Sensual Cooking

When you think about it cooking is the simple act that brings in so much nourishment into our life and is the practice that fuels our body. 

When we bring intention into the way we prepare food and connection to the simplicity of ingredients, we shift the entire energy behind our meal. Our goal in sharing more about sensual cooking is to help you connect deeper into this form of awareness for yourself as well as sharing with those you love! 

Sensual cooking bridges nourishment, connection and love into the food we prepare!

Let’s explore more about how you can incoporate sensual cooking practices into your life! 

What Is Sensual Cooking?

At Steamy Kitchen, we help you make cooking more pleasurable, more decadent by paring down (less is more!), and more fun. There are so many unnecessary rules that surround cooking (and eating!) and we believe that sensual cooking means stripping away all the should’s, musts, diet philosophies….all the anxiety-inducing rules and constraints. 

If you scan the food magazines at the checkout line, you’ll see countless headlines with, fastest!, easiest!, best-est! recipe! I’m just as guilty as any other recipe developer, writer, and publisher…my past recipes and writings tout similar messages. I get it…we are all time-short.

But over the past few years, I’ve developed a different cooking rhythm. Instead of fastest, easiest, best-est….I slowed things down. Instead of elaborate recipes and 4-course meals, I limited myself to just a handful of ingredients, prepared simply. 

Florets from a head of broccoli can be gently steamed, then tossed with good quality olive oil, a sprinkling of flaky sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Peel away the fibrous and tough layer of the stem to unveil pale, translucent and tender light-green interior. Slice them thinly and toss them in a seasoned rice vinegar for an instant crunchy, pucker-y pickle.

Maybe for a meal, crack open a can of wild Alaskan salmon. Add a bowl of brown rice and a sprinkling of Japanese furikake to add a little umami crunch.

Let’s cook simply. Let’s give space to beautiful ingredients, learn solid techniques and play in the kitchen.

Respect Good Quality Ingredients

 

 I grew up in a very frugal household in the midwest. Mom clipped coupons, weekly grocery shopping revolved around grocery store sales and clearance items. The only time these rules did not apply, was when we made our monthly 4 hour drive to the nearest Asian market.

The inventory at the small mom ‘n pop Asian market entirely was dependent on what was available for import that month, or what Asian produce was in season and transportable from larger cities with a robust Asian population. 

We would fill our small cooler with the select items that Mom and Dad carefully chose. And then another 4 hour drive home. 

Meals using these precious ingredients were well thought out…and stretched across multiple meals. The small hunk of smoky, earthy, Jinhua ham from China was thinly sliced for steamed fish, maybe a stir fry with cabbage, and most definitely a fried rice. The bone was saved to add its complexity to Winter Melon Soup. 

I encourage you to be inspired by the best ingredients at the market. Put thought into deciding how to best showcase its sweetness,  crunch, or freshness. 

Creating Bliss Points: The 5S’s

I’ll tell you my little secret to making any food ultimate delicious, and to light up every single taste bud!

Incorporate the 5 S’s of flavor in your dish: Salty, Sweet, Savory, Sour and Spicy.

Think about some of your favorite foods, and in your mind’s eye, recreate the first bite. What do you taste? Can you identify the 5S’s? 

Many condiments and seasonings fall in multiple flavor profiles (like BBQ sauce incorporates sweet, salty, sour, savory and spicy)

1. Salty

Usually, this is the first flavor that people can identify. Seasonings include: salt, soy sauce, fish sauce, miso (this is a triple bonus ingredient as it is also savory and sweet!), oyster sauce (another triple bonus seasoning!), coconut aminos. 

2. Sweet

Sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, BBQ sauce, agave, fruit, chocolate, caramel (sweet & salty!)

3. Sour

Lemon, lime, vinegars, many fruits, kimchi, pickles, yogurt, sauerkraut.

4. Savory

Meats, miso, salami, mushrooms, cheese, rosemary, bacon, fish sauce, peanut butter, seafood, chicken stock

5. Spicy

Black pepper, chile pepper, mustard, garlic, curry paste, pepperoni. Even if you don’t enjoy the searing hot sauces or fresh chilies, the spicy flavor element can be very subtle (just a pinch of cayenne pepper) or even the subtle heat of garlic. 

 For example, Shrimp Thai Curry incorporates all of these 5 S’s of flavor: 

  • Salty: fish sauce
  • Sweet: sugar
  • Savory: chicken 
  • Sour: lime 
  • Spicy: curry paste

Simple Pleasures

Deeply Felt

Simple Pleasures in the Kitchen

Solid, Simple Equipment

Sensual cooking isn’t about fancy appliances or a cabinet full of specialty equipment (though I do love my pasta machine and my $10 egg cooker!)  Invest in good quality, essential tools that make cooking easier and more joyful. 

Chef’s Knife

In my kitchen, this is my most prized possession. My coveted chef’s knife is handcrafted in Japan, under a 600-year old blacksmithing artistry of one of the most famous masters in Sakai in Japan. The knife’s handle is maple burl wood dyed in a jewel toned turquoise-green, with a marble-like appearance. Knives should always be washed by hand. I always keep my Chef’s knife sharp, twice a year, taking it to be professionally sharpened, and once a week, honing the edge with the rod. I also have an $11 hand-held knife sharpener. It’s cheap. It works. 

Invest in a Chef’s Knife that feels good in your hands. How well it fits, how balanced it is, is just as important as the sharpness of the edge. The handle should cradle nicely in the curve between your forefinger and thumb….and nest snugly in the meaty part of your palm. 

