Rave: The perks of eating at home

It’s 6 p.m. Work
clothes are off, couch mode is fully activated. The tell-tale rumble of an
empty belly reminds you it’s been hours since sustenance. You: 


a)    Download the Pizza
Pizza app on your iPhone. Rollin’ with garlic dipping sauce in 40 minutes or
less (and with minimal human interaction).
b)    Treat yourself to a
can of Zoodles and a margarine sandwich.
c)    Take three shots of
NyQuil and pretend it never happened.

If you answered yes
to any of the above, for shame! Food is fuel for your bodies, people, and you
wouldn’t put sugar in a gas tank would you? Granted, stepping into the kitchen
for the first time can be a little daunting, and while there are a million and one
reasons not to, learning basic cooking skills is an integral part of an adult
life. Before you go spouting off the same old excuses as to why you should stay true to
take-out and frozen food staples, like “But I’m a terrible cook”  (Have
you tried trying?); “But it’s just so hard cooking for one!”  (It’s
called a freezer, rookie); “My kitchen is infested with raccoons and I’m
afraid to go in there.”  (
You need to address that ASAP); take a look
at all the perks of learning your way around a kitchen.

Start small and dedicate a week to eating at home and in no time you’ll find yourself:
1. Happier

We all have to start somewhere.

Just like with
anything, practice makes perfect. If it’s day one in the kitchen, we wouldn’t
suggest trying to whip up some coq au vin or puff pastry but there are plenty of recipes for beginners that are so delicious and straightforward, you’ll wonder why you
ever ordered Swiss Chalet in the first place. Even if your first forays into
culinary excellence are not so much Giada at Home and more Kitchen Nightmares,
learning to cook can be a hilarious and rewarding experience.
There’s a reason why
the cliché about the way to the heart being through your stomach exists. Think
about it. Being able to make a meal for somebody is proving that you’re able to
provide one of their most basic needs. Aside from how impressed your
friends will be when you coyly wink and say “Oh this? It was nothing”, the personal
feeling of pride and accomplishment that accompanies putting together a
beautiful meal for yourself is a real attitude changer. You could have that
every day!
2. Healthier
Make the healthy choice.
When you make the
decision to put together your own meals as opposed to relying on
take-out, delivery or pre-made meals, you’re taking charge of everything that goes
into your body. It is much easier to keep track of what’s going in when you’re
sourcing ingredients yourself, as opposed to making sense of nutritional labels
or in the case of most restaurants, having no nutritional information at all.
What do you think your body wants more: fresh food from your friendly
neighbourhood grocer? Or a stranger showing up to your house with food that
has passed through the hands of two or three other strangers before getting to
you? And it’s not just your health on the line, preparing food on your own
reduces the amount of packaging involved with take out and pre-packaged foods,
and Mother Nature thanks you for that.
3. Wealthier
A day at the market is more fun than fast-food any day (and cheaper in the long run).

Short term, hitting
up the McD’s dollar menu might seem more wallet friendly than going to the
grocery store but the trick is to keep a well stocked pantry of dry goods. Once
you’ve got the basics (things like rice noodles, pasta, rice, herbs and spices – all
stuff you can get on the cheap), you can supplement with fresh produce, tofu and meat
for meals that cost under $5 .
Places like Kensington Market, Chinatown, and St. Lawrence Market are a mecca
for frugal foodies, or if you’re really ambitious, roll your sleeves up and
start urban farming for unlimited fresh fruit and veg. If a
day in the market or digging in the garden just isn’t your bag, sign up for
organics delivery (like Organics Live) for delivery that won’t leave you with a wicked food hangover (but slightly lighter in the pocketbook).



Some of our favourite blogs for getting started with cooking are:

1. Smitten Kitchen: some recipes are advanced, but there are some very good basics here with tons of helpful tips and tricks. Plus, these dishes always turn out. 


