I believe in sharing what I learn

As much as I love food and cooking, I don’t seem to get nearly enough time in the kitchen. So I still have something of a learning curve with everything. Plus, I’m a perfectionist. That’s tough when you’re cooking, because it’s so easy for things to go wrong or get screwed up. The more I cook, the less I become a perfectionist and learn how to go with the flow of life, and not try so hard to be in control of everything happening around me. It counts if I can do in the kitchen, right?

This week I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned in the past few months of spending more time in the kitchen.

How to Hold a Knife

I got this one from a comment at Cheeseslave last fall. Someone commented on how the knife was held in a photo, and that it’s better to keep your index finger on top of the blade to act as a guide. The next time I had to chop stuff in the kitchen, I tried this. What do you know? It’s a lot easier to chop up vegetables when you hold the knife this way! Having your finger on top stabilizes the blade and I feel more confident about making slices when holding this way.

I don’t remember exactly when I took these photos, but I suspect I was making zucchini with tomatoes that day.

Clean up as you go along

This might seem like a no-brainer to some of you. I learned this from a friend of mine who used to live with a chef. I used to make a huge production out of cooking, and often wouldn’t read the recipe enough in advance to know what was coming next, so the whole act of cooking became very frantic. Complete with a big mess on the counter when all was said and done. Now that I cook more, I do read ahead, and plan for keeping things clean. Sometimes this means keeping a bowl on the counter for food refuse, or having bowls and bags on standby for scraps I can freeze for future cooking. Either way, doing a little at a time, while already engaged in the process of cooking, takes a lot less energy than waiting until the end and doing it all at once!

Be wiling to experiment

I wish I had more documentation for this. I tried my hand at making a few different soups this past fall, along with a crustless quiche. Since I’ve been making different foods and seeking out recipes, I’m getting a better sense of how to mix together flavors. Most notably, I made a chicken liver soup last fall that wasn’t too bad! It still needs some more work, which is why I haven’t posted a recipe yet.

Don’t be afraid to fail

That crustless quiche? I didn’t let it sit long enough when it came out of the oven, and wound up with a liquid mess on the plate for dinner.
One of the soups I made last fall was a total failure. Apparently 24 hours wasn’t long enough for the cannelini beans to soak. My stomach was not happy when I was eating it.
Did this drive me from the kitchen in shame? Thankfully not. (Had it been anything outside of the kitchen though…)
I tried, and to me, that is what matters.

What are some of your favorite kitchen lessons and tips?

I’m sharing this post over at

6 responses to “I believe in sharing what I learn

  1. Hey Soli. Learning and sharing is cool, and I definitely dig your posts.

    Howevah. I think the whole knifeskills thing is half personal preference, and half technique. I personally don’t do the finger on the blade thing. I think it destabilizes cutting, particularly on very tough stuff (butternut squash). It also limits the cutting depth that you are controlling/applying.

    I also have to blow the whistle on using a serrated knife on an onion.

    If you want to increase stability on ellipsoidal things like onions, I cut off the parts that aren’t edible in a way that provides kinematic stability for the remainder of the cuts (the top and bottom of the onion) first.

    Sharp knife, full grip.
    Love, ichi.

    • HI Ichi, and thanks for sharing. I know the serrated knife isn’t the best option, but I only have one smooth blade for chopping in my house and it’s BIG. Getting some better knives is on my list of purchases for the near future.

      Do you have any suggestions for how to better cut butternut squash, by the way? It’s a bane for me. I’ve even tried using a cleaver. Forget that!

      • That’s a tough one. For one, if you don’t have a big sharp knife, I recommend avoiding, as many people have hurt themselves on this.

        The right way to do it is to hold the thin part, and cut off the bulb (big part). Then, as I’ve described for the onion, place the pieces on the flat that you’ve just made with the last cut. You end up with quarters that are nice and geometric that can be peeled and further cut into smaller pieces.

        Quarter first, peel second. Cut third, I guess.

    • syncreticmystic

      I usually do cut the end off the onion first, unless it lays pretty flat in which case it doesn’t seem to make as much sense. I’m a halver: cut it in half, peel off the paper, then get to chopping.

  2. Hear, hear to cleaning up as you go! I have a very small amount of counter space, so this is critical. And thanks for the knife pointer (no pun intended)–I’ll have to try that next time I’m slicing.

    • We still need to plan that dinner party, maybe when it’s warmer. Let me know how the knife handling works for you.

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