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3 Pieces of Kitchen Wisdom From Bon Appetit’s Carla Lalli Music

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Every week on Unwasted, the Imperfect podcast, we chat with a different expert in the world of food, sustainability, and business. We recently had the pleasure of chatting with with Carla Lalli Music, Food Editor at Large at Bon Appetit and author of the cookbook Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook. Check out the top 3 things we learned from Carla:

Arm yourself with the right cooking gear  

Carla is skeptical of gadgets that claim to do 13 different things or have only one niche purpose (the “unitaskers” Alton Brown loves to mock); however, she did share three items she recommends having in your kitchen: 

  • Quarter sheet trays: While many of us have a half sheet tray for baking cookies or roasting vegetables, Carla recommends buying a few quarter sheet trays, which are a nice and compact size and perfect for roasting chiles, a few servings of a protein, or smaller batches of vegetables. 

  • A black steel pan: Carla is wild about black steel (also called carbon steel) sauté pans, since they have all of the conductivity of cast iron with a fraction of the weight. They also make great gifts for the foodies in your life! 

  • A slotted fish spatula: One unsung hero of the kitchen gear world is the slotted fish spatula. It’s thin, agile, and perfect for flipping protein and vegetables. The slots also let it serve as a strainer when necessary. 

Always have these ingredients around

Central to Carla’s philosophy on cooking and reducing waste is strategic grocery shopping. By stocking your kitchen with the right ingredients, you can become a more adaptable cook,  making dinners easier and more fun to assemble, and making the act of shopping less stressful and less wasteful, too. Here are Carla’s essentials: 

  • Produce: Onions, garlic, lemons, and limes

  • Fridge staples: Eggs, yogurt, buttermilk, and parmesan cheese

  • Pantry staples: Rice, noodles, nuts, anchovies, tuna, and one or two types of vinegar 

  • Baking goods: Flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, chocolate, and vanilla extract

Give the gift of cookbooks 

In her enviable role at Bon Appetit, Carla devours hundreds of cookbooks a year, making her the perfect person to ask for giftable cookbook recommendations. Here are Carla’s favorite cookbooks of all time: 

  • Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison: One of the most comprehensive collections of vegetarian recipes ever written and packed full of wisdom about every ingredient under the sun, this book is a must-have for vegetarians and omnivores alike. 

  • Autentico: Cooking Italian, the Authentic Way by Ronaldo Baramendi: A refreshingly candid and in-depth look at classic Italian dishes that will change the way you think about pasta and so much more. 

  • World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the World by Madhur Jaffrey: A comprehensive book about vegetarian recipes by the James Beard Award-winning author who helped teach so many of us the joys of Indian cuisine. 

  • Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson: A charming and useful compilation of stories and short recipes. It’s a quirky and unique take on the genre. 

  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat: “A baller move” in Carla’s words, this elegant and masterful primer on the principles of good cooking contains wisdom that we all can learn something from. 

To learn even more from Carla, including why confiting is the best cooking technique most people haven’t heard of and why you don’t need to be afraid of not having every single ingredient that a recipe calls for, be sure to listen to the episode. We hope you enjoy it and cook something delicious afterwards!

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