Come all ye self-styled chefs and kitchen users, we must talk.

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I never was one for guns, but I envied the comradeship. I am not the type to use feminine descriptors when describing the torque of my car. Neither am I of the type to wield knives in dangerous ways (I'd cut myself). Although I do find myself enjoying the finer aspects of photography, it is too closely tied to my work these days. So [some may ask] what hobby is it that keeps me coming back? 'why food!' I'd say.

I wouldn't say I am genius of any sort, but I have learned my way around my small apartment kitchen and I enjoy the process of creating and consuming. I have made attempts at sushi that could only be called a learning process.
IMAGE(http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3506/4084624821_91fd05da6a.jpg)

But as with any hobby; skill does not bequest interest. I like cooking because I like eating. I find the process of making any product that I am interested in fascinating. Take coffee for example, another product I gained an appreciation for over time. In my pursuit of the perfect cup I have discovered espresso and coffee bean roasting; two parts of my morning ritual I can no longer do without.
IMAGE(http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4022/4380699231_3739dd1e78.jpg)

I think what set me on this road to discovery was our acquisition of these:
IMAGE(http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4033/4380628335_7eb117a70a.jpg)

There was no way I could leave these in a closet somewhere, I needed them within easy reach on my kitchen counter (and for those living in a small apartment, kitchen counter space is a known hot commodity). Having a proper set of tool always makes the job more fun, and in a lot of cases; inspires learning.

Is there anyone else with a particularly affinity for baked goods or fried dishes? Or a person who received some kitchen gadget (gadgets being a known interest for all gaming nerds :P) as a gift that has inspired a sense of purpose and started the path of discovery? What about gender roles? Who cooks in your relationships?

Pick me, pick me!

I could *cough* some threads about recipes and such, but it's much better to support a new one. So here goes: hello, I'm wanderingtaoist and I love cooking. I love thinking about it, talking about it, planning it, buying for it and then eating. I love receiving useful kitchen gadgets - I adore my heavy granite mortar and I've grown to like Jamie Oliver's flavor shaker for quick mixing of spices. I have just two knives - chef's and paring - but I chose them carefully and they are the best blades ever. Japanese, razor sharp and used for just about anything. Oh, and needless to say, I'm the cook at home. My significant other is a good cook too, but she gladly left cooking almost exclusively to me. And lately I started to bake my own bread from home-grown sourdough - no bread maker, just plain old oven - and bread has become one of the most-demanded articles from people who come and visit.

This year we're starting to grow our own tomatoes, we already have quite a well-stocked herb garden.

I used to see cooking as an undesired hassle which broke my "free time" and limited what I could do in an evening. Now I see it as a chance to learn something, to listen to good music and spend time with my wife. It's critical that you eat a bit of bread or something before you get down to cooking so that you're in no hurry to just kill the hunger.

My precious items are my coffee maker (Mocca Master), pasta machine, apron (I guess I picked up the habit of wearing one from my father), gas stove (I couldn't live without it) and knives. We got a small set of high quality knives a year ago and I've since liked cooking a lot more. Equipment does matter! I use the big chef's knife for just about everything except cutting open plastic covers from foodstuffs (there's an old crappy knife for that) and cutting bread.

Making pasta is a lot of fun, even if it takes some practice to be good at it. Our everyday meal these days is a home-made ravioli with ricotta cheese and fresh basil inside, topped off with just lemon juice and served with uncooked tomatoes.

We make a mean sushi. I like that our friends say that we make "weird" or "exotic" foods. We do try to get some variety in, even during the week. We don't do red meat, but otherwise everything goes. Lots of vegetables and lots of home-made pasta.

My wife makes great bread, she's really into it. It can be a pain to find good bread from the stores over here and when you do, it's ridiculously expensive. Generally I don't bake. It just doesn't interest me and I dislike making the doughs because it's such a pain to get the dough off your hands. It doesn't help that our gas oven is really crappy.

wanderingtaoist wrote:

I've grown to like Jamie Oliver's flavor shaker for quick mixing of spices.

I've tried to think of some use for that, but to date I have never used it for anything.

wanderingtaoist wrote:

Pick me, pick me!
I love receiving useful kitchen gadgets - I adore my heavy granite mortar and I've grown to like Jamie Oliver's flavor shaker for quick mixing of spices.

