Posts Tagged ‘kitchen tips Tuesday’

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Storing Raw Meat

October 17, 2017

 

Whenever I purchase raw proteins; chicken, fish or meat, I put them in a plastic bag in the store, before slipping them into my own canvas tote. While that may seem to defeat the purpose of bringing your own reusable bag, it keeps any juices and harmful bacteria from leaking and contaminating my bag, and in turn, my other foods. Those bags can harbor lots of nasty germs that can make you sick. It is important to wash your bags regularly to avoid cross-contaminating other foods, especially those fruits and vegetables that don’t get cooked.

Once you get home, be sure to place those foods on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator so any leaks will be contained, and the chance of drips onto other items is limited. This holds true for defrosting animal proteins as well. It is safest to defrost them slowly in the refrigerator, and placing those high-risk items on a plate on the bottom shelf will protect your other foods and food surfaces from contamination.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Mirepoix

October 10, 2017

 

It’s no secret that I am a big Trader Joe’s fan. I brave the crowds frequently to stock up on items that are unbeatable for both price and quality.

One of my latest discoveries is not new to the brand, but it is new to me and it is life-changing. One word. Mirepoix. 

Mirepoix (meer – pwah) is a staple in the French culinary world, consisting of diced onion, carrot and celery, which provides the base for soups, stews, and sauces. It takes a bit of an effort to make, due to the washing, peeling, and dicing of the vegetables.

Trader Joe’s offers it in a 14 oz tub, layered with the perfect proportion of one-half onion, three carrots, and 3 celery stalks, all cut and ready to use. In the time it took to unpack my groceries, I had sauteed the Mirepoix and was ready to add the other ingredients for a quick pureed soup. And did I mention it’s only $2.99?

Quick Pureed Soup:
Slowly saute the mirepoix in butter or olive oil, until the vegetables start to soften, and the onion becomes translucent. True mirepoix is not meant to brown or caramelize.

Add the vegetable of choice, (zucchini, cauliflower, and broccoli are all good options) and any herbs you might like. Add enough chicken or vegetable stock* to fully submerge the vegetables and simmer covered until they are soft. Puree the mixture until smooth, put it back in the pot, correct seasonings and enjoy!

* If you don’t have stock on hand, Better Than Bouillion is another easy fix. It comes in a jar and is spoonable, rather than dehydrated into a salty cube. It is organic, not full of fake ingredients, and a big dollop added to the pot of water makes a tasty soup. It is high in sodium, so be sure to taste before adding additional salt.

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Rinsing Rice and Grains

August 8, 2017

When cooking rice and grains, most people just put them in a pot with the requisite liquid and follow the directions for cook time. There is a crucial step that is often over looked, and that is rinsing.

Rinsing grains dates back to a time and place when they weren’t processed and boxed like they are today. While most grains purchased in the USA aren’t considered toxic, they could benefit from a good rinse.

Rice: Giving rice a rinse takes off some of the surface starch, resulting in a less sticky end product. Many also notice debris in the rinse water, especially when the rice came from the bulk bins rather than a box. Imported rices, such as basmati and jasmine may have talc, or powdered glucose on them to make them appear cleaner looking. Looking cleaner, and being cleaner are two very different things, and it is advisable to rinse the talc off before cooking.

Other grains, such as quinoa, farro and barley benefit from a rinse, not only to remove debris, but to remove any saponins that may still linger. While domestically packaged quinoa has been treated to remove the dangerous coating, residual saponins are the source of the unpleasant and bitter flavor that sometimes occurs in cooking quinoa.

Rinse the grains either by running them under water in a fine mesh sieve, or by submerging them in cool water, straining them, and resubmerging them in fresh water until no more debris floats to the surface.

Soaking grains (and legumes) cuts down on the phytic acid, a compound which can make these foods harder to digest. Soaking also jumpstarts the process, cuts down on cooking time and tends to yield a better texture.

Taking the time to rinse grains is akin to taking the time to rinse vegetables. Well worth the extra few minutes for a safer, and better outcome.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder

August 1, 2017

They are both white powders whose roles are to help your baked goods rise. They are often in similar packaging, and although they look the same, and have similar end uses, they are very different. I’m talking about baking powder, and baking soda.

Trust me, I have tossed multiple batches of scones because I grabbed the wrong container. While they looked ok, albiet a little more bronzed than usual, the taste of two tablespoons of baking soda is not the same as the required two tablespoons of baking powder.

