Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

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Pasta is one of those things you’ve never going to stop making, so you should probably know how to do it well.  From the right size of pot to cooking time to storing leftovers, here are some pasta mistakes I suggest you stop making immediately.

Note: this guide is exclusive to standard, Italian-style wheat pasta. Many other types of noodles, like soba, glass, mixian, and rice vermicelli, as well as gluten-free pasta, sometimes cook differently, so for those, it’s best to consult the package for best practices.

 

1. Using a pot that’s too small

Sure, it’s a pain to wash a big stockpot, but you know what’s just plain dumb? Slowly shoving a pound of fettuccine into a one-quart saucepan until it snaps in half. When making pasta, especially longer noodles like spaghetti, linguine, and bucatini, it’s best to use a big pot (one with a diameter that is at least the same length as your noodle) with plenty of water. If you don’t have a stockpot, you can actually boil pasta in a skillet.

2. Not adding enough salt to the water

It may seem bonkers to toss a fistful of salt into pasta water, but keep in mind that you’re not actually ingesting all that water. To actually have a fighting chance at seasoning the pasta while it boils, you need a lot (like several tablespoons) of salt. There really isn’t an exact measurement to use here, but I would say a good rule is three tablespoons of Kosher salt per pound of pasta. If you don’t have Kosher salt, go buy some. Don’t use your fancy Himalayan pink or flakey sea salts (they’re expensive and most of this salt is going down the drain), nor iodized table salt (it sucks).

3. The water isn’t really boiling

In her brilliant book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat says to evenly prepare noodles made with wheat, they must be cooked at a vigorous boil, as “the pandemonium keeps the noodles moving, preventing them from sticking to one another as they release starch.” This isn’t a mere suggestion, folks. Bring your water to a rolling boil, dump in the pasta, give it a stir, and ensure that the pot continues to boil.

4. Adding oil to pasta water

Some people think that to keep pasta from sticking itself in the pot they must add olive oil to the pot. False. If your pot is large enough, at a rolling boil, and you’ve stirred the noodles around after dumping them in, there’s no reason pasta should stick to itself or to the pot while cooking.

5. Overcooking pasta

If you’re cooking pasta according to the package directions, odds are you’re going to overcook it. Especially if you’re planning to mix the pasta into heated sauce, pasta will taste perfectly cooked (that is, soft with a slight bite, also known as al dente) when it’s pulled out of the pot about three minutes earlier than the package says.

6. Tossing the pasta water

Most people simply dump their cooked pasta into a colander, letting all cooking liquid run down the drain. Don’t be one of those people. Instead, use a slotted spoon, spider, or tongs to pull out your pasta and drop it into your sauce or put it in a colander, leaving the pot of warm water on the stove. Starchy pasta water is the secret ingredient your sauces have been missing. Whether you’re making cacio e pepe or linguine with clams, a hefty splash of pasta water will thicken your sauce and encourage it to coat each noodle completely.

7. Rinsing the pasta after cooking

Shocking pasta with cold water after it comes out of the pot will indeed stop the pasta from cooking more, but it will also rinse away all the delightful starch that helps sauce cling to noodles. To avoid the overcooking factor, see rule #5. If you’re rinsing to ensure the noodles don’t stick together, you should simply be ready to add the pasta into your sauce as soon as it comes out of the pot.

8. Storing leftovers improperly

You can get very sick from poorly stored pasta, so if you pay attention to any of these tips, make it this one. After your pasta dish is cooked and divided among plates, any leftovers should be cooled, transferred to an airtight container, and refrigerated. When cooked food is held at a temperature between 40ºF and 140ºF, it’s known as the “danger zone” by the USDA. Bacteria love moist foods like pasta, so any leftovers should be stored in the fridge and fully reheated before you eat them again (and it’s best not to wait more than a day). You may feel bad about throwing away food, but we all know reheated mushy pasta isn’t very good anyway.

Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

Tips from Culinary School

Found this article online by “my recipes” and thought the information was quite valuable.  I am always looking for ways to make things taste better in simple ways.

Good Stock Changes the Game:

This is probably something you’ve heard before, homemade stock is always going to be superior to the stuff you can buy in boxes, cans, or cubes at the grocery store. We use stock in almost everything. In classic French cuisine, so of course, There are all kinds of distinct schools that go about culinary training differently, but in French cooking, the sauces are everything. And the sauces are all built with great stock. Restaurants, of course, have the advantage of having many, many carcasses and scraps of mirepoix to put into huge vats of stock. It’s hard to get stock like that at home, without the industrial quantities that restaurants work with. But even just making quick stock in your Instant Pot will make your sauces and soups taste much, much better.

Watch the Bits at the Bottom of the Pan

When you’re searing meat or chicken on a pan, you’re, of course, watching the piece of meat so that it browns nicely and doesn’t burn. But it’s equally important to watch the browned bits at the bottom of the pan as they’re a good indicator of whether your pan is running too hot. Plus, those browned bits,  are incredibly dense in flavor. When you have them, you should always try to use them by degreasing and then deglazing the pan after you’re done cooking your meat. That just means pouring out any excess fat and then pouring wine, stock, or another liquid to help scrape up all the delicious bits. That’s an easy way to make a pan sauce, a great addition to your meal.

The Pan Cooks the Food, the Flame Doesn’t

You want to pay attention to how hot the surface of the pan is and how high your burner is turned up. Pans hold heat to varying degrees, and it’s important to keep that in mind when figuring out which one to use for what application. For very delicate things like fish, you often want to turn off the flame when the dish gets to a certain point of cooking, and the heat from the pan will continue to cook it. Pay more attention not just to how big the flame was under the pan, but how hot the pan was getting.

