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Sep 18, 2012 07:35 PM

Cooking lessons for a college student

I am planning to give the following gift to a young man [junior at university] who is a vegetarian: a pasta pot with a cooking lesson on pasta, a teflon pan with a cooking lesson on eggs and ???? I thought a lesson on tofu might be good but I can't think of an appropriate gift to accompany lesson?? Or maybe a lesson on something else with the emphasis on easy as he does not know how to cook anything. I am not a vegetarian so am stumped.

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  1. Beans lesson with a skillet! Soup lesson with a crock pot! Cooked-grain salads lesson with a salad bowl or rice cooker!

    Scope out some vegetarian cookbooks at the library for other ideas. Actually, a good vegetarian cookbook would be a great gift. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian would be a good start.

    15 Replies
    1. re: Tartinet

      that is an excellent book. it's encyclopedic and describes the nature of the ingredients and techniques, which fosters understanding and improvisation.

      it's better than any class really, since those are all usually single dish centric (I'd make the pasta class one on hand-rolling, not so much the specific sauce)

      1. re: Tartinet

        And available as a smartphone app. It's really handy to use that way because it will generate a shopping list and has built-in timers to use as you work your way through a recipe.

        1. re: sr44

          technology is my new god. one of these days I'm gonna get me one of them pocket prophets.

          (but seriously) that is one of the few 'apps' I've heard of that makes a lot of sense. there's so much pointless junk out there. that would be useful. unless the fingers were covered in sticky dough when the timer got anxious.

          1. re: hill food

            That would really facilitate bonding with your gadget.

            1. re: sr44

              I hear plastic wrap around the gadget helps, yet I'm a skeptic.

              re-reading this I see how this could be interpreted badly.

              back on topic - yes Bittman in whatever media is a great vegetarian resource.

              1. re: hill food

                Thanks for all the great ideas. I think a crockpot and a vegetarian cookbook is the way I will go. He does not know how to boil water so I think the Bittman might be overwhelming???? Maybe a child's vegetarian cookbook with pictures, if there is such a thing. : ) A crockpot vegetarian book might be good. He doesn't like beans : ( so I could use some ideas for vegetarian cooking in a crockpot.

                1. re: Bethcooks

                  Second thought on cookbook: Maybe a vegetarian soup cookbook as a starter to go with crockpot?

                  1. re: Bethcooks

                    Bittman's really isn't overwhelming and doesn't necessarily involve advanced techniques. it's written in a straight forward and even conversational tone that explains things like why (for instance) the differences between long and short grain rice and how they're used.

                    it is a bit thick, but makes for good bedtime or study break reading or (and this will sound gross) since the recipes are short, bathroom time reading (hey sometimes there are no short story anthologies or Bukowski around the house)

                    1. re: sr44

                      heh, I'm cross-reading posts and it took me a moment but chuckling over where my confusion and imagination took me, but I see now. yes, friends who use IPads and tablets in the kitchen do often use ziplock type things.

                      1. re: hill food

                        so far a zip-lock is working
                        speaking as a brand new 10" tablet owner,user

                        cling wraps were (?) ,just once before I die I would love to pull a piece of cling wrap and have it BEHAVE and perform just like the adverts on TV

              2. re: Tartinet

                Bittman's recipes work, they are straightforward using common ingredients (not necessarily true of vegetarian cookbooks), and he begins with chapters on ingredients, equipment, and techniques that are just the thing for a beginning cook.

                As for lessons, I should think these are more effective when you see how an experienced cook works than just from reading. YouTube is full of videos to show how it's done - too full, actually, it can be confusing. So you might give the young man the links to videos you select yourself, on basic techniques like knife skills. There are lots to choose from, and you can choose the videos you think show and tell the technique best. For example:


              3. I'm not a vegetarian either. Consequently, I would be tempted to hope he can find a vegetarian instructor and look for a different gift.

                1. How about an enameled dutch oven and a lesson on cooking beans? Or a sheet pan and roasted veggies? I'm a vegetarian and that's what comes to mind as staples of my diet. And that is a GREAT gift idea.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: APK_101

                    APK-101 He doesn't eat beans but the sheet pan with roasted vegetables is a great idea. Hank Hanover - I would if I knew anyone who is a vegetarian who cooks!!! He has been eating boxed macaroni and cheese since school began.
                    I think I will get the Bittman's vegetarian cookbook out of the library and take a good look at it. Sheet pan does sound like the way to go - lesson would be easy for him.

