The Ten Commandments of Nicole’s Kitchen

  1. I am your kitchen Goddess; there are other kitchen Gods & Goddesses, but for the purpose of creating yummy experiences for your self and your guests, you must follow my commandments, and your food will taste heavenly, stray from my directions and your time and effort in the kitchen will have been wasted!
  2. The secrets to a Heavenly Meal are TIME and LOVE. If you invest your time in the meal, and love what you are doing, the meal will be good. If you rush and are resentful or in a foul mood, your food will reflect this.
  3. Think about creating a compost bin in your yard or in a nearby garden if you don’t have a yard. In this way you can take all the discarded food from your kitchen and give it back to the Earth. This returns some nutrients to her. Remember that all you do in your kitchen with food is a result of the gifts the Earth has given you. If you can’t do compost, occasionally give a choice piece of something you’ve cooked to a favorite tree or flower and say thank you to the Earth. Cultivate an attitude of thankfulness and grace with the Earth.
  4. Don’t even think of using any ingredients that aren’t fresh or organic. If you can’t get organic products where you live, encourage your local stores to carry organic produce and foods. It is a far, far better thing you do when you discard a browned piece of lettuce than serve it to a loved one. All salads or greens should be soaked—that’s right soaked—in large plastic tubs of water. Spinach will need to be soaked three or four times; lettuce at least twice; veggies like celery, carrots, green beans, just once. It’s a good idea to have at least two or three plastic tubs marked “VEGGIES ONLY” in your kitchen under the sink or somewhere easily accessible. Organic veggies and products are fresher, healthier, and they taste better!
  5. Your table should always be open to guests as well as family. This means you should aim to create something delicious and fantastic always. You never know who will be walking in the door. When you aren’t in the mood to cook, don’t. This is when you get out the frozen pizza or burrito that you have on hand, or when you make macaroni and cheese.
  6. Get into your food! Wear an apron, make a huge mess, touch everything, smell everything, get very familiar with your food. Make it yours. Love it and kiss it. If you’ve never kissed a ripe tomato fresh off the vine, or if you haven’t peeled a mango with your hands and kissed it and gotten slurpy mango wetness on your face, something needs to change now! There is no judgement here. This is just a playful invitation to create a deeper relationship with your food. GO PLAY!!!
  7. There is no point in trying to create a meal/work of art in a cluttered or dirty kitchen. So, if you are using my recipes, clear your counters first and find a way to have more counter space, not less, for your kitchen adventures.
  8. Keep your knives sharp and have different sizes. It makes everything easier.
  9.  FRESH LEMONS should be available at all times They are essential ingredients in everything I cook.
  10. Give some form of thanks before eating. You can say any kind of blessing you wish or just sit in silence; even if it’s just a brief moment. If you let yourself feel grateful for what is in front of you, it will change every meal you ever eat. The best thing, from a traditional Jewish perspective, is for you to actually acknowledge out loud the Creator for blessing you with the apple, or the rice, or the bread, or the mixed wonders on your plate. There are many teachings about how an essential spark of holiness is dormant in our food, and it cannot be awakened until we acknowledge it and give thanks. I often teach the young children I work with to imagine that inside every grape, inside every drop of food they eat, is a tiny fairy, who is asleep, waiting to do a dance and be free. If they don’t sing a song to her, she won’t wake up. This is a magical explanation, but it helps the children understand that there is something precious in every plant and every fruit, and that they can participate in enriching their food and their food experience. It makes no difference to me how you give thanks. You can imagine a fairy dancing in joy because you’ve awakened her inside your lettuce leaf. You can give thanks for the long journey that same leaf of lettuce has gone on to get to your plate. You can just sit still and recognize how truly lucky and blessed you are to have a full plate. This is your invitation to experience grace, and whichever way works for you will make me happy. And, who knows, I may even do a little dance!

The Expanded or Lesser, but still important, Commandments

  • GET INTO YOUR FOOD! This suggestion bears repeating as all good suggestions do. What you put in your mouth isn’t just stuff or fuel. Every spice and leaf is coming from the Holy One just for you and yours. Grace your food as you would your sacred space. Keep your awareness always with your cooking. Talking on the phone is not amenable to good cooking. I will often clean while on the phone, but I almost never cook and talk to others unless it is to ask them to do something meal related. Concentration in the kitchen yields the truest results.
  • Have fun, take risks except with cooking times of meat or whether ingredients are really fresh! Explore the contours of your taste buds. Try different flavors.
  • At this point in my cooking career I prefer blanching vegetables to steaming. This means having a large pot of rapidly boiling water ready just before the meal is to be served. Put in a liberal amount of salt when the water is close to boiling. Once the water is boiling, put in whatever veggies you’ve cleaned and prepared. They only need to be in the water for 2–5 minutes at most. I have a hand–held strainer handy to fish them out. Place them in a bowl and serve them with whatever dressing or sauce you wish. Always put olive oil on veggies first as it coats the veggies and keeps the vitamins from getting leached out by lemon juice or vinegar. I do all my vegetables this way now. I never steam them. Also, you can save the blanching water to use as a base/stock for your rice or soups. The water will be good in the fridge for about 3 days.
  • Margarine is gross and not good for you so don’t use it. If you can’t use butter, use olive oil or coconut oil.
  • All fish, that you will be cooking, should be soaked for ½ an hour or more in a large bowl of very salty (at least 2 tablespoons kosher salt) water. You will be amazed at the gunk that is left in the water. Rinse the salt water off and then marinate or cook. Do not use a plastic bowl or bucket for this. Plastic retains the flavors, odors, and smells of all it comes in contact with. If you are cooking in the summer, you can put ice in the bowl; otherwise it’s fine to keep the fish on the counter in a large stainless steel bowl full of cold salted water while you are preparing the marinade.

Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream
Rinse, Rinse, Rinse your Rice ‘til the water runs clean
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily life is but a dream
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily your rice will be a dream

Other standards in Nicole’s kitchen:

  • never–ending bottle of organic olive oil (cold pressed or first pressing)
  • Mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
  • fresh garlic
  • fresh ginger
  • lemons, lemons, lemons, hmm let me see, more lemons!
  • fresh herbs/spices; throw away the stuff in your spice cabinet that is over a year old. Buy spices in small amounts from the bulk bins at your health food store. There is a greater turnover in the spice bins so the spices/herbs from there are much fresher.
  • Le Creuset cookware, worth its weight in gold and almost that expensive, but it will be around for your grandchildren. I have used Le Creuset every day for the last 20 years and will be using the same pots in my 90’s if I’m given that long to live. Also, it’s a good idea to own one really solid large cast–iron pan, which will never come in contact with soap.

©by Nicole Barchilon Frank from her Cookbook (in final editing stage)

Divine Delights
Persian, French & Sephardic Savors from the Kitchen of
Nicole Barchilon Frank

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