Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 111

if you need something cooled-off quickly, put it in the freezer for 30 minutes.  However, don’t make a habit of this because you don’t want your frozen foods to start defrosting.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

I Can Make That Too: Chicken Tikka in Mom’s Kitchen vs. the Restaurant Version

Mom's Chicken Tikka
Chicken Tikka is basically an Indian shish kebab with lots of spices.  Traditionally these kebabs are cooked in a tandoor oven, which can heat up to nearly 1,000 degrees.  Indian restaurants have such ovens.  I don’t.  I researched online and found one for $600+. Not worth it.  I decided to use my own oven, which will heat to 545 degrees and makes perfectly respectable Chicken Tikka.

In fact, my Chicken Tikka tasted just as good as the version I ordered at Mayura, a critically praised Indian restaurant in Culver City, CA.  Surprisingly, the two Chicken Tikkas looked and tasted exactly the same.
Chicken Tikka at Mayura Restaurant
Chicken Tikka – serves 4 
2-3 boneless chicken breasts (1 1/2 – 2 pounds)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika 
Remove any fat from the chicken breasts and cut them into 1-inch cubes.  Set aside. 
Combine yogurt, oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, chili powder, cumin and paprika in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Add the chicken cubes and mix again so that they are covered with the yogurt mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours. 
Pre-heat the oven to 545 degrees.  Cover a baking sheet with a silicone mat or foil.  Place the chicken cubes on skewers and the skewers onto the baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.  Check to make sure it’s white in the middle, not pink.  If it’s pink, bake for 1 more minute.  Serve immediately.
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 110

To help bacon slices separate from each other, roll the package of bacon into a cylinder and squeeze it a few times before opening it.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Revisiting Old Favorites

Ground Turkey Stroganoff
My tastes have changed.  I began to realize this when leafing through a collection of old recipes, looking for something different to cook. 

I stumbled on Hamburger Stroganoff, a dish I made regularly when I was first out of college.  When I read the list of ingredients, though, I began having second thoughts.  I don’t eat ground beef any more, and I stopped using canned cream of anything soup years ago.

So I reworked the recipe: ground turkey instead of beef, no soup at all, much more garlic and half the amount of sour cream.  The end result seemed bland, so I added a few shakes of a new Penzeys spice called 33rd & Galena, which the company describes as a “chicken and pork rub.”  The label says it’s a mixture of Tellicherry black pepper, paprika, nutmeg, sage, cayenne, crushed red pepper and oleoresin of basil.

My newly named Ground Turkey Stroganoff was a big hit and much more in keeping with my current preference for spicier, less fatty food.  Next I’m going to try my old recipe for Sweet and Sour Pork.  I’m sure it will need a lot of updating.
Ground Turkey Stroganoff – serves 4-6 
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Penzys 33rd & Galena or other multi-spice mixture
2/3 cup sour cream
3 cups cooked rice or noodles 
Begin heating the oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, mushrooms and garlic and stir-fry for about 5 minutes, or until the onions and mushrooms have softened.  Transfer this mixture to a large bowl or plate. 
Add the ground turkey to the hot pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the chunks of turkey.  When the turkey no longer shows any signs of pink, drain and discard the fatty liquid.  Return the meat to the pan and add the salt, black pepper and 33rd & Galena or other multi-spice mixture.  Stir thoroughly. 
Return the onion/mushroom mixture to the pan.  Then add the sour cream and stir to combine.  When the stroganoff is hot, transfer it to a large serving bowl.  Serve with rice or noodles.
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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Argentine Red Shrimp: What Are They and How Do I Cook Them?

Argentine Red Shrimp, also called crustacean shellfish, are wild caught in the Southern Atlantic and have much more flavor than the average shrimp.  They are usually sold frozen in bags, 16-to-20 per pound.  Most likely they will be raw, and their tough shells, which are red, will still be attached.

These specialized shrimp can be hard to find.  I never heard of them until I stumbled across them at the fish counter of Jons Market, a store new to my neighborhood.  Even though their heads have been chopped off, they can be nasty to clean if their large veins (aka digestive tracts) have not been removed. 

At my store they are moderately priced (2 pounds for $9.98), so cleaning them is worth it.  They cook quickly-- just 2-3 minutes--even though they are so big.  You can tell when they’re ready because they will start to curl.

