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Old 12-19-2007, 03:51 AM   #1
Assistant Cook
Join Date: Dec 2007
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How Do I Get Started Cooking For Two?

OK, here's my situation.

I've got an apartment, with a sink, a stovetop thingy, and no oven. I have some pots and pans, various utensils.

I enjoy cooking, but most of the things I know how to make involve an oven. I'm also not very familiar with how to stock a kitchen - usually when I cook at home, it's for recreation, so I just go out and buy whatever I need.

Now, i'm in charge of food every day for me and my girlfriend. Unfortunately, i'm used to college where I had a meal plan every day and basically just cooked for fun.

So, I need some basic ideas:

- Simple recipes to get me started. I'm mostly familiar with pastas and simple sautee-ing chicken and that kind of thing.

- What basic things should I keep around so that if nothing else, I can always just look around and throw a few things together in a skillet so we won't go hungry.

Also, we're both a little health conscious and trying to lose weight, so things that are nutritious and not fattening preferred.

Also, I currently reside in Beijing, China. So basically, simple asian cuisine would be very cheap and easy. So any suggestions involving rice, noodles, soy, stir-fry, etc would be great.

Friends, can you help us not starve?


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Old 12-19-2007, 04:32 AM   #2
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Hi Figgy, welcome to DC!

So I take it your recreational cooking wasn't Asian? If not, apart from the Asian cuisine you meantioned, do you want to cook other types of food cos that will determine what you need in your basic cupboard.

For Chinese, you are going to need a lot of fresh ingredients - ginger, garlic, local herbs and spices, salt, pepper or whatever you have available in Beijing. You already know that you will need a stock of rice and a variety of noodles. You will also need a couple of different soy sauces, a rice wine vinegar, dried shrimp, dried mushrooms, dried shallots.

You probably also could do with two different types of woks, one with a round bottom and a couple of "D" handles and one that is more stable and has a long handle. A couple of steamer baskets of different sizes, a deep fry basket spoon.

This site may help Chinese Food Recipes - Cooking Chinese Cuisine - Chinese Recipes

As to a Western store cupboard, well all purpose flour, rice, onions, tomatoes, pasta, potatoes, various herbs (such as parsley, basil, coriander, chives...) and spices (paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg...), salt and pepper. There is a huge list of basic items to stock but I don't know that everything will be readily available in China.

Maybe you could hone us in a bit more as to your preferences and we can help you in a bit more detail.

Too many restaurants, not enough time...
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Old 12-19-2007, 04:41 AM   #3
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Figgy I was with you until the Beijing thing.

Hou lovely you can live there. But I have no idea what to tell you to do about cooking.

But there are a whole bunch of folks who can - your neighbors.

There have to be folks there who can give you good advice. You just have to seek them out.

Good luck.
Before criticizing a person, walk a mile in his shoes - then you are a mile away and you have his shoes!
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Old 12-19-2007, 04:48 AM   #4
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Right now, my preferences are either asian (it's easier due to the cheapness of available ingredients, and the fact that I might as well learn while in Asia!) or Italian cuisine that's fairly simple to make. I say Italian because it's what I was raised on and what I have experience with, and because there is a lovely little cheap import place nearby where I can get a lot of good ingredients.

Simplicity is definitely key right now, i'm really just getting started and I don't want to mess up a dish because it's too complicated - my girl is relying on me for food, haha! Also, as I said before, healthy things would be lovely - not covered in oil or grease, low in fat and sodium, etc. I know a lot of asian food makes heavy use of oil, so i'd like to avoid the kind of thing that's going to make my heart skip after I eat it.

So yeah, any suggestions of simple foods that can be made without an oven, especially italian or asian. I think I have an idea of what to keep on hand. Im basically going to make a weekly menu, and there's a grocery store nearby. I can run down and buy what I need if i'm missing a few things. I feel i'll accumulate the necessities as I go along.

