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 »

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Vegetable Barley Soup

January 3, 2012 § 12 Comments

It’s winter time, which means that many of us have already been or will be sick. And clearly, the meal of choice when sick is soup. So, instead of spending money at the store for cans of soup of dubious quality, you can easily make soup at home. Homemade soup can be packed into the freezer in reusable containers – perfect for weeks when you are busy or sick.

One of my favorite soups to make is this vegetable barley soup. It’s cheap, delicious and nutritious. It has a lot of vegetables, some hearty grains, and a rich broth that’s slightly spicy. All that good stuff you really want when you’re sick. I hope this one keeps you warm and happy this winter! « Read the rest of this entry »

3 Pepper Blend

January 2, 2012 § 3 Comments

Do you ever find yourself using a particular mixture of spices regularly? Maybe you’re the kind of person that adds garlic powder and cumin to everything. In situations like these, I like to make my own spice blends. I’ve made several from recipes in books, but occasionally, I’ll just throw together some things I like.

One of the blends that I came up with is this 3 pepper blend. It’s a mixture of paprika, white pepper and black pepper. By layering these flavors, you get the spice and sweetness of paprika, the garlicky quality of white pepper, and the depth of black pepper. And with only 6 calories per teaspoon, this definitely qualifies as free flavor!* « 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 02: rice variations & scallion rice

December 21, 2011 § 33 Comments

So, in part one of the rice cooker series, I gave a basic overview of how to use a rice cooker in the most basic, straightforward way. And while I enjoy plain rice with flavorful, saucy dishes like stir-frys, sometimes plain rice is just, well, plain. Boring. Thoroughly unexciting. So the rest of the rice cooker series will be devoted to giving you ideas for how to expand on basic rice without putting out a lot of extra effort.

There is a basic formula for seasoning and enhancing grains, and rice is no different. Salt and pepper are always essential to bringing out the best flavor in grains. From there you can try substituting the water in your rice cooker with using stock or broth to cook your rice. Other options include substituting a small portion of wine or soy sauce for some of the cooking liquid to add a greater depth of flavor. You can also add a bit of oil or butter to your rice, if you are feeling really decadent. « 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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