Category Archives: Cool Cooking Techniques

Stanley Tucci’s Spaghetti con Zucchine alla Nerano

One of Stanley Tucci's favorite pasta dishes.
One of Stanley Tucci’s favorite pasta dishes.

If the lusty comments from my gal pals are any indication, I’m definitely not the only one obsessed with Stanley Tucci’s CNN travel show, “Searching for Italy.”

Or with Stanley Tucci, himself, for that matter. (Hey, I’m just keeping it real.)

So, it’s probably no surprise that the food on the show has proved equally enthralling.

Ever since seeing the episode featuring Lo Scoglio’s zucchini pasta, I’ve been so intrigued with this specialty dish of this Amalfi Coast restaurant that’s a favorite of Tucci and his wife Felicity.

I like zucchini, but I can’t say it’s ever captured my fancy enough to get all excited about when it first starts appearing at farmers markets in summer. I mean, it’s no asparagus. Not by a long shot.

So, with just Parmigiano, basil, olive oil, and fried zucchini as the main components in this pasta, how good could this really be?

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Hand Pies — With the Best Peaches In the World

The best peach hand pie made with the best peaches.
The best peach hand pie made with the best peaches.

Once you try your first one, there’s no going back.

I’m talking about Sun Crest peaches, the heritage variety so poetically immortalized in farmer Mas Masumoto’s famed book, “Epitaph for a Peach” (Harper One).

A freestone, yellow peach, it explodes with juice. Not too sweet, not too acidic, but just right, it has a full, well-rounded, harmonious taste . It reminds me of the nostalgically of cling peaches in a can, but way more intense and vibrant, and devoid of any syrup to mask its natural flavor. In short, it is the quintessential peach.

The Masumoto Family Farm in Fresno County lets folks adopt a peach tree, giving them rights to pick to their heart’s delight from their designated one when in season. But it is a commitment, an undertaking, and more peaches, perhaps, than most folks’ can handle at once.

Luckily, I’ve also spotted them at retailers such as Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco. Last week, when I saw a half flat was available (20 peaches for $34.99) via GoodEggs delivery, I jumped at the chance to buy some.

Behold -- the Sun Crest.
Behold — the Sun Crest.

Nothing beats just eating them out of hand over the sink. However, I also wanted to do something a little more grand, too. I found the perfect vehicle in “Peach Hand Pies,” a recipe by the gifted Southern baker Cheryl Day of Savannah’s Back in the Day Bakery.

The recipe is included in “Black Food’ (Penguin Random House, 2021), of which I received a review copy, that was edited by James Beard Award-winning chef and educator, Bryant Terry, who is the chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

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A Different Way to Cook Shrimp

An easy, flavorful shrimp recipe with an interesting cooking technique.
An easy, flavorful shrimp recipe with an interesting cooking technique.

Over the years, I’ve cooked shrimp every which way — grilled, roasted, sauteed, stir-fried, poached, and even sous vide.

But never have I cooked them in a cold pan to start.

Until now.

“Pan-Seared Shrimp with Pistachio, Cumin, and Parsley” presents an intriguing method: You first place all the shrimp in one layer in a nonstick pan on top of the stove. And then, and only then, do you turn on the burner to high.

The recipe is from “The New Cooking School Cookbook” (2021), of which I received a review copy, by America’s Test Kitchen.

As the name implies, the more than 500 recipes are all technique-driven and even offer interesting science lessons to boot.

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Matt Horn’s Oxtails with Sweet Barbecue Sauce

Oxtails with sweet barbecue sauce from the new "Horn Barbecue'' cookbook.
Oxtails with sweet barbecue sauce from the new “Horn Barbecue” cookbook.

If like me, you greatly admire people who persevere against punishing odds, then Matt Horn surely deserves your utmost esteem.

Read the first few pages of his new cookbook, “Horn Barbecue” (Harvard Common Press), of which I received a review copy, and it will just about break your heart.

In it, Horn recounts his earliest pop-up in 2016 in the broiling summer heat in Tracy. He had been up all night, readying his spareribs, pulled pork, and brisket that he set up in a cramped black tent outside Ralph’s Bar. Horn, who intended to stay there until all the food was sold, was joined by his wife, who was then eight months pregnant.

As the hours ticked by, the sweltering temperatures rose only higher. In that time, only one customer made a purchase. Just one.

Horn couldn’t have felt more dejected or more like giving up.

The last thing he wanted to do was to have to cart all that food back home — along with his wounded pride. So, he loaded it all up and drove to an impoverished part of town, where many were unhoused. He started doling out the food for free to eager and hungry folks. It was at that moment that he felt the true power of his cooking — the ability to connect and bring joy to people.

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Presenting Cold-Oven Pound Cake

The quintessential pound cake made with an unusual technique.
The quintessential pound cake made with an unusual technique.

This recipe is for those who can be forgetful.

The ones who sometimes neglect to add that vanilla extract to a batch of cookies, the ones who somehow didn’t grease a pan before adding the batter, or have hurriedly mixed in an ingredient at the very last second when it should have been stirred in at the start.

Yes, folks maybe like you and surely like me, as I’ve been guilty at least once of all of those things.

Ever forgotten to preheat the oven before sticking a cake in to bake?

No fretting about that with this recipe. That’s because “Cold-Oven Pound Cake” indeed gets slid into the oven before it is turned on. And boy, does this technique lead to one sensational cake.

It’s from “Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking” (Artisan Books, 2021), of which I received a review copy.

With her husband Griffith Day, they co-own the Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, GA. Se is also a co-founder of the Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice that works to preserve the legacy of Black-owned restaurants in the United States.

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