Baking soda, is a base mineral, which when combined with acids produces carbon dioxide, and in turn, bubbles. Remember those grade school volcanos, where you mixed baking soda and vinegar to create an eruption?
In baking, it is usually something a bit less overtly acidic, like brown sugar, yogurt, buttermilk, lemon, or even pumpkin, that creates the more subtle reaction. The acid also interacts with the gasses to counteract that bitter, almost metallic taste that my scones had. Things baked with soda are usually crisper and more browned that those made with powder.

Baking powder, on the other hand, consists of baking soda, cream of tarter ( or another dry acid), and cornstarch. Most commercial baking powders are double acting. This means that the leavening is activated the first time it comes in contact with liquid, and the second action is heat activated. This allows it to be used without other acidic ingredients, without the nasty aftertaste.

Recipes sometimes call for a mixture of both products. This is usually the case where you don’t want to neutralize all the acidic flavor, such as when making buttermilk pancakes, but don’t want the bitter soapy flavor that comes with it. The delicate balance between the two, create the rise, keep the tang, and reduce the bitterness.

Remember that both of these products have a shelf life. Be sure to check dates to insure that the leavener of choice still has the power to lift your baked goods. To tell if baking powder is still fresh, you can place a 1/2 teaspoon in a bowl and add 1/4 cup boiling water. If it bubbles up, it is still good.  To check the freshness of baking soda, place a spoonful into a bowl, and add a little lemon juice, or vinegar. It should produce bubbles if it is active.

Also note,that batters relying on baking soda should be baked as soon as possible, where baking powder based batters and doughs can usually wait to be baked, as some of the “poof power” is heat activated.

Confused? We hope not, but just in case, the most important take aways here, are that these items are not interchangeable, and must be fresh to do their jobs. Oh, and if you are like me, to always look twice to make sure that you have the right cylander in your hand before you scoop!

 

 

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Getting Under Our Skin

July 25, 2017

 

I am mesmerized by all of those short little cooking videos. The ones where the entire recipe gets prepared and cooked in about 30 seconds. Today, as I was watching one from Food + Wine, showing New York restaurant Made Nice‘s chef prepping their chickens for roasting I had an epiphany.

It is fairly common for recipes to suggest rubbing some butter or tucking herbs under the skin of poultry before roasting to let the flavors really soak in, crisp the skin, and keep the meat moist. The problem is, it isn’t so easy to really get under there and get the mixture well dispersed. When I saw this chef using a pastry bag filled with herb infused butter to get under the skin, I had a major “aha!” moment.

The technique involved filling a pastry bag fitted with a large tip with very soft herb butter. The chef inserted the tip under the skin at the farthest point, releasing the contents as he slowly pulled the bag out, and then quickly massaged the area to disperse the herb butter evenly under the skin. It also allowed him to get into the harder to reach spots, such as the legs and wings.

This genius trick could totally change my poultry roasting game!  I can’t wait to try it with my roasted garlic and mustard herb butter.

Thanks Made Nice! 

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Blind Baking

May 30, 2017

Sometimes, we want to bake our pie or tart crusts before filling them. This can be done when you want to use a no-bake filling, one that is cooked on the stovetop, or to partially bake the crust if the filling is one which bakes faster than the crust. This process is referred to as “blind baking.”

To blind bake a crust, line it with aluminum foil or parchment paper, being sure to get the paper into the edges. Fill the lined crust with pie weights*, and bake covered for about 12-20 minutes, depending on the recipe and the oven temperature.

Once the crust has started to harden a bit and become less pliable, it is safe to carefully remove the lining and weights, and place the tart back into the oven to brown.

The concept of baking the crust this way is to emulate the weight and density of the absent filling, thus helping it hold it’s shape and prevent extreme shrinkage.

I generally trim the tart crust before blind baking, but last night, I was watching the contestants on the Great British Baking Show make cream filled tarts. Most of them left the dough untrimmed and hanging over the edges of the pan, and then trimmed it after it was baked. This accounted for shrinkage, and ensured that the crust came up to the top of the pan evenly each time. While some of theirs had a bit of a raggedy edge after baking, I found that trimming it after the first bake is a nice compromise, as the dough is softer and easier to trim without cracking and crumbling. This could work for a tart that is baked with the filling as well, just pulling it out part way in for the trim, and then placing it back in the oven to finish baking.

Be extra gentle when taking a blind baked tart from the ring…it tends to be more delicate than it’s filling baked counterparts.

