Mastering Ministrone — November 19, 2020

Mastering Ministrone

So now that we’ve bought the perfect pot, found the perfect recie, bought the best veggies, sliced and diced, and so forth…

Now what?

1.Constantly keep an eye on your soup while it is cooking. This will allow you to  adjust the spices and cooking temperature as needed.

2. Cook on low heat. Don’t think that cooking your soup at a higher temperature will ensure that everything will actually get cooked instead of being raw or hard when you are ready to serve the soup.

Doing this will instead turn your meat into tough, hard-to-chew pieces…not to mention possibly ruining the bottom of that expensive soup pot that we all went out and bought after reading a previous article, right?

Instead bring your soup slowly to a boil and then allow the soup to simmer for the rest of the cooking time.

This will allow the ingredients to maintain their structure and integrity, while at the same time combining all of the ingredients into a flavorful soup.

3. Cover or not?…Depending on the finished product that you want,  leaving the soup uncovered or covering the soup with the lid is a matter of personal  reference. Leaving the lid off will make the soup base evaporate faster, creating a thicker and more flavorful soup.

4, Dig in Deep…There are many soup recipes out there that  require taking some of the soup as it is cooking and blending it and then adding it back into the soup in order to thicken the soup. Using an immersion blender will reduce the risk of your getting burned and make this job easier and neater.

Here is a list from Good Housekeeping of some of the most highly recommended immersion blenders available…

5. Use your brain when using grains…Pasta and grains that are called for as ingredients will often overcook. Avoid this by cooking them separately and then adding them into the soup just before serving.

Finding the Perfect Pot to Pea In — November 4, 2020

Finding the Perfect Pot to Pea In

Before you start making your own homemade soup, there is certain equipment that you must have on hand.

And the most important equipment of all—a big enough pan.

You could find the very best recipe, spend hours making your own stock, buy the best ingredients, take the time to finely dice all of your vegetables exactly the same size, and so forth…

But will all that effort mean one darn thing if you don’t have a big enough pot.

Pots and pans are like bath towels. All of us have them—in various sizes and shapes and colors.

But most of us simply settle for the first towel that we happen to grab we get out of the shower.

How much thought do you put into your bath towels and pots and pans on a daily basis?

But this shouldn’t be the case.

Here is some advice as far as what to look for when finding “the perfect pot to pea in”…

——————-

.Base…The bottom should be heavy in order to keep ingredients at the bottom  from scorching during long cooking..

Handles…There should be two short, sturdy handles that have been bolted on, not simply pressed and adhered on. Remember you’re going to need a “good grip” when you will be picking up a heavy pot with hot liquid.

Height…A pot that is higher than it is wide prevents too much liquid from evaporating.

Lid

  • Glass—Glass lids allow you to see the progress of your stock or soup.
  • Oven Safe—If you plan to use the pot in the oven, be sure your lid and your handles are oven safe.
  • Steaming—Look for a small hole in the glass lid with a grommet.
  • Tight—The lid should fit tightly so that you close the lid and steam properly.

Material

Material is probably the most important thing to consider when buying new pots and pans.

There are several options available, including…

Anodized aluminum…

  • Cost…$125-200
  • Dishwasher Safe…no
  • Example…Calphalon
  • Heats fairly evenly and quickly

Aluminum…

  • Cost…$21 w/o cover
  • Heats quickly

Coated Carbon Steel, enameled…

  • Cost…$80.00
  • Example…Le Creuset
  • Weight…Lightweight

Copper…

  • Dishwasher safe…no, requires constant upkeep
  • Heats rapidly
  • More of a collectible or display item, not very realistic for the real world

Stainless steel…

  • Cost…as low as $10
  • Heats rapidly and evenly
  • Weight..sturdy without being too heavy

Stainless Steel w/ aluminum or copper core base…

  • Cost…around $60
  • Heat…rapid heating thanks to the base of either aluminum or copper surrounded by stainless steel

 

 

Shape…Taller pots allow less water to steam out from the stock, but also consider how much difference in temperature there might be at the bottom of the pot than at the top of the pot.

