Wednesday, December 29, 2010

East Coast and West Coast Korean Tacos

With days to spare, I finally checked something off my 2010 foodie to do list: I tried the local Korean taco truck here in Washington, DC. I had fallen madly in love with über chef Roy Choi’s paradigm-shifting creations at Los Angeles’ Kogi. A testament to Choi’s status as a modern food revolutionary, Food & Wine magazine named him one of the best new chefs of 2010.

Let me just come right out and say it: I am an elitist food snob. I dine out a lot. Most meals are adequately flavorful and basically acceptable, but it takes a lot to genuinely impress me. Choi’s tacos leave me speechless – literally. I can’t explain why I adore them. I have only a superficial understanding of Asian cooking and just a bit more knowledge of Mexican, so I don’t know what combination of ingredients is yielding the magical flavor. Whatev. Just bring ’em on.

With this backdrop, I was curious to try Washington, DC-based TaKorean. Alas, my verdict is rather extreme. There is no comparison to Kogi. TaKorean was adequate but fundamentally unremarkable. So there it is – curiosity satisfied, item checked off the to do list.

Pictured below are TaKorean’s three tacos: Bulgogi steak, tangy chicken and carmelized tofu.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Taste of Native American Cuisine

Last week, people sat down to Thanksgiving dinners that ranged from traditional to contemporary, feasting on foods that reflect early American cuisine. (As an aside, this is an interesting peek at a turn-of-the-19th-century menu, via the New Yorker and Mark Twain.)

Before there were thankful Pilgrims, there were Native Americans. At the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, you can get a taste of indigenous cuisine (or, more accurately, a modern interpretation thereof). Acclaimed Mitsitam Café is a radical departure from the typical museum cafeteria, featuring native foods of North and South America. As stated on its website, “Mitsitam” means “Let’s eat!” in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway peoples.

Bison with wild mushrooms, root vegetable salad, wild rice and cranberry crumble was tasty, hearty and satisfying.

To learn more, see the complete description, fall menu and cookbook on the café website.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hash Browned Potatoes!

I've discovered recently how incredibly fast and easy it is to make hash browns in a non-stick pan. Most of us think that cooking anything in the morning is too much work, when it's so easy to pour some cereal into a bowl. But the small amount of effort that goes into this is truly rewarded by a delicious, hot, crispy potato treat. And it's healthy too! You'll need a non-stick pan like the Fissler Protect pan, plus a box or flat grater and a nylon turner (don't use metal utensils on non-stick surfaces).

Easy hash browned potatoes

2 russet potatoes
1 Tbsp oil or butter
salt and pepper to taste

I start out by peeling the potatoes but you can make this with unpeeled potatoes too. Next step is to shred the potatoes against the shredder side of the box or flat grater.
Add oil or butter to the pan (or substitute a generous coat of cooking spray) and heat over medium high heat. Squeeze excess liquid out of shredded potatoes (discard liquid or save for soup) and spread potatoes over bottom of pan all the way to the outside edge. Thickness should be not more than half an inch. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top. To ensure that the second side gets browned nicely you can spray the top with some cooking spray (remove pan briefly from heat when doing this) before flipping. After the first side has browned, in five to seven minutes, carefully flip the whole thing over using your nylon turner. You may have to do this in two sections. Cook for another five to seven minutes over medium heat. That's it: you're done. Great with a fried egg which you can cook at the same time in a second non-stick pan.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pressure Cooker Soups for Winter Warmth!



Check out this article with three great soup recipes from our friends at http://www.hippressurecooking.com
The author provides five tips that will help you make soup quickly and successfully in a pressure cooker like the Fissler Blue Point.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day of the Dead Mole Poblano! In the Vitaquick pressure cooker!




