Maybe you’re a budding Iron Chef, up on all the foodie trends to the point where you can extol the virtues of any ingredient du jour (brown butter, duh). Or maybe you have a tough time knowing which end of the spatula to wield. Regardless of your kitchen confidence level, there are a few things every 20-something chef needs to accomplish in order to earn true culinary bragging rights. Read on, and start checking ‘em off your list!
**SKC’s Five Essential Foodie Adventures for 20-Somethings**
1. Design a dish around a new-to-you ingredient. Have you always wondered what that whiteish, vaguely carrot-shaped vegetable is? Here’s your chance: pick one up and cook with it! (It’s a parsnip, by the way.) The only way to break out of a culinary rut—whether intentional or accidental—is to proactively choose ingredients that you might not actually know how to use. (And hey, chances are we have a recipe here that’ll help.)
2. Adapt a recipe. Those of you who feel most comfortable cooking with a book in hand are probably digging your heels in right now, but hear me out. Maybe you found this awesome stir fry . . . but you don’t like bell peppers. Rather than passing it by, take a second look. Is there another veggie you could substitute here that would cook similarly and make the dish more appetizing for you? (Perhaps a zucchini?) Pretty soon you’ll be throwing together your own soup from a mere loose thread of a recipe.
3. Go ethnic. And I don’t mean spaghetti and meatballs! Having to find the aisle of your supermarket that sells fish sauce or chipotle peppers in adobo sauce is only the first step in your culinary journey. Did you know you like yancong dan? You do now.
4. Cook for a crowd. In the same way that budding starlets only shine before an audience, maybe your culinary prowess doesn’t manifest until put on display. Design a fondue menu and invite all your friends; offer up your home (and food stores) as the site of a wacky theme party. Your friends will be gracious—but honest—judges of your food, and you’ll be motivated to satisfy and impress!
5. Hone those basic skills. Emily said it well–wield your knife with confidence; cook a mean egg; and roast anything and everything, from meats to veggies. Having a foundation to build on in the kitchen will make you more confident as you add to your repertoire (don’t worry, no one’s saying you have to be ready for hand-rolled sushi just yet).
Tara Powers is crossing items off her foodie bucket list, one CSA haul at a time (she now harbors a new-found love of Russian red kale). When she’s not creating pestos of dubious authenticity, she works in the NYC publishing industry and blogs at Chip Chip Hooray.