I am just going to mention a couple of tips and hints that I think make cooking more enjoyable. One, have a GREAT knife, really you only need one. The knife pictured above is the favorite in our home, it is long and sharp - a must! Nothing is more frustrating to me than going to someones house to cook and being handed a dull knife, I always think, "no wonder you hate cooking, this knife is a piece". That said, both my husband and I use this knife for everything: cutting fruit and veggies, meat, and even bread. Now, it is fine to have more than one great knife, but have at least one!
Second, this is not as important as a great knife, but I think it makes life easier at the cutting board. Keep a bowl on the counter next to your cutting board to throw all your scraps in. If you are really clever and have a compost pile out back, just put in the biodegradable things. If you are not that green yet, you can put the lids from your cans in the bowl too, and just throw everything out all at once. This keeps you from walking back and forth to the garbage - saves miles on the feet and drips off the floor.
Moving on. Pictured above are two techniques for mincing and chopping. First garlic, ahh garlic, love it, hate cutting it. I own a garlic press, it is black, silver, and shiny, but in my mind basically useless. Here is how I mince garlic. First I take off the skin and then I smash it. I take my favorite knife, lay it atop of the garlic and press. This gets the juices running and the garlic in smaller pieces; then I slice and dice.
Next, I recently received as a gift a vegetable chopper (I don't know the actual name, but you can see it on the right up there). This baby is great! You just pre-cut your veggies into smaller chunks and then you get to bang on the chopper with all your pent up frustrations, and voila, chopped veggies! Granted it doesn't work with all veggies, but thus far, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and celery have all worked really well. Veggies with a thicker skin, like peppers or jalapenos, don't work quite as well, but if you are patient and willing to move them around a little, the chopper can still do a decent job.
That's it! Now go out and cook (with a really great knife in hand).
Pasta e Fagioli
Recipe by Fine Cooking Magazine
Pictures by Caroline
8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
3 medium red onions, finely chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
2 quarts lower-salt chicken broth
Two 15-1/2-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
14-1/2-oz. can petite-cut diced tomatoes
4 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
3 medium celery ribs with leaves, thinly sliced crosswise
1 slender 3-inch cinnamon stick (I substituted about ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup tubettini (or other small pasta)
1-1/2 tsp. red-wine vinegar; more to taste
Grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish
1. In a 6-quart (or larger) Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until partially crisp, about 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate.
2. Add the onions to the pot and cook, scraping up any browned bits and stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, chickpeas, tomatoes and their juices, carrots, celery, cinnamon stick, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat; skim any foam as necessary.
3.Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and celery are very tender, about 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook the tubettini according to the package directions and drain.
5. Discard the cinnamon stick and add the pasta. Stir in the bacon and vinegar. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more vinegar. Serve garnished with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
-You can store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Serve with a great homemade bread such as our Blitz Bread, Sweet Country Cornbread, or Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia