How to Steam Vegetables

March 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

One of the easiest ways of preparing food, especially vegetables, is by steaming. This is not my favorite method of cooking, because you don’t get the depth of flavor produced by roasting or the ability to layer flavors produced by sautéing. However, steaming is hands down the easiest, quickest and healthiest way to prepare food. Since this blog is about breaking down cooking to it’s most basic components, I figure this is a great technique to write about.

First, you will need a steamer basket to suspend food above boiling water. You can find either a metal, plastic or bamboo basket that has small holes or slits in the bottom. This allows the steam to cook the food, instead of submerging food in water, as with boiling or blanching, so you don’t lose nutrients into the cooking water. Metal steaming baskets are common in any grocery store that sells kitchen supplies, and you can find them on-line for right around $10. You can also find bamboo steamers at an Asian market or on-line for about the same price. « Read the rest of this entry »

How to Saute Vegetables

February 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

In my article, “How to Sweat Vegetables,” I talked a bit about the difference between sweating and sautéing. To quickly recap: sweating releases the aroma of vegetables without changing the flavor. With sautéing, however, the goal is to brown the vegetables, giving them a rich flavor.

Sautéing also requires a slightly different cooking method than sweating. When sautéing, you want to use a higher heat, more oil and a wide pan. I sautee on medium high to high heat, depending on what I’m cooking. Vegetables with a lot of water – such as zucchini, mushrooms or cabbage – cook better on high heat, while vegetables that are more dense – such carrots, fennel or onion – should be cooked on medium high, so they don’t burn before they’re done. « Read the rest of this entry »

Mise en place

January 16, 2012 § 2 Comments

In the restaurant world, a French term, mise en place, is widely used to refer to what is necessary for cooking a dish. It roughly translates to “put in place.” The idea is that before you begin assembling any dish, you must first have all the ingredients “put in place,” along with any additional tools you may need for the cooking process. This saves you the pain and stress of scrambling for that one thing you forgot after everything else is in a sautee pan on high heat.

If you are working in a restaurant, when dinner service starts, you may find that the chef gets angry with you if your mise is not en place. When cooking at home, you will very well likely find yourself getting angry if your mise is not en place. Proper cooking often requires high temperatures and quick cooking times to produce the best end result. For instance, whenever I’m doing Chinese or Thai cooking in a wok, I cook only on high heat, and once the oil is hot, it is a quick sequence of adding ingredients until the cooking is finished – ten minutes at most. There is really no time to chop that extra vegetable or measure out that little bit of sauce. Cooking requires focus and attention, things that are both shattered by a last minute scramble. « Read the rest of this entry »

How to Sweat Vegetables

January 3, 2012 § 4 Comments

So, this has got to be one of the greatest internet search phrases ever. Brings all kinds of fun things to mind, doesn’t it? But, sweating vegetables actually refers to cooking vegetables so they release their aroma without altering their flavor.

At a medium temperature for a longer period of time, vegetables like onions, carrots and celery become fragrant and glossy. This is sweating. At a high temperature for a shorter period of time, the vegetables start to caramelize, turning brown, and becoming sweeter and richer. This is sauteeing. « Read the rest of this entry »

Free Flavor

December 27, 2011 § 5 Comments

Everybody knows that one of the easiest ways to enhance the flavor of a dish is to add butter, cream, stock, or cheese. Our brains are designed to reward us with positive messages when we eat fatty foods. You could call it an evolutionary holdover from more austere times, when we as a species did not have the reliable food sources we now take for granted. And while it is sometimes fun to go crazy, making a rich, decadent meal for you and your friends, on a day to day basis, this kind of cooking is incredibly unhealthy and can get to be very expensive.

So, where do you turn when you want food that is full of flavor, but not unhealthy? You turn to herbs, spices and aromatic vegetables, that’s where. I like to call this assortment of ingredients “free flavor.” Free flavor means seasonings that you can add freely to food to make it delicious, without it being unhealthy or expensive. Herbs and spices are so low in calories that their contribution to an over-all calorie count is negligible, and most contain no fats or sugars. Don’t believe me? Look it up for yourself! « Read the rest of this entry »

How to Use a Rice Cooker, part 01: an introduction

December 15, 2011 § 6 Comments

So, one of the easiest things you can do to simplify your home cooking is to buy a rice cooker. This article will give you a basic overview of how to use a rice cooker. While a rice cooker may seem like an intimidating investment – “I thought this was supposed to be cheap cooking!” – let me start by saying two things.

First, I will periodically recommend products or tools I think will be useful. You do not, of course, need to buy these to cook at home, or even perform all the techniques I want to share. They will simply make your life easier. The more time you spend in your kitchen, the more you will want to expand your collection of tools. After a few key purchases, you will wonder how you ever lived without some of them. More on this later. « Read the rest of this entry »

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