Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 97

Remove bones from salmon or other fish using needle-nose pliers. Sometimes fingers just won’t do it.  Bones come out more easily when the fish is at least partly cooked.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Chickpeas: What Are They and How Do I Use Them?

Dried Chickpeas
I first heard the word “chickpeas” when I asked somebody what hummus was?  Growing up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, I didn’t encounter a wide variety of Middle Eastern food until I moved to Manhattan and had dinner at Cedars of Lebanon.  That restaurant is now closed, but I’ve never forgotten the sampler plate I ordered.

I had no idea what I was eating, although I liked it all.  When the waiter told me that the tan, creamy spread was hummus, I asked him what was in it.  He said, “Chickpeas.” 

Since then, I’ve learned that chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, have been around for several thousand years.  Almost every culture uses them in soups, salads, stews and dips like hummus.  Some people even like to roast and salt them and eat them as snacks.  Ever wonder what falafel is?  It’s a deep-fried patty made of ground chickpeas and spices.

Because chickpeas are heavy in protein, they are a welcome addition to a vegetarian diet.  They’re also high in fiber, low in fat and inexpensive.  What’s not to like? 

Chickpeas are available cooked in cans and dried in bags or loose in bins.

Chickpea Salad (adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe that appeared in The Guardian) – serves 4-6 as a side salad 
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 teaspoon mustard seeds 
1 teaspoon curry powder 
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
4 tablespoons olive oil – divided use 
1 large onion, thinly sliced 
1 small cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets 
1 15-ounce can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed 
1 large or 2 small ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks 
1 5-ounce bag fresh spinach or arugula 
2 limes cut into quarters 
Combine the coriander, mustard seeds, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes and salt in a small bowl. 
Begin heating 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the spice mixture and stir until the spices dissolve and the mustard seeds sizzle.  Add the sliced onion and continue cooking and stirring until the onion softens, about 5-7 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside. 
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same frying pan, add the cauliflower florets and stir-fry until the florets begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the spiced onion mixture and chickpeas and heat through, stirring well to combine the ingredients.  
Remove from the heat and add the mango pieces and spinach or arugula.  Transfer to a large salad bowl and toss.  Serve with sections of lime, to be squeezed over the top if desired.
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Friday, February 24, 2017

Mom Money-Saving Tip 77

Leek and Potato Soup
Serve soup at the start of a meal, and you will need less of the main dish.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Can I Leave This Ingredient Out?

Mushroom, Onion and Pepperoni Pizza
Occasionally an hour before dinnertime I get cooking question calls from family members and friends.  Often it involves a missing ingredient, and the question goes something like this: “I’m in the middle of making pizza dough and just realized the recipe calls for 1/2 cup cornmeal.  Do I need to stop what I’m doing and rush to the store to get some?”

This particular question I knew how to answer.  Once I established that the cornmeal was an actual dough ingredient, not just to be used to sprinkle on the pizza stone to keep the dough from sticking to it, I felt comfortable saying, “Don’t bother going to the store.  Just add another 1/2 cup flour instead.”

Why would a pizza dough recipe require cornmeal?  Most likely, the person who wrote the recipe was trying to jazz it up.  It’s not an essential ingredient.  In fact, the cornmeal-question caller later told me that the pizza dough without the cornmeal was the best-tasting pizza dough he had ever made.

Yeast doughs are very flexible.  I recently tried a challah recipe that called for 1/2 cup orange juice—not a normal ingredient in this traditional twisty bread.  It came out fine, although I couldn’t taste any orange flavor. 
Easiest-Ever Pizza Dough – makes 3 10-inch thin-crust round pizzas 
1 tablespoon active dried yeast 
1 cup warm water + more if needed – divided use 
1 teaspoon brown sugar or honey 
3 tablespoons olive oil + more for greasing bowl 
3 cups flour + more if needed 
1 teaspoon salt 
Add the yeast, 1/4 cup of the water and brown sugar or honey to the bowl of a food processor, a mixer with a dough hook or a large bowl.  Let stand for a few minutes until the mixture becomes frothy. 
Add the olive oil, flour and salt.  If using a food processor, start to process, adding the water through the opening in the processor cover.  Process until the dough is smooth and satiny.  If it seems too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.  If it seems too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.  
If using a mixer with a dough hook, simply add the water to the flour mixture and begin to beat until the dough is smooth and satiny.  If it seems too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.  If it seems too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. 
If mixing by hand, add the water to the flour mixture and stir until the dough until the dough comes together in a ball.  Place a tea towel on the counter and transfer the ball of dough to it and knead for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and satiny.  If it seems too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.  If it seems too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. 
Pour about 1 teaspoon olive oil into a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, turn the dough over to coat both sides with oil and cover with a clean tea towel.  Set the bowl aside in a non-drafty area and let the dough rise for about 1½ hours.  When you’re ready to make the pizzas, cut the dough into 3 equal portions and proceed to make three pizzas.
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Monday, February 20, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 96

