Archive for Kitchen Know How

Herbs and The Herb Garden

HERB

The Herb Garden

My Story

HERB! What a wonderful thing to have. I have one of those Aero Garden things. I tried to grow herbs, but someone (I’m not saying who) over fed them, and they died rather quickly. The dill and the basil were being bullies and keeping the poor parsley herbfrom growing to its full potential, so I decided to give myself a break while I do some scientific research before I try again. This time, I will go with a custom blend of herbs, so I can control them, instead of them controlling me, and driving me mad. If you want to have a go at it yourself, here’s what I bought. I bought it at Sur La Table, but here’s the Aerogarden website if you want more options.

The best thing to start with is one or two small pots of your favorite herb. It will give your kitchen a wonderful smell, and with a set of kitchen shears I know you already have, you can add some nice depth of flavor to your meals.

Here’s a good article about using and storing fresh herbs in your kitchen, with a great infographic to put onto your pinterest account. You do have a pinterest account, don’t you?

Just remember, fresh herbs will usually last a week or two in the refrigerator. Dried will last you a good year. Keep them away from the stove and the sunlight. You can find a little more about herbs form my review on the Top Chef Lesson on Herbs here.

A Tidbit

Did you know herbs were once considered only for medicinal purposes? Are you coughing? Add rosemary. What about a stomach ache? Use mint. Basil is supposed to help you when you are feeling down. Here’s a handy chart with some basics. Luckily we have advanced, but it’s a little tidbit to file away for a party. Read more

Food Temperature – What is This All About?

Food Temperature

Food Temperatures – What is This All About?

The Story

Do you watch Hell’s Kitchen? I do, religiously. He’s always saying “It’s f*@$ing raw!” He yells at the chef contestants for attempting to serve undercooked chicken to pregnant women. He smashes fish fillets that are raw. “Touch it, it’s ice cold.” “I’m sorry, chef, it’s just a little underdone.” “Bloody hell, it’s ice cold!” It’s all about the food temperature!

It’s not for dramatic purposes. Okay, some of it is. And it does make for dramatic and entertaining television.

But, he also says this because we need to have a minimum food temperature (for any kind of protein) so it is safe for us to eat and not get sick. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to go to the hospital because of something I ate. Especially if I was the one who cooked it!

He also makes the chef contestants touch the steaks, and asks them what temperature it is. “I asked for it medium, not bloody overcooked!” he screams, as everyone in the restaurant looks on. That is because a chef learns how to know the temperature of the steak by the firmness of the meat when it is cooked (or not cooked). If it’s soft, it’s rare, but when it’s hard, it’s well done. This is sometimes done because chefs know what temperature is best for a steak, but it is also up to the customer. If they want it cremated, the chef should cook it until it is burned beyond recognition.

So learning about food temperatures is very important for cooking, for enjoyment, and for health. Read more

Conversion Chart

SUBSTITUTE CONVERSION CHAIRTConversion Chart

Do you have a conversion chart handy for emergencies? Me either, until now!

When I was making nectarine cobbler this weekend during Snowzilla, I realized I didn’t have enough. Of course! With 24 inches of snow, and most stores still closed, I couldn’t go and get more. And the nectarines were too ripe to wait a few more days. So I had to adjust. I had to half the recipe. Cutting one cup of flour in half was a piece of cake. But I had no clue how to cut in half 1/3 cup of brown sugar. So I had to go on a hunt for the answer.

With so many things to remember in the kitchen, so many little tidbits and nuances, sometimes even I get overwhelmed.

  • How many tablespoons are in a cup?
  • What temperature is medium for a steak?
  • I don’t have cornstarch, what should I do?
  • What spices go good with chicken?
  • And heaven forbid, do you know how long to cook asparagus in the microwave?

I mean, who really has time to look that kind of stuff up on the computer? You Google the question “What dishes should have saffron?”, and you get 13,000,000 hits! On the first page, there are six links for recipes from cooking websites and four websites that explain what saffron is. Fifth one on the list tells me what classic dishes use saffron, which is what I would have been looking for. Read more

Cutting Boards – Which Type?

CUTTING BOARDS

The Cutting Board – Which Type is Best?

Cutting boards are one of the biggest controversies, next to what brand of knife is best. When it comes to knives, there is no pat answer, because it depends on individual needs and desires. The cutting board is not so convoluted; but there are still some choices that are individual here as well. And there are some standards that should be followed.

There are all kinds of cutting boards out there. There are all kinds of questions that need to be asked and answered. Especially if you are purchasing your very first board.

  • Wood, glass, plastic, bamboo, and a made up word epicurean (the company name)?
  • Stiff or flexible?
  • Thin or thick?
  • Cheap or expensive?
  • Stain resistant?
  • Odor resistant?
  • Knife friendly?
  • What is the maintenance level?
  • Do I need handles?
  • Do I need a “liquid catcher” for raw meat juices?

Each has its own pros and cons. Each person has their own idea about what one is best, but there are some standards that most cooks/chefs follow when it comes to choosing a cutting board, or multiple cutting boards. Read more