MomsMenu.com offers a variety of information in our Kitchen Update Newsletter!
From family recipes to kid's in the kitchen, what's new this week and holidays, we have recipes, tips and fun food ideas to get you cooking!
So, click here to start getting the best of MomsMenu.com in your mailbox every week!
Alphabet Soup "B"
Welcome to the "B" issue of Alphabet Soup!
by Mark R. Vogel
Blanching is a cooking technique whereby food, usually vegetables or fruits, are briefly immersed in boiling, salted water, and then submerged in an ice water bath, (known as "shocking"), to halt the cooking process. Blanching is utilized to:
Preserve it's color
Facilitate the removal of skin
Eliminate bitter flavors
Heat can be transmitted to food via direct contact, e.g., a grill, or indirectly through a medium. In the case of roasting and/or baking, this medium is air. With boiling, it is obviously water. Water is a far more efficient medium for transmitting heat than air. This is because water is denser. A food submerged in water has greater contact with the water molecules than the air molecules in an oven. Place one potato in boiling water, (212 degrees), and another in a 400 degree oven, and the boiled potato will be done in half the time or less. Thus, boiling is a quick and convenient method for tenderizing food.
Sometimes the food just needs to be blanched and it's done. For example, if you were making an asparagus salad, 60-90 seconds, (depending on the thickness of the asparagus), is sufficient to produce ample tenderness. On the other hand, blanching can be a prelude to a secondary cooking method such as sautéing. Sticking with our asparagus example, if you wished to sauté thicker asparagus, or white asparagus, which tends to be quite fibrous, you are likely to burn the outside before the center has cooked completely. A brief blanch and the asparagus will sauté quicker and more uniformly. String beans, broccoli, and root vegetables are other common vegetables that may be blanched before their introduction to the frying pan.
Green vegetables are green because of chlorophyll, their primary pigment. Chlorophyll's archenemy is heat which causes it to break down and form other compounds that are less green. Despite the heat involved, blanching still preserves the vegetable's color. Here's how. Green vegetables are actually greener than they appear. Trapped within their cellular network are gases that partially obscure their hue by refracting light. Sort of like looking at a colored object through a veil of smoke. The first thing the boiling water does is to allow the dissemination of these gases into the air and surrounding water. Thus, the veggies "become" greener. But, as stated, heat can destroy their pigments. This is because the same heat that freed the gases is also releasing acids from the plant's cells which will reap havoc with the chlorophyll. But, because of the water, these acids become dispersed and diluted in the fluid medium.
Chlorophyll's salvation however, is short lived. Beyond 6-7 minutes in the boiling water and acids or not, the sustained heat will eventuate in the complete breakdown of the plant's structures and substances. Fortunately, most vegetables can be blanched in a fraction of that time. The final step, shocking, ensures the termination of the cooking process. When vegetables are removed from boiling water, the heat retained within them will continue to cook them, a phenomenon known as carry over cooking. The ice water will take care of that fly in the ointment. But, remove the veggies as soon as they're cold since extended soaking will also cause the color to dissipate.
There are three other considerations vital to this process. First, the water MUST be at a boil when the vegetables are introduced. If not, the lower temperature will give the releasing acids more time to harass the chlorophyll before being leached into the water and air. You must also use a large amount of water. When you drop room temperature vegetables into boiling water they will lower the temperature of the water and temporarily interrupt the boiling process. The larger the volume of water, the less the drop in temperature, the quicker the water can recover to a boil, and the more you will preserve the vegetable's color. Finally, never cover the blanching veggies or the gases and acids will not be able to escape into the air.
A quick bath in boiling water is a very convenient means of removing the skins of some fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes are the best example. Make a small crisscross cut in the bottom of the tomato, drop it in the boiling water for 30 seconds and then into the ice water. The skin will peel right off. Now remove the seeds and you are ready to make tomato sauce or tomato concas?e, (peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes), for use in various recipes.
Some vegetables have bitter flavors, the quintessential example being broccoli rabe. Here again, pesky acids are at work. As with the acids hassling the chlorophyll, they can be driven off by the boiling process. Simply blanch the broccoli rabe for one minute in salted water, shock in the ice water, pat dry and sauté.