And if you’re as short as I am, be realistic. Imagine stirring your soup as it cooks and then also picking up and pouring the contents of the pot.

 

Size…The pot should be large enough to hold at least four quarts.

—-

Paprika…The What — May 22, 2020

Paprika…The What

The Best Fry Station in the Nation — May 5, 2019

The Best Fry Station in the Nation

architecture cabinets chairs contemporary
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So far we have covered three cooking methods—sauteeing, stirfrying, and pan frying—Now we begin our fourth cooking method—deep frying.

So far in your minimalist kitchen, there are several things that you should have either kept, updated, or bought…

As far what you should have in your minimalist kitchen at this point, you should have…

  • Cookie Sheet
  • Cooking Oil
  • Cutting Board
  • Knives
  • Mineral Oil
  • Saute pan
  • Skillet
  • Spatula
  • Spider
  • Thermometer
  • Tongs
  • Wire Cooling Racks
  • Wok…for stirfrtying

 

 

 

Now that we are starting to learn how to deep=fry, there are a few more things that you might need. These includfe…

 

 

,

The Pot

One of the most obvious things that you will need when you’re deep-frying is something to deep-fry in.

Of the pans that you already have, your wok is your best option.

Another great option would be a large Dutch oven or a deep sauté pan with a heavy bottom, sides that are deep enough to allow you to fill the pan with a few inches of hot oil,  and a long handle.

Finally, you could choose to use a deep fryer. This is a great choice for people just learning to deep-fry because most deep fryer come equipped with min/max lines, temperature controls, and wire frying baskets.

 

 

 

Now let’s look at the cooking utensils that you already have…or should have…that you will also be using whenever you deep-fry. These include.,,

 

1. Thermometer

It is important that you have a good candy thermometer with a clip that sticks over the side of the pan, unless you buy a deep fryer that already has a thermostat. This will help you make sure that you are frying your food at the right temperature.

If you still haven’t bought such a thermometer, check to see if the oil bubbles around the stick end of a wooden spoon whenever you put a wooden spoon into the oil…or see if a popcorn kernel pops in hot oil whenever you put it into the pan. If one of these two things happen, then your oil is somewhere between 325 and 350 degrees…and you are ready to start cooking.

 

 

2. Tongs…You will also want to have a decent set of tongs on hand for removing food from whatever it has been cooked in.

 

 

3. A large slotted spoon…You will need these to help you remove and drain the food from the hot oil. Other great options to help you do this would include a wire basket or a kitchen spider

 

 

4. Paper towels…You will be using these to drain the food once it has been cooked.

 

 

5. Other…Other important utensils that you already have on hand include  wooden spoons, sieves, and fry baskets.

 

 

 

Okay, that was simple enough…not let’s learn what to do with all this “stuff” when it comes to deep-frying.

Munich Schnitzel — April 29, 2019

Munich Schnitzel

pork and sausage on the grill
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Münchner Schnitzel…or Munich schnitzel) for those of us who took German in school or lived there and still can’t umlaut…is a type of schnitzel that that is prepared with horseradish and/or mustard before brading.

Skinny Dipping — April 17, 2019

Skinny Dipping

5. Chill the  Breaded Food…

Cover the tray of breaded food with foil or Saran Wrap. Place in the fridge for thirty minutes to an hour.

This is priobably the one step that most of us feel like we could simply skip…

But chilling your food is actually extremely important beccause refrigerating the fooed allows the flour to become sticky and attach to the meat….ensuring that the breading stays on your food once you cook it.

4. Fry Until Golden Brown…After the breaded food has had time to chill, you’re ready to fry it.

a. First fill the pan that you have designated as your offricial frying pan with enough oil so the food you’re frying is half-covered. Make sure you use a heavy pan for frying so it conducts heat evenly.

b. Heat the oil until a few breadcrumbs sizzle when tossed in. The type of oil that you fryt your food in is actually a matter of preference. Use cooking oil that can withstand high temperatures.

Make sure that the oil is hot enough before adding the food…otherwise your fried food will absorb the oil like a sponge…resulting in soggy, oily food….and the breading will fall off the food into the pan.

Your oil should be somewhere between 300 and 400 degrees, depending on the recipe.