Who'd have thought that mechanical ball milling would make it into the consumer market... I hope he doesn't have a patent on that thing

As for cooking, well, i'm not as focused on it as you guys appear to be but my love of cooking (and preference for it over ready-made stuff) comes from an ex who was a mediterranean and she really helped me discover how to cook properly and flexibly. Following the recipe (for a large portion of dishes) is for losers now, I make my own stuff

Of course, this means i get a large number of misses but that's all good fun and part of the learning process. One factor i find holds me back is that when i'm cooking my nose/taste buds get used to the smell/flavours very quickly and so i can't taste or smell the food unless i leave the room/building for 20-30 minutes and then return. So i do a lot of my cooking by sight rather than the traditional taste-testing.... which doesn't work out so badly as often as you'd think

As for who cooks? I really enjoy cooking for other people and seeing/hearing them enjoy the food..... plus, because i have my own ideas about how to prepare food, i sometimes find it difficult to want to go along with how other people make their dishes (if i'm helping).... so it's usually just me when i cook as other people tend to get in the way - e.g. tidying equipment away before i'm finished with it... pouring stock greases etc down the sink when i'm trying to save them.....

Man, I am all over the kitchen like a rash on an anaphylaxis patient. Totally love it and have been into it as a hobby for about 10 years. My current project is to work through Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook, which I've only just started on. It's proper classic haute cuisine in a quite formal, rigorous style so I'm hoping the process will teach me loads and really take my cooking up a notch. Last weekend's recipe was Salmon Tartare with Red Onion Creme Fraiche in a miniature waffle cone. And let me tell you; making your own miniature waffle cones is colossally fiddly. Turned out well and were very tasty although I spread the batter for the cones a little too thickly, with a bit more practice you could make them paper thin and really crisp. My new favourite pieces of kitchen equipment are the pair of silicone baking mats I just bought.

Next week: Baked truffle custard with black truffle ragout. Already I've learnt that truffles are cripplingly expensive

jlaakso wrote:
wanderingtaoist wrote:

I've grown to like Jamie Oliver's flavor shaker for quick mixing of spices.

I've tried to think of some use for that, but to date I have never used it for anything.

I received it as a gift and thought of it as a gimmick, but found out it's great when I need to grind just a small amount of spices and my mortar is just too big for that. It works surprisingly well when you e.g. need to mix sugar and mint and cinnamon for drinks or a cumin and pepper rub for meat.

jlaakso wrote:

Making pasta is a lot of fun, even if it takes some practice to be good at it. Our everyday meal these days is a home-made ravioli with ricotta cheese and fresh basil inside, topped off with just lemon juice and served with uncooked tomatoes.

Oooh, pasta! I received a machine as a Christmas gift and am really enjoying learning to work with it. The only problem is I make too much dough and end up with sheets of pasta drying all over the apartment looking like worn stockings Which directly leads to forgotten treasure of every kitchen: freezer! Apart from pasta it keeps servings of ragu bolognese (It takes some 4 to 5 hours to make it properly, so I prepare a lot of it), fruits (plums in winter are a treat) and leftovers to use as a base for chicken/veal stocks.

If you folks don't know who Alton Brown is go watch him NOW. I've had a man crush on this guy forever. I love cooking but I've found that I only love cooking when it's for more than myself. If it's just me all my fancy gadgets and cooking utensils sit in their cabinets and drawers while I cook a frozen pizza...

I learned to cook so I could figure out how to make pot stickers like my mom's. Not quite there yet, but close.

I really enjoy cooking for friends and family, which is good because I do most of the cooking in our house. Just like with my homebrewing hobby, I tend to experiment with new recipes most of the time, though I have a retinue of proven successes that I often return to. Last night was another experiment, and I was happy with the results: savory crepes (bacon, mushroom & spinach) with an au poivre sauce and, continuing with the rolled-up food theme, barely-seared asparagus stalks wrapped in prosciutto. Both went great with a few glasses of homemade sparkling hard cider.

My critical kitchen items are a good gas range and a few pans/pots that can be used to make pretty much anything. More than any other, I use an old dutch oven (belonged to my wife's great grandmother). That thing is awesome!

Of course, as soon as weather turns nice, I'll be out of the kitchen for the next several months, using the grill or smoker pretty much every day.

Oh, and I approve of the use of photos in the original post. I would like to see more of these, goodjers.

conejote wrote:

Oh, and I approve of the use of photos in the original post. I would like to see more of these, goodjers.

Ask and you shall recieve:

Salmon Tartare with Red Onion Creme Fraiche
note: use of egg box to hold up the cornets.
IMAGE(http://bioinfadmin.cs.ucl.ac.uk/dbuchan/100221-150326.jpg)

(apols for image quality, the camera on my phone sucks hard)

If you insist on cooking your way through the French Laundry cookbook I'm gonna want an invitation.

