Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’


Posted on April 11, 2011 - by

Making the Most of a Small Kitchen

A cramped kitchen can stifle the motivation of any home cook, even the most inspired. When you can cover your only patch of counter space with a standard sheet of printer paper and you have to kneel atop your sink in order to reach a frying pan, it’s all too easy to opt for take-out night after night.

While you may not be able to physically increase the size of your kitchen, you can make it feel roomier and more inviting by changing the way you shop for food, store ingredients, prepare meals, and clean up afterwards.

Use the following eight tips to make the most of the space you have and recover your culinary enthusiasm:

1. Shop often, buy less. Resist the temptation to stock up your entire kitchen every time you go to the grocery store. You’re bound to forget what you bought and end up with cupboards full of old and incompatible foods. Instead, keep only those ingredients you use several times a week in constant supply. Plan a few days’ worth of recipes in advance, post the recipes on your fridge, and purchase just the ingredients you’ll need to carry them out. With dishes you’re excited about fresh in your mind and everything you need to make them at the front of the fridge, you’re much more likely to come home raring to get started.

 2. Choose only foods that serve multiple purposes. This tip generally leads you away from prepackaged snack foods like chips and cookies and towards whole ingredients like fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. HoHos, for instance, are good for only one thing: eating straight out of the package. Cheese, on the other hand, can be eaten as is, chopped into salad, sliced onto sandwiches, grated into omelettes, melted onto pizza, or made into cheesecake.

 3. Cut back on condiments. These bulky bottles and jars take up an inordinate amount of space and often sit for weeks or even months at a time between each use. Remember that many condiments can be made at home from fresh ingredients: make a small batch if you just want to try a recipe once, or make a very large batch and preserve it in canning jars which can be stored outside the refrigerator.

 4. Stick with one national cuisine at a time. To reduce the variety of ingredients you need on hand and to simplify grocery shopping, choose one national or regional cuisine and cook recipes from only that repertoire for a month. A fun way to do this is to “cook the book”: work your way through an entire cookbook based on one cuisine.

5. Get more use from your kitchen table. If you have a table in the kitchen, make it a drop-leaf and replace full-sized chairs with smaller stools that fit underneath. Consider your table expanded counter space. Keep it free from papers and other clutter so it will be available for chopping, mixing, rolling, and eating.

6. Conduct a regular refrigerator inventory. A fridge full of food in varying stages of decay is just as uninspiring as an empty one. Don’t overcrowd your refrigerator or freezer and conduct a weekly inventory of both. Throw out anything old, unappetizing, or mysterious.

7. Keep your kitchen pristine. A clean kitchen seems immensely larger and more appealing than a crusty one. It shouldn’t take long to wipe the table and counter after every use, put tools back when you’ve finished with them, and give the floor a quick sweep a few times a week. Wash pots, pans, and dishes immediately after using them. If they’re clean and not languishing in the sink with food scraps all over them, you won’t be tempted to get another one dirty the next time you cook something, exacerbating the mess.

8. Get creative with storage. Not everything you use for eating and cooking must be stored in the kitchen. Wine glasses, for instance, can be artfully displayed in the living room. Keep specialty pots and pans, party dishes, and small appliances you take out once a week or less in an out-of-the way place like a closet or under-bed storage box. Garlic, onions, and fruit can be stored in tiered baskets that you hang from the ceiling. The classic pegboard can help keep your kitchen tools organized and close-at-hand. If you have a balcony, consider using it as a second refrigerator in the winter. The less cluttered your kitchen is, the easier and more appealing it will be to work in.

E-mail me at jenny@freshthemovie.com.

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Posted on March 28, 2011 - by

D.I.Y. Cooking: Where to Begin and Why

Illustration: Andrew Rae / NYT

A recent New York Times Dining feature called the D.I.Y. Cooking Handbook caught my attention. “How is that different from any other cookbook?” I wondered. “Isn’t cooking in and of itself a D.I.Y. endeavor?”

Apparently not. “What follows is a D.I.Y. starter kit,” author Julia Moskin explained, “small kitchen projects that any cook can tackle.” The 13 accompanying recipes included instructions on making your own fresh cheese, maple vinegar, tomato chili jam, and cultured butter.

These are recipes not for whole dishes, but for ingredients. Most of us pick these things up in boxes or bottles at the grocery store, either too busy or too daunted, never dreaming that we might be able to produce them in our own kitchens at home. In my own case, it’s a little bit of each. Why go to the trouble of making your own butter when you can buy it with so much less effort?

