Here is another set of tips for the novice cooks out there:
-DO NOT use jarred minced garlic. It is no flavor! It is a waste and a disgrace!
Garlic is one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind (along with butter and cheese, of course). Fresh garlic, when chopped and used properly, can add the most wonderful flavor to almost any dish. Do it justice! Buy one head at a time and store it in a dark, dry place.
-DO invest in a pepper grinder and use it! This is the same concept as the garlic. Freshly ground pepper provides a distinct, simple layer of flavor to food. If you go for the boxed, pre-ground kind, you might as well omit it altogether.
-DO make your own croutons. The kind you can buy in the store are always on the stale side, and full of preservatives and other nasty stuff. It’s really simple to make your own: chop bread, heat skillet on low heat, add bread to skillet, drizzle with olive oil, add salt and any other spices you desire, cook for about 12 min, stirring occasionally, until croutons are crispy and brown. Viola!
-DO use lots of fresh herbs. Most dishes benefit from the addition of chopped, fresh herbs toward the end of the cooking process, or as a garnish, just before serving. I find that parsley is the most versatile herb to have around, but the world of herbs is an extensive one so explore!
*Image: Give the Bitch Her Chocolate: The Feisty Foodie Edition. Ten Speed Press: 2009.