Preparing Potatoes, Rice, Pasta, Fruits and Vegetables
June 12 (Saturday) Cooking Techniques - Starches, Potatoes & Rice or Cold Preparation of Fruits & Vegetables
You have to be versatile if you want to be a good cook. The theories you’ve learned in catering school will be put to a test and you should avoid rattling in the kitchen if you want to be one. You don’t have to be afraid opening your recipe. It will come in handy once you forget any ingredients needed. To put you to an actual performance, you should know how to prepare to cook rice, pasta, potatoes, prepare fruits and vegetables.
Make it Al Dente
When I heard this from my culinary instructor, I thought I can cook spaghetti noodles easily. First, you should boil the water mix with vegetable oil or olive oil and salt. The purpose is for the pasta noodles to stick to one another.
You should be attentive when cooking pasta. Al Dente means “to the tooth” or “to the bite” because pasta is often hard to eat. One technique is that if you throw a pasta noodle strand on the wall and it sticks then slowly goes down, then it is already cooked al dente. Once you removed the water, immediately soak it to cold flowing tap water, then put vegetable oil or olive oil while draining it in a colander.
Well, for Asians, like me, we used to cook rice three times a day. In the morning, I’m used to eating it newly boiled or fried (with tidbits of carrots, corns, garlic and spring onions).
With the use of rice cooker, there’s a water level indicator for every kilogram or chupas of rice so that it will not be too sticky or too dry. In many barrios, they still have clay pot where the rice is cooked. They line it first with banana leaves, put the cleaned rice, add the water then let it boil until all the water evaporates. You can put pandan leaves for a more enticing aroma. We also mix the long or short grain rice with 1/3 of glutinous rice for a more savory rice. You can put salt or butter for a more nutritious meal. Rice is a good source of carbohydrate that makes one energized to start the day vigorously. Chinese people used to make lugaw or rice soup or rice congee with meat tidbits and soup stocks (mostly chicken) for a more tasty breakfast. Glutinous rice is also good when making champorado or glutinous rice congee with cocoa powder.
Meanwhile, in Japan, they have sushi rice wrapped in special leaves. I like jasmine rice, which is used in making sushi, with egg soup. Japanese cook soak it first for at least 6 hours then cook in in rice cooker with little water, replace the lid with towel until all the water evaporates.
Many westerners choose to cook parboiled rice. They like to top it with sauce from bean soup or mix it with corns, carrots and potato tidbits, just like the famed Java rice. I’ll say there are distinct styling when cooking rice around the world. It can be turned into street foods, like rice cakes (puto bumbong, bibingka, puto lansoy) and rice delicacies wrapped in coconut young leaves.
Potatoes are more popular in the west, like in the USA, Canada and Europe.
The most famous preparation is French fries. You can always prepare it at home or buy in a fast food outlet near you. Westerners never tire of eating it, just like Asians for rice.
Boiling it then mashing it can be very sumptuous, along with special sauce (butter, starch, chicken cubes and water) or béchamel sauce.
Greeks like to bake it. I always wash the potatoes thoroughly, make cross slits or “x” on one side of each potato with a sharp knife, lubricate with olive oil, wrapped in aluminum foil (upper side left open) and bake it. It took about an hour to do it at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it cool then unwrapped, pushing the two side of potato to cooked flesh pulsate upward. Or you can carve the flesh, preserving the potato shells, mash the potato with chopped ham, freshly chopped parsley, milk and topped with grated cheese.
Potatoes are also good extenders in making soup or casserole or dish with sauce, like pork menudo (with tomato sauce, bell pepper, garlic, onion, laurel leaf, pineapple chunks), pork mechado (with liver sauce) or beef soup (with chopped carrots, celery, leeks, bell pepper, garlic and onion). Or you can just roast it during barbecue party. You can also bake it, just like a cake.
Fruit compote or mixture of fresh fruits (grapes, orange, apple, etc.) is the easiest way to prepare available fruits in the kitchen.
You can also puree it if you want. You can mix fruit juices, like pineapple, papaya and lemon (to produce another drink as in princessa cocktail).
You can also freeze fruit juices for future use. You can also make cubes out of it, too for cocktail drinks or even iced flavored candies from fruits.
Vegetable have the most short shelf life in the provision room. Green leafy vegetables, like pechay, watercress, spinach, lettuce should be used immediately. Bulky types, like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower have longer shelf life but also prone to decays.
Lettuces, like the iceberg or romaine types, are used in making vegetable salads (as in Greek salad).
You can also frozen other vegetables, like tomatoes, parsley, dill weeds, spinach, string beans, etc. for future use, like in stewing.
Vegetables can be boiled, fry, be used as extenders (or verduras) in any meat casseroles, like potatoes in pork or beef stew,
If you want to be an all-around cook, you should know all about these things. It's hard at first, the procurement of ingredients, storage, preparation and maintenance. So, if you have the heart in the kitchen, you'll enjoy doing what I've shared. Although it's not the whole picture, at least you have a glimpse of the real enjoyment in preparing superb dishes in your own home.