Basic Training

Simple recipes to help make you master your own hot date dinner
Hot Date Dinner…Slow Down…COOK…Enjoy a Meal with Those You Love. Simple recipes to master to become an amazing home cook.. 


Let’s use this basic training page to talk about the basic recipes of being an amazing home cook…..

SALT unless otherwise specified, I use kosher salt in all of my recipes.  Using salt correctly makes or breaks a cook.  Salt is meant to enhance or bring out natural flavors of foods.  As I am always telling my mom, “if you need a salt shaker on the table, you didn’t season right.”  Table salt is good for popcorn and French fries and that’s about it (in my humble opinion).  Salting food after it is cooked, will result in food tasting salty….we want to season as we go so all of the delicious ingredients POP!!

                    **A pinch is exactly that, a pinch between two fingers, when a recipe says to season to taste that means to add a pinch at a time, fully incorporating into the dish and continuing until it tastes great (NOT SALTY) to you. 


EVOO  = extra virgin olive oil

CHICKEN STOCK  this is any easy recipe, one that is so much more flavorful than anything you can buy.  Try this….

                   2 chicken carcasses, or buy the frozen backs at your local grocery store

                    2 large onions, roughly chopped

                    5-6 carrots, roughly chopped

                    4-6 stalks celery, roughly chopped, leaves included

                     4 cloves garlic

                     1 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns and 2 T salt

                    10 thyme sprigs

                     12-14 cups water


In a large stock pot, add all of the above ingredients.  Bring stock to a boil, skim impurities(foam that develops), reduce heat and simmer for approximately 2 hours.  Drain, the stock, cool and refrigerate overnight (this part of the process will enable fat to solidify so that it can be skimmed and discarded before use).   Use in all soup recipes calling for chicken stock.  Makes about 12 cups.

ROASTED VEGETABLES ETCroasting is my favorite way to cook almost every vegetable.  Roasting intensifies the flavor of the vegetable (or meat) that you are cooking.  The vegetable caramelize as they cook providing an addictive texture.  Below are instructions on how to roast a variety of veggies.  Hope you enjoy!!

  1. ROASTED RED PEPPERS Preheat broiler part of your oven (this can also be done over an open flame or on the grill.  Place whole red bell peppers on rack in oven.  Broil approximately 30 minutes, turning as skin blisters/blackens.  Place blistered peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic for at least 10 minutes to “sweat” (this will ensure skin is easy to remove).  Remove peppers from bowl, pull out stems and seeds and peel, store for future use, whole or chopped.
  2. ROASTED GARLICThis is so good, roasting imparts a bit of a sweet flavor and cuts the bite of raw garlic. We use it in pasta, in hummus, on pizza, in soups and salad dressings to name a few.  Roast extra to use during your week.  To roast garlic, cut the top off of the head so that all cloves are exposed.  Place head on large piece of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with evoo, tightly wrap in foil and bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven, allow to cool to room temperature and pop the cloves out of the skins.     
  3. ROASTED CHICKPEAS…Roasted, these become crispy, crunchy little snacks that are perfect on any salad or to seimply eat as is.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  On a rimmed baking sheet, toss 1 can drained chickpeas with 2 T evoo, a good pinch of salt, cumin and cayenne (these spices are optional, feel free to experiment with your own spice creations.  Bake until crispy, 30-40 minutes.  Cool completely.
  4. ROASTED CARROTS...Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and cut desired amount of carrots into even sized pieces of your choosing, rounds, sliced on the diagonal or long or short strips.  Place on a cookie sheet, drizzle with evoo, salt and freshly ground pepper.   Roast the carrots, until slightly charred and tender about 20-30 minutes, checking and shaking pan half-way through cooking.
  5. ROASTED BROCCOLI..Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cut broccoli into even sized florets, place on a sheet tray, drizzle with evoo, salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional).  Roast for 12-15 minutes.  Allow time to cool on a wire rack and store in air tight container in the refrigerator if not using immediately.  
  6. ROASTED POTATOES..Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut potatoes into equal sized pieces and drizzle with evoo, salt and pepper.  Roast until tender and beginning to brown 20-30 minutes (depending on size).

CROUTONS….this is a great way to use up left over bread or a must as a garnish on any good soup, salad or egg bowl.  To make, preheat the oven to 375.  Tear or cut the bread you have (I prefer baguettes or ciabatta) into equal size pieces.  Place on a cookie sheet and drizzle with evoo, salt and pepper.  Bake for 13-15 minutes depending on size until golden brown.  Cool the croutons completely and store in a Ziploc bag in the fridge until ready for use.       

