Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

8 Winter Soups to Warm Your Belly

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister

minestrone soup

A hearty bowl of hot soup is great on a cold, winter’s day. Here is a selection that will satisfy both the hearty and the finicky eaters in your family.

  1. Baked Potato Soup This recipe is fantastic! It is so thick you could use a fork to eat it!
  2. Split Pea Soup with turkey sausage is really hearty and healthy at the same time.
  3. Tomato Soup never tasted this good from the can. (A grilled cheese sandwich on the side is a must!)
  4. Mixed Bean and Vegetable Soup, made with lots of root vegetables, has just a hint of curry powder to give it a slightly exotic flavor.
  5. Pumpkin Soup: This no-fuss soup, made with canned pumpkin, is ready in a pinch if you don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen.
  6. Tuscan Bean Soup Fresh herbs are a must for this flavorful, aromatic, and easy to make soup.
  7. Chicken Noodle Soup If you’ve got leftover chicken, some pasta in the pantry and a variety of vegetables in the fridge, you’ve got the makings for a soup that’s hearty and is made in less than 30 minutes.
  8. French Onion Soup Crusty bread and melted cheese make this soup not only delicious but fun to eat as well!

For those of you lucky enough to be surrounded by sunshine and warm weather, this cold Gazpacho is perfect for dinner tonight.

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How to: Fish

posted in Main Dishes by Kathy Maister

A sashimi plate that includes (from left) salmon, swordfish and tuna – a range of fish texture and color.

Choosing what fish to cook for dinner is a lot harder than actually cooking the fish! Here is a quick guide that will help you sort out the different cuts and how to prepare them.

Fat Content of Fish

Fish can be subdivided into three groups based on their fat content. The higher the fat content , the richer the taste. (No surprises there!)

Lean fish typically have about 2 per cent fat content. Some examples are: cod, turbot, haddock, halibut, brook trout, red snapper, hake and tile fish.

  • Cooking Tip: poaching, steaming and pan-frying are good cooking methods for lean fish. This kind of fish tends to flake and fall apart when cooked, so it’s not a good candidate for barbecuing.

Medium-fat fish typically has around 6 per cent fat. Some examples are: swordfish, pompano, striped bass and bonito tuna.

  • Cooking Tip: pan-frying is a good cooking method for many varieties of fish with a moderate fat content. These varieties can also be baked, broiled or grilled.

The fat content of high fat fish is typically around 12 per cent. Some varieties are: salmon, butterfish, grouper, herring and yellowtail.

  • Cooking Tip: Grilling works well with higher fat fish, because it has rich flavor and holds together better than lower-fat varieties.

Whole, fillets or steak

When you’re at the fish counter, you’ll see that fish is available in several different forms:

  • Whole: These have the heads and tails on and are probably best left to more experienced cooks.
  • Fillets: These are usually boneless cuts that may or may not have the skin on. You can always ask to have the skin removed.
  • Steaks: Steaks (shown below) are typically thicker cross-sections from the back of the fish, which have bone attached.

These salmon steaks contain part of the backbone.

Ways to Cook Fish

Microwaving Fish

These salmon fillets will take about five minutes to cook in a microwave oven.

The microwave is a great place to cook fish when you’re in a hurry. Cooking time will depend on the strength of your microwave and on the thickness of the fish. For reference, microwaving 2-inch-thick salmon steaks takes about 5 minutes. It’s better to underestimate than overestimate cooking times. Remember that fish will continue cooking for a few minutes even after it’s come out of the microwave. This demonstration of Cold Salmon with Creamy Mustard Sauce shows that you can get a head start on dinner by zapping the salmon for five minutes in the morning, then refrigerating it to eat later in the day. Salmon is delicious eaten hot or cold.

Baking Fish

Here are baked cod fillets with salsa.

This is another simple cooking method that works for almost any kind of fish. The rule of thumb is to cook it four or five minutes per half-inch of thickness, or eight to 10 minutes per inch of thickness. In this demonstration of baked cod with breadcrumbs, the thick fillets take about 25 minutes to cook. The fish can be seasoned, marinated or cooked in a sauce, as startcooking.com demonstrates in this preparation of Baked Cod with Salsa.

