Category Archives: Cool Cooking Techniques

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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Deep Purple

A real looker of a Brussel sprout.
A real looker of a Brussel sprout.

I think Prince would have definitely approved of these Brussels sprouts, don’t you?

With vivid purple streaks, these beauties were grown by Covilli Organics, a family-owned, fair trade-certified farm in Mexico. I snagged them recently in my grocery deliver order from GoodEggs.

They’re slightly sweeter and a little less bitter-sulfur in taste. And yes, the purple will fade a bit once cooked.

Still, what a marvel these are. I typically halve Brussels sprouts, and place them cut-side down in a cast-iron pan on the stove-top to cook or on a sheet pan in an oven at high temperature. But a new sprout called out for a new technique to try.

No surprise, I found what I was looking for in the seminal “Vegetable Literacy” (Ten Speed Press, 2014) by Deborah Madison, the founding chef of San Francisco’s Greens, the pioneering plant-forward restaurant.

Her “Slivered Brussels Sprouts Roasted with Shallots” is a very simple recipe. The only part that takes any real effort is slicing the sprouts with a mandoline.

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Sheet Pan Soy Sauce Chicken with Pineapple and Bok Choy

Chicken gets marinated in soy sauce, then roasted on one pan with fresh pineapple and baby bok choy.
Chicken gets marinated in soy sauce, then roasted on one pan with fresh pineapple and baby bok choy.

My childhood memories of Chinese soy sauce chicken revolve around my mom trekking to a deli in San Francisco Chinatown with me toddling by her side. There, she’d carefully point to a plump one hanging in the window, which would get chopped ferociously with a cleaver into manageable pieces, and wrapped up in a takeout box for our dinner that night.

At home, I’d help plug in the rice cooker for fresh steamed white rice, while my mom stir-fried some asparagus, bok choy or gai lan from the fridge. It was the makings for a quick, simple, and satisfying weeknight family meal.

Pineapple was not something she’d necessarily think to pair with it. But thankfully, food writer Cathy Erway, whose mother hails from pineapple-growing Taiwan, had that light-bulb moment. Because like Tom Cruise to Renee Zellweger in “Jerry Maguire,” pineapple completes soy sauce chicken.

The fresh juicy chunks add sweetness and tropical bright acidity, providing another level of flavor to the soy-caramelized chicken. After all, who among us doesn’t zero in on the pineapple pieces in a dish of sweet and sour pork, right? Best yet, Erway makes this complete dish in a sheet pan in the oven for utmost convenience.

“Mom’s Soy Sauce Chicken with Pineapple and Bok Choy” is from her new cookbook, “Sheet Pan Chicken: 50 Simple and Satisfying Ways to Cook Dinner” (Ten Speed Press). Erway, a Brooklyn-based James Beard Award-winning writer, has created 50 recipes for everyone’s favorite protein using the “it” method of laying it all on a sheet pan, sliding it into the oven, and forgetting about it until the timer goes off.

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Roasted Delicata Squash with Smoked Paprika-Herb Sauce

Crescent-slices of delicata squash get beautifully roasted in the oven until tender and sweet.
Crescent-slices of delicata squash get beautifully roasted in the oven until tender and sweet.

Unless it’s baking pizza, the very bottom rack of my oven seldom gets used.

But thanks to America’s Test Kitchen, I now realize that it’s the perfect position to get deeply browned and caramelized undersides of potatoes, squash, and other veggies.

That’s exactly what I ended up with when making “Roasted Delicata Squash with Smoked Paprika-Herb Sauce” from the new cookbook, “The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook: 500 Inspired, Flexible Recipes for Eating Well Without Meat” of which I received a review copy.

The book, by America’s Test Kitchen, is ideal for anyone, especially those looking to incorporate more plant-based dishes into their diet in this new year. Even if you’re an avowed carnivore, you’ll still find plenty to like, especially if you enjoy these dishes as an accompaniment to whatever meat protein you prefer.

Recipes run the gamut from “Carrot Spice Steel-Cut Oatmeal,” “Pinto Bean-Beet Burgers,” and “Creamy Cashew Mac and Cheese” to “Overstuffed Sweet Potatoes with Tofu and Thai Curry,” “Turkish Eggplant Casserole,” and “Dark Chocolate Avocado Pudding.”

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