Thursday, April 30, 2009

Is there a way to make fresh herbs last longer?

A bouquet of fresh herbs is a fabulous ingredient to have on hand. And, let's face it, there are often herbs leftover because most recipes only call for a few tablespoons of the stuff. Since they are so fragile, they will perish quickly in your fridge if they are not properly kept. We have found the best way is to treat the herbs like fresh flowers, especially the leafy ones like basil, parsley, cilantro and mint. When you buy them make sure they are bright green and fresh looking. If they are limp, they may already be on their way out!
Next, cut an inch or two off the bottom (see!... just like flowers!) and place them into a cup or jar with some water so as to keep them hydrated and extend their life. (Don't wash them just yet!)

When using the herbs, cut or pull off as much as you need and wash only that amount right before using.
Even if the recipe doesn't call for them, sprinkle a few spoonfuls of chopped herbs to finish a dish for extra brightness.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How do I handle an artichoke?

There are a few easy steps to mastering this tricky thistle. Once it is cleaned up for cooking it can be steamed, boiled, grilled or fried....also with ease. Let's de-mystify the process and enjoy a whole bunch of artichokes this season!

Step one!
Cut an inch from the top of the artichoke.

Step two!
Peel the stem (if there is one).

Step three!
Peel off the two outer layers of leaves. If there are still pointy tips on any leaves after these steps, trim them with a scissor. The artichokes can be cooked (whole) at this point or keep on going...
Oh, by the way! Drop the chokes in water with a squeeze of lemon or rub lemon directly on them so they do not turn brown after cutting.

Step four!
Slice the prepped artichokes in half and scoop out the furry choke with a spoon.


Quick recipe: Steam the halved artichokes until they are tender (test an outside leaf), about 15-20 minutes. Place on a plate and drizzle with a peppery extra virgin olive oil. Serve with the following dipping sauce or vinaigrette of your choice:

Lemony Mayo
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 dashes hot sauce
1 tablespoon pickled jalapeno, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

Stir ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Is it asparagus season yet?

It is said that when asparagus tips poke through the ground, their progress is so rapid you can almost watch them grow. Once picked, it is an extremely perishable product, the sugars quickly turn to starch. Coming to us at time-lapse-photography speed, fresh asparagus is here!... and it is a true seasonal luxury. Good news is, we can enjoy its season now until mid-June. The bad news is, for the rest of the year we have access to a vegetable that is inferior to its fresh, local counterpart.
At the market, look for straight, firm, bright green spears tipped with purple shadows. If they are bunched together, be sure the band is not too tight having crushed those in the center. They should be held in water or refrigeration, preferably out of the sun. At home, store your brand-new asparagus upright in a jar with an inch of water at the bottom, tops wrapped in a damp paper-towel. Before cooking, cut off the bottom three inches. Some folks peel the stems if they are thick, but if it is very fresh, this is not necessary.

Here is a super-simple recipe for roasting asparagus in the oven. Consider it a jumping off point and dress it up by using any herbs or spices you like. I sprinkled on some crushed vietnamese chili peppers and tossed the veggies in bacon fat instead of oil. They were eaten just like that on the first day and folded into an omelette the next.

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425F. Toss spears in oil and spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 8-10 minutes, giving the pan a good shake halfway through cooking.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I can't seem to get my rice right. What's your secret?

Rice can be a very tricky and frustrating thing to make. Small variations in the cooking process will leave you with a different final product. Soggy, soft, sticky, and sometimes just crunchy. I've made them all. Most rice directions are super simple: put rice and liquid in a pot, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes.

This is fine, but there are a few things they don't tell you. For a more western hemisphere flavor, a little toasting will go a long way. The slightest color on the rice kernels will make for great nutty flavor. Just heat a little oil in the pot you're going to use and stir your rice over medium heat for a maybe three to four minutes. Skip this step for eastern recipes that want a cleaner rice flavor.

Now you add the liquid (wine, stock, water, etc), unless it's risotto DON'T STIR IT until it's done! This agitates the starch in the rice and can make it gummy and sticky. Also, as the rice is settling, it will naturally form its own little "chimney" system to release steam as it's cooking. A simple stir will close the flute on your rice, trapping stream in (or out). which can leave you with one big clump of rice.

Once the whole thing comes to a boil, the typical directions are to lower it to cover and lower it to a simmer. Here's my beef with this. Stove tops can be SO different. Meaning the simmering temperature will vary greatly, giving every household a different rice. Over the years, cooking in many different homes, I've resorted to a more fool-proof solution. Bake it!

Once it comes to a boil, cover your pot and put it in a 350 degree oven for the duration of time the directions call for (usually around 20 min.) This has a few benefits: 350 degrees is always 350 degrees (I do travel with a thermometer to make sure) and rather than the heat coming only from the bottom (the flame under the pot) it is radiating from all directions, guaranteeing even cooking.
This is more of a pilaf method, but it's good for any rice, and it's hard to mess up.

