13 Techniques Everyone Should Know

I used to skip over recipes if they called for a technique I wasn’t comfortable with. For example, the idea of cooking lamb used to scare me because if I were to mess up, it would be like throwing $25 down the drain. Now that I have been cooking for a while, I have slowly begun to trust myself and I have realized that most of those “fancy” words aren’t so scary. If you can master these techniques, you’re cooking will be elevated to an entirely new level and everyone in your life will be super impressed!

1. Butterfly: to cut meat almost in half lengthwise so you can open it like a book

Butterfly_7.23.2012-450x300

2. Truss: tying the wings of a bird (chicken, duck, etc.) to it’s body to ensure even cooking

chickentrussing

3. Cream: to blend to the consistency of a cream (usually butter or heavy cream)

creaming-butter-and-sugar-300x224

4. Fold: to incorporate one ingredient to another by gently turning them over one another

folding

5. Baste: to add moisture to food while it’s cooking (marinade, butter, drippings, etc)- think Thanksgiving turkey!

Baste

6. Render: to cook the fat out of meat by applying heat and melting it (this happens every time you cook bacon)

rendering

7. Sear: browning the sides of food over very high heat

sear

8. Deglaze: to loosen bits of food from a pan that stuck while cooking by adding liquid over high heat

deglaze

9. Braise: to cook food by submerging it in liquid over low heat from a long period of time

braise

10. Poach: to cook in liquid below 185 degrees F (think poached eggs)

poach

11. Simmer: to cook something just below or just at the boiling point

simmer

12. Blanch: to cook something in boiling water for a short time and then stop the cooking process by dropping the food in ice water

blanch-484

13. Shock: to stop the cooking process abruptly by dropping food in ice water

shock

Check out this article from Buzzfeed for detailed definitions, explanations and tricks!

Photos courtesy of (in order):

http://whiskedfoodie.com;

http://www.joepastry.com;

http://www.onceuponachef.com;

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com;

http://shopnsavefood.com;

http://notdabblinginnormal.wordpress.com;

http://forum.thefreedictionary.com;

http://www.the-chicken-chick.com;

http://deniebernier.com;

http://lookimadethat.com;

http://www.bonappetit.com;

http://www.realsimple.com

Advertisements

DIY Raw Cleanse

Every once in a while I can tell that my body needs to be rebooted. This is when I turn to cleansing. I have done a few different kinds (Organic Avenue and Isagenix to name two) but they can get very expensive, very quickly. When I got home from the beach after the 4th of July, I knew I needed to cleanse. 6 days of beer, wine and all those American favorites- burgers, steaks, hot dogs, chips, bagels, etc- had put me over the edge. I did some research and found this easy-to-follow DIY raw cleanse on a blog called Small Kitchen College.

The thing I like about this cleanse is it can be 100% tailored to your needs. We decided to do it for just one day to do a quick reboot but we’ve committed to doing this once a week. You can also try cleansing for 3 days a week every once in a while or, if you have the will power that I definitely do not, you can cleanse for a week every month or for one month every year!

Here’s what to do:

1. Begin the day with a large glass of filtered water with the juice of half a lemon. This aids digestion and stimulates the liver to begin the day’s detoxification process. Add a dash of cayenne pepper to balance out your blood sugar.

2. Only consume liquids (smoothies, fresh juices, herbal tea, water) until noon. Snack on raw fruits and veggies if necessary.

3. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of filtered water each day. For example, if you weigh 120 lbs. you should drink at least 60 oz. of water. This is a good rule of thumb for overall health!

4. Eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible. Go for organic, especially for the dirty dozen.

5. Enjoy 1/2 cup raw nuts and and seeds per day.

6. Fill up on 2 cups of cooked whole grains throughout the afternoon and evening. But! Avoid gluten (whole wheat, barley, rye).

7. Follow the 80/20 Rule: at least 80% of your cleanse should include raw foods, and 20% can be cooked vegetables, grains, and beans.

8. Take a daily multivitamin.

9. Eliminate: dairy, eggs, meat, fish, sugar, gluten, and alcohol. Cut out caffeine if you can, but this is where I cheat. A small cup of coffee or tea in the morning is actually good for you!

I decided to easiest way to shop for this cleanse was to order from Fresh Direct.

Here’s What I got:

Almond Milk- Blue Almond Unsweetened Vanilla

Naked 100% Fuit Smoothie Blue Machine

Kale Pineapple Breakfast Smoothie ingredients

6 Organic Lemons

Organic Strawberries

Organic Red Grapes

Arugula

Organic Red Bell Pepper

Avocado

Cucumber

Organic Shelled Sunflower Seeds

Organic Raw Almonds

Fresh Direct Super Salads*

Chamomile Herbal Tea

We loosely followed the above guidelines and kind of did our own thing. Although we only did this for one day, I felt a huge difference. I lost 2 pounds (most of which, I understand, was water weight) and felt thinner and full of energy. Our groceries cost about $120 (we originally planned on doing the cleanse longer so we bought groceries for 3 days- $20/person/day) but we have added many of the ingredients into other healthy meals on non-cleanse days. This is by far the cheapest and most flexible plan I have ever found for cleansing and I plan on doing it at least once a week to keep myself on track!