Stir-Fried Argentine Red Shrimp
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Mom Money-Saving Tip 83

If you live where lemons are plentiful only part of the year, freeze freshly squeezed lemon juice into ice cube trays.  Once the cubes have frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag and use as needed.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Yikes! Not Chicken Again!

Moroccan Chicken
Sometimes I go overboard when I see a sale on boneless chicken breasts.  When I’m loading a 4-pound package into my cart, all I can think about is “What a great bargain this is.”  Only when I’m starring at it in my refrigerator do I actually think about having to cook it and eat it.

I knew that freezing half of what I bought would solve the immediate problem, but experience has taught me that chicken tastes better when it’s freshly cooked.  That’s why I decided to make a huge batch of Moroccan Chicken, which is basically an Asian stir-fry with raisins, pine nuts and a lot of mint and cinnamon.

I first ate this at a dinner party in London and begged for the recipe.  Foolishly I worried that it would require ingredients unavailable in Southern California, but the problem was more basic.  How often could I serve it before getting sick of it?

I recently found out the answer: three consecutive dinners.  Moroccan Chicken tasted wonderful the first night and pretty good the second night.  By the third night I was thinking, “Maybe it’s time to make pizza.”  But I was in a hurry, which meant “Heat up the rest of the leftovers.”

There was no Night Four.  In my freezer there is now a storage container clearly labeled Moroccan Chicken.  I plan to defrost it in a few months. 
Moroccan Chicken– serves 4 (adapted from “Faster! I’m Starving!”
2-3 boneless chicken breasts (1 1/2 – 2 pounds)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive or canola oil, divided use
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or 2 teaspoons dried mint
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons Black Bean Garlic Sauce 
Remove any fat from the chicken breasts and slice them into strips 1/2-inch wide and 2 inches long.  Put them into a large bowl.  Add the raisins, pine nuts, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil, mint, garlic, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.  Mix well. 
Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large frying pan or wok and begin heating over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken mixture and stir-fry for 5-6 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.  It should be white in the middle, not pink.  Add the scallion pieces and black bean garlic sauce and mix well.  Heat for 1 minute and serve immediately.  Or set aside until ready to eat and then reheat briefly.
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Monday, May 15, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 109

Chocolate makes just about everything taste better, especially chocolate cookies that aren’t quite as chocolaty as you’d hoped.  Start melting a cup of chocolate chips in a small, thick-bottomed pan over low heat and stir until the chips start to lose their shape.  Remove from the heat, stir until all the chocolate has melted and then dip fruit, cookies or marshmallows halfway into the chocolate.  Place on a wax paper-covered plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes until the chocolate has hardened.  Transfer to a serving dish.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Question for Mom

What is a silicone baking mat, and how would I use one?  Howard M.

Imagine being able to bake cookies and bagels or roast vegetables and meat without having to grease the pan or scrape off encrusted pieces of food.  Just lay the mat onto a bare baking sheet as you would foil or parchment paper.  Do NOT grease the mat.  Then place whatever you want to bake on top of it--even if it's frozen--it and put it in the oven to bake.

A silicone baking mat saves endless cleanup because nothing sticks to it.  After use, just wipe it with a damp cloth, rinse in clear water and air dry.  With proper care, it will last for years.

To keep this baking mat in good working order:

Don't use it under the broiling unit or on an outdoor grill,
Don't lay it directly on an oven rack.
Don't cut it.  These mats come in several sizes.  Buy the size that best suits your needs.
Store flat or rolled in a tube.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

I Can Make That Too: Honey Shrimp in Mom’s Kitchen vs. the Restaurant Version

Mom's Honey Shrimp
Until I ate some Honey Shrimp at Pho Show in Redondo Beach, CA, it never occurred to me to combine these two ingredients.  They work surprisingly well together.  And here I thought the best match-up with shrimp was cocktail sauce!

That’s because of my Western Pennsylvania childhood.  The only times I ever had shrimp was at restaurants, and they were always served as Shrimp Cocktail.  How ignorant I was.

What a surprise to move to Manhattan, where Chinese restaurants flourished.  At the time Kung Pao Shrimp was a big deal.  Then it was Salt & Pepper Shrimp and Southern Fried Shrimp. In London I discovered Shrimp Curry, Tandoori Shrimp and Shrimp Masala.  I also found out I could buy shrimp at the fish counter.

