of April 25, 2004
Different Varieties of Vinegar
may not be the most romantic or sought after
culinary ingredient, but everyone depends
on it and the right vinegar can make or
break a good recipe. Vinegar is simply "sour
wine". If you want a fancier name,
you can use the French pronunciation of
vin aigre. Various vinegars taste different
due to their starting point as a liquid
(like wine, beer or cider), its storage
conditions, acid level and whether the vinegar
is infused with garlic, fruit or herbs.
vinegar, which originated in Modena, Italy
is definitely gaining increased popularity.
It has a dark brown appearance with a mild
but sweet flavor. It is made from the juice
of sweet white grapes. Balsamic vinegar must
be aged in wooden casks at least 10 years,
making it a more expensive vinegar. White
balsamic vinegar is made from white wine vinegar
(freshly pressed juice) and the musts of white
grapes. It is a clear vinegar with a subtle
vinegar is made from the juice of apples and
is the most widely used vinegar. It is golden
brown with a sharp bite and subtle apple flavor.
vinegars are infused with fruits, such as
raspberries or strawberries.
vinegars are infused with garlic, basil or
vinegar is made from beer or malted barley.
It is dark brown with an assertive flavor
and you probably know it as the accompaniment
to fish and chips.
vinegar is popular in Chinese and Japanese
cuisines. This pale gold vinegar is made from
rice wine or sake, giving it slightly sweet
overtones and a mild tang.
and champagne vinegars start with their respective
beverages. Sherry vinegar has a deep color
and very rich flavor. Champagne vinegar has
a pale color and delicate flavor. Good substitutes
for Sherry vinegar is Balsamic vinegar and
a good substitute for Champagne vinegar is
white wine or rice vinegar.
or distilled vinegar is made from grain alcohol.
It is clear with a strong sharp flavor and
is most often used for pickling, processing
and as a household cleaner.
vinegars are made from white, red or rose
wines. The color and flavor of the vinegar
depends greatly on the type of wine used.
Red wine vinegar is heartier with more body.
you are dressing a salad, the best rule is
to pair milder greens with light dressing
such as vinaigrettes. More intense greens
such as arugula and spinach are good with
stronger flavored dressing as they will not
shroud the flavor of the greens.
assertive, bitter greens such as arugula and
mustard greens, use a bold vinegars such as
balsamic or sherry vinegar.
milder greens like Bibb or Boston lettuce,
use cider vinegar or a fruit vinegar so the
sweet flavor of the lettuce is not lost.
a mixture of greens like mesclun, try wine,
champagne or rice vinegar.
creamy dressing, use white wine, rice, champagne
or other pale colored vinegar to prevent discoloring.
of April 18, 2004
Made Easy as 1 - 2 - 3
If you turn the TV on at all, you have heard
more about packet cooking recently because of
an advertising blitz by Reynolds, who is pushing
its foil "hot bags". The large bags
are great for family-size dishes serving 5 -
6, but heavy-duty aluminum foil folded into
packets still works best for smaller servings.
Foil cooking is built for high heat and speed
which naturally makes it a quick and easy way
to cook with very little clean up.
packet cooking originated in France, called
cooking en papillote and parchment paper was
the original wrap material. Many recipes can
be wrapped in either parchment or foil, but
if the food has more liquid, your best choice
would be foil because it is sturdier. Food en
papillote makes a prettier presentation than
foil. Parchment packets, slightly browned from
the oven heat, can be opened at the table, emitting
enticing aromas amid the steam.
Do not confuse parchment paper with wax paper.
Wax paper is a translucent paper coated on both
sides with wax and is waterproof but not grease-proof
like parchment paper. When grease from food
gets on wax paper, it smokes and can catch on
fire. Parchment paper resists both moisture
and grease, making it the perfect wrapper for
baking. Reynolds also makes precut parchment
ready to cut and fold. They even have some great
visual instructions on how to fold the parchment.
also have some great packet recipes on their
site complete with nutrition breakdown. (Most
but not all are low fat.) Since they use asp
in building their web page, I can not take you
to the exact page but you can navigate from
the home page Click
here. Then go to the box on the
right that says cooking method and find packet
Foil doesn't produce the same drama at the dinner
table as parchment paper and it retains the
heat making it very easy for diners to burn
themselves. It's better to transfer the food
to a plate or bowl in the kitchen and then serve.
When making the packet, just place food on a
foil square, bring two sides together and double
or triple fold at top. Then seal the sides securely
to ensure that no juices can drip out.
