Wednesday, September 28, 2005 

Mincing and Creaming Garlic

Mincing or creaming controls the bite of garlic

Why you need to learn it

As wonderful as garlic is, few of us like it in chunks. Mince it small, and it's perfect when added at the end of a saute.

If you want it raw, or if you're using it for a smooth-textured item, cream it. Creaming turns your minced garlic into a velvety paste that disappears into soups and melts into vinaigrettes.
The article goes into detail as far as techniques for both mincing and creaming garlic.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 

Dumpster Diving to see what the wealthy drink...

From the Boston Herald:

Trashed! A dive in the dumpster reveals how the better half drinks

The paper went through the recycle bins of Boston's affluent Beacon Hill community, to see what they found for empties in the bins. Some of the highlights:

  • Most expensive wine: Chestnut Street, Chateau Haute Brion 1975 ($107).
  • Cheapest wine: Chestnut Street, Yellow Tail Shiraz, $4.99 a bottle
  • Most impressive beer: Chestnut Street, Vertical Epic Ale (According to, only 300 cases were produced and sales were limited to Southern California at $5.40 per bottle).
  • Lamest coverup: Pickney Street, concealed six-pack of Miller Lite
  • Monday, September 26, 2005 

    Primer on common Mexican cheeses

    Here's a primer on common Mexican cheeses

    Gonna try to make some authentic mexican food? Confused about the types of cheeses that are mentioned in the recipes?

    This article gives you a primer on six cheeses used in Mexican food:

    • Queso blanco - Sometimes described as a cross between cottage cheese and mozzarella
    • Queso fresco - A very mild feta is an acceptable substitute
    • Panela - Similar in taste and texture to fresh mozzarella and absorbs other flavors easily
    • Oaxaca/Asadero - Similar in texture to mozzarella and provolone
    • Cotija - "Parmesan of Mexico"
    • Añejo enchilado - A firm cheese that's been rolled in paprika. A strong feta could be substituted.

    Friday, September 23, 2005 

    Everybody hates Merlot

    Everybody hates Merlot
    IF the wine world has a whipping boy these days, it's Merlot — even Hollywood got its licks in when Miles Raymond lashed it in "Sideways." It's been cast aside for the "it" wine of the moment, Pinot Noir; no one would be caught dead drinking, or even liking, Merlot.

    Now, it's true that there's a whole lot of bad Merlot in the world, much of it from California, but some of the greatest wines in the world are made with this noble grape — including Cheval Blanc, the prized possession Miles finally chugs from Styrofoam. maybe things aren't so bad for Merlot, as the article goes on to list out many places where the wine is being made extremely well. What's one of those places? Washington State.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005 

    Buying Garlic in Bulk?

    Been to Sam's Club, Costco or BJ's and seen those giant jars of peeled Garlic cloves? Are they any good? What do you do with that much garlic? In the New York Times "The Minimalist" has the following advice as far as choosing the right quality and how to use it:

    The Love for 50 Cloves of Garlic

    But find a good bottle of peeled garlic and you will start using it by the handful. For me it has changed garlic from a seasoning, an aromatic, to a root vegetable, easier to use than onions or potatoes. (And there are the health benefits of garlic, too.) I have become even more addicted than ever to the flavor. I'll chop a clove or two to throw into dishes where I previously wouldn't bother, just because I can. But it's using 20, 30, 50 whole cloves at a time that has really made a difference.

    If you assume that whole cloves of garlic are harsh tasting, reassess. Make the garlic braised in oil here, and count yourself as a garlic hater if it doesn't make you faint with pleasure. This is roasted garlic without the nuisance of peeling, grilling or squeezing out the beautiful, buttery mass inside. This is a spread, an ingredient in dips, the basis for dozens of sauces (like the pasta recipe here), a garnish. This is heaven.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005 

    Luxury on the half-shell?

    Luxury on the half-shell: Oyster aficionados indulge in briny treat

    Oysters have never been more popular. They've been discovered by a new generation of enthusiasts who equate these briny bivalves with the world's most coveted food and drink.

    "Oysters have developed a winelike reputation," said Garrett Harker, owner of Kenmore Square hot spot Eastern Standard. "People are interested in the appellation. They want to know where they're grown, how they're harvested and who raised them."
    There are general rules every consumer should follow to ensure they're getting fresh oysters.