Pan Frying Fish

Pan-fried Kona Kampachi

Pan frying works with all kinds of fish, but especially with milder fish. It’s fine to use fish fillets that have a strip of skin on the side. Depending on the kind of fish you’re using, you may want to dredge or coat the fish in flour, for a crispy finish. This will also give a bit more flavor and substance to lean varieties of fish.

But there’s no need to dredge meatier kinds of fish. Startcooking.com’s tutorial on Pan-Fried Fish with Lemon and Parsley shows this simple and quick method. Fans of fish sticks won’t go near the frozen kind after trying our recipe for homemade fish fingers (shown below) – these are so easy and so out of this world!

Fish fingers get a coating of flour and breadcrumbs before being pan-fried.

Broiling Fish

When you set the oven to broil, the heat comes directly from above, browning the top of the fish nicely. Put the fish skin-side down on a broiling pan, or on foil-lined baking sheet four to six inches from the broiler. It can take anywhere from two minutes to 10 minutes to cook, depending on the thickness. If the fish is very thick, it may need to be flipped halfway through.

Poaching Fish

This is a good method for lighter, more delicate kinds of fish. The fish gets GENTLY simmered in liquid in a pan on the stove for a few minutes. The key is not to let the liquid boil because this will cause the fish to come apart. Cooking For Engineers offers a very helpful tutorial on poached fish.

Fish in foil or parchment (en papillote)

Fish en papillote may sound like a fancy cooking method, but it’s actually one of the easiest ways to cook your whole meal all in one go! You simply place your fish, with some chopped vegetables, on foil or parchment paper, then fold the foil/paper over the ingredients and close up the edges so that it’s like a sealed packet. Cook at 400F for 15 to 20 minutes — the steam inside the packet cooks the food.

The meaty texture of swordfish does well on the grill.

Grilling Fish

Our post on Grilling Fish 101 covers the basics of cooking fish on an outdoor grill. In short, grilling works best on thicker, fattier fish like salmon, swordfish, mahi mahi and tuna. Although you can grill leaner, flakier fish, you’ll need to use a fish basket or grill it on foil.

If you are still having difficulty choosing fresh fish and seafood, just ask the person at the fish counter for some advice.

Happy fishing!!

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Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister

What a treat! Everyone knows it’s a celebration when you are served strawberries dipped in chocolate! Learning how to make them isn’t difficult but may take a bit of practice figuring out how to dip and not drop the strawberries in the melted chocolate!

Buy medium size berries – two bites is the prefect size. As beautiful as those giant ones are, they are too hard to eat!

Gently rinse the berries in cool water…


…and then spread them out on a clean dish towel to dry.


Let them dry completely before you start dipping. Not a drop of water should be left on the berries.

In addition to dipping the strawberries in chocolate, you can also dip the edges in coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles or nonpareils. (Those are those colored candy dots in the photo above.)

Eight ounces of chocolate will cover about 12-14 medium-large strawberries. You can use any type of chocolate you prefer – dark, milk, semi-sweet or white chocolate.

(Note: A block of white chocolate is a lot tastier than “white chocolate chips, which are only “chocolate flavored” and not the real thing!)

If you are using a chocolate bar or a block of chocolate, chop it into small pieces…


…and then put the chocolate in a small microwave safe dish. Melt it, in the microwave, for about 1 minute and 30 seconds on medium. (Don’t cover the dish!)

When melting chocolate chips, they will not really change shape that much until you give it a stir.


The goal is to slowly melt the chocolate, not bring it to a boil. If it still isn’t melted, continue melting in 15 second increments in the microwave. Stir the chocolate. It should be smooth and have no lumps.


Once the chocolate is melted, start dipping.

Try to cover about 2/3 of the strawberry with chocolate. It looks prettier than covering the entire strawberry.

Then gently dip the strawberry into one of your additional toppings.

When you do the dipping, be sure to hold back the green top so that it does not get covered in chocolate.

If you are having difficulty holding the strawberry, skewer it, just under the green bit, with a toothpick.

You are less likely to drop the strawberry if you hold it with a toothpick. (There are all sorts of chocolate dipping tools for sale as well.)

Put the dipped berries on some wax paper to set. They should be stored in the refrigerator, and eaten at room temperature, within 24 hours.


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