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Style Magazine

Captain Cooks: Top Cooking Tips + Foolproof Recipes

Cooking, for many, is cathartic. No matter your comfort level in the kitchen, we have some tips and tricks to ensure every meal you make is mouthwatering.

Taste your food as you go. Ingredients vary in flavor depending on the season, ripeness, or (if not fresh) brand.  Tasting your food as you go ensures you can adjust for all these variables every time.

Don’t be afraid of high heat. Seems obvious but so much flavor comes from searing and sautéing at those high temperatures. You may have been burned in the past by high heat, but with the right cookware for the task at hand, those high temperatures are the key to building flavor without overcooking your ingredients.

Learn the “why”. We often get tripped up by thinking that if we’re missing an ingredient for a recipe, we can’t move forward, which is almost never the case! Learning why an ingredient is there and what it’s adding (sweet, salty, umami, leavening) can open you up to a world of substitutions (like when making chimichurri). When in doubt? Ask the Internet!
—Megan Kessenich, Making (M)eggs, Auburn,, @makingmeggs


1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley (about 1 bunch)
1 cup fresh cilantro (about 1 bunch)
1/2 cup red onion, diced (sub: 1 shallot)
3 tbsp. fresh oregano (sub: leave out)
3-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tbsp. fresh lemon or lime juice (sub: orange juice with an extra splash of vinegar)
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar (sub: champagne or apple cider vinegar)
¼ tsp. salt (or more to taste)
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 jalapeño, stems and seeds removed to reduce spice, as desired (sub: red pepper flake or a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce)
1/2-3/4 cup high-quality olive oil

Add all ingredients except the olive oil to a food processor; pulse a few times until chopped. Slowly stream in the olive oil, while pulsing the mixture a few more times until the olive oil is combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor if needed. Add olive oil until sauce reaches desired consistency. Serve immediately or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

Wondering what to do with leftover chimichurri sauce? Get creative! Try stirring it into soups, pasta dishes, dolloped on top of a baked potato, or over your morning eggs to add a bright, fresh, and flavorful punch.



Preparation is key. Keep a bowl of salt and pepper blend on your counter for basic seasoning needs. Instead of grabbing the salt and pepper separately, it’ll save you time and a step.
Use squirt bottles for your oils. Forget messing with a lid—just grab and squirt! I cook mostly with avocado oil and olive oil, so those two are always on my countertop.

Buy a good chef's knife and keep it sharp. My favorite one is the Wusthof Grand Prix (Hollow Edge Santoku), which you can sharpen with a stone soaked in water.

Let machines do the work! Using tools like food processors make recipes like my homemade cranberry, pistachio, & honey energy bites easy peasy.
—Stephanie Hibbert, Chef Stephanie, Orangevale,, @chefstephanieh

Cranberry, Pistachio, & Honey Energy Bites

1 cup dates, pits removed
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pistachios
2 tsp. honey
Rough chop the dates. Add all ingredients to food processor. Pulse until well mixed. Roll into small balls. Makes 20 balls.

Cranberry, Pistachio, & Honey Energy Bites


Adding a squeeze of about half a lemon to roasted or sautéed vegetables helps to brighten the flavors. Make sure to add it toward the end once the vegetables are cooked.

When a recipe calls for melted butter, brown it in a saucepan on your stove instead to create a more deliciously rich flavor.

Pickle your excess produce! Don't let it go to waste. Cauliflower, radishes, rainbow chard stems, carrots, asparagus, green beans, onions…the list is endless. Make sure to scale the liquid, depending on how much you’re pickling and the size of the jar.
—Emily & Spencer Shapton, Silver Spork Events & Catering, Auburn,, @silversporkevents

Quick Pickled Veggies

4-6 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. kosher salt
2 cups hot water
2 cups vinegar (rice wine or apple cider)
Veggies of choice (cauliflower, radishes, carrots, green beans, etc.), cut into 1-inch pieces

Optional ingredients to add additional flavor: rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes, or peppercorns

Dissolve sugar and salt in hot water; add vinegar and stir. Prep veggies and add them to a glass jar. Pour liquid mixture into the jar, ensuring it covers the top of the vegetables and none float past the surface. Place the lid on top and allow it to cool before refrigerating. They taste best after about 2 days and will keep up to 1 month in your fridge.

Quick Pickled Veggies


Pat the flesh on fish completely dry and season with only salt and pepper. Then get a cast iron or heavy pan very hot with a little bit of canola or other high-temp oil and place the fish flesh side down. Once there’s a golden-brown crust, flip; the fish is finished once it's flaky.

