Sure, a microwave is great for reheating leftovers, but did you know your countertop appliance was originally invented as a quick-cooking replacement for the conventional home oven? Research on radiation during World War II resulted in the realization that microwaves could cook food faster than regular ovens. Most microwave recipes are developed for units with 800 to 1,200 watts. The higher the wattage, the faster things will cook, so if your microwave is super powerful, it will cook your food significantly faster. Of course there are definitely a few foods you should never experiment with in the microwave: whole eggs, grapes and raisins, and chocolate-hazelnut spread (the high fat content makes it spark), but there are also many things the microwave does incredibly well. These recipes and tricks will inspire you to use your appliance for more than just reheating.
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There seems to be a requirement for comfort food that it is simple, unpretentious and modest. There is a natural humbleness to home-cooked foods from the wild. Sure, chefs all over are foraging and turning bits of moss into foams and gelees, but long before the old became new again, people were gathering food from the wild and harvesting from the seas, lakes and rivers.
Fried fish and hushpuppies are quintessential examples of such simple country cooking. If you had a hook and a line and a little cornmeal, you might have dinner. (Well, then there’s the whole idea of noodling — catching catfish with your bare hands — but that’s just crazy.) A fish fry would not be complete without a hushpuppy. Hushpuppies are traditionally made from the seasoned cornmeal used to coat the fish (often mixed with beer) and fried in the oil used to cook the fish. Nothing is wasted — another hallmark of down-home comfort.
At least once a week, I try to make something for dinner that helps me clear all the odd bits out of my produce drawers. During the colder months, I make huge pots of soup that serve as the basis of quick meals all week long. When the weather starts to warm up, however, I turn to salads to use a handful of mushrooms and the last skinny stalks of celery from the very center of the bunch.
No one really needs a recipe for this kind of use-it-up salad, but sometimes it’s nice to see how other people approach their clean-out-the-fridge meal. I can easily fall into a rut, so a little bit of outside inspiration is just plain nice.
This is where Jeff Mauro’s Garbage Salad and Champagne Vinaigrette comes in. It’s not a recipe that’s reinventing the wheel, but it does pull together a nice assortment of complementary flavors that are outside my regular, well-trod paths. The vegetable base is a motley collection of romaine, iceberg, carrots, celery, mushrooms and pepperoncini. The brain wave is that he also includes blue cheese, sliced deli turkey and oil-packed anchovies. That means there’s enough protein in that salad for it to pass for a full-on meal (at least in my house).
It’s good for Sunday afternoons or whenever your Weekender craving may strike.
The babies in your life may be all about mashed veggies, but big kids (including adults) find just as much down-home comfort in them. This week, FN Dish is zeroing in on this fool-proof technique that works for potatoes and beyond. Feast your eyes on these favorite mashed recipes, each perfect for weeknight eating.
Potatoes are eaten in abundance year-round for a reason. To get in the spring spirit, add market-fresh produce into your mashed potatoes for a different kind of side. Giada’s Baked Mashed Potatoes with Peas, Parmesan Cheese and Breadcrumbs, for instance, go in the oven until crispy and golden brown on top. For a different dose of greens, try Giada’s Mashed Potatoes with Kale, which have mascarpone cheese folded in for added creaminess.
Chives, a mellow onion-esque herb now starring in a leading role at your local farmers market, add more than vibrant color. Chop them up and fold into Tyler’s Chive and Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
For a loaded appetizer gone side dish, leave the skins on — and fold in some crispy turkey bacon — get Rachael’s Mashed Potato Skins (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine.
For this week’s Chopped Dinner Challenge, the chefs of Food Network Kitchen chose to feature the basket ingredient Camembert. Inspired by a cheese plate of ham, cheese and fruit, the chefs came up with this savory bread pudding. With the characteristic texture of a quiche, this recipe for Camembert and Ham Bread Pudding makes an ideal brunch, lunch or dinner dish when paired with a simple green salad. It’s also a good use for leftovers — think bread and ham remnants from this past holiday. With the familiar flavors of ham and cheese, it’ll be a sure-fire hit with your family any day of the week.
While potato salad may be a staple come summertime cookouts, it’s also a go-to way to round out any main dish — no matter what time of year you’re cooking. Think of potato salad as you do grilled chicken or a pizza: It’s a blank canvas that can be customized to your family’s tastes or whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand. Plus, because every potato salad starts with — of course — the humble spud, most recipes are economical and can be stretched when you’re cooking for a large group. Check out Food Network’s top-five potato salads below to find classic and creative renditions from some of your favorite chefs: Melissa, Ree, Ina, Bobby and Alton.
