Cooking Question #7: Quinoa Water Ratio

Tags

, , , , , ,

Q. What is the real ratio of water for cooking quinoa and rice to a perfect “al dente” outcome? It is never what the box says and I always seem to need to add more water or added too much. Some say to boil the water first? Help!

A. I ignore the amounts listed on the package and use about 1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 cups water per cup of quinoa (a little more for rice). That produces a really nice texture that is not mushy, and perfect for either cold quinoa salads or warm quinoa dishes with sauteed veggies.

You do not need to boil the water first. Just dump quinoa and water together in pot and let them do their thing. Matter of fact, I’ve even used what seemed like burnt quinoa in a salad and it tasted pretty good. Gave it sort of a roasted taste. 🙂

FYI, quinoa is a high protein grain which contains amino acids (loads of lysine), iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium and fiber. If you add black beans (more fiber), red pepper (loads of vitamin C), parsley and nuts you’ve got a super-food kind of a salad for a super-woman kind of a day. Or super-man. Sorry guys. 

Cooking Question #6: Why is my bread dense?

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Q. I make bread in the breadmaker using white whole wheat flour, butter, sugar, salt, egg, warm water and yeast. It tastes good but is dense, not fluffy/light. How can I make it fluffy and light?

A. There are a few things that can cause bread to be dense instead of light. The process that makes bread rise involves effective yeast and proper proofing (rising). So if you have expired yeast, or water that was either too hot or too cold and didn’t allow the yeast to puff up, that could be causing dense bread. If the yeast is fine, but the dough isn’t allowed to proof, that could also be causing the problem.

I used to make my challah in a bread machine because it made a perfect dough and I just didn’t have the confidence at that point to do it on my own. But I would just allow the machine to mix and then let it rise once, and then I’d take it out of the canister and flip it into a lightly oiled bowl and allow it to rise again, covered, for about half an hour or until nearly doubled in size. It’s possible that the machine is not giving the bread room to rise and that is causing the density.

Six Braid ChallahsOf course taking it out of the machine means you’ll be baking it in something other than a bread bucket, but that just opens up a world of opportunity for you. This is the time to add slivered garlic cloves and dried herbs, sliced kalamata olives, or pecans and craisins. Or leave it plain. Whatever floats your boat. You can then braid it, or break it into small round pieces to create a pull-apart. Or if you’re rushed simply drop it into a loaf pan to achieve a bread-like shape.

Best of luck!

Oh, and about your second question – I’ve never tried Fuego Mundo’s beans and rice, so can’t even begin to recreate the recipe. But ask them! I went to an unbelievable restaurant* in New York and they gave me their signature whole grain bread recipe. I was really impressed that they were willing to share. It told me that they have the confidence that people will keep coming back for their food and the distinct way they create and serve it.  

*Shout out for Natural Village Cafe in Brooklyn. Beautiful space, great ambiance, very wholesome, nutritious, fresh, health-conscious food. 

Cooking Question #5: Brisket with Wine and Mushroom Sauce

Tags

, , ,

Q. I once had this amazing dish at a hotel and have never been able to recreate it. It was a brisket with some sort of creamy wine/mushroom sauce. Any tips to try to make such a sauce would be great!

A. Now you’re talking my language. Brisket, wine, mushrooms, I’m right there with you and I’m feelin’ the love. I actually didn’t eat mushrooms at all until about two years ago. I thought they were a freak of nature and not meant to be eaten. Then I learned that they’re extremely nutritious, and I gave them a try and now I’m hooked.

I’m going to share with you my incredibly delicious and easy brisket preparation method, along with a new gravy recipe that I haven’t yet tried. Just created it for you – so best of luck and hope it’s a winner! (Do taste the gravy before serving and add more seasoning if needed.)

Brisket with Mushroom and Wine Gravy
This brisket is super soft, melt-in-your-mouth fabulous and takes only minutes of time to prepare. You can spend the extra time making the mushroom wine gravy, or skip that step altogether and serve with just the browned onions. You will need at least two briskets if you’re serving a crowd. The meat definitely shrinks, and you can expect your guests to keep going back for more. 

