Cooking and Gadgets

icedcoffee.jpg The best way to enjoy summer is to set goals for yourself.  The best summer I ever had was when my friend Becky and I set a goal to eat at every single restaurant on the 25 best cheap eats from Los Angeles magazine.  We failed to accomplish the goal, but is failure really such a bad thing when you’re eating well on the way there? 

This summer, I’ve come up with my first goal: learn how to successfully brew iced coffee, in other words, cold brew it. The first time I ever even heard about the concept was last year.  A new coffee shop opened in the NYU hood called Think Coffee.  I looked at the barista after my first sip and told him, “This is really amazing.”  He looked me dead in the eye and said “That’s because we cold brew it for 24 hours.  The way iced coffee should be made.”  I’m not going to lie, I kind of have a thing for pretentious baristas.  And I developed a major thing for Think iced coffee.  But then Think got popular, and popularity to me means only one thing: crowded. 

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superfoodI love breakfast, but I also find it the easiest meal to skip. I get bored with traditional breakfast foods like eggs and cereal and pancakes day after day. Sometimes I eat leftovers from the previous night's dinner for breakfast but more frequently I just skip it entirely. I know skipping breakfast is not a good idea and so I'm always looking for tasty breakfast solutions, especially ones that take little time to prepare.

My latest weekday breakfast is what I am calling superfood cereal. It's based on a Canadian cereal I tried at the Winter Fancy Food Show called "Holy Crap." It's made from chia, hemp, buckwheat and some dried fruit and it soaks in milk for 15 minutes before you eat it. It tastes a lot like tapioca pudding with a bit of crunch from the buckwheat, though not quite as sweet as pudding. What's most amazing about it is how little it takes to satisfy. Just a few tablespoons of cereal and a quarter cup of milk and I swear for hours I am not even the slightest bit hungry.

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briepasta.jpgI love the story of stone soup. I love it for all the wrong reasons. You know the story, right? The moral is that by sharing what one has, everyone eats well. But for me, I am like the greedy villagers, still amazed that soup can be made with a stone.

While not quite stone soup, you might think of this as "stone pasta". A dish of plain pasta it is made better with a bit of bacon, onion and a knob of brie. The resulting dish is kind of like Spaghetti Carbonara only faster and easier, and possibly even tastier. And I love Spaghetti Carbonara!

Brie has long been considered by many to be the most popular of all French cheeses. It comes from a province once called, "Brie" now called Seine-et-Marne which is not that far from Paris (and now more famous for being the site of a Disney Resort). Real brie is made from unpasteurized cow's milk but the version available in the US is made from pasteurized milk so the resulting cheese is milder and less ripe than true brie.

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Sometimes the best gifts are ones that are home-made. I was especially charmed by this cookbook Paul Mones made for his son. Now, if he'd only teach my kids to cook! -- Amy Ephron

ALL THE BASICS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BE ON THE ROAD TO BE A GREAT COOK

spicesrackBASIC SPICES AND COOKING ITEMS YOU SHOULD HAVE

KOSHER SALT OR SEA SALT
BLACK PEPPER

GARLIC POWDER (NOT GARLIC SALT)
ONION POWDER
RED CHILI FLAKES
CHILI POWDER
CUMIN POWDER
CORIANDER POWDER
CINAMMON
SOY SAUCE
BALSAMIC VINEGAR
CANOLA OIL
BOX OF CORNSTARCH
MAPLE SYRUP (THE REAL STUFF NOT CORN SYRUP SHIT) OR HONEY
KETCHUP
TOMATO PASTE
HOT SAUCE OF YOUR CHOICE
POLENTA (INSTANT KIND)
BROWN OR WHITE RICE OR QUINOA
1 BAG OF FLOUR

*BOX OF ARM & HAMMER BAKING SODA THAT YOU OPEN UP AND PUT IN BACK CORNER OF REFRIGERATOR ON FIRST SHELF – GREAT FOR ABSORBING ODORS - CHANGE EVERY MONTH IF POSSIBLE – ONLY COSTS LESS THAN A BUCK AND WHEN FIINSHED PUT DOWN GARBAGE DISPOSAL – CLEANS IT WELL – ALSO PUT USED LEMONS DOWN DISPOSAL AS WELL.

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deerisleI spent last weekend at a workshop on Charcuterie: the craft of salting, curing and smoking pork under a hunter’s full moon with authors, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn in the precious, coastal Maine town of Dear Isle. My first time off in 7 months and they had one more opening. How lucky am I?

All 30 fellow students gathered for the workshop at 3 o’clock Friday afternoon under a sunny sky with a warm ocean breeze. Everyone milled around the beautifully restored post and beam barn meeting each other and patting the vocal goats in one of the stalls that begged for attention. Jumbo bales of hay dotted the corners of the barn as kittens slept in the afternoon sun, unconcerned that the barn was slowly filling with a crowd.

There was a long communal table set with plates, flatware and empty platters for later. A large commercial stove was set up outside the large barn door on the dirt driveway connected to a small propane tank that was jerry-rigged, all sitting next to the jumbo winter wood pile. Next to the makeshift butchering table laid out with Chef Polcyn’s knives was a large livestock watering trough filled with ice blocks covering Lucy, a very lovingly raised and killed pig-she was the other ‘rock star’ of the workshop.

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