Cooking and Gadgets

My First Cookbook

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by Brenda Athanus
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My first cookbook at the ripe old age of 3 was the Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls, a first edition. We had a little people size table with four chairs, a miniature china dish set, silverplate flatware and a nice tablecloth with candlestick and a vase. In my mother's kitchen we both had a set of children's size Revere Ware pots and pans along with a set of small size baking pans. It must have been my Mother's Suzuki method of teaching us how to cook and dine.

I enjoyed cooking from this book because it was my first but I didn't like all the recipes that called for package mixes. So, after a deep conversation with my Mom about you can't call it cooking if you open up a package she agreed to get me The Joy of Cooking. Butterscotch brownies and miniature pies were my specialty...

It's Better Than Sex

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by Cathy Pollak

bisque1.jpgHey, I’m not the one who shouted it out…they did, but I did consider the concept once before.  You see, I have this group of tremendous and passionate foodie friends; they inhabit my supper club and like me, live their lives, loving and adoring food.  They are the ones who said it, proclaiming raucously this particular Lobster Bisque was better than sex.  Before I knew it, the terms orgasmic and seductive were thrown out there.  I unexpectedly felt exposed at the dinner table.  Had I really created something better than sex?  I guess that depends upon the state of your sex life but I will say this, this bisque is incredibly sexy.

It all started in the late 90’s when my husband and I would frequent “The Grill”, a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton-Laguna Niguel.  Our friend Jim was the head chef and we were in love with his version of Lobster Bisque.  We would sit at our table, almost giddy with excitement until our waiter delivered the empty, shallow bowls except for the two prawns placed strategically in the center.  He then artfully ladled in the velvety goodness until only the prawn’s tails were visible.  He quickly left us to privately slurp the exquisite bounty present before us.

We desperately wanted to replicate the amazing bisque in the confines of our own kitchen.  Every visit to the restaurant, every taste, brought us a little closer to bringing its luscious taste to fruition in our own home. 

 

Fried Fish

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by Lisa Locascio

fish.jpgDuring my first fall as a single person, I started eating fried fish for dinner a few nights a week. I cooked it with ingredients I bought at M2M, a Korean bodega across the street from my apartment building in the East Village. M2M sold three types of fish: salmon, sole, and basa. The salmon was bright orange and fat, the sole was thin and yellow with odd raised bumps like pores, and the basa was light pink and smooth-fleshed. I have a bourgeois distaste for salmon stemming from a childhood vacation to France where it had was served at nearly every meal, and I feared the wan, pebbly sole. So I always bought the basa, despite the fact that before moving across the street from M2M I had never heard of this fish.

Each package of basa contained two fillets; when I cooked dinner for myself, I used only one, leaving the other piece in its yellow Styrofoam tray and covering it with cellophane wrap to spend another night in the refrigerator. I rinsed the basa fillet under the water, sometimes squeezing the juice of half of a lemon onto the slippery flesh. Then I traced the seam that ran down the center of the fillet with my small ceramic knife and divided the fillet in two parts. There were no bones. I cut each of the twin pieces into smaller chunks, then broke an egg into a bowls and beat it. In another bowl I mixed together equal parts flour and cornmeal with half-teaspoons of black pepper and oregano and a pinch of salt. I dropped the pieces of fish into the beaten egg, rinsed them around with the fingers of my left hand, and then dropped them into the flour mixture. I tossed them in the flour with the fingers of my right hand.

Cooking with Charcoal vs. Gas

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by Craig Goldwyn

From the Huffington Post

charcoal-grill.jpgThe flame war between charcoal grill purists and gas grill hotheads burns brighter than the debate between Mac and PC users. You should read some of the slop slung on the barbecue message boards. On second thought, don't. Let me try to sort it out for you with a few inflammatory thoughts.

Grills are used mostly for three types of cooking:

1) High heat direct radiation cooking when the food is placed directly above the heat source for things like steaks.

2) Indirect heat convection roasting for things like whole chickens and roasts when the heat source is off to the side and the food cooks by warm air circulating around it.

3) Indirect heat smoke roasting for things like ribs when the warm air is heavy with flavorful hardwood smoke.

Let's see how each fuel performs at these tasks and all the other factors.

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No-Knead Bread

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by Ann Nichols

no-knead-1.jpgFirst, it’s important to distinguish No-Knead Bread from No-Need Bread. The former is a very laid back way to make bread if you have no food processor, stand mixer, bread machine or time. The latter is what you keep eating out of the little basket with a napkin in it, even though your pants are a little tight, just because it tastes really good, and look! There’s Ciabatta in there, too!

I have had this recipe forever, in many forms. It was sent to me via snail mail by an old friend, I found it again on line and bookmarked it, but I just kept losing it. Frankly, I don’t mind making bread that has to be kneaded either by hand or machine, but when this recipe appeared in my life a third time last week on someone else’s blog, I decided it was a cosmic sign.

It’s really, really good bread that emerges looking beautiful and crusty and artisanal, and tasting far more flavorful and nuanced than your average white loaf. It has real, shatter-y crust, and lots of texture. I really think you could pass it off as something from a bakery (which is fitting, since that’s where the recipe came from). Best of all, you really need nothing but a bowl, some plastic wrap, two towels and a big pot with a lid. (Well, and an oven). No hard labor, and easy clean-up.

