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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Cooking for nerds

You are a nerd. I know that be­cause you are read­ing my blog. You prob­a­bly don't cook. That is stupid. Let me ex­plain why.

Cooking is easy

You may be in­tim­i­dat­ed by those who cook and make it look com­pli­cat­ed. Don't be­lieve a word they say. You can cook a per­fect­ly fine meal for 1 to 4 peo­ple in half an hour.

For ex­am­ple, if you have dry pas­ta, any kind of pro­tein (chick­en, seafood, ground beef, sausages, chori­zo, fish, what­ev­er), a bouil­lon cube (veg­eta­bles, beef, what­ev­er), gar­lic, onion and/or any­thing like it, and a glass of wine (op­tion­al) you can cook it like risot­to

And here's the best part: read that recipe, and here's all you need to know to cook it:

  • Toast the dry pas­­ta in kin­­da hot oil (o­live oil if you have it, or what­ev­er).

  • Add chopped onion­s, gar­lic, pep­pers (or what­ev­er) for 3 min­utes.

  • Add 1/2 cup of wine (it says white, but red wine will work, it will just make it taste "heav­ier" and change the colour). If you don't have wine, use broth. Wait two min­utes or so un­til it's al­­most dry.

  • Add broth slow­­ly while stir­ring.

  • When the pas­­ta is still kin­­da hard, stop adding broth, add pro­tein (chopped small so it cooks com­­plete­­ly) and a bit more broth and lemon juice (or not).

Or you can do this:

  • Sauteé onion­s, gar­lic what­ev­er and pro­tein, then put it aside and save it.

  • In the same oil, toast the pas­­ta. This makes the pas­­ta tasti­er.

  • Re-add the pro­tein and veg­­e­ta­bles, then add wine and broth slow­­ly

  • When the pas­­ta is the way you like it, eat it.

See what I did there? I did it al­most ex­act­ly the oth­er way around. And you know what? It's still go­ing to taste good. Why? Be­cause cook­ing is very fault tol­er­an­t.

Yes, you will hear all the time about the per­fect point for this, and the per­fect sea­son­ing for that, and ... it's 90% bull­shit.

Sure, if you over­cook the pas­ta it's go­ing to be sog­gy crap, but you can avoid that by be­ing min­i­mal­ly vig­i­lant about it and buy­ing a freak­ing $4 kitchen timer

Cooking is fun

Once you get over the no­tion that it's hard, cook­ing is easy to en­joy.

If you have a kid, he can help. If you have a spouse, he/she will like that you are tak­ing care of the meal.

It's great for un­wind­ing af­ter be­ing stressed. Strange­ly, chop­ping gar­lic re­lax­es me.

Have a mi­crowave and a 3 year old? Then you can do this:

In one bowl mix:

  • Two beat­­en eggs

  • Add vanil­la (or don't)

  • Add a bit of but­ter (or veg­­etable oil)

In an­oth­er bowl:

  • 1 cup of reg­u­lar al­l-pur­­pose flour (or whole wheat flour)

  • a bit of bak­ing pow­der

  • a bit of salt

  • half a cup of sug­­ar

In one of those bowls add some­thing else. If it's moist, add it with the eggs and such, if it's dry, add it with the flour and such.

That "some­thing else" can be choco­late chip­s, wal­nut­s, shred­ded car­rot, ba­nanas, sliced ap­ples, jam, what­ev­er.

Once each bowl is mixed, mix them to­geth­er a bit un­til they "mesh". Don't work it too hard or the re­sult will suck.

Then get two (or three, or one, or four) mugs (or cup­s, or muf­fin trays, or any­thing that's mi­crowave-safe) and fill it half-way with the re­sult­ing bat­ter.

Mi­crowave it un­til it looks good, then eat it. If you are not sure if it's cooked, stick a wood­en tooth­pick in it and see if it's dry when you pull it.

Your 3 year old can take care of the dry bowl (he does sim­i­lar things in kinder­garten, you know?) as long as you help with the mea­sures. And most im­por­tant­ly: he can take care of start­ing the mi­crowave, so tec­ni­cal­ly he can say he cooked it (3 year olds are very in­to tech­ni­cal­i­ties).

Again, see what I did with that recipe? You can re­place al­most any in­gre­di­ent with some­thing else (I don't rec­om­mend not us­ing eggs, though) And it will prob­a­bly work.

And you will end with a flour-­cov­ered kid, which is a bonus, be­cause then he won't make a fuss about his bath.

Cooking is good for you

I have high blood pres­sure and I'm fat. But you know what? I have not gained any weight since I start­ed cook­ing for my­self, 10 years ago. I gained a lot be­fore that, though.

Now I can cook semi-healthy food for me, and do it with the low sodi­um I need. Sodi­um is a habit, so af­ter you are eat­ing low sodi­um for a few weeks you don't re­al­ly miss it.

If you are a nerd, you prob­a­bly are a bit too seden­tary, so eat­ing "right" will help you.

And most im­por­tant­ly, you know what you eat. Sure, you al­so need to take care of what in­gre­di­ents you buy, but did you know that piz­za has a like 400% markup? And that you can do a rea­son­ably healthy piz­za in, like, 40 min­utes of work?

The on­ly trick is start­ing 3 or 4 hours ear­ly.

