Saturday, December 17, 2016

Making Ganache

Double chocolate pie
My Dad and I manage all of the grocery shopping during the holidays. It's a big relief for my mom who prefers to minimize all kitchen-related activities. The fact that Dad and I are bewitched by food, however, can pose a problem. Put us in a supermarket and we lose all sense of time.

Dad begins his meditation in the cheese aisle, where he carefully assesses the smoked gouda. After selecting only the best, he  reverently moves on to evaluate what's available in the realm of mixed nuts and wine. Should it be Merlot or Cabernet? Spain, Argentina, or California?

I head to my culinary playground - the baking aisle - where I ogle at local honey and sparkly sprinkles. I ponder all of the decadent desserts I can create with chocolate: airy mousse, toothsome brownies, lush ganache. Meanwhile, Mom is tapping her foot at home and wondering if we'll ever show up. Remember, her goal is to get in and out of the kitchen, lickety-split!

How to Make Ganache

Used to sculpt truffles, fill cakes, and blanket tarts, ganache is the home cook’s oh-so-easy-to-make secret weapon. It requires two ingredients: heavy cream and chocolate. Since the chocolate goes unmasked, be sure to buy the finest quality you can afford.

To make ganache that’s on the thinner side (and perfect to pour over tortes or spread over cakes in lieu of icing) start with an equal ratio of chocolate to heavy cream. To make ganache with a fudge-like consistency, use twice as much chocolate as heavy cream.

Finely chop the chocolate with a chef’s knife.  

Finely chopped chocolate
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. 

Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl
Pour the cream into a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, and then quickly remove it from the heat to help stop the water in the cream from evaporating

Pour cream in a pot and bring to a boil
Carefully pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let it stand for a minute. The chocolate will start to melt. 

Pour cream over chopped chocolate
Pour cream over chopped chocolate
Stir the chocolate and cream, beginning in the middle of the bowl. After several minutes, it will start to emulsify and silky, smooth ganache will appear in the middle of the bowl. 

Stir beginning in the middle of the bowl
Continue to stir
Stir in wider circles to blend the rest of the chocolate and the cream.

Continue to stir
Continue stirring until the chocolate and cream are completely combined.

Mix until completely blended
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Eggs in Coconut Milk

If  close my eyes, I can still picture my grandmother’s chicks in coats the color of well whipped butter. She tosses out a handful of grain and they bob about in a frenzy. 

By  the age of four, I had stood before the Taj Mahal, watched yards of sari silk unfurled, and seen goldsmiths handcrafting jewelry. And yet it was the chicks (and their free-wheeling brethren) that represented the beauty of India to me. I would have given anything to scoop one up.

During my first trip to Kerala, I encountered animals throughout the day. I woke to a rooster’s call, accompanied by the solemn sound of Muslim prayers. After breakfast, I got to touch a cow's jiggly udder. Her milk was churned into butter by mid-day. I kept an eye out for the neighbor’s goats, which appeared like magic, in search of tender leaves. Eyes alert. Heads held high.   

Fast forward more years than I care to admit, and nothing much has changed.  I have developed a deeper appreciation for India’s architectural and artistic wonders, but it’s still random encounters with animals that compel me the most. From poufy-bummed chickens pecking around the yard to free-range goats frolicking about to hulking elephants ambling down the road with their trainer. So much of life in India goes un-curated, and to me, that’s the most wondrous thing of all. 


This dish is traditionally served with a fermented Syrian Christian bread called appam. In our family, they are served together for breakfast on Christmas and on Easter. When I'm strapped for time, I pair this dish it with white rice. Either way, it's delicious!

Serves 4


6 eggs
1 1/4 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup water
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 1/2 cups finely sliced onions
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons finely cut ginger
1 teaspoon finely cut garlic 
1/2 cup potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup diced tomatoes
10 to 15 fresh curry leaves
1 cup coconut milk


Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. 

Peel the eggs and score lengthwise. 

Blend the coriander, cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and fennel in a coffee grinder or spice grinder.

Heat the oil in a medium size skillet over medium-low heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the onions and salt. Cook until they become translucent, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Add the curry leaves, potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic. Cook until the potatoes and tomatoes soften, about 15 minutes.

Add the spices to the onions and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water.

Add the eggs and stir gently. Add the coconut milk, stir, cover and cook on low for 5 minutes.  