    • When purchasing oysters, ask to see their tags. These tags ensure that the oysters came from certified waters and will include the date of harvest.
    • Keep the oysters cold and consume them within 10 days of harvest.
    • Do not store the oysters in water.
    • Keep the oysters as flat as possible, so that they keep their flavor-filled juice.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2005 

    Essential ingredients for Asian cooking

    Essential ingredients for Asian cooking

    Cooking Asian meals at home is no longer the challenge it was 10 years ago, when buying fish sauce at the supermarket was not an option. Today, grocery stores and ethnic markets offer an impressive selection of ingredients and seasonings from Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam. We asked Charlie Lai, manager of 99 Ranch Market, to assemble essential pantry ingredients to help you cook Asian food at home:
    (In the full article, each item has a description and the uses for it)

    1) Soy Sauce
    2) Fish Sauce
    3) Oyster Sauce
    4) Chili Sauce
    5) Black vinegar and rice-wine vinegar
    6) Sesame Oil
    7) Rice Wine
    8) Star anise and Chinese five-spice

    Monday, September 19, 2005 

    The beginning of a beautiful friendship

    The beginning of a beautiful friendship

    YOU can flirt with a silly pepper grinder or have a brief fling with an amusing but impractical cake pan, but a cook's relationship with a 12-inch skillet is no casual affair — it's a long-term commitment. This pan is your significant other in the kitchen: Day in, day out, it sears, sautés and deglazes for you. It stays with you step by step from browning to braising as you work on a multi-step recipe.

    If it's not a great match, you notice every time you cook how it's too heavy or a pain to clean. If it's an ideal partner, the honeymoon can go on for years. It can make or break a dinner party. And you can fry eggs in it too.

    Whether you're an active home cook or just starting out, the large skillet is the single most important piece of cookware you can purchase for your kitchen. We know. At The Times Test Kitchen, we test 700 to 800 recipes each year, and this is the pan we reach for most often. When preparing dishes for four to six people, it's a real stove top mainstay.

    Full reviews of several skillets are included in the article...

    Thursday, September 15, 2005 

    Chili Judge Spills the Beans

    Secret's out: Chili judge tells all!

    Charles Perry has judged a few chili contests in his day, and in a stunning reversal, he offers up his own special chili recipe complete with his "secret ingredient"


    Yup. Butter. Read his article, and then try out the recipe at the end. I'm planning on making a pot of chili for the Patriots/Panthers game this Sunday...but it won't be like this one. However, I might experiment with some of the techniques and ingredients mentioned in this article.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005 

    Cutting up a Bell Pepper? Roll it!

    Rolling with peppers for a clean, efficient cut

    A new (to me) technique for cutting up those Bell Peppers for either making strips (like for Fajitas) or dicing up.

    Steps to follow

    1. Cut off both ends of the pepper and set them aside. Remove just enough to see inside.

    2. Lay the pepper with one of the cut ends toward you. Rest your guide hand on top of the pepper and hold your knife with the blade parallel to the board. Angling your knife blade slightly downward, slice into the pepper just above where it rests on the cutting board .

    3. Making sure that the edge of the knife is riding along the top of the pepper wall, parallel to the board, begin cutting with a forward and back motion. As you cut, think of a tank tread and use your guide hand to roll out the pepper in the same direction as the knife. As the pepper flattens, keep the knife blade parallel to the board. The goal is to remove the core and ribs without removing any (or much) of the green flesh. When it is all rolled out, the core will come out in one piece, and you'll end up with one long rectangular piece of pepper

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005 

    Baked Ziti - Healthy?

    These photos didn't come out so great. (I really need to look into getting a real digital camera instead of using my phone)

    Here's the main ingredients from my Baked Ziti:

    Two jars of Barilla Al Forno baking sauce:

    One 16oz package of Bionaturae Organic Whole Wheat Rigatone:

    2 packages of Horizon Organic Part Skim Mozzarella:

    12oz of Al Fresco Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage:

    I also had some fresh flat leaf parsley, fresh garlic and about 2/3 cup of ricotta cheese.

    I diced up the sausage and browned it up in a pan.

