food preparation

  • Flip­ping the Burger

    In most towns across Amer­ica, the burger never goes out of style.

    It’s what is in between the buns that sep­a­rates us region­ally and maybe divides cer­tain households.

    Condi­ments sur­pass the stan­dard mus­tard, ketchup, mayo spreads to now extend to aioli, bor­de­laise, and pome­gran­ate sauces.

    Tomato, pickle, let­tuce and onion options make room for avo­cado, roasted chili pep­per and pineap­ple slices.

    The biggest shake up on the burger scene is what we choose to grill. Turkey, lamb, salmon, tuna and veg­gie burg­ers have been in the rota­tion for awhile now. Grass fed beef is reserved for those rare “eat­ing meat” meals.
  • Get­ting Smashed

    Pro­duc­ing the per­fect slice, dice or chop requires a prac­ticed hand in the kitchen. It may not look like it, but smash­ing fresh pro­duce takes a bit of skill, too. Test a few impres­sive ideas.

    Smash­ing cer­tain fruits and veg­etable items makes for more inter­est­ing tex­tures and opens the door for some cre­ative applications.

    Take small red or gold pota­toes for exam­ple. Leav­ing the skins on, par­boil for about 8 to 10 min­utes. Drain and then place them on a sheet pan for bak­ing. Using the bot­tom of a cup or glass, press firmly on cen­ter of the pre-​cooked spud.

    This exposes more of the creamy inte­rior flesh before they get doused with olive oil, salt or other sea­son­ings prior to crisp­ing the skins in a hot oven or skillet.
  • Greens & Beans

    Few hum­ble ingre­di­ents pro­vide such com­fort and sus­te­nance as greens and beans.

    By beans, we nat­u­rally mean legumes– that class of veg­eta­bles that include lentils, peas and beans of all types.

    Can­nellini, Ital­ian, chick peas (gar­banzo), black, white, navy, north­ern, lima, fava, Adzuki and but­ter top the list of pow­er­house beans.

    Legumes are typ­i­cally low in fat, con­tain­ing no cho­les­terol, and are high in folate, potas­sium, iron and mag­ne­sium. A good source of pro­tein, legumes can be a healthy alter­na­tive to meat.

    Due to their blend of fiber, pro­tein and nutri­ents, legumes aid in blood sugar reg­u­la­tion more than almost any other food group, a key qual­ity for dia­bet­ics and those con­cerned with main­tain­ing sta­ble insulin response.
  • Ital­ian Crush

    When veg­eta­bles and fruits make their first sea­sonal appear­ance, there is every rea­son to cel­e­brate their nat­ural goodness.

    Options for spring veg­eta­bles abound. Arguably, no one group deals with them any bet­ter than the Italians.

    Per­haps it’s the Ital­ian rev­er­ence for “la terra” or the earth and land where pre­cious food is grown, raised and produced.

    Maybe there is an Ital­ian affin­ity for the treat­ment of food. Despite the global influ­ences of fast food and mass food pro­duc­tion, fresh regional food is still widely pre­pared, con­sumed and appre­ci­ated in Italy.

    A week­day meal is a sim­ple affair, no appe­tiz­ers, no desserts. If dessert is served, likely it is fresh fruit of some kind. Lunch is the heav­i­est meal of the day with din­ner or sup­per being of a lighter composition.
  • Lighten Up!

    Zuc­chini and other sum­mer squash vari­eties seem to be every­where. What are we wait­ing for such a squash sur­plus at our fin­ger­tips?

    If pasta noo­dles are on the table at least once a week, this is the best sea­son to go for a light­ened up ver­sion with noo­dles cen­ter­plate.

    Alfredo, mari­nara and pesto clas­sics make for irre­sistible sauces on top of squash noo­dles.

    Grain free squash cut in either wide rib­bons or curly or flat thin noo­dles beckon to kitchen enthu­si­asts to explore all options. A sim­ple dressed up top­per of mint, basil, gar­lic and lemon juice keeps life sim­ple.

    Asian noo­dle bowls are a world apart from Italy. Pad Thai, lo mein, stir fries and broth­ier dishes meant to be slurped give way to robust flavors.
  • MOM-​osa

    The clas­sic mimosa (cham­pagne with orange juice) makes for a cel­e­bra­tory start to any Mother’s Day brunch.

    Frankly speak­ing, Mother’s Day kicks off an entire sea­son of occa­sions just right for a bub­bly toast.

    May begins the long parade of grad­u­a­tions, birth­days, show­ers and wed­dings. Rais­ing a glass with fam­ily and friends requires tak­ing note of the day.

    Cir­cle back to the topic of bub­bly and sparkling ideas for acknowl­edg­ing spe­cial occasions.

    Orange juice, par­tic­u­larly fresh squeezed, makes a good splash in a cock­tail glass. With so many fresh fruit juice choices out there, con­sider a sparkling wine bar at Mother’s Day brunch (or other fes­tiv­i­ties). Guests dive in to cre­ate yummy sips on their own.
  • Murasaki Power

    Savvy eaters know that yams and sweet pota­toes are good enough to serve year round. Even so, fall and win­ter months bring them cen­ter stage for hol­i­day sides and accompaniments.

    There are many vari­eties of sweet pota­toes, which all come from the morn­ing glory family.

    Skin color can range from white and yel­low to red, pur­ple and brown. The inte­rior flesh can be white, yel­low, orange or even orange-​red.