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Making Pie Crust

Pie is the peacemaker of the culinary world. It eases the transition from summer to fall (teaching us that peaches must give way to pears and pumpkin) and broaches the sweet and savory divide so that chicken pot pie and pecan pie happily co-exist in kitchens across the country.

Sadly, there are few endeavors as angst-producing as making pie crust. The key is to be kind when mixing, rolling, and shaping the dough. It will develop an elastic texture if overworked and end up hard as a board. In this post, I’ll share tips to help you produce an eye-catching crust.

How to Roll Pie Dough

Dust a cutting board and rolling pin with flour.

Dust flour over cutting board

Place a disc of pie dough in the center of the cutting board.

Place disc of dough on floured cutting board

Position the rolling pin in center of the disc and roll it towards the edge of the dough using even pressure.

Roll out dough from center to edge

Rotate the dough to prevent it from sticking to the board and repeat.

Rotate dough and continue to roll it

Continue until you have a circle of dough that is a 1/8 of an inch thick. 

How to Place Dough in a Pie Plate

Place the rolling pin at the edge of the dough and slowly roll the pin to wrap the dough around it.

Place rolling pin over dough

Hold the rolling pin over a pie pan. Carefully unroll the dough allowing the edges of the dough to hang over the pie pan.
Roll dough over rolling pin
Lay dough over the pie pan

Tuck the dough into the corners of the pan.

How to Embellish the Edges of Pie Dough

Fold dough under along edges

With the tips of your fingers, lift the dough that is hanging over the edge of the pan and fold it onto the lip of the pan.

To crimp the edges: Hold the index finger of one hand over the edge of the dough. Press it into the index finger and middle finger of the other hand. Repeat until you've worked all the way around the rim.

Press index finger into dough

Or, to simply decorate the edges with a fork: Gently press the folk along the edges of the dough.

Crimped edges
Press dough with a fork

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Slice and Dice: Cabbage

Stir-fried cabbage
Hardy, affordable, and ever-giving, cabbage is a workhorse in the kitchen. It's packed with vitamin C goodness and makes a great culinary companion year round. Use these tips to add the cancer-fighting cruciferous to your home menu. 

How to Select and Store Cabbage

Select a cabbage that feels heavy for its size and has crisp, tightly packed leaves. Carefully examine the stem end. If it’s cracked, take a pass as it's a sure sign of aging. The snug-fitting layers loosen when chopped and yield much more than you might expect. Unless you need an ocean of cabbage, opt for heads that are small to medium sized. Cabbage can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Be sure to keep it wrapped tightly in plastic.  
How to Core Cabbage

Remove the outer leaves.

Peel off outter leaves

Place the cabbage on a cutting board with the stem side up. Using a chef’s knife, slice it in half, lengthwise through the stem end.

Slice in half down the middle

To remove the tough core, place each cabbage half on the cutting board face down, and cut in half (again, lengthwise through the core) to create four quarters total.

Cut into quarters

Place a quarter of the cabbage on the cutting board with the cut sides facing up. Slice out the core, cutting away from you. Repeat with remaining cabbage quarters.

Slice out core

How to Shred Cabbage

Place one of the cored cabbage wedges on a cutting board with one of the two cut sides facing down. Starting at one end, slice across it every 1/4 of an inch, width wise. Separate the cut strands by gently tossing them with your fingers. Repeat with remaining wedges.

Shredded cabbage

Place one of the cored cabbage wedges on a cutting board with one of the two cut sides facing down. Slice across the wedge in one-inch intervals lengthwise, holding the cabbage wedge together as you make each cut.

Slice across lengthwise

Rotate the wedge by 90 degrees and slice across it in one-inch interviews crosswise to create bite-sized pieces. Repeat with remaining wedges.

Rotate 90 degrees

Chop into chunks

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Slice and Dice: Leeks

When I was young, I loved to watch my mom cook. Nearly every dish she created (sans a recipe because that’s how she rolls) called for a chopped onion. I looked on, enamored and petrified, as she prepped the bulbous veggie in the palm of her hand. It was one of many Game-of-Thrones-ish feats she performed, along with cracking open coconuts and hacking apart chickens with her trusty cleaver.

I start many savory dishes with chopped onions too. So I guess you could say the mango doesn’t fall far from the tree. (Soup? Check. Spaghetti and meatballs? Check. Spicy Fried Beef? Check.) But after culinary school, I expanded my repertoire to encompass other alliums including leeks.