But if you use home­-­made dough, chopped toma­toes for sauce, gar­lic, pep­per­s, and not too much cheese... it's not a ter­ri­bly un­healthy meal.

And of course, you can al­ways do a sal­ad. Come on, how hard could that be? It's chop­ping things up and pil­ing them, dude!

And it can be tasty and fill­ing. You just need to do a lot of it ;-)

Cooking is cheap

A mi­lane­sa (sort of a bread­ed steak?) in a cheap restau­rant wil cost you about $25. For that mon­ey you can make 7 or 8 at home.

A good piece of prime meat in a restau­ran­t? $50. That buys 2 pounds of prime meat in the mar­ket for you to cook.

A rea­son­able lunch menu for of­fice work­ers costs about $30. For that mon­ey my fam­i­ly of 3 eats twice. And bet­ter. And more.

You can make your­self the most awe­some sand­wich in the world for un­der $10, with any­thing you imag­ine in it and take it to the of­fice.

And, most im­por­tant­ly...

Cooking is Applied Nerdiness

Cook­ing gives you a way to eas­i­ly ex­per­i­ment with re­al-life chem­istry, gives you some­thing con­crete to show for your ef­fort af­ter a whole day cod­ing things you can't re­al­ly show your fam­i­ly.

Why does ham taste well with apri­cots and not with ap­ples? Or does it? How about chili? Does it go well with sour cream? How about pep­per on a straw­ber­ry?

But for­get about adding: What can you re­move from a recipe and still make it work? What can you re­place? If you can make ba­nana bread, can you make ba­nana crois­sants? (no you can't, they taste awe­some but they look ghast­ly)

How can you go through life with­out won­der­ing if you can re­al­ly cook fish with just lemon juice? Ex­act­ly how long do you cook rice in your mi­crowave so it looks creamy and taste great with­out re­mov­ing ex­cess liq­uid? Did you know you can steam 2 pounds of pota­toes in 10 min­utes with a plas­tic bowl and some plas­tic film, and they will make the most awe­some mashed pota­toes you ev­er tast­ed?

Your kitchen is an awe­some place. In­stant noo­dles suck.

Nacho / 2010-10-22 18:08:

Muy buen post!
Cocino casi todos los días siguiendo pasos similares, o sea el que se me ocurra con lo que haya. Y sí, sale bien, barato y sano -en general.
PD: Long Live Dealextreme ;-). Te seguiste pidiendo cosas?

Roberto Alsina / 2010-10-22 18:19:

Lo último es un micro NAS de china via ebay. Vamos a ver que sale :-)

Mariano Schmidt / 2010-10-23 18:09:

Excelente el post, queda bookmark a mano. Recomendas alguna lectura para ser mas "practico" en la cocina? me gustaria aprender a cocinar sin tener que seguir tan de cerca las recetas, saber como construir nuevas comidas sin hacer macanas!

Roberto Alsina / 2010-10-23 18:28:

EL libro para cocinar mirando las recetas de reojo es este:

patricio / 2010-10-24 01:51:

No es por hacer autobombo, pero tiene recetas con paso a paso en fotos, que con una mirada rápida te da un buen panorama de la receta.

patricio / 2010-10-23 21:11:

Muy buen post Roberto!
Una de las claves para saber que se puede combinar es la siguiente: "Lo que se cultiva junto, va bien junto".

Roberto Alsina / 2010-10-23 22:19:

Mi suegro tiene melones berenjenas lechugas y pimientos... te dejo el experimento ;-)

patricio / 2010-10-23 22:39:

Cada uno se casa con el que quiere/puede. Paso el experimento de tener a tu suegro ;)

Roberto Alsina / 2010-10-23 23:07:

Yo decía experimentá cocinar eso junto, pero si quisieras compartir a mi suegro, tiene dos hijas mellizas solteras de 20...

patricio / 2010-10-23 22:44:

Ah, tengo una receta para tu próxima charla relámpago: Hacer una tortilla de papas en 10 pasos atómicos. No se puede? la hacemos en 5 entonces...
1 pelamos una papa
2 la rallamos con el rallador de queso
3 vertimos la papa rallada en una sartén de teflón con el fondo apenas unas gotas de aceite
4 cocinamos a fuego lento
5 cocinamos del otro lado.

Es impresionante, una tortilla de papas hecha solo con papas, una papita! El mismo almidón de la papa actúa como aglutinante. Ah, entre el paso 3 y 5 ponele un poquito de sal.

Roberto Alsina / 2010-10-23 23:06:

Lo anoto para cuando se haga la PapaCon!

SebastianBassi / 2010-10-24 04:39:

Hola, asi es. Agregaria que la cocina casera es por lejos mas sana que la de rotiseria. Aunque por eso, en gral me gusta mas la de rotiseria (le agregan mas grasa, sal y azucar). Por ejemplo la pizza suele haber bastante diferencia. Pero le economia si son al menos 3, tambien hay diferencia aunque gana por lejos la casera. Para una persona sola si terminas pagando casi lo mismo.
Cada tanto miro el canal Gourmet o FoxLife. Si pasas por mi flickr tengo un album de comidas :)
Sobre timers, yo compré este:

Roberto Alsina / 2010-10-24 04:43:

Buenísimo el timer!

phone number lookup / 2011-12-03 22:28:

this is really interesting viewpoint on the subject i might add

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