In other news, some work colleagues of my wife's just threw down in a Come Dine With Me stylee. First round involved supermarket frozen crumbed fish portions. I'm gonna take them to the bloody cleaners.

I'm thinking full Thai feast, personally.

I do like to cook, and did 99.9% of the cooking when living with the girlfriend.

I'm on my own now, so will probably be living on hot dogs and similar for the near future.

Spoiler:

Not really, but I won't be making an effort to impress myself,

MrDeVil909 wrote:

I do like to cook, and did 99.9% of the cooking when living with the girlfriend.

I'm on my own now, so will probably be living on hot dogs and similar for the near future.

Spoiler:

Not really, but I won't be making an effort to impress myself,

I'm in a similar boat. I love to cook, and I like to cook big meals, but most of the time it's wasted as there's no one here but me. It's mostly canned soup of sammiches these days. That said, any food I do cook doesn't go into the microwave if I can help it. I prefer to cook on a stove top (or a grill in warmer weather,) and I think a microwave ruins most food. I've even noticed a difference in beefaroni and the like.
I would like to throw out the book A Man, A Can, a Plan for any single guys. There's some really good recipes in there.

IMO a microwave shouldn't be looked at as a cooking device but a cooking technique. With that in mind, remember you can, technically, boil a leg of lamb, but you'd be a complete tard to do so.

I'm more of a baker, and make some awesome spicy chocolate chip cookies, though I make some decent roasted asparagus, too.

I can't frost for sh*t, though, as seen in this Valentine's cookie from a year or two ago:

IMAGE(http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b296/Bonus_Eruptus/food/retard_cookie.jpg)

The wife on the other hand, has worked as a chef and makes some amazing ribs, like so:

IMAGE(http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b296/Bonus_Eruptus/food/ribs_taters_asparagus.jpg)

Those sauteed potatoes there: is that thyme I see clinging lovingly to their glistening form?

I love cooking. I do a substantial section of the cooking, though I usually rope Sthillary into helping. I can't make a lot of the interesting stuff I'd like to, on account of Kannon 2.0 (A 4 year old, who is a bit of a picky eater), and my mom (Who is more than 10x as old, and a far pickier eater).

Maq wrote:

Those sauteed potatoes there: is that thyme I see clinging lovingly to their glistening form?

Possibly. I don't remember what all we put on them, but they were delicious.

JC wrote:

If you folks don't know who Alton Brown is go watch him NOW.

The man is the Mr. Wizard of food, and I too man crush on him. His rul eon no uni-taskers is one I am trying to follow to keep a minimalistic kitchen.

Before I met my wife, I had a few signature dishes that I would make to impress friends and ladies. Now, I love to cook for my wife, and can't wait to get into our house so I can build my kitchen. From grilling and smoking meat outside, to sushi, pastas, and soups, I'm ready to start getting super creative in the kitchen.

I have extolled the virtues of stovetop espresso and coffee elsewhere.

You will not break the bank with mechanical doohickeys(TM). Grind some beans, put in cold water, maybe scald some milk along side, and you have a great latte or cappuccino in less than 10 minutes.

But I must say, if you are traditionally a skim or low fat milk drinker, look to whole milk for your coffee. It is a wonderful compliment to coffee that the other less fatty milks cannot provide.

I do the vast majority of the cooking in my house, and I absolutely love it. It's been harder to really set aside chunks of time (and money) for trying out new recipes since my son was born, but with him getting older, it's getting easier all the time.

It's actually a lot of fun cooking exclusively vegan cuisine. It's a great challenge.

I tend to do more cooking projects then the day to day stuff in our house.

I brew alot of beer (which I like to classify as food) and my wife got me Charcuterie so I've gone ahead and salt cured 6 pounds of pork belly into a delicious panchetta.

I also have a few dishes I like to make on occasion. I can make awesome gnocchi and a pretty decent tomato soup.

Norfair wrote:

I brew alot of beer (which I like to classify as food) and my wife got me Charcuterie so I've gone ahead and salt cured 6 pounds of pork belly into a delicious panchetta.

Any advice on that from the experience? Because I plan to do the same. Did you put it in the fridge or just a cool place with enough air circulation?

wanderingtaoist wrote:
Norfair wrote:

I brew alot of beer (which I like to classify as food) and my wife got me Charcuterie so I've gone ahead and salt cured 6 pounds of pork belly into a delicious panchetta.

Any advice on that from the experience? Because I plan to do the same. Did you put it in the fridge or just a cool place with enough air circulation?

I wrapped it and hung it in the basement. It's new construction so its nice and humid down there. I just made sure to keep an eye on it that it didn't dry out too much and then placed it back in the fridge.