You can you tell if the oil is hot enough by using use a kitchen thermometer…or tossing a drop of batter or breadcrumbs into the oil to make sure that it sizzles…or sticking the end of a wooden spoon into the oil to see if little bubbles form around the spoon.

Also, if the oil in your ia hot enough, the oil will take on a distinct shimmer.

But it the oil is smoking, it’s too hot…either turn the heat down or start over.

Don’t try to rush the oil into reaching the right temperature by cranking your stove eye up as high as possible. The oil should heat up slowly. Trying to heat the oil too fast will lead to bitter, burned food.’

c. Gently lay your breaded food meat in your heated pan, being sure not to overcrowd.

Once the oil is at the right temperature, and you are ready to add your food to your pan, make sure that you do not overcrowd the pan. Crowding the pan will cause heat to be trapped underneath your food, causing it to steam rather than fry.

Even if you know that your pan coulfd hold more food, you do not want your pieces of food to touch each other. Either cook in batches or use two pans.

Remember that as you take out the cooked food and add another batch of uncooked food to your pan, the temperature of the oil will plummet. Allow the oil to come back up to temperature between batches of cooking…otherwise your food will be soggy.

d. Fry for a minute or two, until golden brown on the bottom, and then flip. You may want to use your probe thermometer to check the temperatures of the meat as you are cooking it.

Keep an eye on the food.

Keep the flame on medium to medium-high.

Make sure the temperature doesn’t get too high. If the oil starts to smoke or turn black, it’s too hot and you either need to let it cool down or start over with fresh oil.

To avoid your breading when you turn your food, it is imporrtant that you not turn the food too early or too often.

Remember that the second side always cooks faster than the first.

Be patient. Leave the food alone until it develops a crust and is easily lifts off the pan. If the food is still sticking to the pan, it isn’t ready to turn.

Be sure to use the proper utensils—such as tongs or a thin spatula—for turning your food, especially when the food is fragile.

e. Drain the cooked food on cooling racks placed over foil-lined cookie sheeta. Keep warm until ready to serve. You could also use either paper towels or brown paper sacks. Of these two, the sacks yields the crispest food.

Once the food has been fried and transferred to a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle it once more with kosher or sea salt.

The Eentsy Weentsy Spider Went Into the Frying Pan — April 15, 2019

The Eentsy Weentsy Spider Went Into the Frying Pan

My husband and I have been married, and most night making dinner for about thirt-five years now..but there’s one thing that I have noticed. I tend to gravitate toward those cooking methods that do not require you to stand by the stove for forty-five minutes “keeping an eye” on something…and actually lean more towards stirring some stuff together, putting it in a 9×13, and walking away.

I guess there are two reasons for this.

First of all, I have this terrible fear ofr being burned.

But secondly, I am plain out lazy and just don’t want to stand up.

But that won’t get your fried okra or fried squash or fried anything else on the table, so I am determined to learn how to master these “stove-top” cooking methods…e ventually making it my goal to be like one of those impressive home chefs that can cook without using a recipe…kinda like those people who can sit down and play piano by ear, having not one day of the way-too-many piano lessons to count.

So far in this attempt to create not only healthier eating habits and cooking skills, I have been thinking about what I should, or would< keep in my kitchen if I totally gutted everything and started all over., we have collected a few things along the way…

Even though frying is considered a quick and easy cooking method, there are still issues that come up—such as ruined meals, messy oily splatter, burned fingers, and even minor kitchen fires.

But half the battle is having the right equipment and knowing how to use it the right way.

 

 

1.PanItems that you should have in your kitchen so far based on the cooking methods that we already talked about—sauteeing and stirfrying–you should at this point only have two pans—a saute pan and a wok.

 

Now we need to add two more pans to our collection—one for panfrying, and the other for deep frying.

 

As far as pan frying, many people like to fry with cast iron skillets because they retain heat well, cook evenly, and are just the right weight.

Enamel  or stainless-steel would also be a great option.

 

As far as non-stick pans, some people will tell you not to buy them because the coatings are not always able to stand the high heats  required for certain types of frying….while others will tell you that they are a good option because they help keep the breading on the food, rather than on the pan.