 

Simple Pleasures in the Kitchen

Solid, Simple Equipment

Sensual cooking isn’t about fancy appliances or a cabinet full of specialty equipment (though I do love my pasta machine and my $10 egg cooker!)  Invest in good quality, essential tools that make cooking easier and more joyful. 

Chef’s Knife

In my kitchen, this is my most prized possession. My coveted chef’s knife is handcrafted in Japan, under a 600-year old blacksmithing artistry of one of the most famous masters in Sakai in Japan. The knife’s handle is maple burl wood dyed in a jewel toned turquoise-green, with a marble-like appearance. Knives should always be washed by hand. I always keep my Chef’s knife sharp, twice a year, taking it to be professionally sharpened, and once a week, honing the edge with the rod. I also have an $11 hand-held knife sharpener. It’s cheap. It works. 

Invest in a Chef’s Knife that feels good in your hands. How well it fits, how balanced it is, is just as important as the sharpness of the edge. The handle should cradle nicely in the curve between your forefinger and thumb….and nest snugly in the meaty part of your palm. 

 

 

Your Favorite Pan(s)

I have two favorite pans. Um…ok, maybe three. The most-used pan is always my trusty wok with lid. A wok is so versatile. I can stir-fry, boil, steam, braise, saute, sear, deep fry, etc. It’s my everything pan, because it’s so functional and adaptable.

If you’re looking for a low-fuss wok, my current favorite is a Fissler Wok. It’s lightweight (which is important to me), can take a little abuse in the dishwasher (which is important to my kids).

I also have a lightweight cast-iron wok that has been beautifully seasoned over the years. My kids are not allowed to touch….or even look at that prized wok! 😉 

Another favorite pan is my heavy-duty, hand-hammered, carbon-steel farmhouse skillet by Smithey. These hand-forged skillets are made in limited edition by renowned Charleston blacksmith Robert Thomas Iron Design. 

Lastly, I adore my cast-iron deep multi-cooker pan. This is like buying 2 for 1! The set includes a 10.25″ diameter deep pan that, like a wok, you can saute, simmer, braise, bake, roast and deep fry. The included lid is also a frying pan! Super versatile!

Handmade Bowls

Our main style of eating in the Steamy Kitchen is Buddha Bowls. Buddha Bowls are one-bowl meals, with layers of grains, protein, veggies, a crunchy topping and a yummy sauce. Learn more about Buddha Bowl recipes here. 

My cabinet is full of mis-matched bowls and plates of all sizes. Anytime I’m at a craft fair, I’ll scan for ceramic artists and buy a piece or two to add to my collection. I’ve also purchased from Etsy, and also have commissioned an artist from Canada to create our line of Steamy Kitchen Buddha Bowls (they are oven, microwave, dishwasher safe!)

Cutting Board

The partner to your Chef’s Knife is a solid cutting surface. My cutting board is a permanent fixture on my counter, which is why I love the rich, warm hue of walnut cutting boards.  I love organic materials for cutting boards….maple, bamboo, teak, are all favorites. Wood is kinder, gentler to the knife’s edge. 

The next important factor when choosing a good cutting board is size. Mine is 18″x22″ – the larger size means I can cut more than one thing at a time on the board.

One side might be mincing garlic, another chopping an onion, and I still have room for slicing carrots and tearing up a handful of kale. 

 

Scallops Frying Pan
 

Your Favorite Pan(s)

I have two favorite pans. Um…ok, maybe three. The most-used pan is always my trusty wok with lid. A wok is so versatile. I can stir-fry, boil, steam, braise, saute, sear, deep fry, etc. It’s my everything pan, because it’s so functional and adaptable.

If you’re looking for a low-fuss wok, my current favorite is a Fissler Wok. It’s lightweight (which is important to me), can take a little abuse in the dishwasher (which is important to my kids).

I also have a lightweight cast-iron wok that has been beautifully seasoned over the years. My kids are not allowed to touch….or even look at that prized wok! 😉 

Another favorite pan is my heavy-duty, hand-hammered, carbon-steel farmhouse skillet by Smithey. These hand-forged skillets are made in limited edition by renowned Charleston blacksmith Robert Thomas Iron Design. 

Lastly, I adore my cast-iron deep multi-cooker pan. This is like buying 2 for 1! The set includes a 10.25″ diameter deep pan that, like a wok, you can saute, simmer, braise, bake, roast and deep fry. The included lid is also a frying pan! Super versatile!

Scallops Frying Pan

Handmade Bowls

Our main style of eating in the Steamy Kitchen is Buddha Bowls. Buddha Bowls are one-bowl meals, with layers of grains, protein, veggies, a crunchy topping and a yummy sauce. Learn more about Buddha Bowl recipes here. 

My cabinet is full of mis-matched bowls and plates of all sizes. Anytime I’m at a craft fair, I’ll scan for ceramic artists and buy a piece or two to add to my collection. I’ve also purchased from Etsy, and also have commissioned an artist from Canada to create our line of Steamy Kitchen Buddha Bowls (they are oven, microwave, dishwasher safe!)

Cutting Board

The partner to your Chef’s Knife is a solid cutting surface. My cutting board is a permanent fixture on my counter, which is why I love the rich, warm hue of walnut cutting boards.  I love organic materials for cutting boards….maple, bamboo, teak, are all favorites. Wood is kinder, gentler to the knife’s edge. 

The next important factor when choosing a good cutting board is size. Mine is 18″x22″ – the larger size means I can cut more than one thing at a time on the board.

One side might be mincing garlic, another chopping an onion, and I still have room for slicing carrots and tearing up a handful of kale. 

 

Continue the sensual journey through food with mindful intentional eating!

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