Category Archives: Cool Cooking Techniques

Chef Sheldon Simeon’s Hack For Homemade Chow Fun Noodles With A Microwave

A soul-satisfying plate of chow fun — with fresh, chewy noodles made in the microwave.

Maui’s Chef Sheldon Simeon is many things:

The owner of the lovable, guava-sized Tin Roof Hawaiian eatery. A devoted husband and dad. A “Top Chef” finalist and two-time “Fan Favorite.” And what I like to call, the MacGyver of chefs.

There was the time when I dined at one of his previous restaurants, when he talked about how he and a line cook came up with a way to cook perfect pork belly — in Hot Pockets sleeves, of all things.

Then, there was the time when a table of chefs fell silent and began madly typing notes into their phone, when Simeon let slip that he makes his own chow fun noodles and generously began sharing the recipe just like that.

So when I spied that chow fun recipe in his debut cookbook, “Cook Real Hawai’i” (Clarkson Potter), I knew I had to make it. The book was written with Garret Snyder, a former Los Angeles Times food writer.

Through 100 recipes, Simeon gives you a taste of today’s Hawaii, mixing tradition with fun spins that amplify the unique cross-cultural blend of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Filipino and native Hawaiian flavors that makes this cuisine so mouthwatering. Along the way, you get to know him, too, from how his grandpa left the Philippines at age 18 to work on a sugar plantation in Hawaii to how Simeon slyly fed the tired and hungry camera crew of “Top Chef” with his Spam musubi.

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A New Favorite: Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Croutons

A "no-recipe'' recipe of crispy-skin chicken on a bed of caramelized onions and shallots, with arugula and home-made croutons.
A “no-recipe” recipe of crispy-skin chicken on a bed of caramelized onions and shallots, with arugula and home-made croutons.

If you were to spy a recipe that offered merely a list of ingredients — without any precise measurements for the most part — along with no specified number of servings, and only one paragraph of instructions, would you:

A. Be petrified.

B. Rejoice in its invitation to let loose and improvise.

C. Consider it a gimmick.

Now, imagine an entire cookbook like that, and you have “The New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes” (Ten Speed Press). It’s by Sam Sifton, the founding editor of New York Times Cooking.

As a cookbook writer, myself, who’s always had it drilled into her to be as specific as possible when writing or editing recipes, this cookbook initially gave me pause. With its tack that less is actually more when it comes to recipe verbiage, I wondered: Would novice cooks would find this style off-putting and too intimidating? And would experienced cooks give the book a pass, assuming the recipes must be far too easy or mundane to accommodate such a truncated style?

It pays to approach this book with an open mind. Whether you’re just learning to cook or already a decent home-cook, you’re sure to find new, inspired ways — as streamlined as they might be — to get dinner on the table. What this book does is encourage you to trust your instincts more, to be less rigid in the way you cook, and to be more imaginative in scouring your pantry for substitute ingredients when need be. And in a pandemic year, which has seen grocery shelves decimated at times, that’s an invaluable skill to possess.

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Baked Goods With A Twist, Part III: The Out-Of-The-Norm Blueberry Crumb Cake

This isn't your ordinary blueberry cake -- not with whole wheat flour, plus a most unexpected ingredient.
This isn’t your ordinary blueberry cake — not with whole wheat flour, plus a most unexpected ingredient.

Blueberry cake is always a welcome guest.

But it’s the blueberry cake with a miso crumb topping that makes for a guest with gusto whom you won’t soon forget.

This unusual take on a classic spring treat incorporates mild — yet still salty and ever so fermented and funky — white miso into the mix.

“Blueberry-Miso Crumb Cake” is a recipe from Chef Chris Morocco for Bon Appetit magazine, published in the September 2020 issue.

Yes, it's white miso.
Yes, it’s white miso.

The cake is made with whole wheat flour, which gives it a hearty and nutty taste. Plus, it adds a healthful aspect, even if you are still eating cake. Or so you can con yourself.

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Baked Goods With A Twist, Part II: A Lemon Cake To Be Reckoned With

A simple, lemon-scented cake. But it's the topping where things get interesting.
A simple, lemon-scented cake. But it’s the topping where things get interesting.

I’ve baked many a cake with Meyer lemons and Eureka lemons.

But never with preserved lemons.

Yes, the salted ones typically used in savory Moroccan dishes.

That is, until I spotted this recipe for “Preserved Lemon Sheet Cake” in the new cookbook, “Time to Eat: Delicious Meals for Busy Lives” (Clarkson Potter).

It’s by Nadiya Hussain, the 2015 winner of “The Great British Baking Show” and star of Netflix’s “Nadiya Bakes.” The collection of recipes is ideal for busy families like her own. The breezy recipes include everything from “Peanut Butter and Jelly Sheetpan Pancake” and “Crustless Spinach Quiche” to “Honey Mustard Chow Mein” and “Pizza Parathas.”

My homemade preserved lemons. A new jar in the making, plus a lemon from a batch made earlier.
My homemade preserved lemons. A new jar in the making, plus a lemon from a batch made earlier.

Let me state at the get-go that this cake might not be everyone’s cup of tea. You have to be willing to take your taste buds on a bit of an adventurous ride.

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Baked Goods With A Twist, Part I: Not Your Usual Brownies

These incredible brownies have an ingredient that's hard to believe.
These incredible brownies have an ingredient that’s hard to believe.

Deep, dark and rich, these irresistible brownies are gluten-free, as they’re made with almond meal.

They also sport a very unlikely ingredient.

Soy sauce.

Before you scratch your head in complete disbelief, consider that soy sauce actually amplifies the chocolate even more, in much the same way that a little espresso does.

Only in this case, the soy sauce imparts a subtle salted caramel note.

If that doesn’t make you a believer, one taste surely will.

Yup, soy sauce, of all things.
Yup, soy sauce, of all things.

This genius recipe comes from food writer and best-selling cookbook author Hetty McKinnon, who started a community salad delivery business in Sydney, Australia, before moving with her family to Brooklyn in 2015.

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