Weighing versus Measuring Cups

In applications where absolute precision isn’t necessary, eyeball amounts, and when precision was necessary, use kitchen scales. Bakers swear by using scales, and digital kitchen scales are a pretty cheap addition to the kitchen, and much better measuring by weight is than relying on measuring spoons and cups. Different flours and sugars weigh different amounts.

Reduce for Flavor, Thicken Later

When you’re making soup or stew, one of the steps is always to reduce a component. You reduce wine to syrup or cream to double cream, and on and on. Part of the point of reducing the liquid is to thicken it. But thickening really shouldn’t be a top priority when you’re reducing down a liquid. You can always use a roux or a quick beurre manie to thicken a liquid later. The point of reducing is to build flavor. You reduce it to the point where you like the flavor, season it, and then thicken it.

Rest Your Meat, Then Reheat

Resting meat is important. When you don’t let it rest after you cook it, whether its steak or roast chicken, the juices spill out over your cutting board and the meat gets dry. But It’s better to let the piece of meat rest even to the point of getting colder than you’d like, and then just put it in a very hot oven for a minute or two to reheat. That lets the juices reincorporate into the meat, then reheats it without cooking it further.

Reheating and Cooling Things Properly Is Crucial

Lots of things in restaurants are made beforehand and reheated because making things a la minute for hundreds of people is a good way to become very overwhelmed. You can bring up most things to the temperature they were when you were cooking them without cooking them further. That means that you cooked, say, a piece of chicken until its internal temperature is 165 degrees. As long as you cool that chicken properly, you can reheat it up to that internal temperature again without it getting overcooked. You don’t want to do that too many times, because the meat will dry out, but you won’t ever overcook your meat by reheating it if you keep that in mind. Similarly, with cooling things down, the danger zone for bacteria is when meat is in between piping hot and refrigerator cold. To get things cold quickly, it’s way more effective to put them in a bowl over a bowl of ice water than throwing them right into the fridge.

Depend on your Senses, Not the Directions

The throughline between very famous chefs of haute cuisine and my grandmother is that they don’t rely on recipes by the letter, they rely on their senses. Pay more attention to how the meat looks and smells and feels to tell when its done (and yeah, a thermometer too!) than what a recipe estimates. After all, recipes are great guidelines, but everyone’s kitchen equipment and conditions are totally different. You cook things until they’re done, and determine that doneness by visual and other cues.

Size Matters

This sort of cheeky mantra but it’s true so choose the right pot, pan, or bowl for the job and it makes all the difference. Too big of a pan means your meat won’t cook properly. Too small of a bowl, and whisking will be a huge chore. It matters not just because of convenience, but because your results will be different if you don’t pay attention.

Hot Plates for Hot Food

The quickest way you can give your at-home meals a restaurant touch is remembering to heat your plates before putting food on them that are meant to be eaten hot. All it takes is sticking them in the oven for a couple minutes before plating your meal. It means the food won’t cool down as fast, and you can enjoy it longer. Try it!

You Can Use Almost Every Scrap

Whether it’s egg whites or garlic skins, restaurant kitchens are geniuses at repurposing what would be food waste in most home kitchens. For them, it’s an economic concern as much as an environmental one, but it’s a practice that’s useful to adapt at home. You can use many of the things that you might otherwise scrap to make your food even better.

Tips from Culinary School

Chicken Paprikash with Spaetzle

It was snowing like crazy here today so no going to the grocery store.  I had thawed out some chicken and wanted to make something that felt like “comfort food”. My German mother-in-law used to make this when she would come to visit and I have always loved it.  She cooked her chicken in tomato sauce and just added the spaetzle at the end, but I like cooking them separately.  It always brings back very fond memories of her cooking in the kitchen when my three sons were little.  They always baked together.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons paprika, divided
  • 1 broiler/fryer chicken (2-1/2 to 3 pounds), cut up
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1-1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons capers with juice

Spaetzle Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (you can also use whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup milk or water + more as needed (milk produces a richer Spaetzle) (add more flour if the dough is too runny, add more milk or water if it’s too stiff)

Directions:

  • 1. In a heavy skillet,  saute chopped onions until tender. Set aside.
  • 2. In a large plastic resealable bag, combine flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika; add chicken, a few pieces at a time and shake to coat.
  • 3. Place chicken in skillet; brown on all sides. Add the salt, parsley, broth and remaining paprika. Cover and cook over low heat until juices run clear, about 45 minutes.
  • 4. For spaetzle, in a large bowl, stir the flour, eggs, milk, salt and baking powder until smooth (dough will be sticky). In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Pour dough into a colander or spaetzle maker coated with cooking spray; place over boiling water.
  • 5. With a wooden spoon, press dough until small pieces drop into boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes or until dumplings are tender and float. Remove with a slotted spoon; toss with butter.
  • 6. Remove chicken from skillet; set aside. In the same skillet, stir in the sour cream, capers and juice and onions. Return chicken to the skillet and gently heat through. Place spaetzle on a platter and top with chicken. Serve with sauce.
Chicken Paprikash with Spaetzle

18 Bad Baking Habits You Need to Stop

I found this article online and made a few corrections and additions, but it has great information.

These baking mistakes threaten your beautiful bundts, bread, and bar cookies. Here’s what you should do instead…

In cooking, you’re encouraged to riff: Edamame in your stir-fry? Sure! A splash of rice wine vinegar in your pan sauce? Why not! Curious about herbes de Provence in your chicken rub? Give it a whirl!