I've already got the rest of this week's menu planned out using mostly basic stuff and a few old stock italian goodies I know. . .she takes care of lunch on her own, so breakfasts include an omelette, a fruit smoothie, an egg sandwich, and this "breakfast rice" my mother used to make. (Making use of leftover rice, of course!). Dinners so far are herb and lemon marinated chicken, pasta with red sauce, chicken parm, and penne w/vodka sauce. Pretty stock italian, haha! But at least she's not familiar with most of it, being that she's Chinese. Figures i'd get the chinese girl who can't cook, haha, or i'd ask her for help with the asian stuff.

Help me spice it up. :-D
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Old 12-19-2007, 04:51 AM   #5
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AuntDot, that would be a lovely idea, but unfortunately, my Chinese language skills, while passable, are not quite up to par for asking advice about cooking, haha! I could have my girlfriend translate, though.

Actually, most things are available at the local import place, Jenny Lou's, and the big supermarkets do have a lot of western foods. I only said asian cuisine would be nice because its cheaper here, haha! As for suggestions, treat it as you would anyone in a western country . . .except they're working without an oven. :)
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Old 12-19-2007, 04:56 AM   #6
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Do you have a microwave or a crockpot?
Too many restaurants, not enough time...
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Old 12-19-2007, 05:05 AM   #7
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No and Yes.
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Old 12-19-2007, 05:19 AM   #8
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LOL - I could have helped you with the one you haven't got but can't for the one you do!!!

Anyway, while you've been gone, I have had a bit of a rummage through some recent threads that may be of assistance to you.

Pantry staples

Have a read of those and see if they help you. If they don't, post again. (Well post again anyway!!!!)

Just saw your second post (previously only saw the one to AuntDot). The authentic Chinese shouldn't all be oily. I know a lot of Western Chinese is. You should try doing some steaming as that is very low fat. If you use a lot of the fresh aromatics, you will be able to cut down on the salt content, but be careful with the soy.

Your Italian dishes sound pretty good!!

I have to say that I don't use my oven very often - mainly stove top and microwave. Or occasionally my griller. With the kitchenware you have, you should be able to do heaps of dishes. You may even be able to do a lasagne of sorts in the crockpot!!

For a twist on the Asian theme, you could introduce your g/f to Thai flavours or Japanese or Korean. Green curry dishes are slightly spicy but very aromatic.

Does any of this help you or do you want to shove me in a better direction??
Too many restaurants, not enough time...
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Old 12-19-2007, 07:09 AM   #9
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Food network should have a lot of Italian recipes to do on the stove top ...Everyday Italian TV show
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Old 12-19-2007, 10:04 AM   #10
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I would recommend you buy a wok and some oil. I know it seems fattening but its almost all protein the way I cook. You should try to get peanut or canola oil, coconut oil if you can find it.

With a wok you can stir fry rice (which you would pre cook in a pot)
you will need:
2 cups rice *cooked ahead of time*
1 tsp. oil (coat entire wok. you can sub. butter or margarine)
Diced veggies of choice
Cooked protein of choice
Soy (2 tablespoons)
Salt (dash, or to taste)
Pepper (dash, or to taste)

So theres a simple starter.

I have a recipe for Orange chicken in the Ethnic Section and if you dig theres a ton of others.

The key to chinese chicken is to cook it "tempura" style where you make a simple batter and fry it once, drain chicken, remove oil to a bowl (to use again later) and build a sauce to coat your chicken.

For a sauce, Chili Sauce is good or CHili Paste coupled with vinegar and sugar. This will create a sweet and spicy type sauce. Scallions or onions help accent a dish. I would avoid sesame oil until you are more comfortable with asian cooking.

Once a sauce starts bubbling in your wok it is time to introduce the chicken and or other protein.. You can always sub a diff. type of meat in any of my or other asian recipes but be aware different meats take different times to cook thoroughly. CHicken in 1" cubes should only take a few minutes. Beef takes longer, cut it very very thin and fry til crispy. You want to coat your protein in potato or corn starch. Flour works if you have nothing else.

"wok-a wok-a"
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