The size pan that you need will obviously depend on what you will be cooking.

If you’re making fried chicken,  you will need something like a large cast iron skillet,but if you are making something more like apple fritters, you will need to grab your taller stock pot or something similar.

 

The pan that you decide to use for any type of frying should be

  • deep enough to keep most of the “oil splatters” that happen as your food fries, contained in the pan itself
  • heavy-bottomed so that the pan will distribute heat evenly without hot spots.
  • large enough to avoid overcrowding your food…always choose a pan that is bigger than you might think you need

 

If you are buying a pan for deep-frying…(more on this later)…you will need to find a pan that will be able to hold 4 to 6 quarts of liquid…deep enough to hold at least 3″ of oil with another 3 inches space between the top of the oil and the top of the pan…something like a 6-quart, or even larger, Dutch oven or cast iron skillet

 

 

So at this point, you shoulld have four different types of pots in your kitchen…

  • Sautee pan…for sauteeing
  • Skillet…at least a 12” cast iron or similar…for panfrying
  • Dutch oven or something similar…for deep frying
  • Wok…for stirfrtying

 

2. Cookie Sheet/Wire Cooling Racks…A cooling rack like the one that you probably use whenever you’re making cookies placed over a sheet pan to drain fried food is a much better option than using a paper towel-lined plate.

Setting hot food on paper towels can make your food even more soggy and greasy. Having the food lifted up from the counter onto a rack will keep steam from forming between the paper towel and the hot cooked food.

Using a cooling rack and cookie sheet will also allow you to keep one batch warm in the oven on low heat while another batch cook.

Line the cookie sheet with paper towel, and then set the cooling rack on top. The paper towel will collect any excess grease that may drip from the food.

3. Spider…A “spider” is a wok tool with a wooden handle and a wire mesh basket designed to drain excess oil from foods when removing them from hot grease…and turn food while “hanging out” in the hot oil.

Because spiders are originally designed to be used with a wok, they are generally larger than what you need to be using when pan frying…so choose a smaller one out of the selection.

4.  Spatula…You will need some sort of spatula for flipping your food. Metal works so much better than either rubber or plastic, which might melt under the heat.

5. ThermometerKnowing the exact temperature of the oil that you are frying your food in is so very important.

As more food is added to the skillet, the oil will drop in temperature…and you may  need to adjust the heat on your stove.so tthat that every single cutlet is cooked to the same golden-brown perfection.

There are two different types of thermometers that you can use when frying food—candy thermometers that clip to the side of the pabn…’or probe thermometers.

Regardless which type of thermometer you are using, It is important that the be able to nake accurate measurements, especially in the temperature range of 350-400 degrees.

The candy thermometer simply clips onto the side of the pan as the food is frying so that you cacn keep an eyer on exactly how hot your grease is.

This type of thermomemter allows you to control the temperature of the oil that the food is frying in. If the oil  is too hot, your food can burn, but  if the oil isn’t hot enough, your food can burn on the ourside bvurt still not br cooked through on the inside.

The proble thermometer can be stuck into each piece of food as it is taken out of the pan to get an exact measurement of its internal temp. You at least want the inside of your meat to read 165°F.

6.  Tongs… You will need to use long-handled tongs to lower food into the hot oil and to flip items so that you can evenly fry both sides.

Use a second pair of  tongs to remove the cooked meat from the oil. It is never a good idea that the same utensils touch both raw meat and cooked meat…might make you sick of something..(another reason not to go eat Korean barbecue.perhaps(?!__…

A Wok on the Wild Side — April 3, 2019

A Wok on the Wild Side

The first thing that I think of whenever I think about our first cooking method—stirfrying—is a wok.

You may think that woks, which in Chinese directly translates as “Big Spoon,” are /what Alton Brown calls a “unitasker,” but woks can also be used for many other cooking methods—such as deep frying, steaming, and boiling, stewing, and braising.

 

 

Material.

1.Cast Iron…Cast iron is one of the oldest cookware materials known to man, and the Chinese have been using cast iron woks for centuries.

