If you love Italy, chances are you love food.  And if you love food, chances are you love to cook.

Here are two things that will help you up your game.

Chiffonade your basil

Mmm...basil.  That flowery, minty, divine gift from Mamma Natura that gives your tomato sauce a bright burst of flavor and makes your steaming bowl of pho just right.

If you use it a lot, you’ll notice that recipes often call for it to be cut into a chiffonade.  Maybe you're a Martha fan and how to do it is yesterday's news.  If not, read on.

Chiffonade is the technique of cutting delicate herbs, like basil, into pretty little ribbons.  It’s a great way to add a little sunshine to summer dishes and salads.

How to do it:

  1. Stack your basil leaves on top of each other, with largest on bottom and smallest on top.

  2. Roll the basil like a cigar.

  3. With a sharp knife, cut the cigar into thin slices, which in turns creates your ribbons.

Mise en place - a gift from kitchen gods

Does a Real Simple organization issue illicit squeals of glee when you open your mailbox?  My friend, I have just the thing for you.  Mise en place (or literally, “put in place”) is, in my opinion, the only way to cook.  This means that before you actually start cooking or assembling your dish, you prepare everything in advance (chopping onions, slicing tomatoes, measuring out spices, etc.), and place the ingredients in small glass dishes within close reach of your cooking station.

I know people that have it tattooed on them. It really is a way of life ... it’s a way of concentrating your mind to only focus on the aspects that you need to be working on at that moment, to kind of rid yourself of distractions.
— Melissa Gray, Culinary Institute of America, as told to NPR
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Yes, this is technically French, but so what.  It works for any type of cooking.

You’ve probably seen this several times on cooking shows and demonstrations. It’s especially helpful for recipes where the actual cooking goes really quickly.  Stopping to chop something or find that bottle of truffle oil that got shoved to the back of the cabinet could mean the difference between success and going down in flames (literally).  

The other part of mise en place is cleaning as you go.  By the time your ingredients are all en place, your station should be clean and clear of clutter.  All you should have in your workspace is your prepped ingredients and your cooking utensils.  This ensures that your kitchen doesn’t look like a bomb went off when you’re done cooking, and gives you more space to work.  Before we finally renovated the kitchen in our 106-year-old house, I had to make do with nothing more than a small freestanding island and about 24 inches of counter space.  Enter mis en place and not waiting for the perfect kitchen before cracking open Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Child).

As for a tattoo...I’m seriously considering it.

Show us your mad skills!  Follow @breakingitalian on Instagram and upload your latest creation using the hashtag #misenplaceYO.  Be sure to tell us what you’re cookin', good lookin'!

If you love to cook, you'll probably like our next article, a recipe for making a delish cold dish you'll find everywhere in Tuscany during the summer.  Sign up for our mailing list to be notified when it goes out.