There is room in the kitchen for the beginning cook, especially he or she who has the interest and curiosity of turning our food to serve to others or to eat by himself or herself. A beginning cook should be open to learning and practicing cooking skills learned every step of the way. Patience and focus are required so that one could successfully execute simple recipes for beginners.
While it’s natural to start immediately in front of the oven, a beginner in the kitchen may learn a thing or two on the kitchen table preparing a salad. Salads do not require any cooking or complicated procedures. One simple need to know its components—a layer of salad greens (lettuce, arugula, spinach, watercress, frissee, kale, romaine and others), then a secondary ingredient like grilled chicken, bread croutons or cheese, then the salad dressing or vinaigrette.
In this collection, we have several salad selections for the beginning cook to practice on: anchovies with herbs and salad, autumn Waldorf salad, and the cepe mushroom and chestnut salad. The skill being practiced here is food preparation. Most crucial is the chopping of the vegetables, which should be as uniform as one can. This is not only for presentation but is needed in stir fries or stews wherein vegetables julienned or diced with the same size also cooks at the same time.
With your knife skills down pat, it’s time to venture in front of the stove. Short of boiling water, the beginning cook must be courageous enough to handle the frying pan. Cheese sticks, those breadcrumb-crusted appetizers with a gooey center, makes for a good simple recipe for beginners. Heat the oil and then carefully drop each stick into the pan. Notice how the food changes in color and texture— golden brown and crisp—and how in a matter of minutes that could become darker and tougher if you don’t watch what you’re cooking.
Perhaps the simplest recipe would be a stew, which uses almost everything, from chicken and pork to vegetables. Just cut up the vegetables in uniform sizes, sauté with garlic and onion, add some stock and sauce, simmer until tender. The beginning cook should take care in preparing fish for the first time. Most fillets are delicate while others toughen up when cooked. Fish may be baked, fried, grilled, boiled or stewed. Choose the freshest you can find (with clear, bulging eyes) and learn another lesson: fresh means better flavor.