I still make Shrimp Cocktail once in a while, but I’ve moved on. Now that I’ve added Honey Shrimp to my must-serve list, I’m on the prowl for something new.  Suggestions?
Honey Shrimp – serves 3-4 
1 pound large raw shrimp (16-25 per pound)
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
1/2 pound snow peas, strings removed
5 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cups cooked rice 
Peel the shrimp and put them in a medium bowl. 
Combine the honey, soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.  Pour half the mixture over the shrimp, stir and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. 
Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp mixture and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, making sure to cook both sides of the shrimp.  Add the rest of the honey sauce to the shrimp and stir.  Then add the snow peas and scallion pieces and stir-fry for another minute.  Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with rice. 
Pho Show's Honey Shrimp
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tilapia: What Is It and How Do I Cook It?

Tilapia sounds like something that belongs in a tool box, but it’s actually a fish.  It was virtually unknown until about 15 years ago, when it started being farmed.  Now it's very popular. 

Tilapia is not a fashionable fish, but I like it for a number of reasons:

1) It’s reasonably priced
2) The fillets have no bones
3) It’s easy to bake - see Crunchy Baked Fish
4) It has a mild flavor

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 108

When cooking pasta, be sure to stir the noodles a few times during the cooking process, especially at the beginning.  This helps prevent the noodles from sticking together.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Is Cauliflower the Hot New Kid on the Block?

Roasted Cauliflower
Every so often an old-time vegetable shoots to the top of the fashionable pile.  Recently it was kale.  Now it seems to be cauliflower’s turn.  If you’re tired of boring old white, this vegetable is even available in different colors—green, purple and orange.

I first became aware of cauliflower’s transformation to hotness when my friend Lynne, who has worked in the food industry for many years, told me that she finally found a non-meat item her husband would eat for dinner—Roasted Cauliflower.  She sent me her recipe, and sure enough, it not only looked good but it also tasted good.

Then last month I went to event featuring a restaurant owner, a TV food presenter and an executive who feeds thousands of people a day at a sports center.  When asked what food was cutting edge today, all of them said, “Cauliflower.”

In a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, nearly a whole page was devoted to a recipe from Sarah Michelle Gellar (better known as Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Guess the name of the recipe: Cauliflower Popcorn.

And just yesterday I saw a new version of cauliflower in the fresh produce department—a bag of cauliflower so finely chopped that it looked like puffy rice.  Just the thing if you want to make a Cauliflower Crust Pizza or Cauliflower Fritters.

I guess I’m old-fashioned because I still like Cauliflower in Cheese Sauce—my first introduction to this vegetable.  Eventually I moved on to Cauliflower with Potatoes from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Indian Cookery.” 

Pasta with Indian Cauliflower Sauce
This became a dinner staple until I combined cauliflower with penne pasta and invented Pasta with Indian Cauliflower Sauce.  

Now I’ve discovered an even spicier dish called Benarasi Cauliflower from “The Good Cook: Vegetables”, an old Time-Life cookbook series.  This is my go-to cauliflower recipe at the moment.

Benarasi Cauliflower
Benarasi Cauliflower – serves 4-6 (adapted from “The Good Cook: Vegetables”)  
1 small cauliflower, divided into bite-size florets
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil + more if needed
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves
2 cardamom pods, seeds only
3 plum tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
Begin heating 1 tablespoon oil in a large frying pan or wok.  Add the cauliflower florets and stir-fry until the florets start to brown, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the florets to a large bowl or plate.  
Puree the onion, coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cloves, cardamom seeds and chopped tomatoes in a blender.  Pour the blended liquid into the frying pan or wok and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken.  
Add the cauliflower florets and stir gently until they are covered with sauce.  Cover with a lid and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the florets can be pierced with a fork.  Serve immediately or reheat when needed.  This dish is also good cold.  
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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mom Money-Saving Tip 82

Do you need a quick and cheap vegetable side dish?  Try making Broiled Onions.  
Broiled Onions - serves 4 
1 large purple onion 
1 large white or yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Slice the onions into very thin rings.  Put the slices in a large bowl and separate the rings with your fingers.  Add the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and salt and stir well. 
Preheat the broiler to High.  Transfer the onion mixture to a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or foil for easy clean-up.  Spread the onions into a thin layer and broil for 5 minutes.  Stir the mixture and broil for another 5 minutes.  Transfer the broiled onions to a bowl and serve.  
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Monday, May 1, 2017

Mom Cooking Tip 107

With corn coming into season, here’s a quick way to remove corn silks.  Rub them off with a damp paper towel.

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