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Wednesday, May 27 2009
Bring the restaurant home.
In some parts of the US, a Friday night fish fry is what's expected of restaurants. This has to do with a Catholic influence from way back (no meat on Fridays), but there has been an unintended, but delicious result.
You see, now the restaurants compete for who has the best fish fry. The result is some amazing fish to be eaten. Cod is of course, the old standby when it comes to a fish fry, but there are better.
For example, if you've ever tried fried Walleye . . . you know what I'm talking about. For those who don't like the fish taste, this is your fish. It's got no fishy taste at all.
Many others swear by Blue Gill. Fried Blue Gill will give you small fillets, but they are firm and tasty.
However, I personally have a favorite. It's the Northern Pike. It's an aggressive fish. My fishermen friends tell me that you need to use a wire leader on your fishing line so that they cannot bite themselves free. They are fighters and toothy.
But, especially when caught in cold waters, these fish are meaty, firm, and full of flavor. Not all restaurants offer this fish, but take it when you get can get it. This is the king of fish.
Moving on, let's select your drink for the perfect fish fry next. If speaking in terms of wine, white wine is what you eat with fish, but keep in mind that fried fish will overpower the average white wine. A sparkling white wine would go good with this, but in all honesty, I'd recommend taking a pass on the wine.
Beer is a better mate with fried fish. Not a dark beer, but anything from light to medium will work excellently. It's even better if it's a micro-brewery beer (think Milwaukee, WI).
Of course, if you're not a beer drinker, root beer soda will work nicely too.
Tuesday, May 26 2009
While the idea of cooking live food might not be appealing to everyone, the assured freshness and uncompromised flavor that this option provides is amazing. The possibility of keeping something alive until right before you eat it is a limited one, but one area where it can be done rather easily is with seafood. There are plenty of restaurants that allow customers to pick their meal out of a tank in order to enjoy the freshest catch possible. Though some people might view this as a luxury option, having meals at home that feature items like live Dungeness crab are a real possibility.
If you choose to cook live crab there is a specific method of preparation you should use. Unless you are an avid crab eater it is unlikely that you have a well-aerated tank in your home that could keep the caught crab alive for weeks. In the absence of this tank it is important that you cook the live crab on the very day that you buy it to ensure optimum freshness. Boiling live crab is the only way to cook it. Using a large pot you should bring the water to a boil, adding half a cup of salt for every gallon of water in the pot. Cover the pot and let the crabs cook for ten to twenty minutes depending on their size. Placing the live Dungeness crab in the freezer for thirty minutes beforehand is a more humane way of boiling them since it tranquilizes them.
Once the meat is cooked you should either prepare it in a meal or freeze and store it. The cooked frozen meat will be good for at most four months afterwards. Freshly cooked crab should be stored at 32°F to make sure that the meat does not go bad, while frozen crabmeat should be kept at around -10°F. It is also important that the crab be cracked after it is done cooking, extracting only the meat, trying to leave as little as possible in the shell. Whether enjoying it right away or storing it for another day in the near future, cooking live Dungeness crab promises amazing meals for as long as the meat lasts.
Friday, May 22 2009
When it comes to cooking with green tomatoes, you can use them in a variety of ways. I like to use them in pies, side dishes, stir fry's, and pickled as a snack.
Cultivated tomatoes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. They are one of the most common garden fruits that you can find in the United States. They are rich in Vitamins A and C, high in fiber, and are cholesterol free. A common misconception believed by many people is that tomatoes are a vegetable. The truth is, they are a fruit.
When thinking about tomatoes, I do find that there is a definite taste difference among the varieties. The red varieties taste sweeter and the green ones taste a little more tart. I prefer using the green ones in cooked or baked recipe dishes.
Here are 3 of my favorite recipes.
3 c. green tomatoes, thinly sliced
Scald tomatoes for 2 minutes, drain. Add remaining ingredients, stir until blended. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Add top crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes until done.
4 green tomatoes, sliced into 1/4" thick rings
Salt and pepper the rings. Coat both sides of your rings in flour and cornmeal mixture. Saute over medium heat in a frying pan until brown. Serve as an appetizer or side dish.
Escalloped Side Dish
3 1/2 c. cooked green tomatoes
Saute onion in butter; add bread crumbs and sugar, cooking slowly. Stir in tomatoes, and seasonings. Place mixture in buttered shallow pan and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
Thursday, May 21 2009
If you are grilling out, you will want to know how to marinate the steaks before you start. Whether you choose steak or chicken, these simple steps will help you have the perfect grilled meat of your choice. Here are some quick steps to help you get the perfect steaks.
