How to turn good food into pretty food
This is actually something that I need to work on, both in real life and in food photography. The Pioneer Woman has a good page discussing how to be a better food photographer:
Saveur also has some great tips:
It seems like something that you just get better at over time, so bear with me for now! If any of you guys have tips related to this as well, please feel free to post in comments.
As far as real life goes, that’s something I’ve learned a bit about so far. Although it may sound a bit pretentious, get into the habit of adding a garnish to your food, even when you’re just eating dinner on the couch. I try to keep fresh parsley, cilantro, and basil around because those add great visual appeal as well as extra fresh flavor to nearly any dish.
Aww just look at that pretty guacamole!
How to roast vegetables
This is a very simple, very necessary skill if you plan on eating like a vegetarian for very long. Basically, roasting temperature is 400 degrees F. I always make sure veggies have olive oil on all sides so that they don’t stick to the foil or baking sheet. Add whatever seasonings suit your fancy (when did I become British?).
Roasting time, however, is extremely variable. The main factor affecting necessary time is the size and density of the veggie. For example, a whole potato will take about an hour to roast. A whole eggplant will take 40 minutes. Asparagus takes 15-20 minutes. That means if you’re going to roast potatoes with asparagus, you’re going to either have to take the asparagus out of the oven early, or chop your potatoes into bite-sized pieces. When I don’t feel like waiting for a whole eggplant to roast, I just chop it up and then cook it. It cuts the roasting time nearly in half, saving you some precious time. Take that, Rachael Ray with your silly 30-minute meals! She really is my food-nemesis. I can’t get over her ‘stir fry sauce’ made of ketchup, mustard and soy sauce. *shudder*
How to control spice level
I love spicy food. However, not everybody is like me. I know it’s pretty easy to add more spice when it’s too mild (i.e., add a dash of cayenne, some red pepper flakes, sriracha, etc), but what do you do when you make a recipe, taste it, and it ends up being just a bit too hot to handle? My preferred methods are:
Dilute it! If it’s a soup, just add some more broth, vegetables, etc. Watch out to not change the consistency too much.
Dilute with milk, cream, or yogurt. This is a bit better than the previous step, I think, because it requires less added volume to downplay the spice. Dairy is a great way to cut spice down. I think cream works the best.
Add sweetness. Add a teaspoon of sugar, dash of honey, or agave nectar. You’ll be surprised how well this works! However, again, be careful not to go overboard, because it might change the overall flavor profiles of your dish.
How to make a cheaper pesto
Pesto is one of my favorite sauces/condiments (which is it exactly?), but it’s expensive when both store bought and even when made at home. Getting enough basil to make a decent quantity of pesto and those pricey pine nuts can really add up, especially when you grind it all down into a paste that ends up as a tiny volume. To get all of that pesto-y flavor a little bit cheaper, there are two main tricks that I use to save $$. The first is to use a cheaper nut than pine nuts – walnuts are a decent substitute, and one of my recipes uses pecans. The second tip is to bulk up the basil portion with other greens, such as parsley, carrot tops, or kale. Not that much basil is actually necessary to get a nice basil flavor, so you can get away with using less but still get a lot of that vibrant green pesto.