In baking, however, creativity should be directed toward what you decide to make and how you decorate it—not how you cook it. That’s because baking is a science; cooking is an art. Science has rules. Art? Not so much.

You don’t read the recipe.

As you do with any IKEA furniture, you should read through the steps and gather your tools before you start mixing and whipping. Otherwise, you might get started and realize you’re one short a cup of cocoa powder of what your recipe needs. Or worse, you’ll start mixing up the dough for the birthday party you’re going to tonight and then realize it’s supposed to chill overnight. Oops!

The fix: Pull your recipe up on your phone, or get it from your cookbook. Read the ingredient list, and assemble everything that’s listed. Then, read the directions. You can even go so far as to “pretend” each step. This way, you can double check you have every ingredient and every appliance or tool you need.

You decide to wing it instead of measuring the ingredients.

The “a little of this, a little of that” mentality may suit you well in cooking, but in baking, it could backfire. After all, consider this: cookies, cakes, and bread contain many of the same ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar, butter, for example. In the right ratios, they make a specific type of baked good. In the wrong ratios, they could be a disaster. That’s why it’s vital to measure every ingredient, from the flour to the tiniest bit of cinnamon.

The fix: Use your measuring spoons and cups. You need the right ratios to get the best results. Save the winging it for your salad dressing.

You don’t respect the comma.

Has the comma in “1 cup flour, sifted” ever confused you? What about the comma in “1/2 cup pecans, chopped”? The comma is telling you something very important. Do you know what?

The fix: The comma is telling you to first measure the ingredient and then perform the task. Measure the cup of flour, then sift it. Or measure the half cup of pecans, then chop them. There’s a big difference between half a cup of chopped pecans and half a cup of pecans that were measured, then chopped. It can dramatically affect your final result.

You use liquid measuring cups for dry ingredients (or vice versa).

Liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups measure things differently. Though it’s not a significant amount, it’s enough that it could affect the texture of your final product.

The fix: Use wet measuring cups (typically, the glass type you pour from) for everything liquid: water, oil, honey, milk, molasses, corn syrup, etc. Use dry cups for everything else, from flour and sugar to chocolate chips and yogurt. With the dry cups, be sure to use a flat surface, like the back of a knife, to swipe across the top of the cup to remove excess before adding to the batter.

You dip your measuring cup into the flour.

Dipping a measuring cup into a bag or jar of flour packs the flour into the well of the measuring cup. It may seem like the easiest way to scoop flour, but you’re actually getting more flour than you really need. Too much flour will turn into dense bread, hard cookies, and stiff cakes.

The fix: You need the same amount of flour each time to get consistent results, and you can do this in two ways: The less accurate option is to use a spoon to lightly scoop flour into a dry measuring cup, then use a flat edge (like a knife) to level off the flour. The most accurate way to measure flour is with a digital scale. A cup of all-purpose flour should be 130 grams.

You don’t preheat your oven.

We’ve all been there: You’ve just finished rolling out a tray full of cookie dough only to realize your oven is cool as a cucumber. So to save time, you turn the oven on and just stick the pan in any way. Bad idea. The quick and sudden heat is an important part of the baking process. If the dough heats slowly, you may have a mess on your hands.

The fix: If you realize the oven isn’t pre-heated when you’re ready to bake, just let the dough or batter sit while the oven heats up. Most ovens can be heated in about 10 minutes time. If you’re working with a temperature-sensitive dough, pop it in the fridge until the oven is ready.

You’ve never measured your oven’s temperature.

I have some bad news: Your oven could be lying to you. Just because it says 350°F doesn’t mean it really is. That means your brownies or pastries may not bake properly because your oven could be too hot, or even too cool. And 25°F in one direction can make a big difference in the final product.

The fix: Invest in an oven thermometer. Hang it from the grates in your oven the next time you turn it on. Let the oven pre-heat fully, and then see what the thermometer says. That will give you an idea of how correct your oven is—and how you need to adjust the oven when you bake in it.

You substitute baking powder for baking soda.

They might share a similar name, and they even look similar out of the box. But baking soda and baking powder are quite different. Baking soda must have an accompanying acid (lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, for example) to activate it; baking powder, on the other hand, has that acid already. If you use the wrong one, your baked goods will take a hit.

18 Bad Baking Habits You Need to Stop

mediterranean baked cod

 

Mediterrean Cod.jpg

mediterranean baked cod recipe with lemon and garlic


INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 lb Cod fillet pieces (4-6 pieces)
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Lemon Juice Mixture 

  • 5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 5 tbsp Private Reserve extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp melted butter

For Coating

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp sweet Spanish paprika
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix lemon juice, olive oil, and melted butter in a shallow bowl. Set aside
  3. In another shallow bowl, mix all-purpose flour, spices, salt and pepper. Set next to the lemon juice mixture.
  4. Pat fish fillet dry. Dip fish in the lemon juice mixture then dip in the flour mixture. Shake off excess flour.
  5. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (watch the oil to be sure it is sizzling but not smoking). Add fish and sear on each side to give it some color, but do not fully cook (about a couple of minutes on each side) Remove from heat.
  6. To the remaining lemon juice mixture, add the minced garlic and mix. Drizzle all over the fish fillets.
  7. Bake in the heated oven for until it begins to flake easily with a fork (10 minutes should do it, but begin checking earlier). Remove from heat and sprinkle chopped parsley.

 

  1. Lebanese Rice with Vermicelli.jpg

    lebanese rice with vermicelli


    INGREDIENTS

    • 2 cups long grain or medium grain rice
    • Water
    • 1 cup broken vermicelli pasta
    • 2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
    • Salt
    • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, optional to finishServing suggestions: Serve immediately with Lebanese rice and  Mediterranean chickpea salad or traditional Greek salad.

