In the latest edition of Food Network magazine there’s a great story about famous chefs’ most essential kitchen tools. Lots of the things listed just aren’t necessary for everyday cooking (hello onion goggles) but one thing jumped out at me. Tom Douglas from Dahlia Lounge in Seattle said his item is a bamboo steamer. I’ve never used one of these and am wondering how it’s done. We steam a lot of veggies, especially with a fussy five year old who prefers her green things straight up and simple. Our gadget of choice at the moment is a silicone steamer. For years we were devoted to our Babycook, until after four years of daily use it finally pooped out. It was perfect because we cook just a small amount of vegetables and not have to take up a burner on the stove. I should note that we are probably the only modern family who doesn’t own a microwave.
So tell me, how do you steam your vegetables? Any bamboo steamer devotees out there?
Another good read: Should we buy a rice cooker?
Happy St Patrick’s Day! There are no Irish folk in our household, but that doesn’t mean we can enjoy some classic dishes from the Emerald land. Okay, so this one is more French than Irish, but it’s the thought that counts, right? On Tuesday, our friend Dennis came over to spend the day. He and his five-year-old helper had this lovely beef stew simmering in the crock pot for hours. The results were impressive. It is insanely rich and hearty and the meat just falls apart on your folk. Just the thing to take the chill out of a cold, damp March day.
Dennis’ French Crockpot Stew
What You Need:
1 1/2 lbs. to 2 lbs. stew beef (keep cut pieces fairly large)
12 garlic cloves
2 shallots (peeled and left whole)
3 onions (peeled, cut in 1/4ths)
(bag small peeled carrots)
(bag tiny- red or white- potatoes)
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup beef broth
1 15 ounce can (diced tomatoes) (with green chilies if possible)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh chopped Rosemary
2 tsp.. finely chopped fresh chopped Thyme
dash of cloves
1 bay leaf
How To Make:
1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot.
2. Cook garlic and shallots 5 minutes (remove with slotted spoon)
3. Cook beef until all sides browned (remove with slotted spoon)
4. Pour in wine to deglaze pan
5. Throw in all other ingredients, stir and heat slightly
6. Pour into crock pot
7. Cook on Low for 10 hours… (or high 5 to 6 hours)
8. During the last half hour mix in a bowl: 1/3 cup and 3 tbs. flour….mix well and pour into crock pot, mix in and close lid for the last half hour.
9. Serve with buttered egg noodles.
I have been on a roasting kick all winter and it led me to discover a new favorite go-to weekday dinner dish. I found it in one of my often overlooked cookbooks, Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. Perhaps because the book is not organized in a traditional manner (for example, sweets are scattered throughout rather than in one lump towards the end), I don’t use it nearly as often as I should. But the recipe for Sweet Potato Supper on page 340 jumped out recently. It’s insanely easy and crazy delicious. Basically you just roast sweet potatoes with asparagus, garlic, fresh thyme and bacon (that’s key, isn’t it?) and then serve it up on top of greens with Asian chili sauce dashed on top. The hot sauce with sweet potatoes and cool greens is a heavenly combo. Want to try it? Here’s my take on Nigella’s dish.
Sweet Potato Supper
What You Need:
2 sweet potatoes or yams, not peeled, and cut into think wedges
6 ozs of bacon, sliced into little squares (Nigella’s calls for more but I think this is enough)
half a bundle of asparagus, hard ends removed and cut in half
6 to 8 gloves of garlic, skin on
5 fresh springs of thyme
3 tablespoons of canola or olive oil
salt and pepper
mixed salad greens
How To Make:
1. Preheat oven to 425 and grab a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet.
2. Arrange sweet potato slices and bacon on the pan. Toss on asparagus, garlic and thyme.
3. Drizzle on the oil and toss it all up with a pair of tongs.
4. Bake for about 20 minutes. Stir, turning over potatoes.
5. Bake another 20 minutes or so, until potatoes are browned and squishy and everything else is nice and crisp.
6. Plate up a handful of mixed greens, and put the roasted wonders on top of them.
7. Drizzle with chili sauce and then sit back and enjoy.
I’ve only recently begun using Pinterest as a recipe file. It’s so great to see something that looks good and be able to save it for easy perusal later. My husband and I are both fans of flank steak, but more of the “order it from the menu” than of the “ever actually cook it ourselves” variety. So a link to this Family Circle recipe for flank steak stuffed with spinach, blue cheese, and roasted red peppers (more stuff we like!) caught my eye.
The recipe was very easy to follow (Family Circle doesn’t call it “Cooking School” for nothing), even if slicing a flank steak horizontally “like a book” was new to this kitchen-challenged person. I modified the recipe just slightly, using Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb instead of garlic salt and using soda cracker crumbs instead of seasoned bread crumbs (which I forgot to buy), but it still turned out delicious, if slightly less pretty than the magazine photograph (again: my meat-slicing skills meant a roll that was more of an open semi-circle). My one caveat would be to watch the broiling time. I should have turned the meat sooner; one side ended up being a little too crispy. But still delicious! I served it with fingerling potatoes that were baked in a little oil and sea salt. Click for the full recipe.
I don’t know about your house, but we go through a lot of seltzer here. We don’t drink sodas, but dinner is not complete without some kind of sparkly water. Since moving to a house with storage room in the basement, we’ve taken to buying huge pallets of the stuff from Costco. The cost is about $5 for 20 bottles. I hate going through so many plastic bottles, but at least I live in a town that recycles them.
Then along comes SodaStream. I first encountered this gizmo at my office last year. There was one in the kitchen, and for a while, it was fun. We’d giggle at the funny noises it made and it was nice to have instant bubbles in our water cups. Then the carbonated tank ran out of juice and no one replaced it. There it sat like a big paperweight for months.
SodaStream has been getting a lot of attention the past couple of weeks for a rejected Superbowl ad. The network was worried about pissing off their big buck advertisers, PepsiCo and Coke, and pulled it at the last minute. The New Yorker asks this week if the soda giants shouldn’t be worried about SodaStream. As Joshua Rothman writes, “The problem for Coke and Pepsi isn’t that SodaStream cuts into sales. It’s that SodaStream demystifies soda.” The gadget works by simply pumping forced air into a bottle, and you can add syrup if you want a flavor. It is a simple concept. But Sodastreams cost at least $80, and the air tanks do run out and can’t be bought — or recycled — easily. We have visions of stack of them piling up and not knowing how to dispose of them. New carbonators cost about $50 bucks each, but the company wants you to bring it back to a retailer for an exchange for a full one. You just pay for air. The Superbowl ad claims Sodastream will help save the planet by not using so many plastic bottles (“More than 500 million could have been saved during the Superbowl”) but it does create another to-do on your list. I’m not sold, but tempted (does that guy, above, come with it?).
What’s your take on the SodaStream? New necessity or gadget that will expire soon?