Cooking and Gadgets

beefribs.jpgFor me, shopping isn't fun if I don't get a bargain. My grandmother taught me well, "Never pay retail. If you want to be a good shopper, you have to pay less than other people and still get as good." In our neighborhood, Gelson's is the quality supermarket, carrying a full line of antibiotic-free, naturally raised meats. Which is great, except that they're pricey. The trick is to buy the meat when its been reduced, when a rib steak that was originally priced at $18.99/lb, is discounted to $7.99/lb. Any meat that's been reduced is still fresh, but it needs to be cooked that day or frozen.

Yesterday I stopped by and it was like my birthday. There must have been a dozen packages of prime cuts of meat, all reduced. I couldn't possibly eat all that meat in one day. But no way was I going to walk away from those bargains.

I bought half a dozen packages and prepped them for freezing. Years ago, after much experimentation, I learned a cool trick: if meat is marinated in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, wrapped in plastic wrap, and sealed in a Ziploc freezer bag, it will stay fresh for months without any loss of flavor.

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popovers.jpgThinking about Inauguration Day food festivities all of a sudden I realized that this can’t be a beer and popcorn afternoon grazing session, or late night ice cream buffet.  No, Inauguration Day is a morning celebration.  We need to begin Tuesday morning with a bang, with a dish worthy of taking a day off to immerse ourselves in simple happiness.  The popover popped into my mind (yes, I did actually think that).   When was the last time you had a popover? 

I don’t know any friends who make them regularly.  I admit to occasionally running into Neiman Marcus just to have a bite of eggy, chewy buttery goodness with a bit of butter beaten with jam.  It’s that bit of jam that puts the popover into high gear.  Now’s the time to take that jar of special friend made or artisanal farmers market jam or preserves and crack it open.  Lay out an assortment of jams, jellies and preserves, maybe some lemon wedges, powdered sugar and if you want to be decadent some fresh ricotta whipped with a bit of sugar till super smooth in the food processor.  Dust some cinnamon on top.  Yum, no….YUM.

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bananachiptlebreadWhere do you get recipe ideas? Cooking shows? Food magazines? The Wednesday food section of your newspaper? Blogs? (Um, I hope you nodded "yes" to that last one.) How about Twitter and Facebook?

Last time I had some overripe bananas to use up I could have made my favorite banana, coconut, and Medjool quick bread, but I wanted something savory. Nothing was coming to mind, so I did what any connected food blogger would do: I asked my tweeps.

I tweeted, "Does anybody have any good savory recipes for ripe bananas?" Within minutes I had several responses, but it was Jill of @eatitdrinkit's response that intrigued me. She suggested I make chipotle banana bread. Chipotle chilis in banana bread? Really? Yes, really.

When I asked her for the recipe, she said she didn't have one. The flavor combo just came to her, and before she realized it, she was making a batch of Banana-Chipotle Bread. When she posted it on her blog, she triumphantly exclaimed, "It worked!"

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atelier-des-chefsI was recently invited to join a Master Class in bread making at the L’Atelier des Chefs school in London. It is really a wonderful concept – a wide variety of classes are guided by expert chefs who have top restaurant experience and a great desire for teaching and sharing their knowledge. They have two locations in London - Oxford Circus and St Paul’s - and more in France and Belgium. Offering diverse cuisines and skill levels six days a week, it’s easy to find one that’s right for you. Prices range from just £15 (for their signature Cook, Eat & Run class which promises to teach you to cook a delicious main course in just 30 minutes) to £144 for their four hour Master Class.

My class was held on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the St Paul’s location, and I was joined by six other eager-to-learn students. It was an eclectic bunch, all ages with mostly beginner to intermediate cooking skills. There was a mother and her teenage son, who seemed less than thrilled to be there; a handsome bearded fellow from the northeastern part of France; two baby boomer types, one woman eager, the other somewhat timid; and a hip twenty-something guy, there on his third visit who shared rave reviews about his previous experiences. We were greeted warmly by the receptionist who presented us with new aprons (to keep as a souvenir) and led us to our classroom. The courses are conducted in a bright state-of-the-art kitchen with a large stainless steel work station which we gathered around to meet our instructor, Chef Daniel Stevens. Initially I had visions of Hell's Kitchen with some fire breathing Gordon Ramsey type instructor who would bark orders and humiliate us for any culinary mistakes

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poachedegg1.jpgSo folks are embracing “Meatless Mondays” – from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (maybe he’s also embracing meatless policies) to celebrity chef Mario Battali (who might consider some meal-less mondays – I know, I know, who am I to talk), but what about “Meatless Mostdays?” That’s what’s getting embraced around my house,

Chalk it up to my trying to “live off our land” or to me being too tired to go to the market, we’ve been eating eggs, not meat, for dinner. To make the eggs-seem-special-for-dinner, I have been serving them poached. Poached eggs are fancier than fried eggs – the delicate cooking results in tender whites and creamy, pudding-like yolks. I’ve served poached eggs with salad, croutons and bacon, poached eggs on root vegetable hash, poached eggs and Serrano jamon on toast with grilled green onion, arugula and Romesco sauce, poached eggs on whole wheat pasta with whole wheat bread crumbs and Swiss chard. (Yes, I know – there is bacon and Spanish ham in these dishes--so maybe Mostly Meatless Mostdays? – Is that better?)

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