    I cooked the pasta, added in the bottles of sauce and the sausage, squeezed in 5 cloves of garlic, about 1/4 cup of minced parsley and the ricotta cheese, and then put half the mixture into a baking pan. Then I spread mozzarella over the layer, and then added the rest of the pasta and spread it out. Then topped with more cheese.

    Then it was baked at 375 for about 1/2 hour. The result:

    It was very good, too!

    Monday, September 12, 2005 

    Baked Ziti Experiment

    I really love baked Ziti. It's easy to make and heaven to eat. Of course, when it's loaded with cheese and sausage, it's probably not the most healthy item you can eating in great quantities.

    For tonight, I'm going to experiment and make a "healthier" version. Of course, it's still not going to be like eating a salad, but we'll see if I can pull a "calorie commando" (From Food Network) and come up with something that's going to be a tad easier on my arteries and fat reserves.

    I'm going to use Organic Whole Wheat Pasta, Chicken Sausage, and part skim mozzarella and ricotta cheese.

    I'll post the results and perhaps some photos later tonight.

    Thursday, September 08, 2005 

    Identifying those Whole Grains

    Americans embrace world's 'other' grains

    Listing out and describing five grains that are getting consumed more and more in this country.

    1. Cracked wheat bulgur
    2. Millet
    3. Couscous (Just had this last night)
    4. Quinoa
    5. Wild rice

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005 

    Spaghetti Carbonara

    Do carbonara the Blumenthal way -— creamy, unctuous and perfect

    Have you ever tried this simple spaghetti dish? Once you try it, you'll be hooked.

    The sauce is made by mixing the eggs and parmesan with a little of the starch-thickened pasta water -— a good tip generally for pasta sauces. Another great cooking hint is to use 10g of salt to cook 100g of pasta in 1 litre of water (or a ratio of 1:10:100, adjusted according to the amount of pasta you use). The salt in the water does more than just add taste: the sodium bonds strengthen the pasta, improving its texture. By the way, do not use pre-grated parmesan -— it is awful.
    Get the recipe...

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005 

    Why don't California Olives get any respect?

    California (olive) dreamin'

    Blame it on America's ever-more sophisticated palate, said Dr. Judith M. Taylor, a retired physician who wrote "The Olive in California: History of an Immigrant Tree." "People began to travel abroad and taste ethnic flavors of all types," said Taylor, a San Francisco resident, referring to the postwar years when Americans took to the sky and the seas with gusto. "They tasted really well-cured Greek and French olives and they came back and had a California olive. It didn't taste the same anymore."

    As glossy as a Hollywood starlet and just as unctuously voluptuous, these olives are often accused of being bland, boring and lightweight. Even the San Francisco Chronicle, usually a booster for all foods Californian, began a 2004 story on the ever-wide range of olive varieties available with the memorable line: "Pity the canned Lindsay olive."


    How to slice an onion

    Techniques: How to slice an onion

    Before chopping, store whole onions in a cool, dry place with adequate ventilation. And don't forget tissues.

    1. Cut off the stem end and stand the onion on its head. Slice it in half through the root.

    2. Peel away the papery skin. Make several slices lengthwise, but not through the root, which holds the onion together.

    3. Grasp the onion firmly, holding the slices in place, and position your blade parallel to the cutting surface. Make three slices into the onion.

    4. With your fingers bent back and using your knuckles as a guide for the blade, slice the onion perpendicular to the cutting surface.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005 

    Who Wants to Be a Food Critic?

    It's lights, camera, action for aspiring restaurant critics

    Every week, "Check, Please!" will ask three Bay Area food lovers (is that redundant?) to go on air and chew over their opinions of their favorite restaurant -- whether it's an elite spot like Michael Mina in San Francisco's Union Square or a down-home roadhouse like Uncle Frank's House of Bar-B-Que in Mountain View.

    The show also will show whether the food-crazed of the Bay Area can be as spectacularly entertaining as their counterparts in Chicago, where the concept originated in 2001. About to enter its fifth season there, "Check, Please!" has a cult following and is hands-down the most popular local program in the history of WTTW, Chicago's public TV station.

    In the Bay Area, KQED executives think "Check, Please!", which premieres Nov. 3, will be a monster hit.