    Con­fu­sion sets in with our nam­ing of yams ver­sus sweet pota­toes. In the United States, we actu­ally pro­duce two types of sweet pota­toes, not yams. Most gro­cers dis­tin­guish them as yams and sweets based on their firm­ness. The two major types: Firm sweet pota­toes, which have golden skin and paler flesh and Soft sweet pota­toes, which have cop­per skin and orange flesh (we call them yams).
  • Per­spec­tive

    Pre­sented with any one of many beau­ti­fully grown fresh fruit or veg­etable items, a few quick ques­tions spring to mind.

    How does it taste? What can we make? How do we treat it? How much should we buy?

    It’s amaz­ing how the sight of a fra­grantly ripe melon or aro­matic peach will be per­ceived among any group of indi­vid­u­als. So many choices, all dif­fer­ent, and none of them wrong.

    Slice for the plate or a salad, blend for smoothie, sor­bet or ices, grill for a sum­mer side or bake into a break­fast or dessert treat. Pref­er­ences depend on the mind and heart of the cook.

    Inspi­ra­tion is gen­er­ated from cook­books, fam­ily tra­di­tions, cul­ture, food mag­a­zine arti­cles, and now, the abun­dance of irre­sistible social media posts.
  • Pizza Pos­si­ble

    With Spring just a cou­ple of weeks away, the taste for spring veg­eta­bles gets ampli­fied. Work­ing those veg­gies on to the plate is easy when we put them on pizza.

    Aspara­gus, arugula, leeks, arti­choke hearts and mush­rooms are very strong top­ping con­tenders for spring piz­zas pies.

    Other choices may take some finess­ing and more care­ful han­dling. Fen­nel comes to mind. This spring bulb with fronds has the power to intim­i­date.

    Even so, with just the right cheese part­ner and some grilling with onions, this one becomes a win­ner for any Fri­day night.

    Roasted egg­plant is another fan­tas­tic spring pizza top­per. Lay­er­ing the egg­plant slices with loads of roasted gar­lic, feta cheese and pine nuts keeps it true to its Mediter­ranean roots.
  • Secret Sauce

    Grilling, smok­ing and bar­be­cu­ing are all pre­ferred meth­ods of sum­mer­time cook­ing.

    If you are the cook, you have a “secret sauce” of some kind in the out­door cook­ing arse­nal. Shar­ing it with oth­ers depends on how close to the vest you want to play it.

    Those of us merely the lucky recip­i­ents of good food cooked by oth­ers can only imag­ine what goes into the secret sauce. A hint of honey, a hit of ginger…sweet apri­cots or plums all just a guess.

    Mas­ters of mari­nades and glazes typ­i­cally have a “go to” one that can be applied to a choice of poul­try, fish, pork, beef or veg­eta­bles. Divulging any fam­ily recipes might be tricky.

    A quick inter­net search results in thou­sands of rec­om­men­da­tions for rich, lusty, sticky sauces that can be appro­pri­ated as our own.
  • Sweet For­give­ness

    Not every­one is blessed with the tal­ents of a great pas­try chef. A chem­istry class at times seems eas­ier than fol­low­ing an elab­o­rate dessert recipe.

    Not to worry. That same casual approach to sum­mer din­ing allows for sweet for­give­ness when it comes to summer’s famed desserts.

    Pair­ing the best exquis­ite sea­sonal fruits with the sim­ple, rus­tic meth­ods of care­free desserts require almost no kitchen skills.

    Light-​hearted clas­sics include fruit galettes, clafoutis, crisps and cob­blers.

    The impre­cise, free-​form galette is more of an imper­fectly shaped pie or tart — filled with the good­ness of sliced berries, cher­ries, peaches, nec­tarines, plums, pears, apri­cots, apples, rhubarb or any com­bi­na­tion of on-​hand sum­mer fruits. The dough is folded in on itself giv­ing it an irreg­u­lar, but entic­ing look to the pastry.
  • Wor­thy Plat­ters

    Thanks­giv­ing Day kicks off another sea­son of hol­i­day eat­ing fes­tiv­i­ties. First bites at most of these social gath­er­ings usu­ally start with an array of small nibbles.

    The idea is to wel­come friends and fam­ily to any cel­e­bra­tion with tempt­ing lit­tle yum­mies and sips.

    Social affairs don’t all need to be for­mal with a sit down meal as Thanks­giv­ing din­ner. Cock­tail and appe­tizer enter­tain­ing in itself can be a great way to keep things sim­ple and casual.

    Whether self served or passed food trays, the goal is to offer a vari­ety of sea­son­ally inspired com­po­nents– from the sweet to the savory, col­or­ful plat­ters high­light fin­ger foods well beyond chips and dips.

    Two top qual­i­fiers for excel­lent party plat­ter foods should be pretty to look at and easy to eat. No one wants to jug­gle a plate, a glass and fork in their best hol­i­day dress or sweater.
  • Yule­tide Eats

    Hol­i­day gath­er­ings require some imag­i­na­tion when it comes to con­tribut­ing to potlucks, office par­ties or more fes­tive social events.

    Tra­di­tional fare is mak­ing room for the crowded space of deca­dent indulgences.

    Fresh pro­duce is cen­tral to lux­ury bites of hand-​dipped choco­late figs, pears, kiwi and citrus.

    The time-​honored cus­tom of mak­ing can­died fruits is regain­ing pop­u­lar­ity. Fruits retain their vivid color once steeped in a sim­ple syrup. Booze it up with spir­its (rum, vodka or bour­bon) in the liq­uid mixture.