Saturday, September 27, 2008


Is it a musical movement? Perhaps a type of fabric? Or maybe a retro hairdo? Nope, nope, and nope, guess again…

Chiffonade means to cut food, particularly leafy herbs or vegetables, into strips or shreds, like little streamers. Chiffonade can also refer to the resulting shape.

To cut a chiffonade is very easy. Arrange the leaves into a neat stack.

Roll the stack up tightly.

And slice thinly.

Continue until the entire roll of leaves is sliced.

Then gently separate the individual pieces.

When cutting a chiffonade, use a very sharp knife. A dull knife will crush delicate leaves and cause the cut edges to discolor. Basil and mint are especially tender and can turn black quickly, so chiffonade them at the last moment before use.

The chiffonade is a very versatile shape. Prepare leafy greens like spinach, chard, or kale to be sautéed by cutting them into a coarse chiffonade. A chiffonade of cabbage, baby spinach, or romaine lettuce makes a pretty addition to a salad. Chiffonaded herbs such as mint, sage, and basil make great garnishes. Basil chiffonade is especially lovely scattered over a pasta dish. This is one knife cut that’s certain to add both visual and textural interest to your cooking.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How to Eat Ice Cream

Why have ice cream in a waffle cone when you could have it in a waffle? This is an important question worth pondering. And it fills me with endless joy to think that others before me have devoted themselves to the pursuit of an answer. Like the good people at Flavour Spot.

This is what they’ve come up with.

Chocolate and vanilla swirl whole milk soft serve ice cream wrapped up in a warm, fluffy, freshly baked waffle, with whipped cream on top. A worthy and decadent solution if ever there was one. A messy one, too.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Ode to Garlic

I love you Garlic.
Potent, pungent,
Purple, white, and elephant,
Or roasted golden, sweet and mellow,
I can even kiss my fellow.
A must for pasta sauce,
Into stir-fries I toss,
Raw, minced in salad,
You satisfy my palate.
I love you Garlic.

Quick Aïoli
Printable Recipe

1 large egg
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the egg, garlic, and mustard in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream.

Add the lemon juice and pulse again. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes about 1 ¼ cups. Traditionally, aïoli is made with just egg yolk rather than whole egg, and it’s made with a mortar and pestle or whisked by hand. I’m all for short cuts, so I use my trusty food processor. But since a single yolk wouldn’t come up to the blade in a food processor, making it difficult to get the emulsion started, I use the whole egg. The result is slightly less thick but still absolutely delicious. By the way, if you’re uneasy about eating raw eggs, use pasteurized eggs. For a milder tasting aïoli, use half olive oil and half grape seed oil or just a light olive oil. Store-bought mayonnaise pales in comparison to homemade aïoli. Try aïoli on sandwiches or as the base for salad dressings. Stir in minced fresh herbs and use as a dipping sauce for crudités, French fries, or calamari. Really, garlicky aïoli is great on just about everything. Keeps for a day or two tightly sealed in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Year Ago

Exactly one year ago, I was in Provence.

I can’t believe it’s already been a whole year. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that magical trip, I wish that I could be there now.

I cook in the Provençal style often, it keeps the memory of that trip alive. Poulet rôti, redolent of Herbes de Provence, brings me right back.

(And it happens to be a fun excuse to fire up the rotisserie.) A pinch of piment d’espelette, and roasted potatoes with onions have a French accent. And if a colorful gratin of summer vegetables, also with its fair share of Herbes, doesn’t say summer in Provence, then nothing does.

Provençal Summer Vegetable Gratin
Printable Recipe

Unsalted butter, for greasing the baking dish
1 medium zucchini, cut on a bias into 3/8-inch thick slices
1 medium yellow zucchini, cut on a bias into 3/8-inch thick slices
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 3/8-inch thick slices
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Generously butter a 12-inch oval baking dish. Combine the zucchini, yellow zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, Herbes de Provence, oil, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl and gently toss to coat. Layer the vegetables into the dish, arranging them in neat, overlapping rows.

Drizzle with the accumulated juices from the bottom of the bowl and sprinkle evenly with the Parmegiano. Bake for about half an hour, or until the vegetables are tender. Serve immediately.