    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Rinse the rice well (a few times) then place it in a medium bowl and cover with water. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Test to see if you can easily break a grain of rice by simply placing it between your thumb and index finger. Drain well.
    2. In a medium non-stick cooking pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the vermicelli and continuously stir to toast it evenly. Vermicelli should turn a nice golden brown but watch carefully not to over-brown or burn it (If it burns, you must throw the vermicelli away and start over).
    3. Add the rice and continue to stir so that the rice will be well-coated with the olive oil. Season with salt.
    4. Now add 3 1/2 cups of water and bring it to a boil until the water significantly reduces (see the photo below). Turn the heat to low and cover.
    5. Cook for 15-20 minutes on low. Once fully cooked, turn the heat off and leave the rice undisturbed in the cooking pot for 10-15 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork.
    6. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the toasted pine nuts. Enjoy!

    NOTES

    • Pro Tips: 1. You must rinse the rice to get rid of excess starch which causes the rice to be sticky (Lebanese rice is not meant to be sticky). Then soak the rice in plenty of water for 15-20 minutes or until you can break one grain of rice by pressing it between your index finger and your thumb. 2.toasting the vermicelli in EVOO as a first step is what gives this rice great flavor. Do not skip this step. 3. If you can at all help it, let the rice rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
    • Recommended for this recipe: Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil (from organically grown and processed Koroneiki olives).
    • SAVE! Try our Greek extra virgin olive oil bundle!

     

     

mediterranean baked cod

50 ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

Your ideal pantry should feel like a wonderland of endless recipe options. Are those shelves currently looking a little bare? These are the 50 essential staples you should always keep on hand

Dried or Canned Beans

DRIED OR CANNED BEANS

Pound-for-pound, dried beans are one of the best values on the shelf. No time to soak? Canned beans ain’t bad either. If you’re craving a cool dip for chips, a bowl of spicy chili or stick-to-your-ribs comfort, beans are your new best buddy:

Dried Pasta

DRIED PASTA

Whether long, twisted or tied in a bow, pasta is the ultimate vessel for homemade sauces. Tired of spaghetti with sweetened, canned ragu? The opportunities for combination and customization are endless. Try south-of-the-border flavors, a cool pasta salad or an umami-rich red sauce:

 

Canned Tuna

CANNED TUNA

Fancy sushi-grade ahi ain’t got nothing on this last-minute lunch staple. Whether we’re craving salad or melty cheese sandwiches, we’re not ashamed to open a can, mix it with mayo and enjoy for any meal of the day:

 

Olive Oil

OLIVE OIL

Olive oil is available in all prices. Use the cheap bottles for cooking and the more expensive oils for fresh sauces, dressings, and infusions. Real extra-virgin olive oil will burn slightly at the back of your throat, and will be smooth, not viscous or sticky on the tongue:

Tortillas

TORTILLAS

Taco Tuesday is over and you have leftover tortillas. Yes, you could use them to wrap up a burrito or some sliced turkey. But did you consider a macaroni and cheese quesadilla? Or that you could fry them up and make your own chips? Go forth and tortilla:

Chicken Stock

CHICKEN STOCK

Every kitchen should include some good stock, especially since it can replace water in almost any savory recipe and add a ton of flavor (ever tried boiling pasta in it?). It’s ideal for soups and stews and can turn any pan drippings into a sauce in no time.  I make my own and store it in the extra freezer in my garage.

Peanut Butter

PEANUT BUTTER

Yes, you can slather some peanut butter and jelly on bread and call it a day. But why not try your hand at Chinese-takeout-style peanut butter noodles or sweet-and-savory desserts? But for some reason, I always keep mine in the refrigerator.

Rice

RICE

You’ll find rice on the plates of the majority of human beings around the world. Whether you boil it, steam it, simmer it or fry it, rice is a staple food worth experimenting.  The question is: “How many types of rice do you keep in your pantry?”

 

Milk

MILK

If the gallon is on its last few days, don’t toss it! You can use the last of it in sauces and gravies, as well as to make fresh mozzarella and milkshakes. Ok, so this in the frig, not the pantry, unless you have a refrigerated pantry.

Lemons

LEMONS

You should have lemons on hand for both a beautiful kitchen centerpiece and to brighten up dishes like fish and chicken. Try them in this Greek lemon soup, rice or any yellow baked good.

Eggs

EGGS

Having eggs in the fridge is a no-brainer. They’re essential if you’re baking or making breakfast at home, but can also be utilized for easy sandwiches, quiche and more.

Tomato Sauce & Paste

TOMATO SAUCE & PASTE

You might look at a can of tomato sauce and only see pasta, but don’t sell its potential short! Sure, it’s necessary for staples like chicken parm and pizza, but what about as a topping for stuffed vegetables or as a base for your sloppy Joes?

Soy Sauce

SOY SAUCE

Sure, soy sauce is an obvious choice on top of your Chinese takeout, but what about as part of a sweet and salty glaze for chicken? Keep it in the pantry to use in any number of sauces, or just to flavor steamed rice whenever you forget to order fried:

Brown Sugar

BROWN SUGAR

Plain granulated ain’t got nothing on brown. An essential for baked goods, you can also sprinkle it on bacon for a sweet-savory-bacony twist on breakfast or dessert. Your box is hard as a rock? Microwave to soften.

