I have some exciting news to share.
Today, we are launching a new online space where you can connect with yours truly on all things cooking-related. It's a blog called Stark From Scratch (get it?) and it will be the online home for these weekly columns plus other musings and recipes.
The "scratch" part is key here, and will be a major theme on the blog. I'm hoping to emphasize the kind of cooking and recipes I already showcase, things like making your own pizza crust or salad dressing. The space will also contain an archive of my instructive 1-minute-or-less cooking videos that demonstrate simple recipes or kitchen tricks.
Head to starkfromscratch.com and have a look. Let me know what you think — what you'd like to see more of, less of, how I can make the experience better for you.
In honor of this new project, I've got a recipe this week that's very in line with how I cook most often at home: scrounge around the fridge, try to assemble a collection of ingredients that work well together, marvel at how simple things can come together to produce a dish that makes my husband go, "Wow, this is really good."
I also posed a question to, er, myself and tried to answer as quickly as possible: What are your top three bits of cooking wisdom?
Salt your pizza.
In fact, salt everything, and do so liberally. Those of us with specific health concerns or on low-sodium diets aside, there is no reason to be afraid of the seasoning. It is a crucial part of flavor-building, especially when you're cooking from scratch in your own kitchen with whole foods. These kinds of meals are less likely to be full of preservatives that make food taste better, and therefore they need a big pinch of salt. But in particular, you really need to be salting your pizza. Whoever decided that red pepper flakes were a more essential pizza topping than good old salt was not thinking straight.
Butter is fine.
Look, homemade food is already better for you than food from almost anywhere else. So use butter to make a pan sauce. Cook up a New York Strip. Let some potatoes sizzle in a skillet of oil. When we try to cut back on the foods that give us pleasure, we end up with unsatisfying meals and more stress than is really necessary. Do worry about using too many processed or packaged ingredients. Don't worry as much about using heavy whipping cream every now and then.
Focus on doing simple things really well.
Setting out to make a simple meal and mastering it completely should be a goal for novice and expert home cooks alike. It's easy to assume that the more ingredients or steps a recipe has, the better it must be. But rendering a fantastic dish out of, say, a hunk of meat, some salt and pepper, and a pat of butter is what helps you learn how to cook, and hone the skill. So focus on these techniques before you move on to more complicated kitchen maneuvers, and you'll reap rewards long-term.