Thursday, August 25, 2011

I hear all sorts of advice on thawing out chicken and fish, some of which seem to conflict. My mom would just leave a frozen steak on the counter all day long. What's the story with this?

This a great question, as it's a misunderstood step in many recipes AND it has a big impact on the potential shelf life and safety of whatever your cooking.
First let me say that leaving something on the counter to thaw is about the worst possible approach. (no offense to your mom)  It is also potentially dangerous, as it lingers in dangerous temperature ranges for a long period of time, and can leave you with unevenly thawed items. 
There are two safe ways to thaw frozen meat and fish.
  1. Simply moving it to the fridge and allowing to come up to fridge temperature over a more extended period time.  This method is best for thinner items of less mass (e.g.- flank steak, fish fillet, chicken cutlet).  Larger items can require ridiculously long periods of time, and often will thaw unevenly - For instance, if you were to thaw a whole chicken in this manner, the outside will thaw after 8 hours, while the remainder of chicken can take as long as 32 hours more to thaw- so the surface of your chicken, is thaw for a much longer period of time.  In other words - your chicken essentially sits in the fridge for a lot longer than it needs to.  While it IS in the fridge, even chicken in the fridge can still get funky.
  2. Submerging in a vessel, with a trickle of running cold water. This works well and quickly for everything as long as it's in an airtight package (vacuum packed or a zip top bag)**.  The trickle of water is essential to keeping the process moving along. What it does is create a convection (movement of energy) in the water bath, ensuring that the water in contact with the item you are thawing is warmer.  If that trickle isn't happening, your frozen object just brings down the temperature of the surrounding water, you might even notice that ice form on the surface.  

**- the exception to the airtight package is a shrimp, which I thaw out directly in the water. Other proteins will be affected by extended contact with water.  For instance, salmon's texture will be come mealy and have trouble browning in a pan.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

About A Very Cool Fish Farm in Spain

If you haven't yet seen this video, it is definitely worth a watch.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How can I use up these huge bunches of herbs!?

by Lauren Rauh

I have a problem, I am a serious herb hoarder. When I see gorgeous, huge bunches of herbs at the farmer's market, I just cannot resist. Soon enough, I find my refrigerator full of these delicate, highly perishable plants, and I'm devastated at the prospect of having to throw them out. I remedied a dangerous abundance of cilantro with this quick and versatile sauce. I also threw a little left-over basil and tarragon into the mix. This refreshing sauce can be used on fish or chicken, as an accompaniment to a vegetable stir fry, as a salad dressing, or even a dip for crudité or chips!

Tomato Cilantro Sauce

1 large bunch cilantro
1 garlic clove, crushed
Juice of one lime
1/2 to 1 jalapeño (optional)
1 med tomato
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup yogurt (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor, add the cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and jalapeno, if using. Whirl the ingredients until the cilantro is pureed evenly. Add the tomato and olive oil and process for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth. To create a thicker and tangier sauce, add the yogurt and blend thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill and serve as desired.

Alternatively, you can simmer this sauce for 15 minutes and use it as a base for making a great Mexican rice.  Or add a splash of tequila and saute up some shrimp.  mmmmmm. . . 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Roasted Radishes

In an ongoing effort to pair typical ingredients somewhat atypically with simple cooking methods, I might suggest the roasted radish.
A few months back my newsletter was about ten non-salad ideas for radishes.  One of them was roasting, so I'm backtracking a little to throw this idea out there again.
This technique yields a particularly tasty radish. 
It's so simple there's really no recipe.
Just put a sheet pan in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Schmear on a little oil and spread out some sliced radishes (of any variety) and roast for about 15-20 minutes.  You can even leave the greens attached for a little extra punch. 

The one thing you do need to keep in mind is that, just as with the sautéed cucumbers, you have to wait until the end to salt. Otherwise they will begin to release water, and that will prevent browning.
And no brown = no delicious. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What the heck is Amaranth and what can I do with it?

by Lauren Rauh

Amaranth is best known as a grain, the tiny, tiny seeds of the amaranth plant. But amaranth the green, is wildly nutritious and often passed over as a weed. These leaves are know by a variety of names throughout the world--Callaloo in the Caribbean, Amarante in some Latino countries. I’m going to say it here, right now, these greens are hands down my [second] favorite of the leafy vegetables (dinosaur kale always takes the cake). There’s a good chance you can find amaranth (or by another name) at your local farmers market for a couple more months, but after that it will be difficult to come by. The grains however, have become increasingly more available and popular due to the high protein, low carbohydrate, and gluten-free qualities.

Despite my curiosity in ancient grains, I had yet to introduce amaranth grains into my cooking repertoire. In a bout of creativity and inspiration, I cooked up this amaranth “pancake” using the entire products of the plant. The savory dish is protein-packed and can be sliced up for dinner or eaten cold for a brown bag lunch.

The Goods:
¾ cup amaranth grain
1½ cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 sm onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
1 lbs Amaranth, leaves trimmed and washed
4 eggs
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp soy sauce

Bring the water to a boil in a small pot. Add the amaranth grains. Cook the grains for 20 minutes until the water is absorbed and the tiny grains are tender. It’s OK if you need to drain off some extra water.
While the grains cook you can prepare the other pancake components. In a small bowl, lightly beat the four eggs, water, and soy sauce together and set aside. Prepare your vegetables; roughly chopped the washed amaranth leaves.

Heat a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add the olive and sesame oils. Add the onions and garlic and sweat them for about 10 minutes, reducing the heat if the garlic begins to burn. Add the chili flakes if using and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the amaranth greens and stir gently until the greens wilt. Stir in the cooked grains.

Quickly flatten the contents of the skillet to evenly cover the bottom. Pour the egg mixture over the amaranth and tilt the pan and grains to distribute the egg evenly. Cover the skillet and allow the egg to set. Another option is to stick the whole skillet and contents in the oven, this will allow even cooking throughout the pancake. Having the pancake set on the stove risks burning so just be cautious. I flipped the pancake in sections to cook it on both sides; this does not yield the most attractive product but it still tastes fantastic. Slice the pancake into 6-8 triangles. Serve with a green salad or something similarly light.

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