CAULIFLOWER PUREEthis is a quick and easy alternative to mashed potatoes.  Makes 2 -4 servings.

1 small head cauliflower

1 T butter, room temperature

salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut one small head of cauliflower into equal sized pieces.  Place cauliflower in a metal strainer that can be rested on pans edge so as to not come in contact with boiling water (cauliflower will be steamed).  Bring salted water to a boil, place strainer over water and cover, steam 10-15 minutes until sharp knife can be inserted evenly.  Reserve cooking water.  Place cauliflower in blender and puree until smooth adding reserved cooking water by T as needed.  Add butter and puree until completely blended, season with salt and pepper. 


1/3 cup red onion, diced

Zest and juice of 1 lime

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

2 avocados, diced

salt and freshly ground pepper

cilantro and diced jalapeno (optional) 

In a mixing bowl, combine the onion, lime zest and juice, cumin and oregano.  Add the diced avocados and smash with the back of a fork to desired consistency.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Mix in cilantro and jalapeno as desired.

YUKON MASH…For 2 -3 servings

1 lb Yukon Gold Potatoes (red potatoes can be used as well)

1 T butter

1/4 cup heavy cream

Peel and evenly cut Yukon Gold Potatoes.  Place potatoes in a pan and cover with water.  Bring water to a boil and add a few pinches of salt.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender about 15 minutes.  Drain the potatoes, return to pan and cover for a minute to evaporate any remaining moisture.  Add butter and heavy cream and mash.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

PIZZA DOUGH…makes enough dough for two 16 inch thin crust pizzas

1 pkg yeast

1 large pinch of sugar (sub honey if you like)

1 1/4 cups of  warm water

1 T evoo

1 pinch salt

3-3 1/2 cups flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and water.  Allow a few minutes for the yeast to be activated (solution will look foamy).  Add the evoo, salt and 3 cups of flour, stir to fully combine.  Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic in texture , about 5-7 minutes.  Place dough in a large bowl that has been lightly coated with evoo, cover with a clean towel and allow to rise in a draft free spot (your kitchen counter, away from a window or heat source should be fine), 1-2 hours.  When dough has doubled in size, divide in half and on a surface coated with cornmeal, roll into an 16 in circle with rolling pin (or by hand) and place on greased pizza pan.  See recipes for topping ideas and cooking instructions!

CRISPY SHALLOTS...Heat 2 inches of canola oil in a medium cast iron pan over medium-high heat.  In the meantime, thinly slice (and separate into rings) enough shallots to equal 1 1/2 cups.  When oil is ready (you will know by testing one shallot ring, it should immediately sizzle when dropped in the oil), add the shallots and fry about 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally until golden brown.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.  Season rings with a pinch of salt.  These can be used in salads, on sandwiches, in pasta dishes, on eggs and/or as a garnish for soup.


2 1/2 cups chickpeas (drained and rinsed, liquid reserved)

1/2 cup tahini

5-6 cloves garlic, minced

Zest and juice of 2 large lemons

Salt to taste


Place the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, zest and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed. Add reserved liquid by the tablespoon until desired consistency is achieved.   Season to taste with salt.   Cover and refrigerate for several hours for the flavors to blend.  Serve with crudité, crackers and or pretzels.  Enjoy!!

Makes 2 cups


½ T evoo

1/3 cup onion

1 T garlic minced

Pinch of red pepper flakes

¾ cup creamy peanut butter

3 T hoisin sauce

1 T sambal olek

1 T soy sauce

2 tsp tomato paste

1 tsp brown sugar

1-1 1/2 cups water


Cook the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes in the evoo in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until pale golden, about 4 minutes.  Whisk in the remaining sauce ingredients.  Simmer, whisking 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened, then remove from heat and cool.  Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.


¼ cup rice wine vinegar

2 T smooth peanut butter

1 T fresh ginger, finely minced

1 T sambal olek

2 tsp fish sauce

1 T honey

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

½ cup canola oil


Whisk together the vinegar, peanut butter, ginger, sambal olek, fish sauce, honey, sesame oil and canola oil in a medium bowl.  Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.


  1. HONEY, SHALLOT VINAIGRETTE  In a mason jar, combine 1 T minced shallot, 2 tsp honey, 1 T sherry vinegar and 3 T evoo.  Cover and shake until fully mixed, season with salt and pepper.