The book has awesome instructions on how to go about it. Can't recommend it enough.

I'm a cook, the wife's a chef.

The difference in my mind is that while I'm capable of following a recipe and can cook any number of tasty things without a recipe, she groks cooking on a level that's way beyond me. Good job too, 'cos we're still paying off her student loans from culinary school

As a result, we have a fairly formiddably well-equipped kitchen. We sometimes make pasta or sushi as an enjoyable way to spend time together. She also bakes pretty frequently, eveything from cookies to fancy iced cakes.

As noted elsewhere in these hallowed forums, we're currently experimenting with vegetarian food, with good results so far. I also like to toy around with Indian food, 'cos a miss a good English curry.

We're in the process of buying our first house, which has a massive kitchen with attached dining area, so we're really looking forward to having a more 'livable' kitchen space, where friends can hang out while the cooking is going on.

Jonman wrote:

I'm a cook, the wife's a chef.

The difference in my mind is that while I'm capable of following a recipe and can cook any number of tasty things without a recipe, she groks cooking on a level that's way beyond me. Good job too, 'cos we're still paying off her student loans from culinary school :)

I'm so jealous. I wish I could attend culinary school, but I'm not comfortable cooking meat, and I know that I'd be required to.

I'll add to the food porn: the results of my weekly bread-baking ritual.

IMAGE(http://b0mb.info/images/rr0jhoocttyg8oj4e0k1.jpg)

IMAGE(http://b0mb.info/images/441m0u6av97ezl7g0ie.jpg)

Just my own sourdough (it's called The Beast and lives in my fridge for half a year now), bread flour, water and salt. No breadmaker, just good old handwork.

wanderingtaoist wrote:

Pick me, pick me!

I could *cough* some threads about recipes and such, but it's much better to support a new one. So here goes: hello, I'm wanderingtaoist and I love cooking. I love thinking about it, talking about it, planning it, buying for it and then eating. I love receiving useful kitchen gadgets - I adore my heavy granite mortar and I've grown to like Jamie Oliver's...

I did the cursory search and through either some fault of mine or what we call 'the search box' i didn't yield anything congruent. I am obsessed with gadgets, and cooking has certainly inspired some great ones. I also have an indecent allure to the analogue methods of old, sans gadgetry. The brutal simplicity of sharp well crafted knives has a certain aura about them. So not just recipes, but equipment, kitchens, materials, and methods are fair game. If you dreamed it, drew it, or built it I personally would love to see it.

Kitchens are an excuse for all kinds of excess, and I want it all! ... and wow, some of that food looks amazing. I really need to get my act in gear.

Duoae wrote:

As for who cooks? I really enjoy cooking for other people and seeing/hearing them enjoy the food..... plus, because i have my own ideas about how to prepare food, i sometimes find it difficult to want to go along with how other people make their dishes (if i'm helping).... so it's usually just me when i cook as other people tend to get in the way - e.g. tidying equipment away before i'm finished with it... pouring stock greases etc down the sink when i'm trying to save them.....

I hear you, when I cook its just me. Anyone else is just a bother. I personally am being challenged by a friend of mine who, on every occasion, has outstripped most 'fine dining' restaurants I have been too. Its pretty lame when you drop 30+ for a meal and think to yourself that you (or some one you know) could have done it better.

When I met the woman that would be my wife, she was still cooking with a beat up old set of second-hand Ginsu knives in her kitchen. I tossed them out after our second date and bought her a set of Henckels knives.

Now that we're married, I have slowly replaced her crapware pots and pans with All-Clad stuff.

Last night, I experimented with a roast beef recipe I had been mulling over in my mind for a little while. I used a paring knife to poke holes in the roast and insert cloves of garlic, covered the roast in a cajun dry rub, wrapped it in bacon, and roasted it in the oven in a cast iron skillet.

It was good.

Jonman wrote:

I'm a cook, the wife's a chef.

The difference in my mind is that while I'm capable of following a recipe and can cook any number of tasty things without a recipe, she groks cooking on a level that's way beyond me. Good job too, 'cos we're still paying off her student loans from culinary school :)

I'm in the same boat. Well, minus the chef wife that is.

I love to cook and do it as often as I can, but my experience almost always is:
1. Spend some time to find a good recipe.
2. Make said recipe.
3. Voila! Good food has magically appeared and is happily going into my mouth.

I know that the understanding and such will come with experience. For now though, I remain a recipe fanatic.

Have others gone through this phase too? Any tips to jump start the learning process aside from time and practice?

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