While onions are feisty, leeks offer a delicate onion-like undertow. I use them to add a bit of umpf to soup, pizza, and fritatas.

How to Select and Store Leeks

Select leeks that are firm and straight with tight-fitted green-tipped leaves. Although bigger often seems better, large leeks tend to be fibrous, so opt for those that have a circumference of 1 1/2 inches or less. Store leeks for up to a week in the refrigerator loosely wrapped in paper towels. Trim and wash them just before cooking. 

How to Slice and Wash Leeks

Like many members of the onion family, leeks have tight-fitted layers. Dirt and grit often settle into their folds, so it’s important to wash leeks thoroughly before using them.

Fill a large bowl with water. Cut off the green tops, which are tough and unyielding. Compost them or save them for stock.

Cut off the root end. 

Slice the stalk in half lengthwise. 

One at a time, place each half of the stalk on a cutting board with the cut side down and thinly slice it width wise into half-moons.

Place the sliced leeks in the bowl of water and swish them around to help remove any dirt.

After a few minutes, carefully lift the pieces out of the water without disturbing the dirt that sunk to the bottom of the bowl. 

Wrap the sliced leeks in a clean kitchen towel and press and scrunch gently to dry. 

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Slice and Dice: Tomatoes

Vine-ripened tomatoes
In Illinois, midsummer is ushered in with the flash of fireflies and the radioactive buzz of cicadas looking for love. Fuzzy-faced sunflowers tower over Queen Anne’s lace and Black-eyed Susans. In the kitchen, the spotlight shifts from sweet corn to vine-ripened tomatoes, which spruce up salads, top backyard burgers, and stud my mom's one-of-a-kind Tomato Rice

How to Select Tomatoes

Select tomatoes that are wrinkle-free and feel weighty in your palm. When given a gentle squeeze, the fruit should feel soft, but not squishy. Since ripe tomatoes have a relatively short shelf life, try to gobble them up as quickly as possible. If you end up with a surplus, store them at room temperature in a single layer. Avoid chilling them in the refrigerator as it makes their lush flesh grainy. 

How to Peel Tomatoes

Tomatoes must be peeled (and seeded) to  produce bisque and other silky, smooth dishes. It’s a simple process that can also be used to skin peaches and other stone fruit.

Hold the tomato with the bottom side facing up. With a sharp chef’s, paring, or serrated knife, cut an "x" in the skin. Repeat with the rest of the tomatoes.

Two slits cut into the bottom of a tomato
Fill a large bowl with water and ice and set it aside. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully lower each tomato into the boiling water, using tongs or a deep ladle. After 45 seconds, transfer each tomato to the ice water bath to stop the cooking.

Submerging tomatoes in an ice bath
Peel away the skins, beginning at the cross of the "x."

Peeling back the skin at the "x"
How to Remove Seeds from Tomatoes

Slice the tomato (peeled or not) in half width wise. Hold one half of the tomato over a bowl. Use your thumb and index finger to gently force out the seeds.

If the seeds cling to the flesh, gently tap the tomato against the cutting board, cut side down. 

Halved tomato with seeds and without
How to Slice Tomatoes

The first step in slicing tomatoes is removing the core. Although it’s commonly done with a paring knife, I like the idea of removing it with a thin-edged measuring spoon as it’s a bit safer (making it a good job for kids).

Pierce and then encircle the flesh surrounding the stem end with a measuring spoon.

Scooping out stem end with a spoon_edited-1.jpg
Place the tomato on its side on a cutting board, and then slice across the tomato width wise.  

Slicing a tomato
How to Chop Tomatoes

Remove the stem end with a measuring spoon, as illustrated above. Place the tomato on its side on a cutting board and slice it in half.

Slicing a tomato in half
Place one half on the cutting board with the cut side down. Rest one hand on top of the tomato to hold it in place. With your other hand, hold the knife parallel to the cutting board and slice across the tomato.

Slicing across the tomato horizontally

Hold the knife perpendicular to the cutting board, and slice across the tomato.

Rotate the tomato 90 degrees. Hold the knife perpendicular to the cutting board and cut across the tomato again.

Slice into chunks

How to Prepare Tomatoes for Stuffing

Remove the core with a measuring spoon, as illustrated above. Place the tomato on its side on a cutting board and slice off the top quarter. Through the enlarged opening, carefully scoop out the ribs and seeds with a spoon.

Scooping out core

Tomato Rice

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