Parmesan Cheese

PARMESAN CHEESE

It’s salty, it’s nutty, it’s cheese a trifecta of deliciousness! Consider keeping extra in the fridge so you can transform almost protein into a parm. Plus, if you don’t have it, what are you putting on top of your pasta? I buy Reggiano Parmesano and freeze it when there is a sale.

Breadcrumbs

BREADCRUMBS

Breadcrumbs provide an unreal softness and lightness when mixed into meatballs, and Japanese-style panko is best for adding a crispy crunch to baked or fried foods.

Onions

ONIONS

Keep your onions in a dry, cool and dark place (away from the potatoes!) and they’ll last for months. Months during which you can caramelize them, fry them or serve them fresh:

Honey

HONEY

Great for sauces or as a sweetener for tea, oatmeal, yogurt, lemonade and more, this buzz-worthy liquid is the bee’s knees.

Vanilla Extract

VANILLA EXTRACT

There’s no knowing why vanilla became synonymous with bland. The extract from this ancient Mesoamerican bean is complex and fragrant, and is perfect when baked into creme brulee or broiled on grapefruits.

Balsamic Vinegar

BALSAMIC VINEGAR

If you’ve ever made your own salad dressing, you’re probably familiar with this Italian condiment. Balsamic vinegar is a perfect complement to fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, works magic in marinades and can be reduced to a syrup and used as a garnish.

Lentils

LENTILS

Is that box of lentils languishing in the back of your cabinet? Time to pull it out. Lentils are the perfect legumes for making protein-rich soups, salads and cookies.

Barbecue Sauce

BARBECUE SAUCE

In addition to being the one condiment you must have for grilling season, barbecue sauce is an easy out when you need lots of flavor without lots of work. Some of our favorite things to slather it on include pizza, chicken wings, and even savory muffins.

Greek Yogurt

GREEK YOGURT

Besides being a healthy staple for breakfast or a snack, Greek yogurt can also be used up in a marinade for chicken, as a creamy addition in soup or even in pancake batter. And don’t forget about tzatziki!

Cocoa Powder

COCOA POWDER

Cocoa powder might be the perfect chocolate boost for brownies and cakes, but try it in Mexican food to bring it back to its roots. Mole sauces and spicy Mexican hot chocolate are some traditional options.

Maple Syrup

MAPLE SYRUP

Don’t have a maple tree tapped in your backyard? Good thing you’ve got Canada (and Vermont) to pick up the slack. Use this sweet nectar to flavor everything from scones to French fries to roasted meats.

Potatoes

POTATOES

This humble Peruvian tuber is a staple in most all of the world’s cuisines. It can be prepared in every way imaginable and will last for months if stored in a dark, cool place (away from the onions!).

 

CURRY PASTE & POWDER

Whether you’re using paste or powder, curry is a great flavoring agent for sauces, soups and marinades. Looking for the ultimate quick fix? Curry + coconut milk = instant awesome:

FROZEN PEAS

Finish off almost any pasta with frozen peas, add them into a pot pie, or toss them into a salad. Any way you slice it, your freezer should definitely have a few bags of these at all times.

CANNED SALSA

Unlock the potential of salsa by piling it on top of your burgers, adding it in with slow-cooked meats and even mixing it into your rice. Bonus: it doesn’t take up fridge space until you’ve opened it.

WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE

Not many ingredients are as versatile as Worcestershire. It adds a salty, garlicky flavor to meat, so it’s ideal for marinades and sauces.

FROZEN SHRIMP

Shrimp is one of the quickest-cooking proteins out there, so when you’re short on time, tap into its amazingness by sauteeing it and serving over rice. And don’t forget about shrimp when you’re entertaining—they’re often at their best when served cold.

PIZZA DOUGH

Pizza dough is just for pizza, right? Wrong. You can use it to make cinnamon rolls, one-bite appetizers or just some cheesy breadsticks. Plus, it keeps in the freezer for at least a few months.

JAM & PRESERVES

Supplies for emergency PB&Js should always be in your pantry, but the buck doesn’t stop there when it comes to jams, jellies and preserves. You can easily amp-up any dessert with them, or even use them in a sweet and savory sauce for meatballs.

GRAINS

We all love our rices and our pastas, but sometimes we like to move into uncharted territory with starches. Have an adventure with farro, couscous, and quinoa in these grain salads.

MUSTARD

If you haven’t explored the mustard world lately, you’re really missing out. There are tons of different varieties and you can use them to add a tanginess to almost any meat, not to mention roasted veggie and sandwich possibilities.

DRIED FRUIT

Sucking the water out of fruit not only makes for highly concentrated flavors, it also renders fruits shelf-stable. Store them in the cupboard and use to sweeten baked goods, veggie dishes, grain salads, and stews.

CANNED TOMATOES

Odds are you’ve got your own ideas about what to do with a can of tomatoes. When it comes to using this pantry essential the options may be endless, but here are some of our favorites.

CORNBREAD MIX

Did you think cornbread mix was just for making cornbread? Silly goose. You’ve been missing out on some revelatory casseroles and biscuits! Oh, and don’t forget about the hot dogs and sausages you could have been dipping. I just keep cornmeal, as I make my own cornbread – so easy!

BACON

It’s a proven fact that bacon makes everything better (we’ve studied it), so you should definitely keep some in the fridge for testing that thesis. You can even add it to desserts for a salty twist, like this bacon brittle. I don’t use it often enough to keep in the refrigerator, so I freeze it.

CANNED ARTICHOKE HEARTS

Didn’t make as much artichoke dip as you expected? Try baking artichoke hearts into a casserole, spreading them over bread with some cheese or just sauteing them with chicken.

