Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dice Onion Like Pro

Have you ever wondered how chefs manage to chop their onions into neat little dice without accidentally adding their finger to the menu? It's actually quite simple once you know the trick.

Before you get started, here are a few helpful hints that will make the whole process easier. Firstly, it's very important to use a sharp knife when dicing fruit and vegetables, as a dull knife can slip off the surface of the food and you may cut yourself. Use a chopping knife or cook's knife rather than a serrated knife for cleaner cuts. To ensure your chopping board doesn't slide across the bench while you chop, place a damp tea towel underneath.

Now you're ready to go. Just follow these three easy steps for a perfectly diced onion every time.

1. First, cut the onion in half from top to bottom. Peel and discard the skin. Take one half and lay it flat-side down. Make three horizontal cuts (holding the knife parallel to the chopping board), being careful not to slice all the way through. This will prevent the onion falling apart while you chop.

2. Turn the onion towards you and make six vertical cuts down through the onion. Again, take care not to cut all the way through the end of the onion. The closer the vertical cuts, the finer your dice will be. While chopping, make sure you tuck your fingertips away from the knife blade.

3. Hold the onion together with your fingers, tucking them away from the blade. Begin with the tip of the knife on the chopping board and slice straight down to form your dice. Continue across the rest of the onion. This technique will produce an even dice.

To get the best from your knives and ensure you can keep dicing onions like a pro, try to keep them in pristine condition. It is important to keep them sharp by running them through your knife sharpener before you begin preparing your food. You should avoid putting your knives in the dishwasher, as the harsh chemicals in the dishwashing detergent can blunt the blade or even pit the edge. Instead, wash your knives in hot soapy water and dry immediately with a soft cloth.

Finally, you should store knives in their protective sleeve, in a knife block, or on a magnetic rack - your knives will thank you for your care.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sicilian Pasta

Sicilian Pasta

1 pound small shrimp peeled and deveined (you may also substitute with boneless, skinless chicken cut into bite size pieces)
4 cloves garlic
One half cup olive oil
1 tsp. dried basil
3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
Hot pepper flakes to taste
1 small jar capers, drained
1 pound linguine
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Cook shrimp or chicken in deep saucepan/wok until done. Remove shrimp/chicken and discard liquid. In same saucepan add garlic, olive oil, basil, parsley, tomatoes, red pepper flakes and capers and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes until garlic is cooked. Add shrimp or chicken during last 2 minutes of cooking. Meanwhile cook pasta in a separate pan until "al dente". Drain water from pasta. Add pasta to sauce, sprinkle generously with fresh Parmesan cheese and toss to completely coat pasta with sauce and cheese. Serve immediately.

The Skinny: Be careful of how much of the red pepper flakes you use. Some guests or small children may not like the heat.

New Years Day Black-eyed Peas

1 and one half cups chopped onion
1 and one half cups chopped celery
3 16-oz. cans black-eyed peas
1 16-oz. can chopped tomatoes
One half cup of the chicken, chopped
1 clove garlic minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Saute onion and celery until tender. Combine with black-eyed peas, tomatoes, bacon bits or ham, garlic, salt and pepper in baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees

Roast Beef

Roast Beef

8 lb. standing rib roast
Salt and pepper to taste

Rub roast with salt and pepper. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Place roast, rib side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Place roast beef in the oven and cook at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook an additional hour and a half. Let stand and cool for 15 minutes before carving.

Yorkshire Pudding

One quarter cup roast beef drippings
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
One half tsp. salt
One quarter tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder and salt together, then add eggs and milk and beat well until smooth. Pour roast beef drippings in a small roasting pan. Heat drippings in oven until very hot and almost smoking, then pour flour mixture over drippings. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 15 minutes longer or until pudding has risen and is golden brown. Cut pudding into squares and serve warm. This is a great accompaniment to rare roast beef.