Yet there is something irresistible to me about the idea of relearning the forgotten skills of cooking. Like cracking the code of a dead language or publishing something in samizdat, it feels a little subversive. Dangerous, even.

While none of Moskin’s recipes require canning, curing meat, or foraging for wild food, these are logical next steps for the D.I.Y. cooking enthusiast. And that’s when the whiff of danger associated with producing your own ingredients takes on a more menacing character. Because most of us did not learn at our mother’s knee how to judge whether a pickle jar has sealed properly or what sorts of mold are safe to scrape off pancetta, we fear that we will not be able to tell if something goes wrong. Movies like Into the Wild, where (spoiler alert!) a seasoned woodsman eats poisonous wild potato seeds and dies of starvation, don’t inspire confidence either.

Moskin recognizes this fear of the unknown, and the article’s illustration acknowledges it tacitly too: a placid-faced figurine chops recognizable ingredients on an invisible countertop, reminiscent of instructional drawings on exercise machines. The message is clear: there’s no need to fear because you’ll be guided through every step of the process.

While I don’t pine nostalgically for a return to the days when my ancestors on the Minnesota prairie worked from dawn to dusk just to feed themselves and their sixteen children (I’m not exaggerating), I do envy their skills, if only because there’s something uniquely satisfying about producing nourishment with your own two hands. What’s more, I envy the way kitchen wisdom was passed down then— face to face, spoon to spoon.

So after I’ve made enough batches of kimchee and crème fraîche to feel confident that my experiments in D.I.Y. cooking aren’t going to kill anyone, I’m resolving to teach someone else. The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it’s no substitute for a watchful eye and someone to lick the bowl with.

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Posted on January 26, 2010 - by

Café Boulud – Palm Beach

Guest Blogger: Bill Couzens, Founder of LessCancer.org

lobsterCafé Boulud – Palm Beach opened its doors in 2003.  Its location in the historic Brazilian Court, a 1920’s Spanish styled Palm Beach landmark turned luxury boutique hotel, is in the heart of Palm Beach and moments away from the famed Worth Avenue. Café Boulud’s cuisine is not unlike its New York City sister restaurant Café Boulud NEW YORK where classic French dishes are prepared with ingredients sourced from the seasonal specialties available at local markets.

Chef-Owner Daniel Boulud is a seasoned restaurateur with five restaurants; one in New York City, one in Palm Beach, FL and three abroad with plans to open additional locations in Miami, London and Singapore in the coming year. Chef Boulud is also an accomplished author having published several books, including Cooking with Daniel Boulud (1993), Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud Cookbook (1999), Daniel Boulud Cooking in New York City (2002),Daniel’s Dish, Entertaining at Home with a Four Star Chef (2003), Letters to a Young Chef (2003), Braise: a Journey Through International Cuisine (2006).

Boulud credits much of his restaurants’ success to his world–class team. One such invaluable team member is Chef Zach Bell, Executive Chef of Cafe Boulud-Palm Beach, recognized by StarChefs in 2008 as a Rising Star Chef and twice nominated for “Best Chef: South” by the James Beard Foundation.

Chef Bell makes it a practice to visit local farms and markets to personally inspect the local foods the restaurant will be serving. Local vendors Chef Bell shops with include:

Deep Creek Ranch for beef and lamb as they do not use hormones or other growth stimulants or routine antibiotic treatment.

Wild Ocean Seafood Market providing some of freshest local seafood.

Green Cay Produce CSA in Palm Beach County and as well as Swank Produce for hydro-natural lettuces, greens, micro greens tomatoes, beans, baby beats and carrots. According to their website, Swank Produce does not use fungicides, herbicides, or pesticides. This is important re the unintended consequences of pesticides that can cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment.

Erickson Farm
The Erickson family manages the tropical fruit, spice and vegetable farm. Mangoes are their specialty and they are grown with the philosophy that includes alternative practices instead of the use of pesticides and herbicides by using the effective organic solutions available and implementing cultivation techniques that aid in pest and weed control when possible.

longplateIn addition to making every effort to shop local, organic ingredients, Chef Zach has a house rule of no corn syrup in any ingredient – including the ketchup – and so the restaurant no longer uses purchased ketchup but rather cooks its own from scratch.

