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May 22 2010

Tidbites #3 Tea

Some believe the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea drinking in 2737 BCE. Legend holds that the emperor was boiling his drinking water beneath a tree when some leaves fell into the pot. I believe it…do you?

Tea - in China- 1997

May 20 2010

Crystal Clear

Have you ever made chicken soup and wondered why it becomes so cloudy?  Well the secret to making a clearer broth is to NOT DO ANYTHING!!  What do I mean by this?  You don’t want to disturb the pot by stirring it. You end up mixing up all the impurities or “scum” that is released from the meat & bones, thereby mirking up the liquid. Instead, just follow these few simple steps and you will be on your way to a clearer soup:

Grandma's Homemade Chicken Soup-Mmmm Good!

1) Place your meat/bones in a pot covered with COLD water.  Do not add any seasoning just yet. When the liquid comes to a high simmer, you will see that the bones start releasing “scum” which floats up to the top of the pot.

2) Skim the surface scum, without stirring the contents of the pot.

3) Once you have skimmed most of the scum, add your flavoring ingredients (parsley, carrots,onions,celery,turnips, etc.) salt and pepper, and reduce heat to a low simmer. **Use only kosher salt. It has none of the anti-caking properties of typical table salt, which can sometimes cloud your soup** I also like to use white pepper so you don’t see black flakes in the liquid.

5) Continue to skim the fats and impurities from the surface of the broth periodically.

6) Once the desired flavor has been achieved, ladle out the clear broth into a bowl, being careful not to disturb the rest of the ingredients in the pot. At this point, you will have clear broth and a pot filled with the bones & meat, any remaining scum and vegetables. You can clean up the meat and vegetables, and add back to the broth or serve separately.


May 20 2010

Safety First: Part 1

What’s the best way to cool down food quickly? Better pay attention so you can avoid potential bacterial growth which can lead to food-borne illnesses.  We all know what its like to end up in the bathroom all night from “something we ate.”  I will be sharing a lot more tips on food safety as my blog progresses, but I thought this one was important enough to share right away.  Refrigerators were designed to keep cold foods cold, not as a cooling device for hot foods. So basically, cool down hot foods as quickly as possible BEFORE putting in the fridge. Otherwise you might also raise the fridge temp, putting the rest of your items in danger. The standard requirements for any food establishment:

Your fridge should be set at no higher than 41 degrees (ideally 37-40). This is because the temperature danger zone is 41-135. For large quantities of hot foods going into the fridge you should try to cool down within 6 hours of cooking (first 2 hours cool to 70 degrees, last 4 hours cool from 70 to 41 degrees):

1) Since most of you are not working in commercial kitchens, its not likely you will have large volumes of food to cool down, but if you do….break down foods so they are smaller. The smaller the item, the quicker it will cool down.

2) Soups and sauces seem to always take the longest. For rapid cooling, stir with an ice paddle or immerse your pot directly into an ice water bath.  Steam rising = moisture evaporating=cooling.

3) Always reheat hot foods to 165 degree internal temperature. I would invest in an instant-read thermometer. They are inexpensive (and this is coming from the student).

You can never be too safe with you health!

May 18 2010

Not your same old veggies

Science Experiment

I couldn’t wait to get home and share my tip of the day!!!  Ever wonder why your green beans turn into “olive” beans while cooking? Or your Cauliflower becomes a yellow mush when you boil it?  Well I have the answer to colorful food (no not food coloring) and it all stems from the pigment in these vegetables. Think back to middle school science…

Green = Chlorophyll

Red/Purple = Anthocyanins

White = Flavones

Orange/Yellow = Carotenes

Chlorophyll is destroyed by acid, so adding acid (i.e. lemon, wine or vinegar) and heat will cause it to turn into a pukey green color reminiscent of canned veggies.  So stop squeezing lemon into your cooking liquid! For bright crayon green, just boil your vegetables in salted water uncovered until al dente. Please take note, vegetables are naturally acidic and their acids are released during cooking. So if you boil it covered, the acid will steam within the pot causing your veggies to change color, exactly what we are trying to avoid.*

Red/purple and white vegetables have opposite pigments. Color is enhanced with the addition of an acid. Cauliflower becomes whiter and purple cabbage becomes brighter! So squeeze in just a drop of lemon, vinegar or white wine and watch the colors on your plate explode.

Don’t believe me – try it like we did! You can see our experiment on the plate above (clockwise) starting with the purple cabbage in acid, green beans (sorry there are only two, we got hungry) in salted water, cabbage in alkaline (blue mush), white cauliflower in acid, green beans in acid, cauliflower in alkaline.

Carotenes are not water soluble, so the condition of the water has little effect on the pigments.

And you thought consomme was cool!

*If you are only cooking your green vegetables for a minute or two, it would be okay to steam since there really isn’t enough time for the acid to affect the color. But prolonged cooking/steaming in acid will cause them to turn olive colored.

**Artichokes are considered a white vegetable (the inner stalk is white) so cook with an acid.

May 17 2010

Mad about mussels

I don’t know about you guys, but I absolutely love mussels.  On a cold winter day, steamed in some white wine, shallots, with a little garlic and parsley. Delicious!!! Food for the soul!

I often get asked how do you know if a mussel is bad? Mussel’s should be alive when you buy them from a purveyor. You can’t eat them when they are dead, otherwise you risk getting sick.

First tip: they should NOT be kept on ice, as ice will kill them! Mussels, clams and oysters should all be stored at 41 degrees and left in their original shipping containers or netted bags. Second tip: the shells should be tightly closed. But if the shell is open, tap on it. If the shell closes, it means the mussel is still alive. Third tip: throw out any mussels that do not open during cooking. It means they were dead even before you started!

Now what are you waiting for….crack open a bottle of wine and get cooking!