Category Archives: Cool Cooking Techniques

Celebrating A Rare Blue Moon

Adagio's Bella Luna Blue does indeed start out blue, but turns violet when you stir in lemon juice or other acid.
Adagio’s Bella Luna Blue does indeed start out blue, but turns violet when you stir in lemon juice or other acid.

If you’re an astronomy buff — and a tea aficionado — you’ll want to mark Aug. 22 on your calendar.

That’s when a rare Blue Moon will grace the sky.

It’s also the only day that Adagio Teas will be selling its Bella Luna Blue tea blend.

Yes, this special loose leaf tea, which commemorates this cosmic occurrence, is only available when there is a Blue Moon.

It’s a rather magical blend that brews up blue in color. But stir in a little lemon juice to increase the pH, and it will turn vivid violet-purple in a flash. How fun is that?

The herbal tea gets its blue hue from Butterfly Pea flowers. The longer the tea steeps, the deeper the color, too, as you can see from the sample I tried.

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A Unique Rice Cake

A showstopping crusty rice cake that's super rich and creamy within.
A showstopping crusty rice cake that’s super rich and creamy within.

As a kid, I remember feeling a little burst of joy whenever the rice steamed and rested just long enough in the hot rice cooker to build up crispy little bits on the bottom.

My mom would scrape them up and pile them on my plate, knowing how much I couldn’t resist the juxtaposition of soft fluffy grains with cracklingly crunchy ones.

Later as an adult, when I first tasted tahdig, the Persian rice specialty that guarantees a bottom crust of full-on golden crunchiness, I was even more smitten.

Now comes “Rice Cake,” which much like this inverted dish itself, I’ve completely gone topsy-turvy for.

It’s Persian goes Italian.

Or tahdig in the spirit of risotto.

As it’s fortified with a load of butter, Parmesan, and creme fraiche.

This amazing recipe is in the new cookbook, “Bavel: Modern Recipes Inspired by the Middle East” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by husband and wife, Chef Ori Menashe and Pastry Chef Genevieve Gergis, owners of the acclaimed Bavel and Bestia restaurants in Los Angeles. It was written in conjunction with Lesley Suter, the former food editor for Los Angeles magazine.

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The Best Southern Baked Beans

These beans may not look like much, but they are some of the tastiest I have ever made or had.
These beans may not look like much, but they are some of the tastiest I have ever made or had.

This is one of those times when a photo just doesn’t do justice to a dish.

But trust me when I say that these “Southern Baked Beans” are one of the very best bean dishes I’ve ever tasted.

And they are a cinch to make.

This keeper of a recipe is from “Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes” (Ten Speed Press, 2020) by Joe Yonan, the food and dining editor of The Washington Post.

I am not the biggest fan of traditional baked beans. They’re just way too sweet, and frankly, I’d rather save the sugary part of my meal for dessert.

What makes these Southern baked beans so miraculous is that they are not cloying at all, but deeply, profoundly savory with just a whisper of natural fruity sweetness from tomato paste. In fact, it’s rather astonishing the depth and complexity they take on, given how few ingredients are used.

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The Baker’s Biscuits

Crunchy on the tops and bottoms, and flaky and fluffy-soft inside.
Crunchy on the tops and bottoms, and flaky and fluffy-soft inside.

I’ve been eyeing this recipe for “The Baker’s Biscuits” ever since the cookbook in which it was printed came out in September 2020.

It’s taken me this long to finally make them.

That’s because these 12 beautiful and bountiful biscuits require freezing before baking. And if your freezer was anything like mine during the pandemic, there was simply no precious inch to spare.

Thankfully, now that life is getting back to normal, so is my freezer. As we all exhale in relief, so, too, is my freezer at shouldering such a vital load for so long.

What drew me to these biscuits in particular? Unlike any other biscuit recipe I’d tried, these are made with 00 flour. Yes, the same finely-ground, Italian specialty flour that’s coveted for making the primo pizzas and pastas.

The recipe is from “The Good Book of Southern Baking: A Revival of Biscuits, Cakes, and Cornbread” (Lorena Jones Books), of which I received a copy. It’s by Pastry Chef Kelly Fields, owner of Willa Jean bakery in New Orleans and winner of the James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Pastry Chef” in 2019. It was written in conjunction with food writer Kate Heddings, a former food editor at Food & Wine magazine.

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Knives Out — For Fanciful Carrots

Carrots that make you sit up and take notice.
Carrots that make you sit up and take notice.

Get that sharp chef’s knife at the ready — for hasselback carrots.

Yes, the technique that’s all the rage for potatoes can be used just as easily on carrots.

“Hasselback Carrots with Pimenton and Roasted Lemon” is a recipe from the new “Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food” (Harper Wave), of which I received a review copy.

It’s the newest cookbook by the ever-popular Julia Turshen, the New York-based veteran cookbook author, and host of the podcast “Keep Calm and Cook On.”

The book includes 110 recipes that are accessible and far from fussy, such as “Fancy Weeknight Salmon Salad,” “Sheet Pan Lamb Meatballs with Sweet & Sour Eggplant,” “Breakfast Nachos,” and “Coconut Marble Loaf.”

Turshen also includes her trademark lists, such as “Five Things That Are Always in My Refrigerator” (such as kimchi), “Seven Kitchen Organizational Tips” (including the use of turntables in cupboards and refrigerators), and “Seven Ways to Use Left Over Egg Whites or Egg Yolks” (like using extra whites to make spiced nuts).

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