When entertaining, pick a dish that has at least one do-ahead component, such as a sauce that can hold well and is interesting like blistered pepper & heirloom tomato sauce. It pairs well with proteins, elevates any dish, and makes final preparations easier to pull off and less stressful.
—Sonya Keister, The Rustic Fork, Folsom,, @therusticfork

Blistered Pepper & Heirloom Tomato Sauce

1 Anaheim chili pepper, stems & seeds removed, cut lengthwise
1 Fresno chili pepper, stems & seeds removed, cut lengthwise
1/2 yellow bell pepper, stems & seeds removed, cut lengthwise
1 yellow onion (approx. 2 cups), chopped into big pieces
4 large garlic cloves, whole
3 lbs. heirloom tomatoes (mostly red but any variety)
1/4 cup loosely packed basil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. olive oil + more to cook
Salt and black pepper

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lay peppers down, skin side up, along with the onion and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and broil until the skin on the peppers is blistered or blackened. You may need to rotate the pan under the broiler to achieve this.

Move peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Wait 10 minutes and remove the skin from their flesh.

Core the tomatoes and cut into large pieces. In a large pot, heat olive oil, and add the chopped tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes start to break down.
Add the peppers, onions, and garlic into the tomatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes. Add the mixture to a blender. Add butter and basil. Blend to combine and then turn speed to purée.
Pour sauce into glass jars or freezer containers, if storing, and use with your favorite recipe.

Blistered Pepper & Heirloom Tomato Sauce



Take your cookery skills to the next level—and seriously impress your nearest and dearest—by signing up for these local cooking classes.

Savory Summer Torta

WHEN: August 7, 10 a.m.-noon
WHERE: Murer House, 1125 Joe Murer Court, Folsom, 916-413-9231,
PRICE: $45 + $5 for ingredients
WHAT: Learn how to make a savory Italian torta filled with diced zucchini, tomatoes, and corn, plus your choice of cheeses. Students will assemble and bake the torta, then enjoy it in class or at home.

Soups from Tuscany

WHEN: August 7, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Tess' Kitchen Store, 115 Mill Street, Grass Valley, 530-273-6997,
PRICE: $65
WHAT: Journey to Tuscany through flavorful soup recipes (minestrone with green beans, zucchini, and tomatoes; onion with pancetta and parmesan; and creamed spinach made Tuscan-style—without cream). Classes include the chance to try all the soups, a glass of wine hand-selected by the chef, and a copy of the recipes.

Cooking with Kids

WHEN: August 9-30 (Mondays) & August 11-September 1 (Wednesdays), 4-5 p.m.
WHERE: El Dorado Hills Community Services District, 1021 Harvard Way, El Dorado Hills, 916-933-6624,
PRICE: $72 + $35 materials fee
WHAT: Little ones (ages 4-14) will work with fresh, organic ingredients then eat or share their creations. Classes (hosted by Little Chefs World) feature nutrition, kitchen safety, and new menus each session.

Sautéed Peaches in Chocolate-Amaretto Sauce

WHEN: August 21, 10 a.m.-noon
WHERE: Murer House, 1125 Joe Murer Court, Folsom, 916-413-9231,
PRICE: $45 + $5 for ingredients
WHAT: This Italian version of a popular easy-to-make summer dessert uses lightly sweetened chocolate powder, white wine, and amaretti cookies to enhance fresh summer peaches.  Students will make and sample the dessert in class (alongside gelato!) or take it home.

Crisp, Cobbler & Clafoutis

WHEN: August 28, 11 a.m.
WHERE: Tess' Kitchen Store, 115 Mill Street, Grass Valley, 530-273-6997,
PRICE: $65
WHAT: Learn how to utilize all your fresh summer fruit by making nectarine & blueberry crisp (topped with a buttery streusel topping), mixed berry cobbler (topped with easy biscuit dough), and fresh peach clafoutis. Classes include the chance to try all the soups, a glass of wine hand-selected by the chef, and a copy of the recipes.

Plant-Based Cooking Classes

WHEN: August 24 (breakfast), August 31 (entrées), September 7 (sides & salads), & September 14 (desserts), 6-7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Stallant Cooking School, 20601 W Paoli Lane, Weimar, 530-637-4025,
WHAT: Hosted by Stallant Health, an urgent care clinic, each program includes live demonstrations, health talks, and food sampling. Due to limited capacity, RSVP is required.