Category Archives: Cool Cooking Techniques

It’s Easy Being — (And Making) — Green Risotto

A bright-green risotto -- that you barely have to stir.

A bright-green risotto — that you barely have to stir.


I admit I was dubious. I was skeptical. I was bordering on being a non-believer.

Could one really make perfect risotto on the stove-top by pouring a load of stock into a pan with the rice, turning the heat down to the lowest possible setting, then leaving it pretty much alone except to stir it twice? Yes, twice.


But I should have never doubted J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.

After all, he’s the man. He’s so meticulous and precise that he’s like a one-man Cook’s Illustrated test kitchen (where he used to work, by the way). The San Francisco-based managing culinary director of Serious Eats, Lopez-Alt is a restaurant-trained chef and the author of the “Food Lab” column, as well as a regular columnist for Cooking Light magazine.


His new book, “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” (W.W. Norton & Company), of which I received a review copy, is a must-have on your shelf. In fact, this past Sunday, it was named “Cookbook of the Year” by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

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Miraculous Minute-Oatmeal Puffs in the Microwave

Start the morning off right with this oatmeal puff made in the microwave.

Start the morning off right with this oatmeal puff made in the microwave.


With school back in swing, mornings are even more hectic than usual.

There’s no excuse to skimp on breakfast, though. Not when you can make a whole-grain one loaded with fiber, protein, calcium, and fruit in a microwave in a flash.

That’s the beauty of “Minute-Oatmeal Puffs with Anise and Grapes.”

The recipe is from “Simply Ancient Grains: Fresh and Flavorful Whole Grain Recipes for Living Well” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. The book is by Maria Speck, a food journalist and cookbook writer who lives in Massachusetts.

As the name implies, this cookbook is all about cooking with grains, many of which are gluten-free, too. Inside you’ll find info on everything from black rice to red quinoa to farro to golden Kamut berries, and delicious ways to enjoy them morning, noon and night. You’ll be inspired to try new grains in dishes such as “Lemon Pancakes with Millet and Amaranth” and “Spelt Spaghetti with Lemony Parsnips and Olives.”


This gluten-free oatmeal puff caught my attention not only because oatmeal is a staple in my pantry, but because of the microwave trick similar to making a mug cake.

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Waffled Tofu — Wacky, But It’s a Thing

Tofu cooked in a waffle maker. How fun is that?

Tofu cooked in a waffle maker. How fun is that?


I admit that my waffle iron sees the inside of a cupboard more often than it does daylight on a countertop.

I drag it out on the rare weekends that I’m energized early enough in the mornings to whip up a breakfast of crisp, golden waffles.

But ever since spying this recipe for “Waffled Miso-Sesame Tofu with Waffled Sticky Rice” on Serious Eats, I’ve been intrigued. So fascinated, in fact, that it actually prompted me to take out my much-neglected appliance to see just what it would be like to cook tofu and sticky rice, of all things, in a waffle iron.

After all, I am a sucker for crispy bits.

The recipe is from Daniel Shumski, creator of the blog, Waffleizer. Yup, a whole blog dedicated to strange and wonderful things you can cook in a waffle iron.

Will It Waffle

He’s also the author of “Will It Waffle?” (Workman), a cookbook that came out last year, of which I received a copy. It includes 53 sweet and savory recipes for things you probably never would have imagined to stick in your waffle maker. How about “Sweet-and-Sour Waffled Shrimp Wontons”? Or “Waffled Chicken Fingers”? Or “Spaghetti and Waffled Meatballs”? Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Just be warned, though, that cleaning your waffle iron after cooking some of these recipes will take some doing.

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Prune’s Cold Candied Oranges

Dessert -- Prune-style.

Dessert — Prune-style.


Some cookbooks possess that magical gift that makes you feel as if the author is actually speaking directly to you in your very own kitchen.

“Prune” (Random House) takes a different tack. In her new cookbook of which I received a review copy, Chef Gabrielle Hamilton, owner of New York’s beloved Prune restaurant, gives you the impression that she’s talking directly to her crew in the kitchen. The delightful part is that you feel as if you’re scrunched in a corner, ease-dropping on everything that goes on there, from the prep to the service.


Possessing an MFA in fiction writing, Hamilton is a proven storyteller. Besides her singular voice, the recipes come with drip spots on the pages, as well as notes scribbled on torn pieces of tape that look as if they’re stuck to the pages.

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Lemon Marmalade — Not Just For Scones

Roast chicken gets the surprise flavor of lemon marmalade.

Roast chicken gets the surprise flavor of lemon marmalade.


Almost every morning, I slather jam or marmalade on toast.

I’ve also used it time and again for filling batch after batch of thumbprint cookies.

And I’ve warmed it to brush on fruit tarts to give them a dazzling gloss.

But “Blue Chair Cooks with Jam and Marmalade” (Andrews McMeel), of which I received a review copy, really opened my eyes to so many other ways you can use jam in everyday cooking. The book is by Rachel Saunders, founder of Blue Chair Fruit Company, a jam company that specializes in jams made from sustainable fruit grown in the Bay Area.

How about a vibrant beet soup made with red plum jam? Or prawn and squid paella made with nectarine jam? Or even tempeh stir-fried with mushrooms, bok choy and greengage jam?

You’ll find those recipes and other creative fare in these pages, along with recipes to make jam if you don’t want to just buy a ready-made jar from the market.

“My Roast Chicken” appealed to me because the whole bird is roasted with a lemon marmalade and fresh rosemary mixture slathered underneath its skin.

With a dwarf Meyer lemon tree in my backyard, I always end up with a steady supply of this fragrant citrus that’s a cross between a Eureka lemon and a tangerine. I use them to make pitchers of lemonade, all manner of baked goods, and Meyer Lemon and Vanilla Bean Marmalade, a Bon Appetit magazine recipe that I’ve been making every winter.

My home-grown Meyer lemons, and homemade Meyer lemon and vanilla bean marmalade.

My home-grown Meyer lemons, and homemade Meyer lemon and vanilla bean marmalade.

I was curious as to whether the marmalade would make a real difference or if it would turn this chicken into dessert.

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