The First of the Poets Happy Dance Kitchen Essentials

I have been cooking since I was nine years old, first by my mother’s side. I received my first cookbook for Christmas and promptly started earning Girl Scout badges in hospitality, baking, and cooking with its recipes. By the time I was 11, I could prepare a full meal for a family. This came in handy a few years later, when my mother died.

In 1972, I set up my first kitchen of my own, in a 3-bedroom flat I shared with two friends. I was the most skilled of us, and had the most to contribute, having gained a collection of seasoned kitchenware when my grandfather gave up his apartment. Many of those items are still in use today, especially his cast-iron frying pan and a two sets of Syracuse China restaurant sandwich plates that are invincible.

I have developed many tips and treats that are essential to my culinary practice, and I will be sharing those, along with recipes as I develop them. I love to cook with a range of options, rather than a strict guideline, so I can vary the tastes to suit my short attention span. I hope you enjoy these and can use them in your own kitchen. Please let me know if you have successes, or questions.

The first essential is olive oil and, in particular, garlic-infused olive oil. I rely on four fats: olive oil, butter, bacon fat, and coconut oil. I also keep vegetable shortening for baking needs, and sometimes use peanut or corn oil, but not often.

Olive oil is my go-to for anything sauteéd, fried, or for dressings. Olive oil is full of nutrients. I recommend you find a good import store and try to buy Greek virgin olive oil if you can. It is much less expensive than organic olive oil and reliably healthy and delicious. I generally buy a 3-quart can for about $18 at my favorite local Middle Eastern import store, Samir’s, which will last me approximately 3 months. I keep a bottle on the counter that I refill from the can as necessary.

I also keep a bottle of garlic-infused olive oil in the refrigerator, which is necessary because the garlic can lead to botulism. It is a simple task to prepare:

  • 12-16 oz. virgin olive oil
  • 4 – 6 cloves of garlic, quartered

Fill a separate clean bottle with the olive oil and add the garlic cloves. Keep refrigerated. Within a couple of days, the oil will be fully infused with the garlic. Use in your favorite recipes for either a lighter garlic flavor or to heighten the garlic in your favorite dishes. As you use the oil, you can add more to top off the bottle. I find the oil will be flavorful for approximately a month, depending on how much I cook. When the infusion starts to weaken, use up the remainder of the oil and then incorporate the cloves into any recipe you decide to prepare. Clean the bottle and start over. Note: due to the refrigeration, the oil may appear cloudy or thick. There is nothing wrong with the oil; it has simply congealed in the cold. I recommend you take the bottle from the refrigerator as you start your prep and keep it close to your cooktop or on the stove for awhile to warm up and turn to liquid once again. If you infuse the oil in a jar, you can spoon it out.

I will talk more about the other oils and fats in future posts. Look for more #gappoetkitchenessentials to come. Happy cooking and thanks for visiting.

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