the bean family (they’re the smaller cousin). Dried lentils are easier to prepare than dried beans since they don’t need to be soaked overnight. Just boil them as per the recipe, rinse, and they’re ready to go.

Lemon always goes with fish and usually with chicken. It bursts nicely over cutlets, is delightful in plain water, and is quite popular in most lemon loaf recipes. Try to keep fresh lemons in your fridge (hey, they’re cheap).

A mince is smaller than a dice, and a dice is smaller than a chop. If asked to mince, keep chopping until your arm gets tired.

Use olive oil for most of your cooking. Cheap extra-virgin olive oil has a very strong taste and should only be used by people who like it. Vegetable oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil should be used for deep-frying things like veal cutlets, fried chicken, French fries, etc. In theory, you can use any type of oil in salads. But don’t—use the olive oil.

Many people are afraid to make homemade oil and vinegar dressing. Is it more oil or more vinegar? Relax, you just have to remember one thing: “Oil to coat, vinegar to taste.” Add enough oil to coat, toss, add your spices (e.g., salt and pepper), toss again, add some vinegar, toss, taste, add more vinegar (if need be), toss again, taste again—and then live with it.

Cooking or yellow onions are used for cooking and most often come in fishnet bags. White onions are mild and good in salads. Purple (a.k.a. red or Italian onions) are stronger and are also good in salads. Spanish onions look like large yellow onions but are sweeter and they too are good in salads.

Green onions have long green stalks attached to white bulbs. They’re good in omelettes and are used to make egg salad, salmon salad, and tuna salad sandwiches.

Oregano is good for pizza and Greek salad. Do not use in spaghetti sauce.

Parsley (the world’s most underrated spice) is used for breading, making meatballs, spicing fish, and adding to Elsie’s Potatoes. Always use fresh parsley; the dried tastes like hay.

Skip the fresh stuff. Buy high-quality dry pasta from Italy—Barilla and De Cecco brands are best. When cooking pasta, use lots of heavily salted water, do not add oil, and never rinse the pasta after you strain it. (Where do you people come up with these ideas?)

If using chili pepper, do not use black pepper. Usually a recipe calls for one or the other. Chili pepper is also called crushed red chilies and looks like little round circles with red on one side and yellow on the other. Never use chili powder instead; it’s different.

Use the recipe on the Tenderflake box. And make pies that don’t have tops (e.g., pumpkin) since they’re less fattening.

New potatoes are good for boiling—leave their skins on since skins are nutritious and peeling potatoes is a pain in the neck. Yukon Gold or table potatoes are good for mashing (they have to be peeled) and PEI, Idaho, or russet potatoes are excellent for baking, making French fries, or grilling on the barbecue (wrapped in foil and left for 1 hour).

Pots are the deep ones—they almost look square. Pans are the flatter, wider ones.

I like rice. Arborio is Italian-style rice grown on a special ranch just outside of Rome. It’s better than jasmine (Chinese), basmati (Indian), and cheap Uncle Ben’s. Boil rice like pasta in salted water until ready, drain, and add a little butter. Now see what you’ve been missing.

Note: Always rinse uncooked rice with hot water to clean and remove excess starch. And 1 cup dry rice yields 3 cups when cooked (so be careful out there).

There are pork ribs and there are beef ribs. Pork ribs are better. Pork ribs can be barbecued, while beef ribs should be cooked in the oven or used to make soup. There are also back ribs and side ribs. Back ribs are better. Side ribs should be boiled with spices before barbecuing. Back ribs can go right on the grill.

When roasting meat use a high rack in a low-sided pan. This way heat will brown all over. Usually a cookie sheet works fine. You also need liquid (water or wine) in the bottom of the pan so fat doesn’t drip onto the hot metal and start to smoke.

Try to use fresh (the dried is very strong) and leave out the twigs. Rosemary is typically used with chicken, all sorts of roasts, and potatoes. If you don’t have any on hand, use Italian seasoning instead.

Goes nicely with chicken and lamb, and can also be used with roast beef and pork. (It was originally designed for chicken and lamb and then later enhanced to work with beef and pork.)

Most people don’t use enough—use more (especially when adding to boiling water). And you should think about using sea salt—it’s good and you can buy it at the dollar store. P.S. With sea salt, use a little more.

Real Italian sausages typically come 3-4 to a 1 lb. pack and are 6-8 inches long. They’re usually very lean and can be made with aniseed or fennel, which is why some people don’t like them. The trick is to find good ones since they’re usually not available at popular grocery stores. Phone around. Call the Mafia. You might have to kill someone, but at least you’ll eat well.

Always taste for seasoning partway through cooking and just before serving. You should be able to taste each element of the dish. Once you get in this habit, you’ll instantly become a better cook.

Contrary to popular belief, if it’s tough, it wasn’t cooked long enough.

Why do we stir? To mix things up, to make sure food doesn’t stick to the bottom, and to release heat from hot stuff we want to cool. There are no other reasons.

It’s great. Things don’t stick to it. If you don’t have a Teflon pan, run out right now and buy one. If you already own one, only use plastic or wooden utensils on it, and never put it in the dishwasher.

Use solid white tuna (don’t buy the flakes—they taste like cat food). Tuna is usually packed in water but it’s better packed in oil. When making a sandwich with water-packed tuna, roll it between your fingers until finely crumbled, and then add your finely chopped green onions, salt, pepper, and mayo.

When boiling vegetables, don’t cover them. Salt the water when you add your veggies, and drain well before seasoning (so water doesn’t mix with the oil or butter).

Is really nice with a little lemon in it.

When cooking with wine, use dry white wine (not cooking sherry; it’s for Canadians),
and never add lemon to the same dish.

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