Cooking and Gadgets

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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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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pansNon-stick pans, kitchen tools and storage containers. Your kitchen is filled with them, some good and some not so good. Sometimes your kitchen deserves an upgrade. Here are a few of my recent discoveries:

I've reviewed a lot of pots and pans over the years. I love the convenience for non-stick pans, but no matter what the brand or cost, eventually they flake. I like the ceramic non-stick, but they are a bit delicate and can chip if you're not careful, well, not the Earth Pan II from Meyer corporation. The non-stick surface is made from sand, and has no PTFE or PFOA and it can be used with high heat! It's stovetop safe up to 600 degrees. I've been using a 12-inch pan for several weeks and it is easy to clean, and shows no signs that it will chip and there is no coating to flake off. Of course, the true test is how it performs in the long term, but so far so good.

measuringcupsMy old measuring cups were so ugly! They were stained and I hated looking at them, never mind using them. When someone from Trudeau offered to send me something of my choice from their line of kitchenware, I knew it would be their 5-piece measuring cup set. Each piece is a different color and the shape is particularly easy to use. I also got their can opener since my old one had melted from being to close to the stove one day. If you don't have a can opener that lifts the top rather leaving sharp edges this is a great upgrade. I already have and love the Trudeau pot clip spoon rest and one piece silicone spatula (no wooden handle to burn or stain).

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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.

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perfectomeletteI was never a fan of the omelette until I tried the one at Petit Trois, Chef Ludo Levebvre’s LA-based French bistro. It is quite rich and intense - thanks to a very generous helping of Black Pepper Boursin cheese - yet light and creamy, just melting in your mouth. What other cooks call an omelette is just a dry, tasteless, overcooked travesty compared to this version. It is a simple plate of food perfectly crafted each and every time. Chef Ludo has exacting standards in the kitchen and he expects his cooks to make it the same, classic way plate after plate.

We aren’t overly talented in our kitchen, so we figured this dish would be relegated to our sporadic visits to the restaurant. Lucky for all of us, in his new video series, Ludo à la Maison, he shares the recipe and shows you how it’s done. Now you don’t have to live in LA to enjoy the Perfect French Omelette. The Boursin is a must - though thankfully widely available and inexpensive - and most kitchens should readily have the other ingredients on hand - butter, eggs, salt, pepper and chives. Only six ingredients. Totally easy, right?

After watching the video a few times - he talks you through it, but it’s still sort of freeform - we gave it a try and did, for two amateur cooks, a pretty good job. Yes, it took two of us. There were some tense moments in the middle when it looked like it was too wet and was going to color before it set, but we managed to keep it from browning (a super big no-no) and properly wrapped it. While not perfectly pretty, it disappeared from our plate as quickly as the true version does. Success!

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