Cooking and Gadgets

My New Best Friend

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by Susan Russo

I have a new friend I'd like you to meet. I've never had a friend like her before – she's fast and easy. So I was skeptical when my parents, of all people, insisted I would like her.

I don't like her, I love her. Readers meet Miss Cuisinart.

She is now my new best friend. Pie crusts are a snap thanks to her. She's also really neat; I no longer have to suffer sticky fingers and counter tops; she keeps everything to herself.

In full disclosure, our relationship was a bit bumpy at first. I wasn't sure when her dough needed more water or was ready to come out, and she wasn't forthright with me. So last time my mom visited, she conducted an intervention between Miss C. and me. Mom gave me suggestions such as how much water to add and how much to pulse. She did not give Miss C. any suggestions though; I guess I was the source of all our problems.

An Olive Oil Revelation

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by Lisa Dinsmore

nudo_lemon_front.jpgI didn't really think much about food and what went into making a nice meal until I was somewhat forced to learn how to cook when I was laid off (again) about ten years ago. I needed something to do with my free time and felt like I should contribute something to the household, since I was no longer bringing in any dough, so to speak. While I had certainly thrown things together over the years, this was a new quest to eat better and see if time and effort really made a difference.

I know that seems ridiculous, but I honestly had no frame of reference. My mother always did all the cooking when I was growing up, preparing hearty meals from scratch for her family of six. Of course, this was in the days where the whole family sat down to dinner every night and you had to finish everything on your plate before you were excused and then were promptly put to work cleaning up the kitchen. It was her domain and we ate what was prepared. Now I got to choose what graced our table.

With a subscription to Cooking Light and The Betty Crocker Cookbook in hand I began to create and in time to actually innovate and uncover the joys of foods I never thought would ever enter my mouth. One of my biggest revelations in the intervening years has been the deliciousness of the olive. I am addicted to everything about this "fruit" and now instead of picking them out of things I put more on. I think I could actually subsist on crusty bread dipped in e.v.o.o. (at least for a weekend). If the oil is infused with something, even better. One of my favorite cooking "tricks" is to add a bit of infused olive oil, usually garlic or basil, to the dish to brighten it up and deepen the flavors. I'd always pick up a tin here and there to keep on hand, never very concerned with the producer. That's all changed now that I've found Nudo Olive Oils.

The Wife I Always Wanted

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by Don Seigel

Sometimes we post letters that one of us receives just because they're so hilarious and on-point. That's how we feel about Don Seigel's response to Tracy Newman when she invited him to hear her play at Genghis Cohen.

Tray,

ImageRegrettably, we won't be able to make the show on Saturday night. I forgot that I invited my father-in-law over that night for dinner and the Pacquio fight. We will, however, catch you the next time you are there, or somewhere else.

As far as my cooking, I have discovered the absolute delight of the slow cooker. We've had one for years, but I never used it until a few months ago. Since then I have picked up a wonderful cookbook with recipes designed specifically for the slow cooker from Williams-Sonoma.

Yesterday, after dropping Julian off at school in the morning I returned home to make a Cuban Chicken. I cut up a chicken into eight pieces and browned the pieces for ten minutes in three tablespoons of olive oil and salt before placing them into the cooker.

My First Cookbook

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by Chris Kobayashi

ImageIt was in the early to mid-80s and I was about 10-11 years old. When we went to the supermarket, I would always have my parents buy me the little Pillsbury cookbooks that were in the check-out line. I remember one specific of the cookbook series because I made every single recipe in it, including a chocolate pudding pie. I crushed up chocolate Nabisco wafers, made a crust, poured in instant pudding and topped it with some sort of doctored-up Cool-Whip.

Last year at Artisan, I was planning for a dessert menu change for the summer and I pictured that chocolate pudding pie. We serve modern American food – so we put a modern twist on old classics – and I knew I could make a modern version of that pie that would take people back to their childhood. The challenge was taking that pie, which at the time you were 10 was the best you’d ever had, and updating that memory for your adult palate. I kept the crushed wafers as the familiar taste, put them at the bottom of a half pint Mason jar, put the chocolate custard on top, added a croquant for texture, and finished it with a marshmallow fluff in lieu of the Cool-Whip. After toasting the fluff with a blowtorch I ended up with a dessert that was reminiscent of chocolate pudding pie and s’mores, flavors that bring back fond memories to all!

Cooking for One

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by Rachel Parker

ImageAlthough accustomed to a table full of eaters, eating alone at home is no problem for me. Cooking for one, however, is. My usual repertoire for solitary meals includes either heating up leftovers or making sunny-side up eggs and toast. The meals with leftovers vary, of course, but the eggs and toast is a bit of a never-boring treasure. Now there are people I know who cook fairly extensively for themselves, but I am not one of them.

My own mother was known to sit down to a fully set table and enjoy a first course of homemade soup followed by a meat, potato and vegetable main course, all topped off with a cup of brewed coffee and possibly a cookie or piece of cake, once again homemade. Not me. That much effort without the pleasure of watching someone else relish what I made, or at the least, having them eat it with no complaints is just not worth the trouble.

On one recent solo evening though, the meal I made both cracked me up and delighted me. On a lark, I spent a couple of hours baking Ina Garten’s Honey White Bread. (Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten, Honey White Bread, p. 57). As the contessa claimed, it was an easy recipe to follow, and the bread was delicious.

What to do with Chutney

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by Amy Sherman

chutneycheesepuff.jpg I'm a cheater, in the kitchen anyway. While I may not be a fan of mac and cheese from a box, I positively love using gourmet specialty products. What kinds of products? Jams, mustards, chutney, tapenade, Chinese sauces, so many things! Two of my favorite secret weapons are in the freezer--phyllo dough and puff pastry.

