Nutrition can be a political fight, but there is one area where everyone agrees — vegan, Mediterranean, even Paleo — is on the importance of the kitchen. Your relationship with your kitchen is as important as any other relationship in your life, and like all relationships it takes a little work. But the rewards are huge! So what, you ask, are the elements of a healthy relationship with your kitchen? There are three: atmosphere, enjoyment, and materials. Let’s talk about each of them in turn — consider this your first kitchen couples’ counseling session!
I use the kitchen as a stress-reliever — the more stressed I am, the more delicious my food is, like in the movie Like Water for Chocolate. I try to set a mood in the kitchen, create a sense of atmosphere that turns cooking into a pleasure. Think about it — you use music to inspire your workouts, why not your cooking? If you enjoy what you’re doing, it encourages you to do it, and improves the results. For me, it’s Latin music, but you can fill your iPod up with whatever get you going! Your kitchen should be full of flavors, colors and smells that excite you, along with great sounds.
Cooking is actually a lot like playing an instrument: It takes practice and respect and patience, and you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. The more you enjoy these, rather than letting them discourage you, the better. Make mistakes! You need to make them in order to learn. When I first started cooking for myself I used to burn everything, but through practice I learned. I had a client who tried to make a simple pasta and sauce and made a total mess of it; the sauce was bland and anyway, he couldn’t get it and the noodles done at the same time. But he didn’t let that stop him — he laughed and decided to start the pasta later, and to add herbs and seasonings. You, like he, will make mistakes — and that’s ok. You have to know that each mistake brings you closer to mastery. And if you do get frustrated, try to remember that at least you know what’s in the food, whereas with processed food or at a restaurant you never, ever really do.
Speaking of instruments, I see so many rich, beautiful kitchens with amazing pots and pans and appliances — but they never get used. Who cares if you have the latest kitchen technology if you never actually cook anything? In order to be a successful cook you need just five things. That’s right, five. And here they are: 1) a cutting board, 2) a good, sharp knife, 3) a saucepan, 4) a roasting pan, 5) a blender.
That’s it. Why just those four? Because most of us are not going to make an elaborate meal every day. Instead, all you need to do is use these four implements to cook once — once — per week, perhaps on Sunday afternoon, and spread the food out through the week. I am going to give you four recipes that I have perfected through many years of making mistakes, four recipes that are reliably delicious, that you can make using just these five implements, and that will last you through the entire week.