5. Grilled Potato Salad — It’s not too early to roll out your barbecue and start grilling, especially when Melissa’s quick-fix potato salad is on the menu. After grilling both red and sweet potatoes, she tosses the spuds in a bold, indulgent dressing made with bacon renderings.
4. Perfect Potato Salad — Sweet pickles and pickle juice add a tart bite to Ree’s mashed potato salad, studded with hard-boiled eggs and laced with fresh dill.
Fresh, simple and vibrant, salads are fuss-free meals that can come together in mere minutes, but if they’re not beefed up with plenty of ingredients and a rich, flavorful dressing, often they’re not satisfying for a main dish. The key to preparing a hearty salad is opting for hefty add-ins with bold tastes — but you don’t need meat to do that.
Rachael’s Greek Salad (pictured above) is a colorful take on the classic recipe that can be on the table in less than 15 minutes. Instead of relying on a bed of lettuce for the base of her salad, Rachael fills the plate with fresh vegetables, like juicy tomatoes, cool cucumber, and both crunchy bell and Cubanelle peppers. Traditional kalamata olives offer a salty bite to the salad, while parsley adds brightness. No Greek salad is compete without tangy feta cheese, and Rachael opts for slices of authentic Greek feta for a decadent topping before finishing the dish with a simple red wine vinaigrette. Serve warm pita bread as a hearty accompaniment, and use it to sop up the oregano-laced dressing.
I am so grateful that spring is finally here. I live in Philadelphia, which is in that part of the country that was viciously walloped by this winter’s polar vortex, and so I was starting to wonder if the cold weather was here to stay. Fortunately in the last couple weeks, the weather has warmed, there’s a bit more sunlight each day, and I can feel hopefulness radiating off of everyone I pass.
To my mind, there’s no better way to celebrate the return of this more-hopeful weather than with a homemade treat. If you feel the same way, let me suggest Trisha Yearwood’s Chocolate Pound Cake. It’s indulgent, but the texture is lighter than you find with other pound cakes, which makes it both celebratory and perfect for this time of year.
Whether you’re baking for an Easter celebration or just in need of something sweet with which to welcome the warmer weather, this cake is an ideal Weekender project.
Fresh ham is nothing like the boozy bourbon-soaked and smoked holiday ham or the candy-sweet spiral wonder. It’s essentially a pork roast with a bone — a rather big pork roast with a bone — but a pork roast nonetheless. It’s simply the upper hind leg of a pig, not processed or cured using salt or brine, nor smoked as most hams are. Fresh ham tastes like a really moist pork loin or center-cut pork chops. And, when prepared and roasted properly, a fresh ham is capped by an exquisite, burnished-gold piece of crispy skin. It’s the perfect marriage of a bone-in pork chop and cracklin’ pork belly. Fresh ham means down-home comfort, especially when served with roasted sweet potatoes.
How did serving ham for Easter become a custom? Mediterranean celebrations, including the Jewish Passover, traditionally call for lamb at spring feasts. However, in northern Europe, pigs were the primary protein and ham was often served instead for special meals. Pigs were slaughtered in the fall and the meat was salted, smoked and cured over the winter. The resulting hams were ready to eat in the spring. At the point when refrigeration became widely available and curing hams wasn’t a necessity, someone came up with the grand idea of cooking fresh ham. I am glad they did.
Fast forward to Sunday morning, when the Easter bunny has come and gone, the last eggs in the yard have been hunted and the heads of marshmallow Peeps have been nibbled off. After such a busy morning, the only thing left to do is eat. This Sunday, load up on seasonal side dishes that stack up to your family’s Easter ham. Not only are the ingredient lists oh so spring, they’re also as easy to make as it gets.
If you haven’t snatched up some in-season peas at the market yet, there’s never been a better time. Food Network Magazine’s Creamy Spring Peas with Pancetta (pictured above) combines a trio of fresh English peas, crunchy sugar snap peas and sliced snow peas with pancetta and cream.
Cooked down with white wine till soft and sweet, Creamed Vidalia Onions by Food Network Magazine are a sure brunch standout. The additions of cream and savory breadcrumbs don’t hurt either.