  • Sear brisket on high heat for 10 – 15 minutes on each side, or until meat is well-browned and crispy at the edges.Remove from pan and place in 9×13 pan or large casserole dish.
  • Slice two large onions (or more if using 2 briskets) and saute in pan with the bits of flavor and oils from the meat. Stir until browned. Place onions around brisket.
  • Sprinkle brisket with salt, pepper, and 1-2 Tbsp chicken soup seasoning (no MSG, low sodium). Pour about a cup of water over the meat and seasonings. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 for one hour. Reduce heat to 275 and bake for another 1 & 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove from oven and leave covered for 15 minutes.
  • If you want to skip the mushroom gravy step, you can slice and serve the brisket now as is. It should be extremely tender and tasty.
  • If you’ve been brave and prepared the mushroom gravy sauce, pour it over the brisket and serve with sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish.

Add some baked sweet potato chunks, steamed broccoli florets and whole wheat Israeli (pearled) couscous for a fabulous meal. Split pea or lentil soup is a great starter, as chicken or beef broth would be redundant and create an overly rich meal. Of course for dessert, you can go big and rich and serve a chocolate mousse pie or go easy on your guests and finish off with a mango syllabub or fruit ices

Mushroom Wine Gravy:

Spray pan with non-stick spray. Saute 1 lb. sliced baby bella mushrooms on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan. Pour 1 cup white wine, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp dried marjoram, 1/2 tsp ground blackpepper, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp garlic powder into pan. Mix 2 Tbsp corn starch with 1/2 cup water until completely dissolved. Add to pan, stir, and turn flame to medium high until boiling. Reduce heat, stir and simmer on low for about ten minutes, or until sauce is thickened. Turn off heat and add mushroom slices to pan.

Bonum appetitionem!

Cooking Question #3: Carving Turkey

Q. How do you carve a turkey? 

You don’t. Or at least, I don’t. Life is complicated enough without having to find the exact spot between this rib and that leg and that body part. I buy a netted turkey roast with no bones, smother it with olive oil, spices and garlic cloves, and bake it until tender. Slice, bake a little more (be sure there’s enough gravy to completely cover the slices), and voila. Delicious. Not complicated. No oversized bird sitting on my table.

I also made a vegan turkey one year out of veggies and dip. Perfect for my vegan husband, adorable for all the guests. Check out this photo of a similar concept: http://thehappyrawkitchen.blogspot.com/2009/11/raw-vegan-turkey.html

So there you have it. The deep, dark truth about this lazy chef – I don’t carve turkeys. Sue me.

Just FYI, Steve’s (Kosher Gourmet) has netted turkey roasts. Call to double check, but it’s something he usually carries. 

Cooking Question #4: Kosher Vermouth?

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Q. Have you found a good recipe or substitute for kosher vermouth? I am struggling to make balanced cocktails for my meal and the kosher brand I’ve found just won’t make the cut.

A. For those who are not big alcohol fans, vermouth (pronounced ver-mooth) is a wine flavored with herbs, spices, flowers and other aromatic plants. Vermouth is produced mainly in France or Italy, made from red or white grapes, and offered in both sweet and dry varieties. Martinis and Manhattans call for sweet vermouth, and many chefs say they produce a brilliantly marinaded brisket or fruit dish, also using the sweet variety.

Unfortunately there are only a couple kosher brands available in the US. I’ve heard that there are several more available in Israel, but that’s a long way to go for a good alcoholic beverage. And I can think of better reasons to fly to the Holy Land. I’m just saying.

My great friend Mira who shared a lot of this info says that a marsala or bourbon wine could possibly be substituted for the vermouth. Try it – let us all know in the comment section how it works out.

And in honor of Mira, have a wonderful Shabbos full of great spirit. When you can’t drive, drink!

