There’s nothing more luxurious than indulging in a meal prepared by a top-notch chef, but it doesn’t take culinary training to create a sublime dinner. Just follow this advice from some of the world’s best-known food stars and remember: you can do it!
Keep it simple
Getting ready to whip up a meal but don’t know what to make? Follow the old KISS rule — Keep It Simple, Stupid. Don’t worry about buying fancy ingredients or cooking with items you’re unfamiliar with. According to Mario Batali, the simpler the better.
“When you eat meals all over the world, suddenly you realize that luxury ingredients aren’t very significant because everyone has foie gras and caviar and fancy smoked salmon and expensive wines,” he told crowds recently at the Delicious Food Show in Toronto “You rarely have your ‘holy sh** moment’ when it’s just a luxury item. It’s more something like spaghetti with zucchini in Naples, or a chicken potpie in the middle of North America. That’s when you say ‘Holy moly, this is so good,’ because you didn’t have any huge expectation…”
But get the good stuff
But just because you’re simplifying the ingredients doesn’t mean you should sacrifice on quality. If you’re going to get cheese to serve on a platter, you’d do well to get some good cheese. Looking to drizzle olive oil on the salad? Maybe don’t go with the Costco brand you stocked up on last week.
“Equipment doesn’t really change much about what you’re going to do. If you want to make more delicious food, you need to find more delicious ingredients,” Batali added.
As for Nadia G, host of Bitchin’ Kitchen, she’s all about the good stuff.
“Balsamic vinegar – I’m a huge fan,” she revealed when asked which items she splurges on in the kitchen. “The good stuff, the aged stuff, not the stuff that’s $2.99 for 12 litres – that’s not balsamic vinegar, that’s rocket fuel.”
What would you rather munch on: a plump, fresh apple from a local orchard or one of those tiny, shriveled crab apple-lookalikes from half way across the world? If you picked the latter, we can talk about your other issues later. The point is, the freshest ingredients (read, local ingredients) usually taste best. When you can get ’em.
“Every great culture in every part of the world celebrates their local farms and their local food,” Batali stated. Canadian chef Chuck Hughes agrees.
“I think [Canada] has some of the best ingredients in the world,” he said at the show. “It’s very vast from one end to the next – we go all the way from the Arctic to Okanagan Valley, which are completely different climates, so I think it’s really about regionality and focusing on what every region has to offer.”
When in doubt, make spaghetti
“Good food always comes back to the Italians,” Hughes revealed.
Judging from the cuisine’s all-around popularity, we have to say that we agree. Who doesn’t like some form of pasta every now and then?
“Spaghetti alla puttanesca! I just love this dish and it is ridiculously simple,” Nadia G. said in an interview, when asked about a great Italian dish for the culinary disabled. “All you need is some anchovies, some capers, some Kalamata olives, fresh cherry tomatoes and olive oil, and you’ve got this olive oil-based sauce that’s got so much umami in it because of the anchovies. And for those who are scared of anchovies, don’t be, especially in this dish – it’s not front and centre, it just adds that little bit of pungency that makes the sauce so succulent. And then you boil some spaghetti and mix it all together and that’s a very simple dish that will impress and deliver on satisfaction.”
What are you waiting for? Get cooking!