                      1. re: Bethcooks

                        Sorry... I just have a basic disagreement with vegetarians. I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to graze. I have sharp meat eating teeth. I don't have flat teeth and a long neck to stick between the barbed wire fence.

                        I guess you could give him a pot with a lid and a recipe for lentils and rice. I understand you can live on it.

                        Me, personally I would get a burger out every time i saw him and tell him how good it was.

                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                          Well I've got no problem with you, so I guess that makes one of us. :)

                      2. re: APK_101

                        Sheet pan for veggies is a great idea. Include a butternut squash, cutting board, and a knife to get him started.

                      3. A wok to make stir-fries with the tofu.

                        A small toaster oven to make individual servings of things like eggplant or portabello parmesan stackers (bread sliced eggplant, or mushrooms, tomato, onion, etc in bread crumbs, a little cornmeal, i use a little TVP for protein, herbs, etc stack and toast); easy but easily elevated melts; toasted polenta squares etc

                        Teach him how to make polenta -- to use soft or firmed and toasted (see above)

                        Couscous is soooo easy and so versatile.

                        I'd teach him how to make marinades and salad dressings as well... nothing like homemade.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Emme

                          Emme - The couscous is a good idea as I think he likes that but I am not sure about the polenta. He doesn't eat parmesan as that is not vegetarian because it contains rennet. [I discovered that 75% of cheeses in the USA contain rennet and the % is even higher for other countries. ] Hank - I know exactly what you are saying. In this young lad's case I would say it almost borders on an eating disorder as he will not eat so many things that vegetarians eat.

                          1. re: Bethcooks

                            you don't have to do parmesan in polenta. there are plenty of cheeses that don't contain rennet, or you can use some nutritional yeast. or use neither and just use herbs and a little extra butter or earth balance. or add some pureed vegetables...

                            1. re: Emme

                              Actually he looked into this and 75% of the cheeses in USA are made with rennet so now he refuses to eat cheeses except for cream cheese and other soft cheeses not made with rennet. I do think he would eat herbs and butter as he likes that kind of thing on pasta. Nutritional yeast is new to me???? Is it just for adding additional nutrition?

                              1. re: Bethcooks

                                Is he aware not all RENNET etc for cheese is animal sourced? There is plant derived rennet,Kosher and vegetarian certified for cheese.

                                1. re: Bethcooks

                                  Nutritional yeast is a beige, flaky, almost powdery vegan ingredient. It's used to add a "cheesy" flavor.

                                  1. re: cheesecake17

                                    Thanks cheesecake12, that is helpful as I knew nothing about nutritional yeast. I will tell him about it. Can you use it in, for example, omelets? Personally will go on eating the real stuff. : )

                                    1. re: Bethcooks

                                      I've used it on scrambled eggs. My favorite way to use it is mixed with cornflake crumbs and cornmeal as a breading for eggplant or zucchini. Most commonly it's used to make vegan cheez sauce. Tasted it, but not for me!

                          2. I would go with a good knife and sharpener, a cutting board and a knife skills lesson. Most non-cooks I know have HORRIBLE knives and non-existent knife skills, which makes cutting up even something as soft as zucchini a major chore. If the kid is a vegetarian, he needs to eat vegetables instead of an endless parade of processed carbohydrates, and he'll never eat them if he doesn't know how to prepare them. Start with basic knife skills and finish by showing him how to turn all of that lovely chopped produce into an easy stirfry.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: biondanonima

                              I do think a good knife is basic and a great gift. What knife would you suggest as a starter knife? Paring knife? Or maybe a chef's knife? I love my santoku. There is a Victorinox paring knife on Amazon for a very good price. CI gives it a good review but I have no personal experience with it. I have some hesitation about giving him a really good knife as he lives with 3 other guys and knives have to be cared for and not thrown in a drawer with other stuff or put in the dishwasher, etc.

                              1. re: Bethcooks

                                I would go with a chef's knife - paring knives are useful for small and specific jobs but I would say I do 90% of my knife work with a chef's knife. My favorite one is the 10" extra-wide Wusthof, but I agree that buying him anything that nice is a mistake if it's just going to get tossed in the dishwasher. I would go with the Victorinox Chef's Knife that CI recommends - I don't own one but I've used one and I think it's a solid knife at a bargain price.

                                1. re: biondanonima

                                  Thanks - I too, was thinking the best knife would be the chef's knife. The cutting board would be good also as he would ruin the knife fairly quickly without it.