MAYO

Mayo is the base of so many delicious things that it’s almost impossible to not have some in the fridge. What would the world be without chipotle mayo or chicken salad?

PICKLES

Still, have the same jar of pickles from last summer’s barbecue season in the back of your fridge? Pull them out and get to work on some party snacks, dips or even just fried pickle chips.

HOT SAUCE

Firstly, if you can keep a bottle of hot sauce for more than a month without using it, congrats you’re stronger than we are. But if you do find that bottle lingering, fear not, because you can buffalo just about anything (chicken, pizza, fries, your whole life).

COCONUT MILK

You want to whip up a boxed cake but you want it to taste homemade good thing you’ve got coconut milk in the pantry. Use it in place of the liquids to give any baked good extra flavor, or to amp-up stir-fries and seafood.

FROZEN BERRIES

It’s impossible to keep yourself stocked with fresh berries all the time, so head for the frozen variety. Did you know freezing the fruit actually locks in its nutrients? Use berries for frozen drinks, pies and even homemade sorbet.

POPCORN

Goodbye, movie theater butter, you’re old news. Spice up your life with spiced popcorn or try something crazy and bake those fluffy popped kernels into cookies. I love grated parmesan cheese with my popcorn.

NUTS

Protein-packed and ready to eat, nuts are a staple in any pantry. If you’re not into them as a snack on their own, try crusting fish with them, or trying your hand at making peanut butter.  I store these in the freezer, so they do not go rancid.

OATS

Rich with essential nutrients, versatile in their uses and easy to prepare, oats make for an ideal breakfast. Eat them as a porridge, cooked into pancakes or blended into a smoothie:

PUFF PASTRY

Puff pastry is like the blank canvas of foods that you can transform completely with the addition of almost anything. Wrap it around chicken and asparagus for a new take on the chicken roll, or use it as a base for inventive pastries.

Most of all, have fun in the kitchen with what you can store in your pantry or refrigerator or in my case, your extra freezer.

 

50 ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

Olive Oil Tips & Tricks

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Olive oil is one of the world’s most ancient foods and it’s one of the most common cooking ingredients. In fact, along with salt and pepper, olive oil is one of the best pantry staples, because it’s an essential element to so, so many recipes. You can use it to roast veggies, grill chicken, make a super simple salad dressing, drizzle over crostini. In addition to being a baller ingredient that elevates any and all food, olive oil is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are an essential component to any well-rounded diet.

Choosing an olive oil from a shelf of bottles at wildly varied price points can be tricky. Olive oil is so versatile because there are many flavors, notes, and colors. In that respect, it’s like wine. And like wine, it can be intimidating.

We hear words like extra and virgin thrown around a lot, but most people couldn’t tell you what that actually means. And with tons of fraudulent bottles clogging the market, it can be hard to tell which olive oils are actually worth your time and your money. Let’s face it, olive oil is NOT cheap.

1. Only buy oil labeled extra-virgin. This is not a guarantee that the oil will be the best, but at least it will probably not be among the worst. Bottles labeled just plain “Olive Oil” and “Light Olive Oil” are refined oils and, like vegetable oil, while they’re not bad in any way, they are not very interesting.

2. Read the label. Even if it’s written in Italian, French or Spanish, you can probably figure out enough to recognize harvest and “use by” dates. The finest producers always put the harvest date proudly on their olive oil. The use-by date can be a little deceptive since it is usually 18 months from bottling, rather than from harvest.

Check for the region the oil was produced in. If you see more than one country, region, or even city listed, put the bottle back on the store shelf. You don’t want the olives blended from all different countries. Because when it comes to the olives used in olive oil, the things that grow together go together.

You want to look for the olive cultivar. This is just a fancy way of saying which type of olives were used to make the oil. The more specific information the producers display on the bottle, the more likely that extra-virgin claim is legit.

Remember to always check the harvest date, and opt for the freshest you can find.

3. Avoid anything in a clear glass bottle, no matter how pretty and enticing the label. Light is the great enemy of olive oil and the oil inside will likely have lost most of its flavor and aroma. Look for extra-virgin olive oil in dark glass bottles or, better yet, opaque tins. Olive Oil does not like light, so keep yours out of the sun.  Your kitchen counter is not a good place to keep it.

4. Know that the term “first cold pressing,” although widely used, is redundant. By legal definition, the extra-virgin oil must come from the first (usually the only) pressing, which must be accomplished with no added heat (at ambient temperatures no higher than around 80ºF.

5. Extra-virgin olive oil does not improve with age. Fresher is better, and right out of the mill, olive oil is a fabulous experience. Fresh oil may have unexpectedly assertive flavors of bitterness and pungency that sometimes override the fruitiness. These challenging flavors are treasured by connoisseurs because they indicate high quality, and by nutritionists, because they’re evidence of lots of healthful polyphenols.

6. Light is the enemy and so is heat. Keep your precious bottles in a cool, dark environment. I have a couple of tin containers within reach of my stove, each of which holds 1 ½ cups of oil, enough for a couple of days in my kitchen. They get refilled from the bulk of my oil, which I keep in a cupboard in an unheated pantry.

7. Use your oil! And don’t be afraid to cook with extra-virgin. It is perfectly stable up to about 420ºF. The Joy of Cooking says 360ºF is the optimum temperature for deep-frying, I use extra-virgin comfortably for almost all of my cooking. And because it doesn’t get better with age, I use last year’s oil for cooking, and this year’s fresh oil for garnishing.