Pumpkin Spice Donuts for Chanukah and Thanksgiving

Tags

, , , , , , ,

These baked donuts are real winners – no deep frying, super easy, and so delicious you could eat the whole pan while standing next to the counter wondering if you should glaze them. Not that I did that, I’m just saying.

Image

Adapted from a recipe at King Arthur’s Flour, a company that makes fabulous white whole wheat flour and other products. 

Pumpkin Spice Donuts (Makes about 2 dozen large or 6 dozen minis)

  • 1 cup oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree
  • 4 tsp pumpkin pie spice OR 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cloves)
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 3/4 cup flour (you could mix white and white whole wheat)
  • Extra cinnamon, sugar and spices for coating

Mix all ingredients except flour until well blended. Add flour and mix just until smooth. Fill sprayed donut pans 3/4 full, bake at 350 until tops spring back when pressed lightly.

Mini donuts take about 9 minutes, donut holes about 10-11, regular sized about 15 – 17 minutes.

Let sit in pan a few minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. While still slightly warm, toss in a bag with cinnamon, sugar and spices.

In place of the cinnamon sugar dusting, you could make an easy maple glaze that pairs beautifully with pumpkin. Combine 3 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup soymilk, 1 tsp maple extract. Combine well, add more milk or maple if needed, and drizzle over cooled donuts.

Storage is a little tricky with donuts. They get a little too moist if you put them in a ziploc bag or cover them with saran wrap. Try a bakery box, a cake platter with dome lid, or a tupperware type container not sealed completely.

The way these donuts taste, they won’t be stored long so it’s really not a problem. 🙂

Image

Cooking Contest Question #2: Perfect Melted Chocolate

Tags

, , , ,

Q. Is there a difference between melting chocolate over a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave? Which do you prefer and why? 

Sometimes you find chocolate that is white and grainy – this is an indication that it was not tempered properly. Tempering is the process of heating up chocolate gently to break break down the particles in the cocoa butter, cooling the chocolate, and then bringing it back up slightly to a workable temperature.

Chocolate Mocha Cake with Rose Garnish

On the mocha cake pictured above, you can see that the chocolate leaves have a beautiful realistic texture enabled by a careful tempering process. 

The traditional and safest way to temper chocolate is in a double boiler. Keys to remember are:

1: Hot water in lower pot should not touch upper pot

2: No water should touch the chocolate at any point or it will cause it to seize up

3: Break chocolate into roughly even sized pieces, no huge chunks

4: Melt most of the chocolate pieces you will be using, and then mix in the unmelted ones to bring the temperature down. Stir well until chocolate is smooth.

Having said that, the microwave can be used to successfully melt chocolate – you just have to be very careful not to overheat the chocolate. Tips for microwaving chocolate:

1: Use low setting and a bowl that will not get hot to the touch even after a few minutes of nuking

2: Run microwave (on low) about a minute for an ounce, three minutes for 8 ounces and four minutes for 2 pounds. Stop the microwave every thirty seconds or so and mix. The chocolate is done when it is almost melted, but not completely. Mix well until smooth and creamy and completely melted.

If you would like a more detailed guide, check out this link from about.com:

http://candy.about.com/od/candybasics/ht/temperchoc.htm

Can You Cook? (Scary Question)

Tags

, ,

Great News for Foodies!!

I’m running a fun and free contest for my foodie friends and clients at AtlantaKosherChef. Simply click on the contact page, submit a cooking question that’s got you stumped, and be entered to win a two-hour cooking or baking session from Atlanta Kosher Chef.

I’ll post the questions and answers here – so look out for some great info to help you be the best cook you can be!

Winner will be drawn on the last day of Chanukah, Thursday, December 5 2013.
Question #1 – Perfect Salmon? 

Q. What is the perfect time and temperature for cooking salmon? I can NEVER seem to cook salmon well. It’s either raw or too tough. I’ve given up on salmon baking 😦

A. Raw or overcooked salmon is such a waste. I feel your pain. What I do with salmon fillets is usually bake them at a low temperature with whatever seasoning or glaze I throw together, and then broil for just a couple minutes to give it a nice grilled finish. If you buy the frozen salmon portions and they are completely defrosted, I would bake them for about 12 – 15 minutes on 300, and then broil for 3 – 4 minutes.

