All Posts In How-to

Buttermilk — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, March 19th, 2012

buttermilk pork cutlet sandwiches
The problem with buttermilk is there isn’t a lot of real buttermilk around.

The good news is that the newfangled buttermilk available at most grocers isn’t all that bad. Better yet, it’s easy to make the real stuff yourself.

But first, a buttermilk primer.

As its name suggests, buttermilk is the tangy milk-like liquid left behind when cultured cream is churned to make butter. At least that’s how they made it in the old days. Today, it’s usually commercially produce by adding cultures (think yogurt) to low-fat or fat-free milk. Either way, you end up with an acidic, thick milky liquid. But why is this off the beaten aisle? After all, we’ve all had buttermilk pancakes and waffles.

Because what most people don’t realize is just how versatile an ingredient buttermilk is. And it belongs on the dinner table as much as at breakfast.

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Under the Sea — Worst Cooks in America

by in How-to, Shows, March 19th, 2012

seafood tower worst cooks in america
From lobster to mussels to shrimp and whole arctic char, the sixth episode of Worst Cooks in America had the remaining recruits peeling, shucking and filleting several deep-sea treasures. For their first task, each team had to create a seafood tower, one of the most expensive dishes on a restaurant menu, consisting of mussels, lobster, shrimp, oysters and crab. After that, each member grabbed their knives and filleted a whole arctic char to create a dish for their mentor.

Everyone seemed to have issues at one point or another with cooking and/or prepping their seafood dishes. You can overcook shellfish in mere seconds, and choosing fresh fish can be intimidating. Below are Food Network’s simple step-by-step tips to create the ultimate seafood feast.

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Chia Seeds — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, March 9th, 2012

chia seed almond pudding
The trouble with this week’s underappreciated ingredient is that for the next few days you’re going to have its only-available-on-TV jingle stuck in your head.

Ch-ch-ch-chia!

That’s right, we’ve wandered into the Chia Pet aisle. Because the same seeds used to grow fluffy green pets also happen to be delicious and nutritious.

First, the basics.

Chia seeds — which are a relative of sage — resemble poppy seeds, but have a nuttier, less assertive flavor. They have gobs of fiber and a fair amount of protein.

Chia-Almond Pudding

Bison — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, March 2nd, 2012

seared bison with sage and gnocchi
Nothing says “yum!” like a bit of nomenclatural confusion — especially with a side of near extinction.

But that’s what you get once you venture down the culinary path with bison, an alternative red meat that is showing up at more and more grocers nationwide.

And these massive shaggy creatures are such a delicious — and good for us — meat, it’s worth sorting it all out.

So let’s start with the name. The critter you know as the American buffalo (yes, of rolling plains and Native American fame) really isn’t a buffalo at all.

Turns out there are only a few types of buffalo in the world (including the Asian water buffalo and African Cape buffalo). The American buffalo (technically bison) is more closely related to your run-of-the-mill cow. Yet people tend to use the terms interchangeably and we’re not going to get too bent out of shape over it.

Seared Bison With Sage and Gnocchi »

Multipurpose Kitchen Supplies: An A to Z Guide

by in How-to, March 1st, 2012

kitchen tools
Give common kitchen tools a second chance with these tips for new uses for everyday kitchen supplies:

Aluminum foil: Roll into the shape of a cone for a makeshift funnel.
Box grater: Shave away too-burnt bits on toast.
Chip clip: Keep a cookbook propped open to the correct page.
Coffee grinder: Grind fresh spices.
Cocktail shaker: Fill with a head of garlic and shake vigorously to remove the peel.
Egg slicer: Use to thinly slice other items like mushrooms, strawberries and bocconcini.

Muffin tins, pizza cutters, plastic sandwich bags and more »

How to Make the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

by in Food Network Magazine, How-to, February 29th, 2012

crispy chocolate chip cookies

Make chocolate chip cookies exactly how you like them with these tips from Food Network Magazine:

  • Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies (pictured above) bake longer than the average cookie so they end up brown all over, not just around the edges.
  • Superfine sugar makes for a fine crumb and crisp texture.
  • Vegetable oil helps the batter spread so the cookies come out extra thin.

Make the perfect chewy and cakey chocolate chip cookie »

Nutritional Yeast Flakes — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, February 23rd, 2012

pumpkin and white bean soup
It’s awfully hard to get excited about a food called “nutritional yeast flakes.”

It sounds like something you either need a prescription to get — or a prescription to get rid of. Even worse, it resembles yellow flaked fish food. But trust me, this is an ingredient worth looking at beyond its name and appearance.

Nutritional yeast flakes have been around for years, but they are all but unheard of outside the vegan world, which uses them to simulate the flavor of cheese.

There’s a reason they use them that way. These flakes are jammed with glutamates, the compounds that give us the savory wonderfulness in Parmesan and steak.

But let’s go back to the basics. Nutritional yeast flakes are produced by growing, harvesting and drying a variety of yeast that is different from that used in baking.

Pumpkin and White Bean Soup With Sourdough Croutons

Instant Coffee — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, February 16th, 2012

bourbon java steak tips
Most of us have to be suffering from a pretty mind-blowing caffeine-withdrawal migraine before we’ll reach for instant coffee.

Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy some. Because while instant coffee makes a generally lousy cup of java, it can do astounding things for your cooking.

And that is why it is such an overlooked and underappreciated ingredient.

First, an instant-coffee primer.

Coffee hounds have been tinkering with versions of instant coffee since at least the late 1700s, but it wasn’t until just before World War II that it became widely available.

Those early varieties were made by spraying brewed coffee into heated towers and drying it into granules. By 1964, a freeze-drying method had been perfected, which boasted superior aroma and body.

Get the recipe for Bourbon Java Steak Tips »

5 Things to Know About Your Refrigerator

by in How-to, February 15th, 2012

refrigerator safetyA refrigerator in tip-top condition provides prime storage conditions for your perishables and stops odors and bacteria from flourishing.

1. The temperature should remain between 30 degrees F and 40 degrees F. While freezers should clock in at zero or below, a refrigerator that hovers no higher than 40 degrees F is safest for food storage, as it inhibits bacterial growth.

2. Your refrigerator and freezer need to be cleaned each season. Freshen up the fridge and its contents by doing away with odors and lingering germs. Remove everything from inside, weeding out items that need to go. (Put edible odds and ends to use in everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salads, pizzas or soups.) Replace open boxes of baking soda, then take a bucket of water combined with a few spoonfuls of the replaced baking soda (it’s still effective as a household cleaner) and wipe down every surface.

Refrigerator door shelves are where it’s warmest »

Five-Spice Powder — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, February 9th, 2012

roast beef tenderloin
It’s all about harmony and yin-yang.

Which sounds tritely New Age-y, but really is the key to Chinese cuisine.

Because as with so much of Asian cooking, the blend of seasonings known as five-spice powder is intended to trigger a sense of balance in the mouth and nose.

How? A careful selection of spices that simultaneously hit notes of warm and cool, sweet and bitter, savory and searing.

Because that’s what you get with five-spice powder, a mix of fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and Sichuan peppercorns.

Like spice blends around the world, the proportions of those ingredients vary by region in China, but some variant of it is used throughout the country.

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