Cooking with Diane: Part 2

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by Diane Sokolow

arturo.jpgI think I'm taking this cooking business a little more seriously than I thought I would.  You may not actually call it cooking.  It's more Sandra Lee than, say, Ina Garten.  But I think I am truly more Sandra Lee than Ina Garten.  In the days when my kids were actually kids, I got a meal on the table every night.  Sometimes I did a complicated dish, but mainly it was throw together.  And they loved it.  To this day, when asked, any of the three of them will point to my tuna casserole as the finest of meals.

Noodles, canned tuna, canned peas, parmesan cheese, buttered dish. Who couldn't turn that baby out.  In my present circumstance, cooking for one but cooking lots of it for "later", kind of rules out the fabled tuna casserole.  So I'm turning to some of the other family favorite standbys, that actually also involve cans.

Did you know, for example, that a truly delicious way to make sweet and sour meatballs involves simmering a can of  Sauce Arturo with a can of whole cranberry sauce and then dropping meatballs of your liking in, and cooking, is foolproof.  If only there were canned rice.

Culinotherapy

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by Ann Nichols

dumpling.jpgRecently my friend Alice, who is a very fine cook, e-mailed me the following:

“I am considering vegetarian pot-stickers for dinner. I’ve perfected the making of them — I have the innards tasting just right (not even like “oh, this is vegetarian) and I no longer swear like a sailor while trying to manage the wonton wrappers and the little cinching device from Williams Sonoma. I’ve learned to bring the wrappers to room temperature and oil the cinching device (and clean it and re-oil it as I go). Why am I telling you this? Because food is good and such a respite, from city and stress-inducing relatives and work and organizing one’s tax returns–and I know you get that.”

Alice has a husband, a child, a job, a house, and an academic appointment that involves commuting to and from Chicago every week during this time of year. Additionally, she and I are neighbors engaged in pitched battle against the city we live in, which is proposing large-scale development almost literally in our backyards. Although her husband was baffled about why she would choose to cook something so complicated when she had a day off from everything, I understood perfectly. Alice’s choice of culinotherapy is one I often make, and I am seldom sorry.

Toaster Oven Top Chef

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by Nora Kletter

mini_toaster_oven.jpgI am a Toaster Oven Top Chef. I’m by no means a professional like the wunderkinder you see on Bravo’s reality TV cooking showdown. I don’t have a fully stocked kitchen. I only own four knives. And although technically my kitchen has a real oven, it’s so marred with unidentifiable char no amount of Easy Off cleaning products could restore it to a serviceable condition. What I do have is the heart of a champion, and the spirit of a competitor.

My cooking challenges may not be as fancy as Bravo’s “Cook the Last Meal of a Master of the Culinary World” or “Imitate the Delicate Flavors of a Fish Dish from Le Bernardin” (though I did enjoy the episode when the Top Chefs had to cook a holiday meal using only a convection oven—been there) but they are very real. It’s the end of the week and your grocery supply is dwindling. All you have are 3 eggs, wonton wrappers, the stale end of a sourdough baguette, 1/3 cup shredded cheddar, frozen soy sausage, spices, olive oil, and a tomato. Okay. Go.

What a Crock

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by Laraine Newman

jetsons.jpgThere are so many conveniences the Jetsons had that I could really use today. Jane Jetson had this thing that came down from the ceiling, encased her head and presto! New hairdo! I hate doing my hair. My bathroom has all kinds of gizmos with one purpose; to make my hair look cute. You can’t imagine the work that goes into that.

Flat irons, blow driers, round brushes, the Denman Brush, which is a plastic brush that grips the hair, pulling it taut, while I beam my Elcim blow drier at it. I blast it with the highest heat you can find on the market. God forbid there’s a hint of moisture in the air. My hair goes back to Israel before you can say Jiminy Cricket.

The conundrum of my hair is only surpassed by the puzzle of what to serve at the end of the day. The Jetsons had what really amounted to a microwave oven and TV dinners. I wouldn’t serve that even if I could.  This free-floating dilemma had me open my eyes one morning with what I thought would be the solution: A Slow Cooker! Yes! 

Bedside Reading for the Culinarily Inclined

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by Amy Sherman

What do you consider a good beach read? Something entertaining? Light and fluffy? What about a bedside book? I like a vacation read that I can completely lose myself in, but next to my bed I need something I can pick up and put down endlessly. Right now I have a few of those books.

beabetterfoodie.jpg The first is How to Be a Better Foodie and it's subtitled "a bulging little book for the truly epicurious." Can I just say if there is anything more irritating than someone using the word foodie, it has to be someone using the brand name epicurious as if they made it up. It's a website, ok? Despite the annoying title, the book is a lot of fun. It's filled with little tidbits of information that you will either find essential or completely trivial but either way it is equal parts entertaining and informative. Do you know how mustard got its name? What to savor in Franche-Comte? What and who inspired the famous blue Le Creuset? What season to eat fresh lotus flower root? It's all in there and then some. It's not a book to read cover to cover but it it enjoyable nonetheless.

 

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