Whether single or married, we can all use a little Kitchen Wisdom.

I have been touched each time I have been asked on the street, “Is the Single Chef coming back?” It is nice to know that people were reading my column. The truth of the matter is that eight months of remodeling sandwiched around getting married have kept me out of the kitchen. Thankfully, kitchen completion is getting closer and closer each day. I was able to reheat some boxed soup on my new range. It almost brought a tear to my eye. I long to get back to my pots, pans and kitchen gadgets, not to mention having access to my fully stocked spice drawer. But alas, it will be at least another month until we have cabinet boxes, then there are counter tops and, oh yeah, doors and drawer fronts. The joys and frustrations of being married to a woodworker…we get custom cabinets, they just take a while.

In the meantime, I have been longing to get back to food writing. The question was, without a fully working kitchen, how do I test recipes? Then an idea was suggested to me by my friend Katie. She had purchased a jar of spaghetti sauce and said that it tasted like ketchup. “Mel, help me. How can I fix this?” My mother was a proponent of purchasing Prego spaghetti sauce, spicing it up, simmering it for a couple of hours and it tasted homemade. “Add some red wine, a little oregano and basil then cook it down,” I responded. “But I don’t have any wine in the house right now,” Katie replied. Now I had to think a little more technically. The sauce probably tasted like ketchup because it had too much sugar. When you have too much sugar in a dish, you can balance it out with an acid. My next suggestion was to add a little vinegar of some sort, red wine or balsamic. When I spoke to her a few days later she said that the suggestion saved the spaghetti dinner and thanked me for being available to answer her question. I shared with her that prior to losing both my parents, they were the ones that everyone called to ask culinary questions. With both of them gone, I had to step up my food knowledge. In fact, over the past year I have been getting phone calls from my brother and various other relatives seeking culinary counsel. This is when Katie suggested I write a food advice column for the paper.

And so, I present you with my new column, “My Kitchen Wisdom.” As long as folks send me questions, I am happy to respond in this forum. Inquiries can be about a specific cooking dilemma, a suggestion for an ingredient substitute, tricks for storing food or you can just ask one of those questions that has been nagging you for years. “Do I really need to spend $30 on a tiny bottle of extra virgin olive oil,” just because the recipe calls for “good quality oil?”  You want to know something food related…ask me. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try contacting my parents on the Ouija Board….or perhaps I’ll call Eleanor, my recipe editor. Either way, I’ll do my best to figure out your quandary and pass along my kitchen wisdom.
To answer the olive oil question, unless you are trying to win over the discerning palettes of the judges on TV’s Top Chef, forget the expensive olive oil.  Most restaurants buy gallon sized cans of extra virgin olive oil from their food service provider for less than $30. My advice on this is to not buy the cheapest stuff out there, but just pick something with a decent color that you can afford.

Until next time, happy cooking. I look forward to your questions. Email me at mykitchenwisdom@yahoo.com