1. Choose Your Meat - When grilling steaks, the best cuts are flank, sirloin and round. Tougher meats can be better for grilling than more expensive cuts.
2. Add Spices - Next, you will want to choose some spices to add to the meat. Many people prefer to just use salt and pepper. Just rub the salt and pepper all over the steak.
3. Choose Your Marinade - Next you will need to choose a marinade for your steaks. Italian dressing and Worcestershire sauce can be great. KC Masterpiece and Lawry's also make some great marinades for steaks. Adding something acidic like lemon juice to your recipe will help make your steaks even more tender.
4. Add Your Marinade - Put your steaks in a freezer bag or container. If in a container, coat them with the marinade and flip them around a few times to make sure they are properly coated. If you put them in a freezer bag, just pour in the marinade, seal the bag, and shake it around to fully coat the steaks.
5. Refrigerate - Next you will need to refrigerate your steaks anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours. The longer the better, just don't exceed 24 hours as the steaks will start to get mushy after that.
6. Grill - After you have properly marinated your steaks you can fire up the grill and get started!
Tuesday, May 19 2009
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Most vegetables make excellent subjects for grilling albeit not all. Cooking times vary greatly dependent on the vegetable. Vegetables are delicate, far more so than meats. Whether you grill on gas or charcoal it matters not but remember, smoke from the charcoal greatly enhances the flavor of your vegetables.
How to grill superb vegetables can be summarized into ten simple guidelines:
Monday, May 18 2009
Our Italian friends came to visit today and filled their lungs with fresh country air. and admired the views across paddocks to a stand of native bush and watched our hens scratching in the garden. How many eggs do they lay he asked.
Suddenly he sat up straight. You gotta pasta machine ?
I emerged from the pantry dusting off a long forgotten box with a (thank goodness) Italian pasta making machine covered in the remains of my last pasta making session from long ago that I tried discreetly, and unsuccessfully, to dust off before he could see it.
He leaned forward in disbelief. Its an excellent machine he muttered and stared at me in amazement. Its almost new, barely used he said peering at it - in disbelief, again. And its dusty - you need to clean it. I looked at it with some embarrassment now. It was beginning to look extremely dusty.
Pasta making is so easy, so easy, you have a goldmine here he said. Barely able to contain his excitement he talked nonstop of how to make home made fresh pasta, how simple it was to make and how we could have a never ending supply of freshly made, economical pasta all the time shaking his head at us -a pasta machine on the shelf - unused, unheard of for them.
I was almost sorry I had hauled the box out.
What is the recipe I asked. Recipe, recipe ? You don't need a recipe he scoffed. Just make one small pile of flour with a dent in the middle and put in two eggs and slowly,slowly, bring the flour into the egg. Leaning back thinking, he added you might need some water too. When I pressed him for the amount, he said it depended, then seeing the look on my face added about two fingers worth!
My friend had been a chef, restaurant owner and baker - he probably made pasta on autopilot.
Anyone can make it, a child could to it, you have eggs, you have flour and you have the machine. You have a goldmine he said again, looking puzzled as to why we had not thought of it before and shrugged.
We sat down to eat lunch and discuss food - of course - what else. Great food and good conversation was followed by our friend diving into an armchair to take a short rest where he promptly went to sleep. His job was done.
The Recipe Kiwi Style
Our friends make a variety of pasta at home, including Ravioli and Gnocchi by hand and I often saw it drying under a tea towel or cloth but now I pay a lot more attention it did come out fresh and delicious and I had to agree hat it was a quick and easy recipe even if I had to prise an actual recipe out of him. I wonder if I can prise that pasta sauce recipe out of him next time?
I am definitely going to ask them for more ideas and we smile every time we eat our own freshly made pasta at the memory of that conversation. And yes, I do dust off my pasta machine after making it. after all I might have it inspected.
Thursday, May 14 2009
To cook a really great New York strip meal, you will need the following-
1. A good grill pan
This method is widely used by many top restaurants today. However, your desired level of doneness may be different and you may need to use a meat thermometer to cook your steaks to the proper level as desired. This method is based on cooking four, 8-10 ounce steaks to medium doneness.
Here are the steps to cook a great New York strip meal-
1. If frozen, set steaks out until they are at room temperature. Once they reach room temp, use a brush to lightly coat the steaks with the olive oil. I like to brush a little of the oil in the grill pan as well, but it's not necessary.
2. Heat grill pan to a high heat. If you sprinkle a drop of water in the pan and it sizzles, then it is ready for cooking.
