I love giving gifts, and I especially love picking out gifts for people who love to cook. So I’ve come up with a list of my would-love-to-get-my-hands-on gems. Take a look at my choices and then hurry out to the stores as soon as humanly possible. I’m telling you, if you’re buying for a cook, you can’t go wrong with any of these items.
Category Archives: Ingredients and Pantry
Well, it took me a bit longer than expected to cross off the first item on my culinary to-do list, but the time has come, and vegetable stock is a great one to start with. Stocks are easier to make than you might think, and these staples will prove their value every time you reach for them in the freezer. I’ve gotten in the habit of making chicken stock once a month, and hope to do the same with vegetable stock.
Note: Apologies for my sudden (and longer than expected) lack of posts during January. A very important person in our family became ill late last month and I’ve been spending most of my time helping out. My schedule is still not back to normal, but I hope to be posting more frequently. Many thanks for your patience and understanding.
Now that the New Years’ celebrating is over and everyone is settling into always-seems-to-be-snowing 2014 in earnest, I’ve been tossing around some things I’d like to accomplish this year, an informal to-do list of sorts. I’ve given up on setting resolutions, so this list is really more of a rainy-day/too-much-snow-on-the-ground/just-wanna-stay-in/play-hookie-from-life list that I can pick away at during the year. Mini goals, in no special order. Fun ways to spend time in the kitchen, to be sure.
It’s been fall for about a month and it’s starting to get a little cooler here in Philadelphia, but I’m not quite ready to make soups and stews just because the calendar says so. I still want to keep summer going (and… my neighbor was kind enough to give me some of the last of his basil), so I thought, how about some basil ice cream? The chef who taught the culinary techniques course I took last year treated the class to basil ice cream one night and it was absolutely – and unexpectedly – delicious.
Sometimes things have a way of working out perfectly. When it happens once, it’s great, but when it happens a second time, we cheer up and down and high-five and are generally grinning ear to ear. After much talk last year about going to New York, my friend Jennifer and I finally got there last August. That first girls’ food day began with a long walk to see Eataly (http://www.eataly.com/) and ended with dinner at The National (http://www.thenationalnyc.com/). We spent a few hours walking through the maze of Eataly’s marketplace and ate lunch there. We checked out Fishs Eddy (www.fishseddy.com), a vintage-y kitchen shop with everything from old-time open stock china and flatware to dishes, glassware, barware, kitchen utensils, and more. Kitschy and cute and great deals. Had we driven to New York, the trunk of the car would’ve been filled. We toted our packages at least 25 blocks to midtown and finished our day with a terrific dinner at hip, quasi-casual The National.
So how did we top last year’s trip? For starters, after we got the confirming email for tickets for the Oct. 3rd taping of The Chew, we went into planning mode. Jennifer got us a reservation at Barbuto; she also suggested a shopping tour of Chelsea Market, an idea I loved since I’ve never been there. And, as if we really needed an big dinner (with a lot of food) after the amazing lunch we were going to have, I pitched Bar Americain, one of our favorites. (OK, the tuna tartare was calling. Can you blame me?)
My friend Jennifer and I spent several hours on a recent afternoon at the popular Chelsea Market (http://www.chelseamarket.com/) in New York.
The architecturally stunning building (inside and out) that’s home to this indoor food fair has undergone several transformations from the original National Biscuit Company complex in the 1890s. Its rich history includes production of such classics as Oreos, Saltines, Mallomars, Barnum’s Animal Crackers and Fig Newtons. The massive ovens of old were replaced with newer ovens and then moved to other locations. In their place are two buildings that house tech companies, the offices of the Food Network, and on the bottom floor, the stores and restaurants that comprise Chelsea Market.
Around this time last year, I was sitting in a cooking school classroom at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I enrolled in a culinary techniques course, and it was one of the smartest things I’ve done. Not only did I learn new skills and improve ones I had, I came to understand the benefits of cooking by technique, learned the art of balancing flavors, and how to better develop my palate. In short, the course changed how I cook.
A different food or ingredient was covered each week, and the chef instructor demonstrated the techniques to make each dish. I sat close to the action, focused on the chef and his assistants, jotting notes and scratching out little drawings. I snapped photos during the demos and of the plated preparations. Then it was our turn. We were sent into the kitchen to prepare some of the dishes using the techniques we just learned.
After 20 weeks of Friday nights spent watching and writing and cooking, I left the “Julia Child Kitchen” classroom for the last time with two small notebooks full of details (like blanching green beans, ingredients for making lamb sausage, and the raft of impurities when making beef consommé) and a binder of recipe guidelines. I’ve combed through the notebooks and realized that the chef shared some nifty tips, so I thought I’d pass them on to you. Some may be new to you, some you may already know.