However, finding a great cast iron wok that you really love is going to be a difficult task. You’re either find one that is way too fragile and that will break very easily…or you’ll find heavier cast iron woks that are actually far too difficult to lift.

Advantages on the other hand, include the fact that food cooks food evenly because the wok retains heat longer. In fact, cast iron woks retain heat so well that food should be removed immediately after cooking to prevent overcooking,

Disadvantages of cast iron woks include the fact that they take a relatively long time to heat up

 

2. Stainless Steel…Stainless steel woks, such as the Cuisinart Stainless steel wok have several advantages—including their being rust-proof, non-reactive and lightweight. ‘

 

3. Carbon Steel…Carbon steel woks are most popular and most recommended type of wok around.

Chefs say that these woks allow for faster and better cooking because of their quick heat conduction and even transfer of heat.

Carbon steel woks are relatively inexpensive compared to other woks, lightweight, and durable. Typically these woks cost around $40 to $80.

As far as weight, when shopping for a carbon steel wok, look for what is called a 14-gauge wok. This means that the wok is about two millimeters thick.

 

4. Non-stick or Teflon-coated woks…Many people may think that they are doing themselves a favor by buying Teflon coated or non-stick woks, but these actually a poor investment.

Even though these woks allow for easy cleanup and do not require seasoning…(more on this later)…Teflon or non-stick woks are not made for high heat. In fact, using these woks at high temperatures will damage the Teflon coating over time.

These woks also are easily scratched and will lose their non-stick properties over time.

5, Aluminum…Aluminum woks are also a poor choice because they do not retain heat very well and are not durable.

 

Bottom. 

Woks are available with either a round bottom or a flat bottom. A round bottom is ideal if you cook on a gas stove, but most of us probably have electric stoves and would be better off choosing a wok with a flat bottom.

That being said, most professional chefs would say to buy a wok with a round bottom because heat is distributed mostly throughout the bottom of the pan and food can burn easier with a flat bottom wok.

 

Size

While it may be tempting to go our and buy that 6-1/2′ wok that you saw in the last Chinese restaurant you went to, be real.,,you’re creating food for your family, not opening up your own Genghis Grill franchise.

You’re simply looking for the perfect wok for feeding your own family, plus a few uninvited guest perhaps.

Usually the woks that are available range in size from 10″ to 20.”

The size grill that you actually need depends on several criteria—the size of your range, how much you want to cook at one time, the size and power of your burner, what type of food you want to cook, and the type of stove you have, and how many people you are going to be feeding.

Your best wok as far as size would probably be a 14″ wok. Anything larger would be too hard for most of us to maneuver,,,but as the same time your need a wok that is big eniugh ti hold all if your ingredients without overcrowding the pan and making it hard to cook food evenly..

 

Handle

Woks are available with several different types of handles—those with two small handles on each side, those with a long handle on one side and a small handle or loop on the other, those with two loops on each side, and those with long stick on one side and a metal loop on the other.

Since we are choosing a smaller wok, your best bet is a wok with two long stick-style handles.

The long handle makes stirring the ingredients while you are stir-frying much easier.

The short “helper” handle makes lifting wok easier.

 

 

Lid…If you can find a wok with a lid, buy it before any other wok that you might be looking at also…especially if the wok has a clear glass lid. The lid will come in handy for simmering, stewing, braising, and super-heating the sides of the wok to create “wok hay”,,,more on that later also..

 

So now that you know what to look for when shopping for a wok, how about some good online sources, such as…


 

Which Kind of Fry Guy are You?! — April 1, 2019

Which Kind of Fry Guy are You?!

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO YOUR NEXT FRY-UP

Recently we talked about the method of cooking called sauteeing, which is a type of frying…but did you know that there are actually several different types of frying…

These include…

Stirfrying

Panfrying

Shallow Frying

Deep Frying

Let’s take a quick look at each of these different methods, before exploring these different methods even further…

——————————————-

1.Sautéing…As we previously learned, sautéing involves cooking small pieces of food over medium-high to high heat until browned on the outside and cooked through, all the while keeping the ingredients moving around in the pan, either by using a wooden spoon or by moving the pan back and forth. This method is typically used for cooking onion and garlic, but can also be used to cook fish, beef, shrimp, and tender vegetables such as mushrooms.