***I want to make a note on rice cookers too. I love them, and I use mine all time. It's completely fool poof and you can use it for a lot of stuff. You put in the rice and water and push a button. Internally there is a temperature gauge that shuts off when it reaches the right temperature. The secret is, due to physics, it can't reach this temperature until a certain amount of liquid has either been absorbed or steamed out. Which makes the rice cooker friendly to almost any thing made in this method. Oatmeal, bulgar wheat, quinoa, you name the grain, most of them are rice cooker friendly.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How do I make an easy stirfry?

Stirfried Carrots, Zucchini, and Kale with Shrimp and Peanuts

Simple Stir Fry Sauce

1/4 Cup soy sauce
2 Teaspoons rice vinegar
1 Teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 Inch grated ginger
1 Clove grated garlic
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1. Simply combine the ingredients in a container and shake it up.
2. In a hot skillet saute about two cup of your favorite veggies. Once they're cooked to your liking, add the well-shaken sauce and stir until thickened. About one to two minutes.

This is a great simple sauce to whip up if you're in the mood for some Asian flare. It's open to a lot of variations and the cornstarch gives is a very authentic and delicious "crappy Chinese food" feel.

The sauce itself is a simple combine and stir. Here's the great thing about it. Although it's great on its own, to this concoction you can add almost any Asian ingredient to take it in a different direction. Fish sauce, cilantro and lime will take you to Thailand. Fermented chili and shredded kimchi to Korea. A splash of mirin and a touch of honey is your ticket to teriyaki town. A protein like chicken, shrimp or tofu is great. Even just a handful of cashew pieces will take this to the next level.

For the veggies, feel free to use whatever you like or what seems appropriate. Just don't go over board, keep it to three or four vegetables (not counting onions which are a given) . Too many will mess with your cooking time, leaving you with some raw and some mushy.*

To execute the process, get your skillet screamin' hot and add enough oil to coat the pan. (2 1/2 tablespoons for mine) Heat the oil until it shimmers. Toss in your veggies, and stir them constantly until they're just softened. Hot is important, to roughly compare, your skillet is over a 15,000 btu (British thermal units) flame, 20,000 if your lucky; a wok in Asia is scorched by 120,000 btu's. Thin slicing will aid in quick and even cooking.

Shimering oil leaves thin trails on the side and shows a ripply (shimering) surface

Pour in the sauce and stir constantly while it thickens add cooked protein if you have it. Enjoy the whole thing over some rice.

* If you do want to use a million different vegetables, consider sauteing to them to perfection separately and them combining them in the sauce.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Who: Chefs Josh & Ori

What: An action-packed cooking demonstration featuring pan-grilled fish tacos with salsas, sauces and a fresh spring slaw. Wine pairings by the Chelsea Wine Vault.

When: FRIDAY APRIL 10th • 1pm-4pm

Where: Chelsea Market Concourse
(75 Ninth Ave. betw 15 & 16th Streets)

How: With a grill pan, a spatula, a bowl, a blender and some wine pourers

Why: Because we're big show-offs

*Tastes and recipes will be given and, as always, questions are welcome.

What are some of the staples in your kitchen?

Well, I guess the more one cooks the more familiar one becomes with their personal list of indispensable pantry products. Currently in my kitchen, these ingredients top my list (which is long...cabinet space willing). I consider them essential because having them on hand means I can always whip something up or I can elevate basic groceries to an improved level. I try to not run out of them, replenishing as needed. I am going to cheat a little by making each item a sort of 'category'.


1. Salt and Pepper - kosher salt is a must. I also like to use a nice finishing salt like fleur du sel and freshly cracked black peppercorns.
2. Oil - canola for cooking, extra virgin olive oil for finishing and maybe a fancy hazelnut oil too.
3. Dijon Mustard - classique!
4. Hot Sauce - I have many, but sriracha is my MVP.
5. Vinegar - I can't decide which variety is most important, I love (and liberally use) them all. Some of my regular vinegars are champagne, balsamic, apple cider, umeboshi plum, rice wine, red or white wine. Oh, and I have been using distilled white vinegar and water as an unbelievably effective (and cheap!) all purpose cleaner, 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar in a spray bottle....genius!
6. Canned Beans - any kind will do. Beans are a quick protein you can always make a hearty meal with and they can be used in countless ways.
7. Eggs - if you have eggs you are rich.
8. Pasta - the ultimate go-to food, right!?
9. Fish (can or jar) - tuna, salmon, sardines, octopus, anchovies, etc. can save lives.
10. Nuts. No, honey. No! Maple syrup...wait! brown rice, oh NO! Soy sauce. I can't decide. Butter. Ha!

I almost really cheated and wrote 'Spices' for #10 but that would be an entire list of it's own! Speaking of which:


1. Garlic powder
2. Red Pepper Flakes
3. Chili Powder
4. Cumin
5. Cinnamon
6. Cayenne
7. Coriander
8. Smoked Paprika
9. Cardamon
10. Turmeric

Let's make everything taste good!
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