8. Use it liberally! Learn to love a hot baked potato, cracked open and topped with lots of the freshest finest oil you can buy, a sprinkle of fleur de sel and freshly ground Telicherry pepper. Or try my favorite Catalan breakfast—grilled rustic bread with a ripe tomato crushed into the top, then salt and pepper and a glug of extra-virgin over it all.

9. Buy from trusted retailers who know how to maintain quality. I find the best quality olive oil from online sources. Here are a few good ones: olio2go.com,
dipaloselects.commarkethallfoods.comcortibrothers.com,
zingermans.com, and www.gustiamo.com

10. Like with other juices, fresher is always better when it comes to olive oil.

Olive oil is adversely affected by several factors including time passed since its pressing, heat, light, and air. Luckily the shelf life is a little bit longer than that of the kale, apple, and parsley blend you love olive oil is at its best in its first two years. An older bottle probably won’t hurt you, but it slowly loses its beautiful flavors and health benefits with every passing day.

Olive oil harvests in the northern hemisphere (usually in countries like Greece, Spain, and Italy) take place in October and November. This means if you’re looking for the freshest bottle, you’ll want the harvest date listed on the label to be from the previous year. Anything earlier than that indicates an old bottle unlike wine, olive oil doesn’t get better with age

11. But know that if you go for just regular “virgin,” you’ll still get all the health benefits.

While the lower quality virgin olive oil may not taste as good as its extra-virgin counterparts,  there isn’t any nutritional difference between the two. Pure olive oils, on the other hand, have been chemically processed which means you may want to avoid them altogether. When you see a bottle labeled pure, light, or olive oil, this can be an indicator that it is a refined, lesser quality product.

12. Different olives produce oils that taste different.

Olive oil adds depth and dimension to virtually any dish. And experts make careers tasting and assessing the subtleties of olive oil. Hundreds of olive varieties are cultivated around the world, and dozens are valued for producing delicious oil.

Knowing which olives were used can also help you determine what the oil will taste like. If you see an oil made with a taggiasca olive, it’s going to be light and delicate and sweet. But if you see an oil made with a nocellara olive,  it will be leafy, herbaceous, and robust.”

Different varieties absolutely have different flavor profiles and personalities, but the end result of the oil is determined by much more including geography, the method of harvesting and pressing, as well as blending and storage. Again, think wine, there are plenty of luscious Pinot Noirs and plenty of bad Pinot Noirs.

To really use this knowledge to your advantage, you’ll need to have a bit of olive intel in your back pocket. A quick Google search of the different types should give you enough flavor info to make a decision. Or try a new type each time you buy a bottle and see what you like best. There hundreds of different olive varieties out there and olive oils vary greatly from region to region, so there are a lot of flavors to be had. If you’re at a store that allows you to taste olive oil, take advantage! The more you taste, the more you’ll discover what styles make you happy.

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13. You can’t tell how an olive oil will taste by looking at it.

Just as you wouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you don’t want to judge an olive oil by its color. A greener olive oil isn’t necessarily a better or fresher olive oil, though this is commonly thought to be the case. Color is determined by factors like the type of olives used and when the oil was extracted. The only way to truly judge the quality of an oil is to crack it open and give it a taste.

14. You don’t want to cheap out on olive oil, but it shouldn’t break the bank either.

As you’re scanning the oil aisle, there’s definitely the potential for sticker shock, but there’s a wide range of prices and you don’t have to drop a ton of dough for a decent bottle. As for how much you should be spending in general, Try not to drop below $15 per liter, which is about 34 ounces. You’ll often find bottles that size at the supermarket and it’s a good amount to have on hand if you cook regularly. (If you don’t cook that often, it’s easy to find smaller bottles, too.)

15. Use cheaper bottles for cooking and pricier oils for drizzling.

If you do decide to splurge on a pricier bottle one between $20 and $40 you may want to reserve it for drizzling and finishing dishes. When you cook olive oil, you cook the nuances out of it. So if you really want to savor the flavor of an oil soaked into a piece of bread or poured over a bowl of hummus, keep one nice bottle on hand for that, and use another (cheaper) bottle for all your cooking needs.

Many chefs tend to cook with cheaper (but still totally respectable) EVOO, like California Olive Ranch, and save the truly mind-blowing stuff, like Castillo de Canna for drizzling and finishing.

16. And finally, you absolutely should use olive oil for way more than just salads.

Olive oil is an incredible ingredient and the cornerstone of the famous Mediterranean diet. Exquisite olive oil elevates everything it touches: salads, grilled veggies, meat and seafood, soups, stews, pasta, and risotto really do go from good to awesome when anointed with yummy EVOO. It’s the perfect bridge between tradition and innovation. It can be utilized in a plethora of culinary applications with astounding results.

From cooking with to finishing to everything in between, olive oil can elevate many dishes.

Olive Oil Tips & Tricks

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Making these today and will add some work in progress photos.  Gnocchi is so easy to make and SO yummy to eat with a simple sauce.

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Here is the dough after being mixed by hand.

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I roll it right on to the parchment paper to sit and not too long before cooking.  If you let it sit it becomes sticky.  If you are not cooking it immediately put a little flour on you parchment paper.

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Ingredients

2 – 8 ounce sweet potatoes

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

Add all ingredients to list

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, or until soft to the touch. (Mine took over an hour to cook)
  2. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. Once the potatoes are cool enough to work with, remove the peels, and mash them, or press them through a ricer into a large bowl. Blend in the garlic, salt, nutmeg, and egg. Mix in the flour a little at a time until you have a soft dough. Use more or less flour as needed.
  4. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. While you wait for the water, make the gnocchi. On a floured surface, roll the dough out in several long snakes, and cut into 1-inch sections. Drop the pieces into the boiling water and allow them to cook until they float to the surface. Remove the floating pieces with a slotted spoon and keep warm in a serving dish. Serve with butter or cream sauce.IMG_9451.jpgI served this with a butter sauce which is quick and easy to make. Saute a couple heads of chopped garlic, add about 1/3 cup of butter.  Melt it than add basil and oregano.  The recipe calls for dried, but I used fresh from my garden.  Add a little Parmesan or Romano on top and have a lovely dinner.