Nonstick cooking spray
6 - 8 yellow potatoes, peeled and quartered
One quarter cup beef drippings
2 - 3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
One half tsp. pepper
1 tsp. oregano

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray large baking dish with nonstick spray. Add potatoes to the dish. Combine beef drippings, oil, salt, pepper, oregano together and pour over potatoes. Cook for 30 - 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and golden brown.

Frozen Cranberry Salad

1 16-oz. can cranberry sauce
1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1 14-oz. can low fat sweetened condensed milk
One quarter cup lemon juice
2 cups whipped topping
One quarter cups pecans, chopped

Combine all ingredients except nuts in a large bowl. Spread out in baking dish. Top with nuts and freeze. Remove from freezer 20 minutes before serving. Cut into squares.

The Skinny: Use fat free whipped topping

happy cooking

Friday, January 11, 2008

Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallows
Makes approximately 90 half inch marshmallows or 40 big ones

3 packets of unflavored gelatin
1-1/2 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup of light corn syrup
1 cup of water divided
1/4 tsp of salt
1 Tbl of pure vanilla
Confectioners sugar for dusting

Combine the gelatin and one half cup of water in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. (I recommend you use a large standing mixer for this project if you have one. The mixer will have to run a relatively long time. I'd hate to see someone overheat a small mixer). Let this combination sit while you make your sugar syrup.

In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt and one half cup of water. Heat on medium high and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the sugar begins to dissolve (it will become clearer). This takes just a minute or so. Attach your candy thermometer if you are using one. Then raise the heat to high and let this mixture bubble (boil but not boil over) until it reaches a temperature of 240 degrees or six minutes (whichever comes sooner). Make sure the thermometer is NOT touching the bottom of the pan or you'll get a false reading. I have taken the mixture off at six minutes and it was only 220 degrees. That's just fine. The time is more important than the temp.

With the mixer on low speed, carefully pour the hot syrup into the mixer on top of the gelatin mixture. Turn the mixer up to high and whip the mixture for 10 minutes; until it is very thick (it will almost fill the bowl so don't try two batches at once). It will be light and fluffy. If you see it starting to get gooey (look for spider web-looking stretched bits at the sides) turn off the mixer immediately. If you time it for 10 minutes you should be right on target. In the last two minutes of mixing momentarily turn the mixer down to low and drizzle in your vanilla. Then turn it back up to high for the rest of the 10 minute duration.

While the mixer is running, generously dust the bottom of a clean, dry 9 X 13 glass baking pan with powdered sugar.

When the mixer is finished, immediately pour the fluffy batter into the baking pan, on top of the powdered sugar. Spread with a spatula to flatten it and get it into the corners. (If this process is difficult it means your marshmallows spent too much time in the mixer and you are going to have chewy results. If it's smooth as a cloud and spreads easily you are doing an excellent job).

Now generously dust the top of the mixture with more powdered sugar until completely covered and let the pan sit on your counter for 7 hours or over night.

With a large spatula work the edges of the marshmallow away from the pan sides. Then carefully slide the spatula under the cooled marshmallow mixture to lift it from the pan. You will likely need to work it a bit from all four sides. The marshmallow will turn out in one large sheet onto your cutting board. Dust the top with powdered sugar to soak up any sticky bits.

Now you can cut your marshmallows. Use a large chef knife and just press down across the marshmallow. If you are making small marshmallows your band of marshmallow will be about one half inch wide and the width of the pan. It will look like a long cigar of marshmallow when you cut it.

Dust the cut edges with powdered sugar to make them easy to handle. You can just smooth your finger across the edges. Then cut crosswise to make your square marshmallows. On a large plate roll the marshmallows around (gently) in more powdered sugar to coat the edges that you just cut. Store the marshmallows in a dry place (plastic zip bags will do fine).

I recommend you eat the marshmallows within 5 days. They will stay beautifully soft during this time. These are homemade marshmallows so don't think they will last indefinitely like the puffs you buy in the store.

Eat them plain (they get rave reviews) or float them in your hot cocoa. I also hear they are great in coffee!

