The word “smart” has been thrown around a great deal in recent years: smart phones, Smart cars, and even smart toilets. And then there are the more traditional smarts, usually attached to the other end: book-smarts, street-smarts. But what about kitchen-smarts?
It might sound trivial, but being smart in the kitchen is all about saving time and money, and not many would pass up on more of those. There are the tips that I’ve picked up from my mom (buy produce that can be used in various ways throughout the week); those I’ve learned from living alone (only buy packaged foods when they’re on special); and those I’ve gained through the weekly routine of cooking for two (buying and eating less meat means more money for DQ Blizzards).
Kidding aside, being kitchen smart simply comes down to determination. By implementing new systems and habits into your routine, and exposing yourself to new ideas, you’ll find that you’re optimizing your cooking experiences, and eating delicious food, too.
Australian food editor Valli Little offers an abundance of good habits in her latest cookbook Quick Smart Cook, which is full of enticing and unique recipes not just for busy families and bachelors, but anyone in search of a fast, delicious meal. Recipes like Rib-eye with Espresso and Mushroom Sauce and Instant Fondue with Roast Vegetables sound super swanky, but Little’s writing is clear, concise and simple—suitable for beginners and seasoned home-cooks alike.
Best of all, it lives up to its Smart title. Spaghetti with Roasted Garlic and Quail Eggs might suggest a lengthy prep time and unusual ingredients, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I easily found quail eggs at the first place I looked—my local Asian grocer’s. And the recipe instructions are designed to minimize both cooking time and washing up: bread is toasted in the oven along with a whole head of garlic, and tiny speckled quail eggs are boiled at the tail end of the pasta’s cooking time. After a little wait and a whiz in the food processor, all you have to do is toss and serve.
And in case you needed another incentive to check out Quick Smart Cook, the beautifully-styled, full-page photos should do the trick.
Spaghetti with quail eggs and roasted garlic
1 whole garlic bulb
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
1 slice rustic-style wood fired bread
2 tbsp grated parmesan
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves
250g creme fraiche
12 quail eggs*
100g baby arugula
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
Drizzle the garlic with 1 tablespoon of oil, wrap tightly in foil and place on a baking tray. Drizzle the bread on both sides with extra oil and place on the same tray. Bake, turning the bread once, for 15 minutes until the bread is golden. Remove the bread, then roast the garlic for a further 30 minutes until soft.
Meanwhile, pulse the bread, parmesan and parsley in a food processor to form coarse drums. Set aside.
Unwrap the roasted garlic. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves from their skins into the creme fraiche. Mash together well and set aside.
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water according to packet instructions. Add the quail eggs for the last 3-4 minutes of cooking time, then drain. Remove the eggs and set aside. Toss the pasta in a little extra oil, then toss with the deme fraiche mixture and arugula. Season and divide among 4 bowls.
Peel the eggs (it helps to roll them on the counter first to ease off the shell), then halve and place on the pasta. Serve scattered with the parmesan crumbs.
*For Vancouverites, I found them at Kim’s Mart on East Broadway, but they’re also available at T&T Supermarkets. Substitute 4 small chicken eggs, hard-boiled and quartered.
delicious. quick smart cook book by Valli Little available in store
Review and Photography by Melanie Kwan © 2015