Glazed Salmon: Before broiling, take the salmon out of the oven and stick a fork in it to see that it is mostly cooked (it should still be very slightly pink, but not translucent). You can use that time to turn the oven to broil and let it get really hot. Apply a little more glaze to the salmon, maybe some maple syrup, olive oil and seasonings mixed together. Then stick it back in the oven.

You will have to play around with the times depending on your oven, the size and number of pieces of salmon you’re cooking, etc… But don’t leave that kitchen. As you have probably learned, one or two extra minutes can ruin a deliciously moist (and pricey) piece of salmon.

Image

Another way to cook salmon which is almost foolproof was taught to my by my amazing friend Yelena… (see photo)

Spicy Garlic Salmon: Put several pieces of salmon in a 9×13 pan, add tons of garlic cloves, chick peas, sliced red pepper and sprigs of fresh parsley. Mix together 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup water, paprika, black pepper and cayenne pepper or hot sauce and a little salt. Bake covered at 325 for about an hour to an hour and a half. Check a piece of salmon after an hour.

Enjoy! And leave me a comment to let me know if you succeed in making succulent salmon (couldn’t resist that).

Feed a Cold

There’s an old saying that everyone mixes up. It’s something like, Feed a Fever – Starve a Cold. Or the opposite. Whatever.

But check this out. Here’s what I’m feeding my cold, after waking up this morning to a Yahoo article that reminded me of the 12 superfoods that are loaded with Vitamin C. Had to go with what we had in the house, although I would have loved some fresh pineapple, mango and kiwi instead of broccoli for breakfast. Eew. The things I do for better health.

Devorah's Science Experiment Plants 014

 

I’m proud to admit that my usual breakfast isn’t bad either. Whole Foods makes a multi-grain instant oatmeal packet with flax and other whole grains, with no salt, sugar or other additives. I add cinnamon, raisins and chopped nuts. So maybe that’ll be lunch today. Along with some of that fresh tropical fruit if I can make it out to the store!

Stay warm, y’all. Stay healthy, and take care of yourselves. People are counting on you.

Got Spinach?

Tags

, , ,

I recently did a food demo at a local school’s Fall Festival. First time I did a cooking/food demo for the entire family. I’m used to speaking to adults when I talk about food, so this was something new. I have to say – the kids were spellbound. Especially when I talked about sneaking spinach into their fruit smoothies, and whole wheat flour into their morning pancakes.

After the demo everyone came up for samples. The Chai Tea Lattes were a big hit, hot spiced cider not as much. Pancakes and homemade jam went like hotcakes, spinach smoothies disappeared faster than we could blend new ones.

I noticed something that was very reassuring to me, as a mom. Some kids came right up and asked for the spinach smoothies and had no problem with the green stuff being in their sweet slurpee-ish drink. Others wouldn’t touch it. It’s not a kid thing. It’s an INDIVIDUAL thing. And in the same families, there were some siblings who threw back those drinks, and others who looked on aghast.

So in case y’all think you’ve done something wrong when your kids won’t touch salad, or that you’ve done something right if your kids eat greens, think again. Taste is in the eyes of the beholder and the be-taster.

Which is not to say you shouldn’t keep trying. Put something in front of the kids (or adults) long enough and they’ll try it. Keep being a good role model, eat your own greens, whole grains, fruit, etc… and eventually it’ll catch on. If not, don’t beat yourself up. It’s an individual thing. I promise.

TDSA Cooking Demo October 2013 006

Check out this sweetie who watched my cooking demo, and then drank down that spinach smoothie with delight. She was so cute, we had her pick the winning ticket to decide who got to take home a jar of homemade jam. Those Got Milk? ads have nothing on this little woman with her smoothie moustache.