Less fat is needed because food cooks in its
own juices. This keeps the food moist and concentrates
and meat can be cooked together for a complete,
nutritious meal. Be sure to cut vegetables in
small, uniform slices to ensure even cooking.
Oven use is minimal, a plus during hot summer
months. Most recipes call for cooking times
of less than 30 minutes in a hot oven, about
425 degrees. You can also forgo the oven altogether
and toss the packets on a hot outdoor grill.
Meals are easy to make ahead. Assemble packets
in the morning and have dinner on the table
in 30 minutes that night. It is also a plus
if you have a family on the go; son at ball
practice and daughter at dance class, husband
working overtime shift; just cook the premade
packets as stragglers get home.
of April 11, 2004
zest has an intense flavor, which will brighten
any dish. When zesting a fruit, be very careful
to get only a thin layer of skin and none of
the white pithy parts The white pith is very
bitter. To zest lemons, limes or oranges, use
a vegetable peeler, paring knife, or "zester
tool" (available at kitchen shops) to remove
the outermost colored peel in long strips. Try
to avoid digging into the fruit so deeply that
you cut into the white underskin surrounding
the fruit; cut off only the top, colored layer
of the peel.
Lay each strip of peeling on a cutting board,
outer peel side down. With a sharp knife, gently
scrape away any white membrane that remains
on the underside of the strip.
you have cleaned the strips of all the membrane,
use kitchen shears to finely snip the zest into
small pieces or chop with a very sharp knife.
you can add the perfumed, pigmented zest to
add terrific aroma and flavor to any dish.
of April 04, 2004
Popularity of Slow Cooking
Imagine coming home tonight and not having to
fix dinner. Just think of wonderful smells coming
from your kitchen the moment you walk in! No,
you did not hire a cook - you have a slow cooker.
All you had to do last night was chop up some
meat and veggies and this morning you tossed
them in the slow cooker and switched it on.
Slow cooking is popular again! So dust off that
old appliance and get ready to rediscover just
how easy, delicious and healthy a slow cooker
can make your life.
cookers work at low heat and with their lids
on, so little liquid is lost during cooking.
Most foods contain water. As they cook, they
begin to release their water. Since there is
little evaporation with a slow cooker, you may
end up with more liquid than you started with.
So, if you are adapting your favorite stovetop
and oven recipes for the slow cooker, decrease
the amount of liquid you use.
are some advantages to browning the meat or
poultry before placing in a slow cooker. Brown
will give it a more appetizing color and a richer
flavor than simply tossing it in raw, but the
meat will still cook either way. Always brown
any ground meat including turkey. If you don't
brown it first, it will clump together and have
an unappealing appearance.
spices such as bay leaves, peppercorns or cinnamon
sticks will give slow cooker items a very intense
flavor if left in the pot for the entire cooking
time, so use sparingly. Ground spices as well
as fresh and dried herbs, on the other hand,
can lose much of their flavor if allowed to
simmer for several hours in the slow cooker.
It's better to add these items during the last
two hours of cooking. To avoid curdling, wait
until the last hour of cooking time to add dairy
products like milk, sour cream, cheese or yogurt.
can cut the cooking time in half by turning
up the temperature, and still get great results.
Because of its even distribution of heat, you
do not have to worry about it burning. If something
takes 10 hours on the "low" setting,
you can safely cook it for 5 hours on the "high"
setting with very much the same results.
are two easy and healthy recipes for your slow
1 - 3 pound lean low fat fully cooked smoked
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups fruit chutney
1 cup diced dried fruit and raisin mix (dried
cranberries, apricots, etc.)
1 cup small frozen whole white onions
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
ham in 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle
with pepper. Mix remaining ingredients; pour
over ham. Cover and cook on low heat setting
6 to 8 hours.
and cook on low heat setting 6 to 8 hours or
follow your slow cooker's manufacturer directions.
Chicken and Corn Chili
Makes 6 servings.
skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 - 16 ounce jar salsa
1 - 10 ounce can Rotel tomatoes and chilies
1 cup fat free chicken broth
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1 - 11 ounce can Mexican-style corn, drained
1 - 15 ounce can pinto beans
Place chicken and salsa in the slow cooker the
night before you want to eat this chili. Season
with garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, salt,
and pepper. Cook 6 to 8 hours on Low setting.
3 to 4 hours before you want to eat, shred the
chicken with 2 forks. Return the meat to the
pot, and continue cooking.
the corn and the pinto beans into the slow cooker.
Simmer until ready to serve.