March 21, 2011

The Dorm Room Basics

Posters, bed risers and notebooks aren't the
only dorm room essentials...
Every dorm room has its basic essentials. At Target, they might say a laundry hamper, bed risers and a reading lamp are essentials. At Staples they'll tell you that you'll have to have college-ruled notebooks, folders and sticky notes. Macy's wont want you to forget a new winter coat. 

But none of them will tell you that you need to know some basic cooking essentials. Eating well is something that's important for all of us, whether you live in a dorm or house or apartment or something else entirely. Which is why I'm announcing a new series, The Dorm Room Basics. A few months ago I started Quick Fix Meals (see the "Recipes" section for links), which has quick, simple, tasty recipes for weeknight meals. The response to Quick Fix Meals has been great and I will definitely keep that series going. But now I want to start another series, The Dorm Room Basics, which will have guides on the most basic aspects of cooking - whether your a college student or not - so that everyone can see how accessible good food really is.

One thing I hear from a lot of people is that it's the most basic things - like preparing fresh vegetables so that you actually want to eat them - that is their real barrier to cooking.  Some people love good, fresh, healthy food, but when they're handed a fresh zucchini to prepare, they're at a loss. And I understand. Even the most basic cooking techniques need to be learned. That why I want to give you the basics. And let me say that there is no replacement for being taught by an actual person in the kitchen - a friend, a cooking instructor, a parent or grandparent - but let this series be the next best thing, or a companion guide to that. I want to explore how to make simple, fresh ingredients taste amazing. And I want to do it using basic cooking techniques that produce great food. 

The recipes and techniques are basic enough that I hope to provide a variety of methods to make them, so they'll be accessible to someone with just a microwave in a dorm room or someone with a full kitchen. Good food has a lot more to do with the ingredients and the dedication you put into making it (and that doesn't necessarily mean a lot of time) than it has to do with the fancy appliances and resources you might have. 

I'll start in the coming days with a basic guide to sautéing vegetables. It might sound boring, but if you do it right, a sautéed vegetable can be one of the tastiest things in the world. It's simple, fast, easy, cheap, healthy, and often, really, really good. 

I welcome your thoughts and ideas on this series. Let me know about what basics you want to learn and what challenges you face when cooking. Good food is not complicated. So let's make it a basic essential.