You could easily write a book on all the things you can make out of phyllo dough and puff pastry. I suggest the title "How to Succeed in Baking Without Really Trying". Once you learn how to handle them, the possibilities are endless. They even turn something mundane into something special. For example you could make a stew into an elegant pot pie. You could turn a fruit compote into pastries. You could make fancy little appetizers to serve hot from the oven. How fancy? I suggest little napoleons or tartlets. It's really easy.

A few weeks ago I had a lot of goat cheese languishing in the fridge. I had promised my friend Alison I would develop some recipes for her fabulous chutney and it dawned on me that using puff pastry I could make a delicious pastry with nothing more than goat cheese, puff pastry and chutney. 

Spicy Chicken Thighs with Apricots and Olives

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by Cathy Pollak

chickenolives.jpgI'm going to have twist your arm and insist you make this...it's so unbelievably full of flavor, it left me speechless.  That's pretty hard to do.  This also does not have to be spicy.  For the record, mine was not.  I only used 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  The suggested amount is one teaspoon for spicy, but I knew that would leave the kids out, so I went easy. 

The trick to this dish is a 24 hour marinade.  It infuses the chicken, making it unbelievably flavorful, tender and juicy.  It's nothing less than incredible.  Honestly, when I tasted it, I wanted to use it as salad dressing. 

This is a great weeknight dish but it is by far company worthy.  It's sweet and spicy (if you choose it to be) and looks so beautiful.  Makes sure to serve it over rice or couscous so you can drizzle the sauce from the pan and catch all the wonderful flavors.

 

Yes, It is a Pesto

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by Susan Russo

pastapesto.jpg There once was a time when basil reigned supreme. A time when basil was ubiquitous in Italian dishes. A time when pesto always meant basil.

Not anymore.

Pesto is a Ligurian sauce made from mashed basil, garlic, parmesan, olive oil, and pine nuts. Though it has been enjoyed by Italians for centuries, it's a newborn to American cuisine. Sunset magazine was instrumental in introducing this sauce to Americans, when in 1946, it published a pesto recipe by Tuscan native, Angelo Pellegrini. It wasn't until the 1980's and early '90s that pesto became widely popular with chefs and home cooks, who could easily buy fresh basil at the market.

Maybe it was boredom with basil. Maybe it was creative genius by some chefs. Whatever it was, by the mid to late '90s new "pestos" made with herbs such as mint, parsley, and sage were popping up in restaurants and in cooking magazines. Now "pesto" would have to be qualified: mint pesto or sage pesto. Some people were thrilled. Others confused. Some indignant. Pesto purists (you know who you are) will argue that "pesto," refers to the Ligurian sauce made with basil. For them, all other "pestos" are imposters.

Take a Breath

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by Michael Tucker

ImageI’ve been working in the kitchen like a galley slave for the last few weeks – since before the holidays, actually, and it’s time for a parole.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking – every aspect of it: I love schlepping the four heavy grocery bags (“Don’t forget – we need six bottles of San Pellegrino”) through the slush-filled rivers at each corner on Broadway; I love the insistent bump of the grocery cart into my Achilles tendon during the holiday rush at Fairway; I love the cutting, the chopping, the blanching, the browning. Oh God, do I have to make another battuto? I have battuto nightmares with hostile little cubes of celery coming at me brandishing Wüsthofs. I’ve got to get out of the kitchen.

Do you know battuto, by the way? It’s the Italian version of a mirapoix – onion, celery and carrot are the basics; sometimes you add parsley and sometimes even a bit of pancetta – and you cut them into small dice. A battuto is the beginning to many a good meal, the first step in recipes from pasta sauces to osso buco. A good rule to remember is that it’s always twice the volume of onion to each other veg. i.e. a half cup onions; a quarter cup carrots; a quarter cup celery; quarter cup parsley. You can’t go wrong. Put it all in a hot pan with butter and oil (or lard) and you’re off to the races.

Mighty Mighty Breadcrumbs

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by Russ Parsons

From the LA Times

breadcrumb.jpgI've just discovered the magic of fresh bread crumbs. You might say it's about time, after 30 years of cooking. But I would remind you that I said the "magic" of fresh bread crumbs, not the "utility."

Everyone knows about using bread crumbs for coating a schnitzel or any other fried, baked or broiled thing. Or stuffing a bird or whole fish. Or scattering across the top of a gratin or tian before browning. I've even used them as toppings for fruit desserts, like a less-sweet version of a crisp.

But what I'd never really realized was the true potential of bread crumbs, how instead of being bland character actors toiling in the background, they can actually become the stars of a dish, or at least a very impressive second lead.

Top steamed or braised vegetables with some carefully toasted bread crumbs and the dish is transformed by the infusion of crunch and that golden brown flavor.

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Miss Macaron
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by Alexis Siemons

bisous1.jpgI've never been the type to have a candy drawer or crave chocolate. Growing up, I would rather have a savory snack than give myself a sugar rush. There was one sweet spoonful that sent me...

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What's Cooking in New Orleans
Southern States
by David Latt

img 2790Mention New Orleans and anyone who's been says, "The food's so great. And the music. If you go, you'll love it."

With so few days in town, I asked for suggestions on Facebook and Twitter, read...

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Hunan by the Falls
Ohio
by Nancy Ellison

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While a little disappointed on a recent trip to this town by the pizza-by-the-slice on Mayfield Road (“Our Little Italy is better than your Little Italy”), we...

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Higgins Restaurant & Bar
Oregon
by Sue Doeden

pretendsoup.jpgOne of the highlights of my experiences in Portland, Oregon was the dinner I had at the 2010 James Beard award-winning Higgins Restaurant and Bar. The dinner was hosted by the the California...

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