*I use dried beans as weights, but rice or other grains that won’t burn or pop are also fine. You can purchase commercially made pie weights for this purpose at kitchen stores as well. I keep my beans and reuse them for this purpose only.

photos: Spencer Jones |Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Caramelizing Without a Blow Torch

March 7, 2017

Writing Kitchen Tips Tuesday gets tough after awhile. It is hard to come up with legitimate tips to share, week after week without running out of them. I just saw a video clip of this one, and it is definitely one we don’t all know and use on the reg.

When making things like meringues and creme brûlée, chef’s use a small kitchen blow torch to caramelize the sugar on top. I have placed things under the broiler in a pinch, but it takes constant watching, turning and stealth speed to make sure it doesn’t burn.

But what if you don’t own a small blow torch?

via Food Network

This tip, from Jeff Mauro of The Kitchen on The Food Network, uses a metal measuring cup to do the job. Sprinkle sugar on top of creme brulee, flan or even a lemon tart, heat a flat bottomed measuring cup on the stove, and carefully, using a pot holder to grab the hot handle, press the cup down on the sugared surface. You will hear a big sizzle, signaling that the sugar has melted and is fully caramelized.  Viola! A crisp caramel top without using any special equipment at all!

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Storing Citrus Zest

January 31, 2017

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Food waste has become so prevalent, that we sometimes toss the very things that we need later. Skins and peelings fit this category.

We often use the juice, or the flesh of citrus, and discard the peels. Yet, some of the most flavorful part is on the outside.

Before you squeeze or peel that lemon, lime or orange, stop and zest it first. Put the zest into a small glass jar and keep it in your freezer for later use.

Citrus zest adds a jolt of flavor and brightens up fish, chicken and vegetables and sauces, with just a little sprinkle. We also use it in baking, for scones, muffins and pound cakes.

How To Zest Citrus:

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Wash the outside of the fruit, and wipe it dry. Using a microplane grater, rub it all over the fruit, shaving off the colored part of the rind, and leaving the white pith behind. You can also use a vegetable peeler to peel off the rind, and then julienne it into tiny strips. Toss it in your jar, and enjoy it as needed.
The fruit can then be peeled or juiced as normal.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Eggplant Gender

January 10, 2017

Two Eggplants in Round Bowl, High Angle View

Today’s tip comes from a client of mine who shared a tidbit learned when he studied at the CIA.

( The CIA he is referring to is the Culinary School of America, where he studied to be a chef, not a spy, he quickly pointed out.)

It seems there are both male and female eggplants, and the taste is different among the two genders. Who knew?!

via Plant-based Paradise

via Plant-based Paradise

The female eggplant has a long brownish slit-like indentation at the bottom. The male’s marking is more round. The male eggplant has less seeds and tends to be less bitter, making it a better choice for cooking, especially for dishes that are not heavily sauced.

Thanks for the tip, Bob!

photos: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Thursday: Dried Fruit

December 8, 2016

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What exactly is Kitchen Tips Thursday, you may be asking? It’s when I am too busy to get the post up in time to call it Kitchen Tips Tuesday! Better late than never, right?
Today’s tip is about using dried fruit in baking. Before you stop reading, this isn’t just about fruit cake. In fact, I have never made a fruit cake, nor have I even considered it. I do however make delicious scones, and oatmeal walnut cookies, both of which use dried fruit in different ways.

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For the scones, the dried fruit (usually cranberries, but sometimes raisins, currents, dried cherries, dried blueberries or combination there of) are tossed in flour before being mixed into the dough. This is to keep them separated, and prevent them from getting sticky. This technique is often used in muffins when the fruit is fresh, as in the case of blueberry muffins, for example, to allow the fruit to disperse within the batter, rather than drop down to the bottom. Both of these items have heartier dough, and allow the fruit to become imbedded into the scone or muffin, thus protecting it from the heat of the oven.

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The opposite is the case for the cookies. My recipe calls for the dried fruit ( they use the classic raisins, but I make mine with cranberries) to be soaked in lightly beaten eggs and vanilla for an hour before getting added to the dry ingredients. This makes them plumper and prevents them from sucking the life out of the delicate cookie dough during baking. A very dry raisin will try to seek hydration from the moisture in the cookie, and it can also end up almost petrified after baking dries it out further. This method takes a bit longer ( get it started and go do something else for an hour) but it is well worth it for the end result.

Happy holiday baking!!!

photos: Glasshouse Images

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