(Left) Cilantro        (Right) Parsley
If the recipe calls for parsley or cilantro, make every effort to use the fresh versions.  And if possible, add them just before serving.  These two particular herbs lose most of their taste when dried.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Fingerling Potatoes: What Are They and How Do I Cook Them?

Fingerling potatoes are what I like to call “designer potatoes.”  They’re cute, have a certain style to them and are available in gold, red and dark purple.  Because of their size—think of chubby fingers—they cook quickly.  Boil them for about 10-12 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife.  Or drizzle them with oil and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for 20-5 minutes.  Don’t bother peeling them because their varied colors add to the final presentation.

Not all grocery stores sell fingerlings, and when they do they’re likely to be prepacked in 1-to-2-pound bags.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 95

(Left) Smooth, Shiny Skin  (Right) Thick, Bumpy Skin
If you juice oranges, choose oranges with smooth, shiny skins.  These oranges tend to have more juice than ones with thick, bumpy skins.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Emergency: Bring on the Ground Turkey

I try to make a list before I go get groceries, although sometimes I leave the list on the counter.  Other times I’m in the store looking at the list and somehow failing to see one of the items I’ve written down.  I have yet to understand why that happens.  I’ve just been to the eye doctor, and I am not going blind.

Maybe to compensate, I always buy a package of ground turkey when it’s on sale—even if it’s not on my list.  I probably just forgot to write it down.

Ground turkey is a remarkably versatile ingredient.  Over the years I’ve used it to make Burgers, Chili, Meatballs, Meatloaf, Spaghetti Bolognese, Sloppy Joe’s, Tacos and Enchiladas.  And if for some reason I can’t use it right away, I freeze it.

Tonight we’re having Turkey Burgers but with an Asian twist.  They’ll be ready in 20 minutes. 
Asian Turkey Burgers – serves 3 (adapted from “Help! My Apartment Has a Dining Room!”)  
1 pound ground turkey 
2 scallions, cleaned and cut into 1/2-pieces 
2 tablespoons soy sauce 
1 teaspoon sesame oil 
1 teaspoon chopped garlic 
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger 
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
3 sandwich buns 
1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil 
Combine the turkey, scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl and mix.  Shape the mixture into 3 large flat patties.  
Turn the oven to 250 degrees and set the sandwich buns on an oven rack to warm. 
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the patties and cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until there is no pink in the middle of the patties.  Cut into a patty to make sure.  They need to be cooked thoroughly. 
Remove the buns from the oven, slice them in half and place a patty in each.  Serve immediately.
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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 94

If garlic tends to burn when you add it to hot oil—a direction often given in recipes--add it later, after you’ve added some liquid or other ingredients..  Any raw garlic taste will disappear during cooking. 

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Mom Money-Saving Tip 76

Be sure to label any foods that you store in the freezer. It seems obvious, but many’s the time I’ve said to myself, ‘Oh, I’ll serve that soup next week.’ And then I forget it’s there. Six months later I’m wondering, ‘What is in that storage container?’ At least half of the time it ends up uneaten.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Chocolate on My Mind

Triple-Layer Chocolate Cookies
I’m proud to be a chocoholic.  I’ve tried weaning myself off this addiction.  Once I managed to avoid chocolate for two weeks, but that was a long time ago.  Without the invention of chocolate chips, I might have succeeded. 

