STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — If you want to live on your own, cooking is a good skill to have. It’s also something you can do with your family and at your group residence, too. Who knows? You may find yourself helping someone else to learn.
We thought about some of the things we like to make or eat, and then we asked Chef Adrian Gresnigt, director of food services and executive chef at Lifestyles Cafe, for some advice and recipes.
“Beginners want to be better,” says Gresnigt. “They need an intro to gain confidence.” A native of Holland, he has been cooking since he was a teenager. His skills as an executive chef took him to Paris, where he worked in prestigious hotels, and to Manhattan, where he owned his own culinary businesses.
When you start out, have someone a little more experienced help you with a recipe. Chopping and stirring are the main skills you will need to begin.
“Have fun with what you are cooking. Don’t worry. It will turn out good,” says Life-Wire News correspondent Joseph Padalino.
LET’S GET STARTED
It is important to “be safe and know what you are doing,” adds Juliann V. And that begins with washing your hands.
ONE POT MEAL: Peppers, Potatoes, Onion (PPO)
- 2 Italian hot sausage (precooked in oven), chilled and cut into chunks
- 2 Italian sweet sausage (precooked in oven), chilled and cut into chunks
- 3 medium-size boiled red potato (blanched in water until almost soft), chilled and cut in quarters.
- 2 tbsp olive oil (100%)
- 1 large red bell pepper (cut into large strips)
- 1 large green red pepper (cut into large strips)
- 2 gloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
- 1 medium-size white onion (cut into medium strips)
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat cast iron or Dutch oven on top of the stove over medium flame.
Add the olive oil, cut onion and garlic for about three minutes until it caramelizes a little. Add the cut potatoes to the pot and cook for a little while. Add the peppers and pre-cooked chunks of sausages to the pot and cook until all is turning light brown on small/medium fire, making sure to stir the ingredients until done well.
Once the desired color and consistency have been obtained, the cooking can stop. Enjoy! Bon appetit!
Build on your skills from the one-pot dish with this pasta entree. Donna W has this advice to make things easier. “Prepare everything a half hour before you start cooking, so you don’t have to be running to the fridge for ingredients,” says Donna who works in the Cafe with Chef Adrian.
First, some pro tips on cooking the pasta:
Prepare a big pot of boiling water. Add a little bit of salt. You can also add a tablespoon or two of oil. Tip: “Remember you can always add salt, but you can never subtract.”
Put the pasta in the boiling water and stir for 30 seconds to break the gluten and keep the pasta from sticking together.
Cooking time: Varies for different types of pasta. Check the directions on the package. Use the least amount of time as a guide.
“It should have crispiness to it. A little bite, known as “al dente,” in Italian “to the tooth,” says Gresnigt. “When you take it out of the water, it’s still cooking. If it turns white, it’s overdone.”
Put a colander in the sink and when the pasta is done, carefully drain the pasta.
“Never wash it,” says Gresnigt. He puts it on a sheet pan, then sprinkles a little oil or cooking water on it. Swish it around with tongs or a fork to ensure it doesn’t stick together.
RIGATONI AND MEAT RAGOUT
For this recipe, Gresnigt recommends using crumbled pork sausage, which are small pieces or fully cooked pork morsels. It comes frozen and is very handy. If you can’t find it, just cut Italian sausage in small pieces before cooking it, “and the results will also amaze you indeed.”
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 small onion (chopped, white)
- 2 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup diced celery stock
- 1/2 cup red cooking wine
- 2 cups tomato sauce or crushed tomato
- 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 1/2 cups fully cooked crumbled sausage meat
Use a small Dutch oven. Add two tablespoons of olive oil (100%). Add the diced onion (medium to small size) to the olive oil and saute with 1 teaspoon of garlic until the onions become translucent. (Use a wooden spoon to stir around your ingredients)
Add the celery (also cut small) to the translucent onions, saute for one minute more. Add 1/2 cup of red cooking wine to the pot and reduce by half. (Stir while simmering as the liquid evaporates to half the amount.) Then add either crushed tomato from can or tomato sauce about 2 cups to the wine/onion/celery mix, while cooking slowly on the stove.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste and cook for 1 more minute. Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock to the pot.
Add the 1 1/2 cups of sausage crumble meat to the sauce or your crumbled Italian sausage pieces to the pot. (Optional: Add some ground fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon) allow to cook for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Check the seasoning (salt and pepper).
Cook the rigatoni. When done, add it to the pot and coat the pasta with the ragout. Bon Appetit!
EGG-SPAND YOUR MENU
Good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Serve with a piece of whole wheat toast and a side salad for a satisfying meal.
Perfectly boiled eggs. “Sounds simple, but you have to do it the right way,” says Gresnigt You can cook a half dozen and store them for a week.
Put eggs in empty pot and add water to cover them. Old eggs are better than fresh ones, says Gresnigt.
Bring the water to a boil. Turn it down to simmer and set a timer for 10 minutes.
Prepare a bowl of ice-cold water. When the timer goes off, remove the eggs from the pot and shock them in the ice cold water. It stops the cooking process and facilitates the peeling process.
To peel an egg, Gresnigt gives it a tap on the counter to crack the shell, then uses fingers to peel. There is a lot of debate about the best way on Youtube. Here is one example.
You can store them for a week in the fridge. If you peel them, store them in a lidded container. Place some dampened paper towels in the container before you put the lid on.
A cast-iron pan is key.
- Small onion
- A few small tomatoes
- 3 eggs
- Fresh basil
- A little salt and pepper
- Cream, milk or half-and-half optional
Chop the onions, scallions and basil. Halve the tomatoes.
Crack the eggs into a bowl. Whisk lightly.
Optional: Add a small amount of cream, milk or half-and-half.
Have pan heated up. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter to coat the bottom. Add onion and tomato. Saute lightly. Pour in the eggs.
Sprinkle basil in, and, if you like, parmesan cheese.
When the sides begin to look solid, use a spatula to lift one side and tilt the pan so the uncooked egg flows toward the bottom.
When there is no more liquid, fold over and cook for another minute or two to let it cook through.
“Follow the recipe, but be creative. Creativity makes a very good meal,” says Larry O, who works the grill at the Lifestyles Cafe.
(Written collaboratively by Meredith Arout, Aaron Bialer, Kevin Distefano, Andrew Moszenberg, Joseph Padalino, Greg Perosi with Kathryn Carse)
Life-Wire News Service provides a voice for people with disabilities through a partnership between the Advance/SILive.com and Lifestyles for the Disabled, an agency serving people with developmental disabilities on Staten Island.