Cooking the easiest way!

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By Chef Ed Dychauco

Pots and Pans

Friday, May 16, 2014

WITH the advancement of technology also comes changes in the way we prepare our meals.

Depending on where you are, food ingredients are prepared in a variety of ways, whether raw, frozen, half-cooked, or fully cooked.

They can come in cans, in frozen or refrigerated packs, or in marinated and ready-to-cook form, ready to be eaten when heated or warmed in an oven or toaster.


So much food is formulated in a way that cooking no longer becomes a chore.

Canned/boxed/foil/vacuum packed items can include soups, beans, fruits, vegetables, meats, and even desserts like cakes and cookies.

Refrigerated and frozen food can include meat and seafood products in different forms and sizes, baking dough for breads, cookies, and pastries, pre-cut cheeses and processed meats, and so much more.

Fresh produce like vegetables and fruits are sliced, chopped, julienned, cubed, and they come in small and large portions for everyone’s needs.

And these are not only found in supermarkets or groceries, but can also be found in small shops like delis, specialty shops, etc.

Which of course would lead us to just a little mixing, marinating maybe (although these can also be found in most stores), frying, steaming, broiling, baking, and pan-frying for that short-cut procedure in preparing a wonderful meal with less hassle.

A lot of the stores nowadays also offer free cutting, slicing, chopping for the raw ingredients, which in turn saves you a lot of time and effort in the food preparation particularly for meat products.

Seafood are cleaned, deboned, shelled, sliced into fillets or chunks, and they are absolutely ready to be cooked.

Fruits are sliced, de-seeded, peeled and naturally, ready to be eaten.
And of course, most stores prepare their food items fresh on a daily basis.

Say, you like to have some fresh salads. These are available pre-packed in big plastic bags for a group of people or in small individual containers for that solo meal, which certainly comes with the salad dressing of your choice.

There is precooked food that one can purchase which is sold per piece/cut or weighed for its price — main courses, pasta, appetizers, and everything one can think of!

Now, where is the cooking part here?

Unless you like the way the food are prepared, you can “play” with the finished products by reinventing them your way.

One can add more spices, or maybe change the sauce, or incorporate the cooked ingredients and make a new dish out of it. Possibilities are endless.

There are frozen seafood and meats in the freezer section. But they can turn into a special meal when you use your skills and imagination, rather than just follow enclosed cooking instructions all the time.

But obviously, if one prefers to follow the directions as printed in the box or label, do so.

This is truly more of a mix and match of precooked ingredients. And with the right presentation, it might even appear as a gourmet meal prepared by a chef…and that is you!

There are marinated food items (think of tocino, tapa, lumpia shanghai, empanada, pork chops, chicken, etc.) where one can just fry, broil, boil, bake, pan-fry, or steam.

If not there are also prepared food that just need to be heated or steamed like siomai, siopao, shiaw long paw, stuffed shrimps, dumplings, and a lot more.

Pizza, calzone, turnovers, stuffed chicken or shrimps and the like just need some re-heating in the oven.

Pre-cut mixed vegetables in serving sizes just need some sautéing in butter or oil and they are ready to be mixed in some main courses or used as a side dish.

I would presume the concept of all things easy-to-prepare came about because of the hectic schedules of our daily life. And with the wonderful idea of DIY (do-it-yourself), we can now prepare fantastic meals in a jiffy.

Not to forget, some consumers don’t like to buy anything that is tarnished or blemished (fruits and veggies especially), so rather than throwing those away, sellers slice the imperfections out and cut products into bite-sized shapes, ready to be sold.

Remember those “sari” vegetables we buy in the market?

There are also commercially prepared sauces, seasoned creams, infused vinegars, and all kind of stuff that need no preparation.
Just add these onto a dish and voila, food is ready!

But a word of advice: they might be convenient, but they don't come cheap.

They can be financially draining after a while unless money is not a hindrance.

What I am trying to say is that these are great for those who are running out of time or are in a hurry in food preparations, or for those who have a penchant for impromptu meals.

So, for those who can’t cook (?), try this method once in a while to impress your friends and loved ones. (And that is a secret between you and me, alright?)

Happy cooking!

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 16, 2014.


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