 

2.Stirfrying…Stirfrying is very similar to sauteeing…except stirfrying is typically done in a wok and usually is done before adding any sauce and additional ingredients such as meat and veggies.

 

3. Shallow Frying…Shallow frying is another type of frying, but involves cooking food that has been partly submerged in oil at a high temperature. The main goal in this method is to brown the food. Shallow frying is the method used to make such foods as fried chicken, fritters, and eggplant Parmesan.

 

4. Deep Frying…Deep frying involves completely submerging the food in lots of hot fat or oil and then cooking over high temperature. The main goal of this method is to cook food very quickly.

Macro Facts About Microfiber — March 4, 2019

Macro Facts About Microfiber

Another choice that would be more “correct” in what has become our global effort at saving our environment, creating “greener” homes, and doing our role as a responsible member of current society than using ordinary Brawny would be microfiber cloths. 

Microfiber cloths are more commonly used in Europe than here in the United States because this is where the original first two leading brands of microcloths—e-Cloth and Norwex—were created and marketed.

Microfiber cloths have micro fibers that usually consist of an equal combination of two different plastics—polyester and nylon. These materials are forced through a tiny pipe and then heated. Once the two materials fuse together, they are then split apart into tinier fibers, known as “microfibers,” that are as much as twenty times smaller than the fibers originally were.

Because these new microfiber cloths have far fewer and much smaller fibers than the fibers found in ordinary cleaning cloths—such as those that are made from cotton or a synthetic such as nylon that has not been used to create a microfiber cloth—they can more easily grab even the smallest, most microscopic dirt, dust, and other stuff that ordinary cleaning cloths leave behind.

  • Microfiber cloths are hastier …Microfiber cloths get things looking far cleaner in a lot less time and are better at clean up spills faster than paper towels because their tiny fibers are more absorbent.
  • Microfiber cloths are healthier for the environment…Microfiber cloths eliminate the need to buy expensive and harmful detergents.
  • Microfiber cloths are healthier to your wallet…Microfiber cloths are fairly cheap when compared to many other ways of cleaning up spills and doing other such jobs around your home.
  • Microfiber cloths are hygienic…Microfiber cloths have been shown to minimize the spread of infections in hospitals and similar environments.

Choosing Microfiber Cloths…When choosing microfiber cloths, look for those that have the smallest microfibers because these are the most hygienic.

These days there are SO many different websites selling microfiber cloths, so it can be hard to know which ones are the best ones, but this list of the most highly-reviewed microfiber cloths found on the internet might come in handy. These microfiber cloths include…

AmazonBasics Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

  • Absorbency…can absorb up to eight times its own weight
  • Best used for…cleaning inside the house, not advised for outdoor use because they can tear easily
  • Care…machine washable and can be washed, rinsed, and reused over and over again
  • Color…three different towel colors—blue, yellow, and white
  • Cost…packs of twenty-four for only fifteen dollars
  • Material..,90% Polyester 10% Polyamide
  • Review…
  • Size…25″x33″

Chemical Guys Miracle Dryer Towel

  • Absorbency..absorb up no less than ten times their weight in liquid
  • Best used for…best suited for drying a wet surface or applying a polish or wax on a car or kitchen appliances
  • Care..best temperature to wash the towel at is 60 degrees celsius, and if it is not washed at that temperature the towel could need to be washed twice to fully clean it out
  • Cost…brand is the most “premium” available, so cost more than most other brands out there…
  • Material…360,000 strands in every square inch of highly refined loop-woven microfiber, more than the numbers of strands in the competition, which is usually only 100,000-150,000 strands for every square inch of the towel
  • Size.. 16″ x 16″

Zwipes Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

  • Absorbency..,eight times its weight in water
  • Best used for…cleaning off and dusting surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom—such as sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, vanities, mirrors, countertops, appliances, and stainless steel
  • Care…wash in the washing machine with cold water and then tumble dry on a low setting
  • Color…orange, white, and blue
  • Cost…fifteen dollars
  • Material…110,000 fibers per square inch of cloth
  • Size..12″x16″