I hope you’ll try it out and let me know how it goes!

* I bought these instead of doing grains on my own- I was not happy with them because they lacked flavor and texture.

 

Street Tacos

20130709-200819.jpg

NYC has some amazing street food. Everyone knows the Halal stalls that speckle every street corner but finding a great taco can be a little challenging. My go-to taco place is called La Fiesta about 5 blocks from my apartment. In fact, La Fiesta is so good it has become the standard to which I compare all other tacos.

Tonight I’m out in Sunnyside Queens visiting some friends. I had a little time to kill and I was starving so I decided to try out a taco truck right next to the 46th St stop on the 7 train. Although it was not quite up to par with La Fiesta, it was well worth $2.50 a taco for a quick meal on the go.

I went with al pastor is essentially a central-Mexican pork based version of shawarma- think Turkish diner kebabs. This version was not the most authentic take on pastor but it had great flavor and the fresh cilantro, radish and lime were the perfect addition. Ill definitely stop back next time in the neighborhood for a freshly made meal for under $5!

Summer Salad Ideas

After a great week away at the beach for the 4th of July, I was happy to stumble upon this article from Buzzfeed about summer fruit salads. My favorite on this list is #6- grilling fruit, especially stone fruit, is the best thing about summer! The recipe in the Buzzfeed was taken from the Healthy Foodie and it looks absolutely delicious.

Something I did over the weekend to change things up a bit was the “grill” strawberries with balsamic and brown sugar. This was great to pick at and eat after our meal of burgers and sausage on the 4th but I think it would be even better over some vanilla ice cream. This is along the same idea as the compote I posted about a few days back but the grill imparts an intense flavor that cannot be matched in any other way.

Ingredients

12 strawberries

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 packet brown sugar in the raw

tin foil

Directions

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat

Cut the stems off of the strawberries and cut them in half length-wise

Make a small “bowl” out of tin foil and arrange the strawberries in a single layer

Sprinkle the strawberries with the brown sugar in the raw and drizzle them with the balsamic vinegar

Cook on the grill for about 15 minutes until the strawberries begin the break down but still hold their shape

WW Points: 1 point per serving 

(makes 2 servings)

 

Clarified Butter

First, I want to apologize for not posting all that often recently. As anyone who lives in NYC knows, using a stove top and oven during the summer in the LAST thing you want to do because it increases the temperature of your apartment by at least 10 degrees. Once it has been hot enough, long enough there is no way your apartment’s temperature will drop below 80 degrees (unless of course you have an air conditioning unit in your common areas- kitchen, living room and hallways). Knowing that I am always on a budget, I cannot afford to have AC anywhere but my bedroom and this is why my momentum with this blog and cooking in general has decreased significantly.

OK. Now that that is out there, I will share a fun and easy kitchen essential you can make with butter. Clarified butter is used in almost all professional kitchens because it is full of flavor and it has a higher burning point than normal butter. It is so easy to make and can take a dish to the next level. Here’s how to make it:

clarifiedbutterskimWhat you’ll need:

1 1/4 cup of butter

Saucepan

Spoon

Instructions*:

Place butter in a saucepan over a very low heat. Let the butter melt slowly, do not stir the butter while it is melting

As the butter melts, it will separate into three layers. The top layer is a thin layer of foam, the middle layer contains the bulk of the liquid (weighing in at about 80% of the total), and the bottom layer is where the water and most of the milk solids are. This natural separation is what makes clarifying possible

Skim the foam off the surface of the butter, discard the foam. Be cautious to avoid dipping the ladle into the butterfat while skimming, as the fat should remain intact

Use a ladle and skim the fat up and out of the pan, making sure not to let any of the water get into the ladle

Pour your newly clarified butter to a separate container, and discard the water and small amount of remaining milk fat

If the clarified butter sits for a moment, you might notice more foam float to the top; use a spoon to remove this last bit of foam

WW Points: 1 point per teaspoon

Use the clarified butter to get a nice sear on meats, seafood or even vegetables. I made some last week and used it to get a nice brown sear on both sides of some beautiful diver scallops I got at Whole Foods. I use small mason jars to store the clarified butter in the fridge. It will keep for months so it is worth making a big batch. You’ll be surprised how often you go into the fridge to use it!

*I used this “recipe” to help me along. Here’s Allrecipes.com’s step-by-step with pictures (which helped me a lot the first time I made clarified butter)

**Photo from www.asian-recipe.com