Culinary School Secrets from The Little Foodie Recipe
As an avid reader of The Daily Meal, it's obvious that you love food. Whether you're cooking it, eating it, or learning about it, this hobby is most likely one that brings you pure joy. But, have you ever entertained the thought of making this small slice of happiness into a fiery passion -- or better yet, a career? Ever been tempted to throw caution to the wind, leaving nothing but paperclips, Outlook, and Rhonda in HR in your wake? Well, before you give your two weeks notice to big R, let me take you along with me on my journey through culinary school. This way, you can experience a life rooted in food, without the nicks, burns, and aching back. Let's begin with level 1: the basics.
The first few weeks of school have covered many basic cooking concepts such as knife skills, French "mother" sauces, stocks, etc. An introduction to an array of produce was also helpful as we begin to explore flavor pairings and their appropriate cooking techniques. One premier culinary concept learned thus far -- the "golden rule" if you will -- is the importance of layering flavors and seasoning along the way. To illustrate this, I have provided a recipe for ratatouille - the classic French comfort food that gets its wonderful aromas and complex flavors from layering delicious vegetables and provencal herbs.
- 1/2 large or 1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, roughly cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 yellow onion, roughly cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 large or 2 small zucchini, quartered and chopped
- 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped
*The vegetables in this recipe can be modified to fit your taste. Other common vegetables seen in ratatouille include fennel and green bell pepper, and many times eggplant can be left out. Play around and see what you like best!
Cut the eggplant and place in a colander. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and let drain for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. When the oil begins to ripple, add the peppers and season lightly with salt. Let the peppers "sweat" for 3-5 minutes.
Next, add the onions and garlic and season lightly, allowing to sweat together for an additional 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and soft. Next, add the zucchini, season lightly and cook for 5 minutes longer. Meanwhile, squeeze the eggplant with a clean towel to remove any excess moisture. Add to the pot and season lightly. Partially cover the pot and cook everything together for 10 minutes. Next, add the tomatoes and thyme and cook for 30 minutes longer, or until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the thyme and sprinkle with parsley.