A 12-ounce bag of chocolate chips is incredibly versatile.  Eating a handful now and then is one way to empty the bag.  Making Chocolate Chip Cookies is another way. 

Now I’ve come up with a third way: a Triple-Layer Chocolate Cookie.  I was inspired by: a popular packaged British snack called a Jaffa Cake.  It’s basically a very thin layer of bland-tasting cake, a layer of orange jelly and, on top, a layer of dark chocolate. 

My version uses a home-made shortbread as the base, topped with a layer of apricot jam, which is then decorated with chocolate chips.  The heat of the oven doesn’t melt the chips, but it does cause them to stick to the hot jam.
Triple-Layer Chocolate Cookies – makes about 40 cookies  
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature + more for greasing 
1/2 cup sugar 
1¼ cups flour 
About 2 cups apricot jam 
About 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips 
Insert paper muffin liners into 12 muffin cups (or more if you have them) or lightly rub the bottom and sides of the muffin cups with butter.  Set aside 
Place an oven rack in the middle position and begin preheating the oven to 350 degrees.  
Put the butter and sugar in a food processor or a large bowl.  Process or beat with an electric mixer on high speed until smooth and creamy.  Add the flour and pulse for about 10 seconds, or beat on low speed until well blended. 
Press 1 tablespoon dough into each muffin cup and flatten with the back of the spoon.  You will need to make several batches using the same pans.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the top of the cookie is firm and just beginning to brown.  
While the cookies are baking, melt the apricot jam in a small pot.  Once it has become semi- liquid, remove from the heat and set aside. 
When the cookies are done, take the pans from the oven and spread a thin layer of jam evenly over the top of each cookie.  Sprinkle 10-12 chocolate chips over the jam and bake for another 4 minutes. The chips will not melt but the heat will cause them to stick to the jam. 
Remove the pans from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.   Leave the cookies in the paper liners if you like, but remove the liners before serving.  Store in an airtight container or wrapped in foil or plastic wrap.
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Monday, February 6, 2017

Question for Mom

What is a microplane?  Edie N.

A microplane is a very handy kitchen device that takes up almost no space in your gadget drawer.  Used for grating lemon, tangerine or orange peels, hard cheeses and garlic, it produces delicate shavings (called zest) with little chance of injuring yourself.  The microplane started out as a woodworking tool, but cooks quickly realized how useful it could be in the kitchen.

To Grate Lemon Peel, Push Lemon up the Microplane to Create Zest

Underside of Microplane to Show Lemon Zest
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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 93

(Left) Dried Cilantro  (Right) Fresh Cilantro
1 teaspoon dried herbs equals 1 tablespoon fresh herbs. 

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Welcome Home, Real Tomatoes

Basil and Tomato Soup
I just read that tomatoes may be getting their flavor back!  This probably sounds odd to anyone under 30, who may well assume that tomatoes are used in salads and sandwiches mostly for their color.

Those who’ve eaten “heirloom tomatoes” may have some idea of the way this fruit—yes, tomatoes are a fruit--used to taste.  But even heirloom tomatoes—the name refers to tomatoes eaten in the good old days—don’t always taste very good.

The problem started decades ago when plant scientists began experimenting with tomato genes.  They wanted to create a tomato that resisted diseases and traveled well between field and table. 

They were quite successful.  Tomatoes gradually became heartier and supermarkets became happier.  
Somewhere along the way, though, tomatoes started losing their taste.  Today it’s nearly impossible to find one worth eating, unless you grew it yourself.  And that may not be the solution because you may be buying tomato plants or seeds bred for good storage rather than for good eating.

According to Science Magazine, we won’t be getting the flavor back any time soon, unfortunately.  Meanwhile, try this recipe for Tomato Basil Soup, which includes enough additions to the tomato base to make it worth the effort.
Basil and Tomato Soup – serves 4-6 
3 15-ounce cans cut tomatoes in tomato juice 
1/4 cup butter 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
1 cup heavy cream 
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves 
Add tomatoes, their juice, butter and black pepper to a medium pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes.  Add the cream and basil.  Using an immersion hand blender or regular blender, blend the soup until it is smooth.  Serve immediately or let cool and reheat when ready to serve.
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