Category Archives: Cool Cooking Techniques

Simmered Asparagus with Orange and Mint

A classy little asparagus dish that requires barely any time at all.
A classy little asparagus dish that requires barely any time at all.

My favorite way to enjoy asparagus is grilled. The high heat brings out the natural sweetness of the spears, while the lick of smoke makes anything tastier.

But now and again, it’s nice to swap primal and rustic for elegant and lady-like.

That’s where “Simmered Asparagus with Orange and Mint” comes in.

It’s much like glazed carrots — pan-simmered with a little water and aromatics until the liquid evaporates and turns to steam, leaving behind perfectly tender spears coated with deliciousness.

The recipe is from “All About Dinner: Simple Meals, Expert Advice” (W.W. Norton, 2019), of which I received a review copy. It’s by award-winning cooking instructor, cookbook author, and recipe developer Molly Stevens.

It’s one of 150 recipes in this indispensable book that offers up approachable and thoughtful dishes for home-cooks that make use of vegetables, grains, meats, fish, and sweets.

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Oh, Snap — As In Peas

You won't want to cook sugar snap peas any other way after this.
You won’t want to cook sugar snap peas any other way after this.

Sweet — and yes — snappy, sugar snap peas don’t need much to enjoy fully.

In fact, just the opposite is true — we often do too much to them or overcook them so their delightful crispness is obliterated. As simple as they are to prepare, they can be tricky to get just right. A few seconds too long in a steamer, saute pan or boiling pot of water, and they turn wrinkly and mushy.

That’s why I practically leaped for joy after making “Sugar Snap Peas with Pine Nuts, Fennel, and Lemon Zest” from “The Side Dish Bible: 1001 Perfect Recipes for Every Vegetable, Rice, Grain, and Bean Dish You Will Ever Need” (2019), of which I received a review copy.

This tome of spectacular side dishes is by America’s Test Kitchen, where proper technique rules.

This easy side dish recipe gets snap peas perfectly. The key is cutting the snap peas in half — something I admit I’d never done before. Usually, I just stir-fry them whole.

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Sheet-Pan Pancakes

Is it breakfast? Or dessert? It's kind of both.
Is it breakfast? Or dessert? It’s kind of both.

I’m sure I’m not alone these days when it comes to inventorying my kitchen.

Lately, it goes something like this:

All-purpose flour. Oh, thank gawd there’s still some!

A half-pint of blueberries grabbed at the last minute at the grocery store a week ago. Half a pint? That’s it??? Why didn’t I think to get more?!?! What a moron.

Half a gallon of heavy cream that expires in five days. Wait. What??

A bag of walnuts. Woo-hoo, precious protein, baby.

A nearly empty bag of almond flour in the far reaches of the freezer. When did I even open this? (Dips finger in to try some.) OK, I think it still tastes OK. I haven’t keeled over yet.

And so it goes.

That, my friends, is what led me to try making Martha Stewart Living’s “Sheet-Pan Pancakes.”

Because let’s face it, we all need a respite from CNN, daily press conferences, and ever-growing statistics on this pandemic that’s remade the world as we knew it.

What we need is pancakes. Because pancakes have had the uncanny power to put a smile on our faces as far back as, well, the invention of pancakes. When you start the day with pancakes, you know it’s going to be a good day. And we can all surely use more of those kind of days right now.

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Pear-Rosemary Muffin Tin Pies

Two words: butter bomb.
Two words: butter bomb.

These may be little, but they are lethal.

Dare I tell you how much butter there is in these innocent looking “Pear-Rosemary Muffin Tin Pies’?

There are 3 1/4 sticks total.

That’s 26 tablespoons of butter for 10 itty-bitty pies.

(Math majors can be more precise, but that’s a little more than 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter per muffin-tin pie. Although, darn it, when you break it down like that, it doesn’t seem quite so bad. Well, maybe…)

Regardless, I am here to tell you that it is worth the calories and cholesterol to make these beauties.

We are talking some seriously flaky, supremely buttery, and moan-inducing, swoon-worthy crusts. They are filled with tender chunks of pears that take on an unexpected perfume from fresh rosemary. The finishing touch is a brown-butter, brown-sugar, walnut streusel top.

This divine recipe is from “The Perfect Pie: Your Ultimate Guide to Classic and Modern Pies, Tarts, Galettes, and More” by America’s Test Kitchen, of which I received a review copy.

Inside, you will find all manner of pies made with all manner of crusts such as “Classic Pie Dough” (made with butter and shortening), “Vegan Pie Dough” (made with coconut oil), and “Gluten-Free Pie Dough” (made with gluten-free flour blend, sour cream, rice vinegar and a little xanthan gum).

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The Best Chicken Soup You’ll Ever Make

Loaded with chicken and vegetables, and an array of aromatics, this chicken soup is the best I've ever had.
Loaded with chicken and vegetables, and an array of aromatics, this chicken soup is the best I’ve ever had.

Forget any ifs, ands or buts, because this, my friends, is the tastiest chicken soup you’ll ever slurp up.

The kind that makes your eyes widen in unexpected pleasure from the first spoonful. The kind that boasts layers upon layers of deep, full, satisfying flavor. The kind that nourishes and comforts no matter if you’re ailing or just in need of something wonderfully warming.

The secret is that the chicken in the soup first gets roasted. In fact, the entire soup is mostly made in the oven, concentrating the flavors and leaving the chicken as tender and moist as your favorite rotisserie bird.

“Limon Omani Oven-Roasted Chicken Soup with Celery Seeds” may have a long name with an ingredient or two that may give you pause. But don’t let that put you off from what is essentially a quite easy recipe that delivers more than you’d ever expect.

The recipe is from the new “Mastering Spice: Recipes and Techniques to Transform Your Everyday Cooking” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

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