Most notably Chef Bell and Café Boulud have joined in the supporting The Glades to Coast Convivium, a chapter of the slow food movement that includes Broward and Southern Palm Beach Counties. Slow Food is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.

Palm Beach and the surrounding counties are mostly noted for the production of tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, cucumbers and squash–though it is often difficult for consumers to find local produce for sale in neighborhood supermarkets which rely on larger farms that ship produce nationwide. However, large increases in the population during the winter months coincide with the growing season, opening possibilities for local marketing of produce. Every Saturday the Palm Beach farmer’s market promotes locally-grown fresh fruits, just-picked vegetables, fresh seafood, meats and poultry, dairy products, specialty teas and coffees, fresh-cut local and imported flowers, specialty foods, foods to go, pies, and breads.

“Beyond the obvious benefits in freshness, quality, and flavor, eating seasonally and sourcing food locally can be make  important contributions to reducing carbon emissions. The local farms that are additionally certified organic and the markets that sell organic foods also have great potential for reducing exposures to pesticides and other chemicals, benefiting both  the environment and  human health” according to Dr. Maryann Donovan, Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Devotees of Daniel Boulud will not only find comfort in Cafe Boulud’s exquisite fare and quality but they will discover that standards for buying local, organic and eliminating corn syrup from the restaurant is one best practice in working towards healthy people and healthy communities.

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Posted on November 16, 2009 - by

12 Things Kids Should Learn on their Own about Food

By: Orren Fox
OrrenFox
Guest Blogger: Orren Fox is 12 years old and lives in NoBo (North of Boston). He goes to school where there is a greenhouse and a bee hive! Orren has 24 chickens and four ducks (three Call Ducks and one beautiful Mandarin). He is really interested in farming and the ethical treatment of animals. Orren would love to change the way egg layers and meat birds are raised. He says he has a lot to learn. He blogs and tweets about these issues.

There are all sorts of really interesting things to learn about food, actually I imagine you might not have really THOUGHT about food. Maybe someone hasn’t taught you about food. Most kids would rather think about other stuff.

But just for a minute, right now, stop and ask yourself – What did I have for breakfast? Ok now, think – Where did all those ingredients come from? Who made that bagel? What time did they have to get up? Where did that egg come from? Where did the chicken live and how did it live? If you knew the animal was poorly treated would that make a difference? Or not? Where did the orange juice travel from? Florida? California? Have you ever traveled to those states? Is it a long way from California or Florida to your house? How much gas did it use to ship the OJ that far?

All really interesting questions I think.
1. Vegetables taste great with butter and cheese

Honestly, what doesn’t. Even asparagus, really even asparagus. I know there are some people who will say butter and cheese aren’t healthy, but hey I’m a kid and actually I think these are true foods or “real foods.” They aren’t chemically made in a laboratory. They come from recipes not chemical compounds or lab experiments. Maybe that is too harsh. But I understand eggs and cheese, I know where they come from. I don’t know what SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE is, so I Googled it (here is what Wikipedia says – Polyphosphates are moderately irritating to skin and mucous membrane because of their alkalinity). Hmm. Not really interested in eating that.

Actually most veggies that you grow yourself or that come from your neighborhood farm taste completely different than those from the buckets in the supermarket. I actually think the veggies in the supermarket don’t really taste like much. A carrot that was harvested yesterday tastes very different from one that was harvested a few weeks ago, then spent the next few days on a truck, then the next few days sitting in the supermarket. I think the flavor must just drain out of everything as time passes. Also in the supermarket there are very few types of veggies or fruits. Very rarely would you see a Green Zebra or a Brandywine, and those are just tomato variations! Each of these variations tastes completely different, we are only really offered one or two types of tomatoes at the supermarket. These two types of tomatoes are the kinds that travel well and that are easiest to ripen or harvest. I actually don’t like the kind in the supermarket, I like Brandywines. They are sweeter.

I think kids might like veggies if they could choose the varieties they like, but they can’t because the choice is so small. I wouldn’t eat tomatoes if I could only eat the kind in the supermarket.

2. Food taste better when you grow it yourself

Food tastes better because your work is in it. I am an impatient gardener, so for me the food tastes great because I have had to wait for it to go from seeds to seedlings to flowers to fruit to ripe fruit. Somehow that makes it taste like you did it. So i guess there is a little bit of pride in those vegetables.
(more…)

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