3. Insert steaks into the grill pan and cook for 5-6 minutes.
4. At this time you will want to coat them with your steak sauce and cook them for an additional 5-6 minutes. The length of time is actually determined by the level of doneness you desire. Use your meat thermometer if you want a specific doneness. Cooking them 5-6 minutes should result in a great medium steak.
5. Prepare your side items. A baked potato, and salad with ranch dressing seem to make great sides for a New York strip meal.
Following the above steps should result in a really great New York strip meal.
Wednesday, May 13 2009
If you want to improve your skills in the kitchen, or perhaps start making more adventurous food, then online cooking classes can help you to do so. There are a number of courses available, ranging from basic home cooking skills to gourmet meals. There are even cooking classes that specialize in a specific world cuisine like Italian food for example.
When you sign up to any internet class you should look carefully and what they will provide you with for the money you are paying. Some classes are free, but those that offer more study materials will charge a fee for their service. Look for online courses that give you a good base of recipes to use, provide you with easy-to-follow cooking guides as well as videos for you to follow at home.
Another important aspect of any online cookery course is to let you know a little about healthy eating. Although cooking is somewhat of an art, it also comes down to feeding you and your family the nutrients you need each day. Many courses will provide you nutritional information and simple methods you can employ to make your meals a little healthier.
The most important thing when it comes to online cooking classes is to be willing to put the work in. You must be self motivated to keep ahead of the cooking and theory tasks that you will be assigned. If you employ all of the resources available then you should improve your cooking skills in no time, providing delicious food not only for yourself but also for dinner parties, families and perhaps more!
Tuesday, May 12 2009
You only have to take a look around the famous art galleries of the world and you can see how food has influenced and inspired the creation of beautiful, fascinating and extraordinary artwork. Chefs from every nation also view cuisine as an art form and express this through the preparation, use of ingredients and the presentation of the dishes they design.
The definition of cuisine is 'a characteristic manner or style of preparing food'. Cooking is diverse in its flavors and tastes, not only does each country have its own national cuisine, so does every region within that country, and even families are known to have a special recipe that has been passed down through the generations.
As travel to foreign countries becomes more accessible, part of the fun of traveling is to find out about other cultures and explore the regions cuisine, delighting in tastes and flavors never experienced before can help you to understand the country and its people. Travel also enables our taste buds to change, there was a time when eating pasta, Indian or Mexican food would be only for the adventuress, now it is easily accessible to most people.
Cuisines are influenced by the ingredients and traditions afforded to them. They have evolved not only from the produce and spices that are grown locally, but also the way the food is prepared, the cooking utensils used, and traditions and customs, even trade routes and religion have had an impact on a particular cuisine.
In most cities these days it is easy to find international restaurants selling a variety of cuisines from all over the world. We now not only have access to our own traditional food but also can choose to eat Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian or Greek just as easily. New cuisines are introduced all the time as a generation of original chefs comes up with new ideas and recipes.
Indian food has been influenced, and influenced, many cuisines. Mongolians brought India their hot pot cooking, Persian rulers brought their own ingredients and style of cooking with them, the Chinese came to trade and along the way introduced stir fry's, and the Portuguese contributed tomato, chilli, and potato, basic ingredients of today's Indian cuisine. For simple Indian recipes try Tandoori chicken, just skin chicken drumsticks and make the paste by mixing together yogurt, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper and garam masala. Marinate for six hours and enjoy.
Greek cuisine has an abundance of delectable Greek foods prepared by using the ingredients found growing in the surrounding areas, found in almost every dish is olive oil as it grows freely and is in abundance throughout the region. Bread, wine, fish, and meats are a staple of Greek food, which is well-known for its healthy aspects. Typically Mediterranean, Greek recipes often have qualities akin to the cuisines of Southern France, Italy, Turkey and the Middle East. Favorites include Moussakas and baklavas, and Italian influenced dishes, such as pastitsio which is a layered baked dish. For authentic Greek recipes, try making Tzatziki, simply peel and seed cucumbers, then mash garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir in the cucumbers and yogurt and chill.
To learn the art of a particular style of cooking, such as Asian or Italian, is to study the culture of the region. You can't expect to look up a recipe, and re-create it exactly the same as you would if it were produced in the country from which it originates. Each recipe requires modification and adapting to suit the tastes of the diner. If you want to re-create a particular dish but can't find the exact ingredients in your local shop, either use a substitute or check online where you might find it can be ordered. Exotic and free recipes from different cultures can easily be found in magazines, books and on the Internet.
