Apron Optional: Grab your onion goggles


Hello, all!

While you may think of me as a 1950s housewife from my picture, I am actually just a staff writer for The Daily Texan with an affinity for sun dresses, floral prints and bunny videos on the Internet — but this post is about food.

I have been baking on and off for quite a few years now. Perhaps I inherited the bug from my dad, the cakemaster of our house. Or maybe it came about as a way to lock in my circle of friends with sugary treats and confections. Either way, there is no disputing the direct relationship between providing baked goods and being adorable — a concept I’m completely comfortable to admitting I enjoy.

Every Friday, I invite all of you to join me as I take on new adventures in the kitchen, leading the way through the thicket of online recipes and confusing ingredient substitutions. Each week you will find a new recipe complete with tales of my culinary conquest. I’m definitely no expert, but that just means more entertainment for all of you!

I’m not sticking to any specific style or cuisine. Instead, I’ll be digging up recipes that are presentable and impressive but still easy to make (hello, we aren’t on “Top Chef: UT”) and, most importantly, delicious. Being a student, the recipes will be (for the most part) student-budget friendly.

Full steam ahead, I thought it best to do a little cooking 101: How to chop an onion and cook pasta.

For some of you, this may sound a bit ridiculous and basic, but I’m not lying to you when I say a year ago I could make cinnamon toast cupcakes from scratch, but I didn’t have the slightest idea how to make spaghetti. No judgment here.

It all started with a dinner party last summer. I had just started getting into cooking and invited five friends over for dinner. Between myself and my two self-elected helpers, the kitchen quickly devolved into a disaster zone. The dessert was messed up, the chicken alfredo sauce wasn’t cooking properly and my friend dumped two pounds of spaghetti (for six people) in a pot and left it for me to cook. Just as I was about to completely unravel, my brother (resident Pasta Roni aficionado) stepped in and saved the day. After a pleasant meal and a lot of cleaning up, my brother suggested perhaps it was time I learned how to make pasta.

First, the onion. Oh, the onion, how I have avoided the task of chopping you. Is there any vegetable less appealing to chop than an onion? No, there is not. Unfortunately, onions are vital in making plenty of delicious things, so we’ll have to get over it. While you can choose to take the stylish route of wearing swim goggles like my mom, the most fashionable advice I can give you to avoid the traditional tears is to chill the onion in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before cutting it and breathe through your mouth.

Now, on a cutting board, take a sharp knife and cut off the top and bottom of the onion. Resting it on one of the flat ends, carefully cut the onion in half, intersecting the bulls-eye in the center. Peel the skin off, and lay each on the board so the center is face down. Make parallel cuts beginning at one of the flat ends (please watch your fingers). The thickness of the slice is at your discretion or whatever the recipe requires. Take a few of those slices at a time and stack them sideways, and cut them again to make small pieces. Repeat with the other half and you have successfully chopped your onion! Next step: buying breath mints.

Pasta is pretty simple. First, boil water in a large pot, using enough to clear the top of the pasta by a good three inches or so. One time I thought I would save time by heating water in an electric tea kettle and pouring it into a pot sitting on a preheated burner — big mistake. The whole thing started hissing and bubbling in a violent mess that left me with a minor burn and a bad mood. Don’t take shortcuts, just cover the pot and enjoy the 15 minutes to yourself. Once the water is boiling, sprinkle in some kosher salt (roughly a teaspoon, but it’s not an exact science) and put in your pasta. If you’re using spaghetti or any other sort of long noodle, there’s no reason to break them in half! Wait a few seconds and stir the pasta to push it all under the water. Set a timer for a minute less than the smallest amount of time on the package. When the timer goes off, (carefully) test a piece of pasta. It should be al dente, which is the fancy Italian way of saying firm, but not hard or undercooked. If it’s ready, drain it over the sink into a colander and you’re done. If it still feels crunchy, set the timer for one more minute, taste it again, then drain it. If you aren’t planning to use it now, I suggest tossing the pasta with a very small amount of olive oil to prevent sticking.

That’s all for now! Next week, we’ll make something even your pickiest friends will want to mooch off of.