2. Skinny Taste: Appealing food, pretty photos, lots of options for entrées and desserts, and most importantly, the recipes are healthy.


3. Food Network: This site, home to the popular chefs that you see on TV, has some great recipes and a ton of hints to get started if you’re a noob. Chef Michael Smith and Rachel Ray (seriously) are good ones to look to first.

A Visit From… L’Unita head chef Stephen Gouzopoulos

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Ask Stephen Gouzopoulos, head chef of L’Unità restaurant, and he won’t contest it. However, cooking and making people happy is a passion of his, be it man, woman, or his wife, who ceaselessly motivates him.

On the fourth floor, we’re pretty much obsessed with the Food Network and, well, all things food. We’re fascinated by the life of a chef, be it starting their day early at a fisherman’s wharf to score the freshest catch of the day, or where they eat when they’re not feeding us.
We asked Stephen to give us a day in his life. Here’s what it’s like to walk in this chef’s footsteps:
8 a.m. – Wake up, take dog for walk and feed.

8:30 a.m. – Have breakfast with my wife, who teaches Pilates, yoga and reiki.

9:30 a.m. – Coffee, check emails and what’s new in the city food-wise.
10:30 a.m. – Get ready for work, walk my dog again, and head to work.
Noon – Arrive at resto, check stocks, set up kitchen.
12:30 p.m. – Accept produce, order check product (very important) and sign invoice.
12:45 p.m. – Set station, get ready for prep.
1 p.m. – Start short ribs braising.
1:30 p.m. – Start meat and fish butchery.
2 p.m. – Accept remainder of deliveries, check product.
2:15 p.m. – Head out to Riverdale Farmers Market, talk with farmer Ted. Gather produce     for remainder of week.

3:15 p.m. – Back at resto, unload produce. Continue to prep for night’s service.

4:30 p.m. – Review specials with FOH (front of house).

5 p.m. – Put up staff meal (tonight it’s fried chicken and salad).

5:15 p.m. – Set station for service and do station checks (check other cooks’ work and stations).

5:30 p.m. – Service begins.

5:30 to 10 p.m. – Service: orchestrate service, ensure food quality is up to standards and control the flow of the food and FOH.

10:30 p.m. – Pack up station and clean kitchen.

11:30 p.m. – Place orders for following day.

Midnight – Go home for dinner and time with my wife.

For those dreaming of becoming the next top chef, start practicing with a hand-picked recipe from L’Unità:

Pork chop with braised escarole, honey roasted shallots and pine nuts

– Butcher bone-in pork loin into 12-oz. chops.

– Brine pork for seven hours.

Brine

500 grams salt
400 grams sugar
4 cardamom pods
Half a bunch of thyme
3 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
1 head garlic
4 litres water


– Bring all ingredients to a boil. Ensure salt and sugar are dissolved and cool.

– Once cooled, fully submerge pork chops and place weight on top to keep chops covered in brine for seven hours.

– Remove and rinse.


Escarole

– Blanch escarole in salted boiling water and shock in an ice bath.

– Reserve for later.

Honey roasted shallots

5 large shallots
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
Half a bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic

– Peel and quarter shallots. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Celsius. In a large frying pan, heat honey and oil over medium. Add garlic, bay and thyme. Once honey is melted, add shallots.

– Toss to coat shallots in mixture and place in oven on the bottom rack. Roast for 10 minutes, or until a dark golden colour is achieved.

To finish the dish
– Grill mark the chop and then place on pan in the oven eight to 12 minutes for medium.

– In a small frying pan, heat up 1 tsp of olive oil and add blanched escarole. Season the escarole with salt and pepper. Add 1 tbsp of honey roasted shallots and 1 tsp of toasted pine nuts. Cook until all ingredients are hot. Taste for seasoning.

Plate the dish and top the pork chop with Kozlik’s maple mustard. Enjoy.

*Our pork comes from Perth Pork. A heritage pig farmer in Perth, Ontario hand-delivers the meat every week.