There are plenty of websites that let food lovers of all cooking levels to trade recipes and chat with people who share their passion for food and cooking. Connecting with others can result in shared information, a wider range of recipes and some top tips.
There are thousands of free recipes online for interesting, quick and easy meals. Find cooking recipes along with pictures, reviews, tips and ratings to help you plan your ideal meal. If you are searching for free international recipes check out recipes by cuisine, find Indian and Greek recipes amongst many others. Now there's no longer the need to travel to another country to get a taste of the foods you love.
Wednesday, May 06 2009
I can't think of a better way to show our mothers how much we care about them than to prepare a loving meal for them. It can be hard to pull it all together with so much else going on, however. I have some 30-minute menu ideas for you. Let's get started...
You will find that I use several cooking methods, mix and match, to get dinner on the table quickly! (The ingredients in parenthesis show some of my quick-prep steps.) You can always substitute your favorite made-from-scratch recipes when you have more time.
Poultry Dinner Suggestions:
Roulade de Poulet (boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
Crab Stuffed Chicken (boneless, skinless chicken breasts, canned lump crab)
Beef, Lamb, and Pork Dinner Suggestions:
Garlic and Rosemary Rubbed Prime Rib (crock pot)
Lamb Chops with Savory Butter
Spiral Ham (purchased fully-cooked ham)
Seafood Dinner Suggestions:
Poached Fish in White Wine Sauce (frozen fish fillets)
Lobster Newburg in Pastry Shells (frozen lobster tails, puff pastry shells)
Vegetarian Dinner Suggestions:
Fresh Tomato and Double Cheese Tarts (puff pastry, shredded cheeses)
Lasagna Florentine (jarred pasta sauce, frozen dumpling / pastry, frozen spinach, grated and sliced cheeses)
I hope you have a great week,
Friday, May 01 2009
By this time we are experiencing an "awakening" of all which has been resting during the long, harsh winter months. Suddenly bushes and trees begin to flower and plants seem to magically emerge from the cold, damp earth. Now is the time we can start to enjoy fresh produce from our gardens and local farm markets. My grandmother loved to write stories about her experiences and this one comes to mind every year around this time. She wrote, "In the spring on Sundays we always went for a walk in the woods to look for the first wildflowers. And one day, there they would be, the little lavender-blue hepaticas, peeping out from under the fallen leaves. And we would know, spring has come again. God's in his heaven, all is right with the world!"
As much as she loved taking walks in the woods to find wildflowers, my grandmother loved to cook her comfort foods with fresh fruits and vegetables. Now is the time of year we can start enjoying fresh produce from our gardens and local farm markets. Living in Northeastern United States we can now enjoy garden lettuce. What could be better than a garden salad made with the delicate leaves of fresh picked red and green lettuce leaves? Or a slice of homemade Crusty French Bread spread with strawberry or raspberry preserves? Soon we will see fresh asparagus, broccoli, strawberries and raspberries cropping up.
I'd like to share two of my grandmother's easy recipes which could be a complete meal. Her Bacon Dressing for Salads and Crusty French Bread would be a delicious, light meal for your family this time of year. The bread can be served with butter for dinner and spread with preserves for dessert! Enjoy!
Bacon Dressing For Salads
Take about 4 strips of bacon and cut into 1/4" pieces. Fry until pale brown. Take bacon out of pan. To the bacon fat add ¼ cup vinegar, ½ cup water, pinch salt, sprinkle black pepper and 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar. (according to taste) Bring to a boil and then take the pan off of the burner. You may need to add more vinegar or water. (this is according to taste) Add the bacon and cool to room temperature. This is delicious on garden lettuce, endive or potato salad. You can add whatever you would like to the salad. We usually keep it simple with thinly sliced red onion, and cherry tomatoes.
Crusty French Bread
6 cups sifted flour
Dissolve yeast in very warm water. Stir in 3 cups flour and the sugar, salt and melted butter. Beat until real smooth. Slowly add the rest of the flour. Knead until smooth. Put into a greased bowl, cover and let rise until double in bulk. Punch down and let rise again. Put the dough on the table and knead. Cut into 2 even pieces. Roll out each piece into a 9" x 12" rectangle. Then roll each up like a jelly roll, tucking the ends under. Grease cookie sheet and sprinkle with corn meal. Place the loaves on the cookie sheet. Slash top of loaves crosswise with a knife 1/2" deep and 2" apart. Let rise until double. Brush top with egg white mixed with 2 teaspoons water. Put a pan of water on bottom shelf of the oven while baking. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Bake until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.