Archive for the ‘Fruits and Vegetables’ Category

Kumquats – a recent discovery

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

I recently have become acquainted with kumquats.  They are truly an intriguing little fruit.  The ones I tried were quite small and condusive to simply plopping in the mouth, whole.  The fruit can be larger but those might be a little too big for eating whole.  The first taste is shockingly sour but is somehowed mellowed with a sweeter finish.  They make a wonderful snack but can also be used for jams, chutneys and relishes.  They are also encorporated in baking items like muffins and cake batter. When trying to imagine their many applications compare them to orange and lemon rinds. 

Kumquats can be used in much the same way, but the entire fruit can be used (not just the rind), removing seeds first, and then sliced or chopped to the size you need.

They can also be used as a garnish in salads.  When stored in the fridge they have a decent shelf life giving you plenty of time to find places for them.

Shabu-shabu – something everyone can enjoy

Monday, June 27th, 2011

As part of our introduction to Japanese food my husband and I have discovered shabu-shabu.  It is a wonderfully delicious and healthy soup that is typically prepared table-side with guests adding their own meats and vegetables in the broth.   Here’s how shabu-shabu works.

You start by purchasing a portable burner and setting that at your table. 

Find a pot that fits the burner and still allows you to feed about four per.  Add about one quart of a good broth or stock.  Supplement the stock with ginger slices, lemongrass, garlic, red pepper flakes, star anise…whatever flavors you enjoy. 

Allow those to simmer together for a few minutes while you prepare the vegetables and meats.  In this broth I also added some of the small pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms.

For the vegetables you can use any combination you choose. 

If you use things like sweet potatoes and carrots, be sure they are sliced thinly so they cook quickly at the table.

Add the vegetables that take longest to cook first…

and add the quick cooking vegetables, like spinach, last.  In this particular meal I used cubes of tofu but frequently we add shrimp and very thinly sliced raw pork or beef.  Pieces from the loin are most tender.  When the meat is shaved super thin it cooks in seconds.   Thicker pieces will take longer. 

Also have ready some beaten egg in a bowl, usually one egg per person.  Once the vegetables have cooked to your liking…

slowly add the egg to the simmering broth,  cook for another minute and stir.

Ladle the soup over bowls of rice and you are ready to enjoy.  You can add soy sauce, if needed, or other Asian style sauces but the truth is, if you create an awesome broth at the onset you need very little help at the end.  This is a very light and healthy soup making it the perfect meal for the summer.

The technique for one-handed whisking (or in other words – what to do when you wish you had three hands)

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

whisking

Anyone who cooks should own at least one whisk.  Whisks come in several different shapes and sizes, because each is designed for a specific purpose.  There are those that have fairly thick and rigid wires which are great for stirring sauces and puddings.  And then there is what we call a balloon whisk.  The wires on a balloon whisk bulge out at the ends and they’re very thin and flexible.  That shape and flexibility makes a balloon whisk the perfect tool for whipping cream and beating egg whites.  It’s specifically designed to put a lot of air into whatever your beating.  If you are handy with a whisk and have the right whisk it can even replace an electric mixer.

Here’s a whisking technique I recommend which lets you whisk anything using just one hand while freeing up the other to pour or add more ingredients.  This is especially useful when you’re making a vinaigrette dressing and want to slowly add oil with one hand while whisking with the other.

Here’s how to do that.  Take the bowl you’ll be mixing or whipping things in and find a pot or kettle that it can sit inside of.  It doesn’t have to fit completely into the kettle (in fact it is preferable if it doesn’t) but a good portion of the the base should be able to rest inside.  Then take a dishtowel and set it between the kettle and your mixing bowl.  What the towel does is hold the bowl in place so it doesn’t move around on the counter as your whisking.  It’s a great technique.  You free up a hand to do other things because the kettle and towel are holding the bowl.  Try it some time.  It’s a great help when making dressings, whipping cream or beating egg whites.

Frozen banana split crepes

Monday, May 9th, 2011

opener

If you like crepes and like banana splits here’s a great combination.  And this is a great dessert because it can be made ahead and frozen with no last minute fuss.  To make this easy purchase ice cream in the square cartons.  Have your crepes all laid out on a clean counter, preferably each on a sheet of parchment or wax paper. 

unfolded-carton

Open the carton…

block-in-fourths

and cut the block into fourths, lengthwise…

thirds

and then cut each sheet into thirds, creating 12 sticks total.

banana-on-crepe

Lay 1/2 of a banana (cut lengthwise) on the crepe, cut side up…

ice-cream-on-banana

and set a stick of ice cream on top. 

rolled

Roll and press together pushing in any ice cream that wants to ooze out the ends. 

rolled-parch-in-pan

Roll tight in the parchment, set on a clean, chilled baking sheet…and take immediately to the freezer.  Freeze until firm and then cover really well with plastic wrap to make sure it’s protected from freezer odors.

 final

Cut in half on a diagonal and serve only half for a smaller portion or use both halves for a more generous.  Serve with a drizzle of caramel and chocolate sauce, peanuts and cream.  Yum!  Ideally the crepe needs to soften for a few minutes to make it work with a fork or you can serve it firmer and eat with fingers!

*Use bananas that are just barely ripe, not overripe.

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