About the Author: Mark R. Vogel received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Yeshiva
University and his culinary arts degree from the Institute of Culinary
Education, both in New York City. Although he still practices psychology,
his deepest passion remains cooking at an Italian/Mediterranean restaurant
in NJ and writing about food and wine. His column "Food For Thought" is
published in a number of NY, NJ and PA newspapers and food related
Delicious Homemade Breads
No one can resist the aroma of fresh baked bread. Slicing into a warm loaf and smothering it in butter is a wonder to the tastebuds. Try these great homemade bread recipes...
The two most infamous Ligurian culinary creations are pesto and focaccia. Pesto is a basil and olive oil sauce most often used on pasta. Basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic are traditionally ground with a mortar and pestle, (although most cooks use a food processor), and then extra-virgin olive oil, a blend of grated Parmesan and/or Romano cheese and salt are gradually mixed in....
Herbs and Breads
Herbs and bread are such a natural combination, whether savory or sweet. You can take a nice basic wheat or white bread recipe and add a tablespoon of mixed dried or fresh, minced herbs to the dry ingredients.
Quick breads are easy, delicious and perfect for holiday hostess gifts, before dinner treats or after school snacks.
Old Fashioned Doughnut Time
The first time I made homemade doughnuts my son ran into the kitchen and exclaimed "It's like a party in the kitchen!". That alone should convince you to try making your own doughnuts at least once.
"B" In The Kitchen
Bordeaux, (Bor-DOH), is one of the world's best wines. But Bordeaux's geography, nomenclature, grape varieties, and outdated classification system is confusing enough to drive you to drink. Hmmmm. Maybe that's the plan? Let's see if we can make this wonderful wine more mentally palatable.
There are hundreds of varieties of bananas grown around the world. This is the only fruit that actually gets better if it is picked while it is unripe. When choosing a ripe banana, choose a plump yellow banana with brown flecks.
I am not a winter person. But I must admit, there's nothing like a hearty winter meal followed by a good brandy or a hot cup of tea in front of the fireplace....
Butternut Squash Season
There are two kinds of squash: summer and winter. Butternut Squash is a winter squash. It has a hard, thick skin and it is filled with seeds....
When selecting Brussels Sprouts, look for small sprouts with tight heads. Small sprouts yield a more tender texture, and the tight heads help indicate freshness....
Blue's Clues Joy of Jell-O
Make snack time fun for your kids by making recipes that involve their favorite character's from Nick Jr's Blue's Clues!
"B" Is For...
To bake an empty pastry case. To keep the base flat and the sides'
upright, the pastry is usually lined with paper and filled with dried
beans, rice or special lead weights.
Vinegar from Modena, Italy, which is aged in casks and made
from the Trebbiano grape.
To roast meat, poultry or fish over coals or on a spit, basting
frequently with a highly seasoned sauce; to prepare such food
in a sauce on the range or in the oven.
To pour liquid by spoonfuls over a food while it is cooking to
keep it from drying out and to add flavor; either liquid from the
pan in which the food is cooking or other liquid is used.
A semi-liquid mixture of flour, liquid and other ingredients,
to which heat is to be applied.
With a spoon, fork, whisk or wheel (rotary) beater to introduce
air throughout any food mixture. Stirring in rapid regular,
round-and-round or over, under and over strokes with
a spoon or beater.
To immerse food in boiling water for a brief period of time then
drain and rinse it in cold water immediately. Blanching removes
bitterness, loosens skins for easy peeling, sets a brilliant color
and firms etc.
A clear brown stock made either by boiling meat with water and
seasonings, or from commercially prepared bouillon cubes. When
served as soup it is called bouillon; combination stock (meat and
poultry) is consommé; fish stock is called court bouillon. But there
is no uniformity of practice in the use of these names
To cook in low moist heat with fat and water or fat and other liquid;
usually used for meats. The method is to brown the food quickly in
the fat, add the liquid and seasonings if used, cover the pan tightly
and keep the heat low until the food is cooked.
Thin soup; or liquid in which meat, poultry, fish or vegetables
have been cooked.
"B" Kitchen Tip
Baking Powder Substitute
An easy substitute for 2 tablespoons of baking powder is 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. The measurements don't add up equally, but it works great!
While there are many reasons for teaching kids to cook -- less expensive than eating out, preserves family heritage, etc, the most important
reason is that by teaching your child to cook, you're giving him a better chance to be a healthy grown-up. Enabling your child with the ability
to appreciate freshness and to transform ingredients into tasty foods opens their eyes to making wiser choices about what to eat...