Food and Cooking rss

Our favorite products, gadgets, restaurants, bars, wine, beer, and food websites and blogs.

Vegan Lasagne that Actually Tastes Good

I was craving some kind of polenta-marinara type thing, but I didn’t want the melted cheese you usually find with those kinds of recipes. A blog search turned up this recipe for polenta lasagne with portobello mushrooms and kale.

From the blog FatFree Vegan Kitchen, it turned out to be incredibly delicious. It does not, however, serve six. More like four small servings. I’m eager to try more stuff from this blog, particularly to neutralize holiday feasting episodes.

A Game of Squash

The sport of the season is cutting squash. The autumn varieties of the fruit are delicious, it’s true, but they also tend to be large, awkwardly shaped, and hard-skinned. Seriously, they’re so hard to open, it’s almost like the Great Food Deity doesn’t really want us to eat them.

Some people resort to light construction tools to break open their gourd. Then there’s the RJW Automated Butternut Squash Peeler, which claims to do the work for you. Judging from the video on its website, it makes quick work of butternut squash rinds, but what about other varieties? And the company’s claim that “the peeling unit has a small footprint and is very portable” leaves some room for doubt—the thing looks so big that you’d have to clear out a corner of the garage for it.

For those of us without the garage space, there was an Ask
Metafilter thread about how to peel and cut squash
a couple of years ago debating the merits of various tools versus just cooking it whole. Google Answers from around the same time come to the “cook it whole” conclusion.

If you prefer to cut before cooking, our own Aïda Mollenkamp offers some useful squash-opening tips.

And if all else fails, you may want to find yourself a pumpkin cannon. Now there’s a real sport.

The Vendy Awards Announce Finalists for Street Vendor Cook-off

On Saturday October 18, the fourth annual Vendy Awards cook-off will determine NYC’s top street vendor. The event sounds like a good time, with all-you-can-eat “street meat” and “street sweets” and an open bar—plus it supports The Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center, which sticks up for street vendors’ rights.

Here are the nominees who will face off:

• Rafael Soler from Soler Dominican
• Mohammed Rahman from Kwik Meal
• Fauzia Abdur-Rahman from Heavenly Delights
• Meru Sikder from Biriyani Cart
• The Vendley Brothers (Jesse, Brian, Dave) from Calexico Carne Asada

Tickets and more info are available here.

And if you are looking for recommendations (or want to share your own), Chowhounds seem to be especially passionate about their favorite street eats.

Sprouted Grains

In researching a story on raw-food diets, I decided to try to grow my own sprouts at home. Sprouts are incredibly nutritious, and it turns out they’re easy to grow. I had this obscure purple barley that takes hours to cook, but instead of cooking it, I sprouted it. I soaked the barley (you can use beans or whatever else you want to sprout, like seeds) in water for a few hours, drained it, and kept it in a Mason jar for a few days, rinsing it every now and then to keep it moist.

The barley got really soft, but still chewy, and it had little tails of sprouted plant attached to it that I used in a salad. I made a simple dressing, added red onion, mango, avocado, and bell pepper. Delicious, nutritious, and kind of science-experiment-y. If you need more information or directions, Sproutpeople is a cool website to use.

New York Culinary Experience Recap

CHOW was the media partner for the New York Culinary Experience, a two-day cooking event held at the French Culinary Institute, where chefs like Jacques Torres, David Bouley, Masaharu Morimoto, Anita Lo, and Wylie Dufresne taught classes. Here are some bits of wisdom I learned from some of the chefs:

Jacques Torres, dean of pastry arts at the FCI, owner of Jacques Torres Chocolate:

Jacques Torres breaks it down.

Use a laser thermometer when working with chocolate to monitor its temperature mess-free.

When working with tempered chocolate, keep a container of fully melted (but not superhot) chocolate over a double boiler so you can easily add a little to the tempered stuff if it’s cooling down too fast.

You can make a really easy serving cup out of chocolate by using a balloon: Blow it up, dip the bottom portion into melted, tempered chocolate, then put it on a cookie sheet topped with parchment paper to cool. When it’s hard, just pop the balloon, pull it out, and you’ll have a fancy chocolate cup to fill with fruit, mousse, custard, etc.

Michael Psilakis, chef and co-owner of Anthos, Kefi, and Mia Dona:

Keep a bowl on your worktable to put all your peelings and trimmings in. Then you can make one (time-saving) trip to the trash or compost instead of many.

To really get to the soul of a chef, be sure to read all the little bits of a cookbook: the epilogue, sidebars, introduction, etc. He cited the example of learning to salt before, during, and after cooking by thoroughly reading one of Daniel Boulud’s cookbooks.

Resting is key when cooking proteins, so the juices redistribute evenly throughout the piece of meat. He recommends seven minutes.

Don’t forget to use the sides of your pan when searing things—you can lean a piece of meat (he was demoing with a lamb loin) up against them to keep it balanced so that you are truly able to brown it on all sides.

Anita Lo, chef-owner of Annisa and Bar Q (look for her tips in video form soon!):

Anita Lo’s marinated ribs and noodle salad.

If you need to add more oil to something while you’re sautéing, drizzle it around the sides of the pan so that it’s hot by the time it reaches the bottom.

Salt things from fairly high above, and sort of throw it on to get a better, more even dispersal. She likes kosher salt, rather than regular table salt, because it doesn’t have an iodine flavor.

For a versatile and flavorful marinade, use a few cloves of garlic, some lemongrass, and two parts brown sugar to one part fish sauce, and blend it until smooth in a food processor. She slathered it on St. Louis spareribs, but says it can work on just about anything. It cooks up salty, sweet, and tangy.