Dessert: Fruity Tapioca

Dessert: Fruity Tapioca
2 - 3 oz. packages tapioca pudding
2 cups orange juice
Three quarters cup pineapple juice
1 can chunk pineapple, with juice
1 cup seedless or seeded tangerine sections
1 cup seedless green grapes
2 cups sliced bananas
Three quarters cup whipped topping

Cook tapioca pudding then mix with orange and pineapple juice. Let it cool. Add remaining ingredients and refrigerate for several hours. This dessert is light and tasty.

The Skinny: You can probably get low fat or light tapioca. We know you can get reduced sugar orange juice. Use low fat whipped topping

Thursday, January 10, 2008



Serves 6 to 8

1/2 head garlic, cloves peeled

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

1 boneless lamb shoulder, 2-1/2 to 3 pounds total weight, in one piece


Freshly ground black pepper

6 fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 head chicory, leaves separated

1 bunch red-leaf lettuce, leaves separated

4 bunches arugula, lamb's lettuce, or a mixture, leaves separated

2 heads radicchio, leaves separated

2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons mixed minced fresh basil, chives, Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, or other fresh herbs

8 oil-packed sun-dried tomato pieces, cut into julienne strips

1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a full boil. Add the peeled garlic cloves and boil for about 45 seconds, then drain and rinse under cold running water until cool. Set aside.

Spread the pine nuts in a single layer in a small baking dish. Put them in the preheated oven and toast until golden, 7 to 10 minutes, checking to make sure they don't scorch. Remove, transfer to a small bowl, and leave to cool. Leave the oven on.

Season the inside part of the lamb, where the bones were removed, with salt and pepper. Arrange the basil on top. Scatter the pine nuts and garlic along the center. Fold the meat over this stuffing to form a compact roll. Tie the roll securely at intervals with several pieces of kitchen string. Season the outside all over with more salt and pepper to taste.

Heat an ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and, when it is hot enough to flow freely in the pan, add the rolled lamb and brown it all over, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the lamb is medium-rare, about 145 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat. Remove the pan, cover the lamb with aluminum foil, and leave to rest in a warm part of the kitchen for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse all the salad leaves thoroughly with cold running water and dry thoroughly in a salad spinner or with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Tear any large leaves into bite-sized pieces. Put all the leaves in a large salad bowl.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil with the vinegar and minced herbs, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the leaves with enough of the dressing to coat them evenly.

Divide the salad among individual dinner-sized serving plates, arranging it into neat beds. With a sharp knife, carefully cut the rolled lamb crosswise into slices 1/2 inch thick, removing and discarding the strings. Arrange the lamb slices overlapping slightly on top of the salads. Garnish with sun-dried tomato strips and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Serve immediately.


Serves 6

2-1/2 to 3 pounds skinless fresh fish fillets, divided into 6 equal portions


Freshly ground black pepper

1 medium carrot, cut into thin julienne strips

1 small leek, thoroughly washed, cut into thin julienne strips

1 small turnip, peeled and cut into thin julienne strips

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 lemons, thinly sliced, seeds removed

12 small sprigs fresh tarragon or basil

Adjust the oven shelf to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Meanwhile, cut 6 pieces of aluminum foil, each large enough to completely and comfortably enclose one portion of the fish fillets and julienned vegetables in a single layer.

In a small mixing bowl, toss together the juliennes of carrot, leek, and turnip. Divide half of the mixture evenly among the pieces of foil, forming beds in the center of each piece. Arrange the fish fillets neatly on top of the vegetables. Drizzle the fillets evenly with olive oil. Arrange the remaining vegetables on top, then cover with lemon slices and 2 herb sprigs per portion.

Close the foil around each fish, bringing the edges of the foil neatly together. Working all along the edges from one end to the other, double-pleat the foil edges together to form airtight packages. Place the packages side by side on a baking sheet.

Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the foil packets have puffed up like balloons, about 15 minutes.

Carefully transfer each foil packet to a dinner plate. Warn your guests in advance to watch out for and keep clear of the steam inside each. Then, with the tip of a sharp knife, puncture each packet to let out some of the steam and let everyone carefully open their packets to eat the fish and vegetables.