You can dress up gnocchi in as many ways as you can sauce pasta, garnishing them with an unheated pesto sauce, or tossing them with foaming butter and slivered sage leaves. You can mix them with a chunky tomato sauce or smother them in a wild boar ragù.  A little olive oil added to the dough makes for a silkier consistency, but it is optional.

How to Make It

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread a 1-inch layer of salt in a small roasting pan. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork and arrange them on the salt in a single layer. Bake until fork-tender, about 11/2 hours. Remove them from the oven and slit them lengthwise to release their steam.

 

Working over a medium bowl, sift the all-purpose and cake flours with a large pinch of salt. Measure out 4 lightly packed cups of the riced potatoes (1 pound), and transfer the potatoes to a work surface. Sprinkle the sifted flour mixture over the potatoes and drizzle with the olive oil. Gently form the dough into a firm ball.

Test the gnocchi dough: Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Using your hands, form one 3/4-inch round (a single gnocco). Boil the gnocco until it floats to the surface, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocco to a plate and let cool. It should be light and tender but still hold together. If the gnocco breaks apart in the boiling water, the dough has too little flour; add more. If the gnocco is tough and chewy, the dough has too much flour; cut in a little more of the reserved riced potatoes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters. Working with one piece at a time, gently roll the dough into a long rope about 1/2 inch wide. Using a sharp knife, cut the rope into 1/2-inch pieces.

Roll each piece against the tines of a fork to make light ridges. Transfer the gnocchi to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Let the gnocchi stand at room temperature for 1 hour to dry. I use a gnocchi board shown here.

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If you are not going to eat your gnocchi immediately, which I suggest then bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add half of the gnocchi at a time and boil over high heat until they rise to the surface, then cook for 15 seconds longer. Using a wire skimmer, transfer the gnocchi to the bowl of ice water.

Drain on paper towels and pat dry. Toss with oil and refrigerate for up to 3 hours or freeze the gnocchi on baking sheets in a single layer. Transfer them to an airtight container or resealable plastic bags and freeze for up to six weeks.

I like to plan serving gnocchi right out of the boiling water, draining it well, adding a little EVOO and whatever sauce sounds good for the meal.

but if you did freeze them, then to serve, sauté them in butter until heated through before proceeding.

For Chestnut Gnocchi, substitute 1/3 cup chestnut flour for the cake flour before forming the gnocchi dough.

 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Basic Orecchiette Pasta

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This handmade pasta is delicious with the classic broccoli raab sauce, with an uncooked sauce of tomatoes and basil, or in a cream sauce with mussels and mint. The dough comes out best if you work the water in very slowly; don’t try to bring in too much flour at one time. Flour amounts are listed by weight (oz.) and by volume (cups); use either measurement.

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I made mine with chicken and home-made pesto with basil from my garden, with a little cilantro and parmesan on the top.  It was yummy and very easy.  It does take a little time. I usually watch the cooking channel or a funny movie.  You have to happy when you cook.

Ingredients

225 g/ 1 1/2 cup semolina flour

255 g/3/4 cup + I Tbl unbleached all-purpose flour

255 g/1 cup warm water

2 tsp salt

Preparation

1. In a bowl, whisk the flours together well. Mound the flour on a work surface, make a deep well in the center and pour 2 Tbs. of the water in the center. With two fingers, stir in a little flour from the walls of the well. When the water is absorbed and a paste has formed, repeat with more water until you have a soft but not sticky dough.

You can do this in your KitchenAid with the dough hook.

2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s smooth and supple, 7 to 8 minutes. If it crumbles during kneading, wet your hands to moisten the dough slightly. Cut off a golfball-size chunk of dough; cover the rest with plastic wrap. Roll the chunk into a cylinder about 1 inch in diameter. With a very sharp knife, slice the cylinder into disks about 1/8 inch thick

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3. Pick up a disk. If it’s squashed from cutting, squeeze it slightly between your thumb and index finger to return it to a circular shape. Put the disk in the palm of one hand and press down on it with the thumb of your other hand. Swivel your hand (not your thumb) twice to thin the center of the ear, leaving the rim a little thicker. If the dough sticks to your thumb, dip your thumb in a little flour as you work. Repeat with the rest of the dough. As you finish the disks, lay them on a clean dishtowel. When you’ve shaped an entire cylinder, sprinkle a little flour over the ears and repeat the process with a new chunk of dough.

4. If you’re not cooking the pasta immediately, spread the rounds out on floured baking sheets and leave them at room temperature at least overnight, or until they’re hard enough that you can’t slice them with a knife. (The time they take to dry depends on humidity and the moisture level in the dough itself.) Once the orecchiette is dry, transfer them to covered jars and store at room temperature.

5. You can as an alternative, freeze them on a baking sheet with parchment and then put in a sealed container once they are frozen.  Cook directly from the freezer – do not thaw.

 

6. Bring a large pot filled with salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Add the orecchiette and simmer until they float to the surface, 2-3 minutes.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes more, until al dente.  Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and serve right away.

 

The recipe I used is from “Pasta by Hand” by Jenn Louis and I totally recommend buying this book!

Basic Orecchiette Pasta