Serves 4. This definitely qualifies as a quick and easy and also versatile dish. If you cannot find yellow zucchini, by all means use yellow crookneck squash. And if the eggplant at the market looks fantastic, add it too. Serve with plenty of French bread for sopping up the juices.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Moroccan Cravings

Tonight I felt like having a Moroccan tagine. But I don’t actually own a tagine. See, I really don’t own every type of cookware known to man, despite what my husband may think. I made do without. The result was still satisfying and tasty, and the aroma filling the house was absolutely intoxicating.

Spiced Couscous with Chicken & Zucchini
Printable Recipe

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium zucchini, diced
½ cup sliced green onions
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons pure chile powder
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
3 ½ cups chicken broth
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups couscous
2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Heat a large, heavy pot over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken and cook without disturbing for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it releases from the pan and is crusty and brown. Using tongs, turn the chicken and continue to cook over high heat another 2 to 3 minutes, or until brown.* Add the zucchini and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the green onions, garlic, ginger, coriander, chile powder, cumin, and cinnamon and stir for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the broth and bell pepper, season to taste with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, stir in the couscous, and let stand, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until the couscous is tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork, arrange on individual plates, sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve immediately.

Serves 4. For an even more colorful dish, substitute a yellow squash for one of the zucchini. And, if you like, feel free to toss in a small handful of pine nuts and/or dried fruit when adding the broth.

*Searing the chicken in this manner adds tons of flavor to the finished dish. For everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores in the fall of 2010.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cutting Onions: Slice Versus Julienne

You may have already met julienne. Perhaps you’d like to get to know Julienne a little better.

Julienne works well with onions. But julienned onions are very different from sliced onions. Here’s how.

To slice an onion, start by trimming the root.

(Don’t actually cut off the root end, just trim it to keep the little rootlets from getting mixed in with the rest of the onion later. Also, the root end of the onion will act as a little handle, making it easier to hold onto the onion as you cut it, especially as you reach the end.) Cut off the stem end.

Peel the onion.

Position the onion in the center of your cutting board with the stem end facing your knife and cut slices of the desired thickness.

When you reach the root end, discard it. You can separate the slices into rings.

These are perfect for burgers and other sandwiches.

For half slices, which are great in salads, prepare and peel the onion as described above. Place the onion stem end down, and cut it in half.

Working with one half at a time, position the onion in the center of your cutting board cut side down and with the stem end facing your knife. Cut slices of the desired thickness.

When you reach the root end, discard it. The size of the resulting pieces can vary substantially; slices from the central layers of the onion will be much smaller than slices from the outer layers.

Julienne pieces of an onion look quite different—imagine them as very thin wedges of the onion. To julienne an onion, cut off the root end.

(This is the only onion knife cut where you would actually cut off the root end at the beginning.) Cut off the stem end and peel the onion. Stand the onion on one of its ends, and cut it in half. Working with one half at a time, position the onion in the center of your cutting board cut side down and with one of its round edges facing your knife. Since the onion is round, angle your knife sharply and begin cutting matchstick-size pieces.

Continue cutting in a radial manner, gradually changing the angle of the knife with each cut.

By the time you reach the middle of the onion, your knife should be at a 90-degree angle to the cutting board.

When you’re most of the way through, and it begins to feel a little unstable, flip over the onion.

And start again.

Put all these steps together, and it should look something like this.

The size of julienned onions is relatively consistent.

This means they will cook much more evenly than sliced onions and are a much better choice for sautéing, stir-frying, and caramelizing.

Click here for information on how to dice and chop onions.

Click here for information on how to julienne other foods.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Indian Cravings

I’ve been in the mood for Indian food, especially seekh kebab. My version may not be completely authentic, it’s not even in the form of a kebab, but the flavors are true, and it sure hits the spot. I served it on a bed of Spiced Basmati Rice* and with a side of cauliflower with ginger, nigella, and chile.

Seekh Kebab-Style Lamb
Printable Recipe

1 pound ground lamb
1 large egg
1/3 cup grated onion
¼ cup minced cilantro
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil, for greasing the grill grate

Mix together the lamb, egg, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, coriander, and cumin. Season generously with salt and pepper. Divide into 12 equal portions and gently form each portion into a ball. Gently pat each ball into the shape of a small patty.

Heat the grill to high. Grease the grill grate with canola oil using a heat-proof brush. Add the patties and cook without disturbing for 7 to 8 minutes, or until they release from the grate and are crusty and brown. Using a spatula, turn the patties and continue to cook over high heat another 6 to 7 minutes, or until cooked through. Moisture will pool on the surface of the patties and they will be firm to the touch when they are done. Remove the patties to a plate, tent with foil to keep warm, and allow to rest 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4. The uncooked lamb patties will be very moist and soft, so to prevent sticking, handle them with a light touch, be sure to preheat your grill thoroughly, and grease the grill grate well.

*For the Spiced Basmati Rice recipe and everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores in the fall of 2010.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Just Because

I baked cookies today, just because. I baked cookies, but I didn’t make dinner. How about that for priorities!

Pecan Cookies
Printable Recipe

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour, pecans, and salt in a medium bowl. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix on low until blended. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until the dough comes together, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment paper and roll into a 2-inch log.

Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Unwrap the dough and cut into 3/8-inch slices. Arrange the slices about an inch apart on parchment-lined baking trays. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Makes about 30 cookies. Also delicious with almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts. For more flavor, toast the nuts first, but be sure to let them cool completely before chopping. Pulsing the nuts in a food processor is the easiest way to chop them. For chocolate cookies, substitute ¼ cup cocoa powder for ¼ cup of the flour. Cookies keep for several days in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place. The log of dough, or portions of it, may be frozen for up to 1 month tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tour de Sel

These are several pigs and one chicken in my kitchen.

There are also some salt cellars, shakers, grinders, and pinch bowls.

And inside each one, I keep a different type of salt.

Why am I so obsessed with salt? Because salt has the magical ability to bring out and intensify the flavors of our food. That’s why even recipes for sweets and baked goods always call for salt. Without it, everything would just taste flat and bland. In fact, seasoning food correctly with salt is one of the most important skills of a good cook.*

And why must I have such a variety of salts? Because the taste and texture of each one is different. Some salts are refined, while other salts are harvested by hand and retain trace minerals that contribute to their flavor.

My general-purpose salt is kosher salt. It has a clean, crisp flavor, and it’s affordable, cheap enough even for pasta cooking water. I use it to season foods before or during cooking, anytime the salt will completely dissolve into the dish. The grains are large, making this salt easy to pinch and sprinkle over foods, and they remain visible on the surface of the food, which helps in gauging the quantity to use.

I like fine sea salt for baking, since it dissolves quickly.

Sel gris, or grey salt, is good for both cooking and finishing. This sea salt is quite moist, and its color comes from its high mineral content.

Fleur de sel, which is French for flower of salt, is relatively pricey and should be reserved for use as a finishing salt. The coarse, crunchy crystals add the perfect salty zing to seared* steak or French fries or salad. Fleur de sel does wonders for really any cooked meat, poultry, or seafood dish. I sprinkle it over food right before serving. There are several types of French fleur de sel, and my personal favorite is Fleur de Sel de Camargue.

The large, flakey grains of Maldon salt are shaped like pyramids. Maldon salt is also used as a finishing salt. I love the flavor and texture of this salt sprinkled over sliced ripe tomatoes or cucumbers, as it begins to melt but still retains some of its crunch by the time it gets to your mouth. Maldon salt comes from England and is inexpensive compared to many other finishing salts.

Smoked salt, as the name implies, adds plenty of smokey flavor to food. Generally speaking, it should be used sparingly.

Flavored salts are also fun to keep on hand. Chipotle salt is great for rimming margarita glasses. Truffle salt is lovely in, well, almost everything. And, even though I might be considered a food snob by some, I do think that Lawry’s Seasoned Salt is just right for burgers and chicken fried steak.

The only type of salt that I do not keep around is regular iodized salt. It has a harsh, metallic flavor that I just don’t want in my food.

But really, I don’t have that much salt in my kitchen.

At least not comparing to the mountains of salt in the salt flats of the Camargue.

*For information on how to properly season food with salt and everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores in the fall of 2010.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Sometimes the best flavor combinations are created quite by accident. A healthy snack of a Pink Lady apple and a handful of roasted and salted sunflower seeds turned out to be one such discovery. I didn’t even think anything of the pairing at first, it was just what I had around. Then the flavors mingled in my mouth, and I knew I had stumbled upon something fantastic. Of course, it makes sense—apples and peanut butter are classic, but this combo’s even better. Hmm, I'm thinking this could be a great new garnish for a fall salad.
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