Certain things came together recently, pushing me towards conquering one of the recipes that has always been one of the great culinary challenges: making mole poblano. The Mexican stew made with chocolate and chiles is infamous for having many tedious steps. But I was given a package of Kekua Mexican chocolate and a mole poblano recipe (this is the authentic Mexican chocolate used in cooking). And I heard Diana Kennedy (the "Julia Child of Mexican cuisine") interviewed on NPR recently about her new Oaxacan cookbook. And finally, I was also gifted with a bottle of Mar Azul chocolate flavored tequila. That wasn't going to go into the mole but I knew it would make a nice after-dinner drink following a mole poblano feast. On top of that, it's turkey season, the traditional main ingredient of mole poblano (though there may be more chiles than turkey in the dish). And finally, today is Dia de los Muertes, the Day of the Dead, celebrated in Mexico to remember the deceased, which seems like an appropriate time to prepare a feast food like Mole Poblano.

I took a few steps to make the preparation of my mole easier. The first was the use of a pressure cooker to cook the turkey. This cut the cooking time in half and kept the kitchen from getting hot and steamy. Since I'm the main Fissler Foodie I was able to get my hands on a preview model of the new Fissler Vitaquick pressure cooker that will be available in the U.S. in the spring of 2011. It's a deep pressure cooker with plenty of room for a big dish like turkey mole. Another shortcut was using store-bought roasted peanuts, so I didn't have to pan fry them. I also used canned, fire roasted tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes. The best thing I did to make the preparation of my mole easier was simply reminding myself of what I'd read on many websites and in a number of cookbooks: that every Mexican cook has his or her own recipe for mole. There is no exact list of ingredients that must go into mole poblano. If you follow this recipe and you can't find every type of chile, or you have nutmeg instead of cloves, or you use fresh tomatoes instead of canned, or you use pecans instead of peanuts, it will still be mole poblano. It will just be YOUR mole poblano instead of mine.
My mole turned out not to be as difficult as I thought it would be and I had a huge sense of accomplishment when it was done. It came out great!


Fissler Foodie Mole Poblano

2 turkey legs
2 turkey thighs
2 Tbsps olive oil or coconut oil
1 can crushed or whole tomatoes (14 ½ oz)
1 can (7 oz) chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 quart stock (chicken or vegetable)
6 dried mulato chiles
10 dried ancho chiles
8 dried pasilla chiles
1 cup brown sesame seeds
2 Tbsps coriander seeds or cumin seeds
1 cup raisins
1 cup peanuts or almonds
1 white dinner roll (French bread type) crushed
1 fried corn tortilla (a tostada) or a handful of tortilla chips (optional)
2 red bell peppers cut into one inch pieces
3 cloves garlic
½ cup coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp cloves
½ to 1 tsp anise or fennel seeds or star anise
2 tablets Kekua chocolate, each broken into four pieces
¼ cup sucanat or brown sugar
Water
Salt

1. Prepare your ingredients by slitting the chiles with a knife and removing and discarding seeds and stems.
2. Toast sesame seeds in a dry pan until very lightly browned. Add coriander and anise seeds (or substitutes) and continue stirring and toasting for a few more minutes until browned. Allow to cool (this can be done the day before). Process in food processor with S blade until finely ground. Set aside.
3. Process tomatoes and chipotle chiles in blender until smooth.
4. Heat oil in the pressure cooker over medium heat without lid. Brown the turkey pieces in the oil on all sides. Remove half the fat, then add tomato/chipotle mixture. Allow to simmer until reduced (about twenty minutes, while doing step 5).
5. Put one cup water into food processor with S blade.
Heat frypan with half of the coconut oil. Fry chiles in batches until lightly browned. After each batch throw fried chiles into food processor. When you have finished frying chiles, add the rest of the coconut oil to pan and fry raisins. Remove and add to food processor. Process until well ground up. At this point, add sesame seed/spice mixture to food processor. Continue processing. If your peanuts or almonds were roasted when you bought them, add them to the food processor. If they are raw, fry them in the oil until lightly browned, then add to processor and process. Fry crushed bread roll. Throw in remaining spices (cinnamon, cloves). The bread will absorb the oil in the pan. Add crushed bread to processor along with, tortilla, bell pepper and garlic cloves. Continue processing. Add water as needed to produce a smooth paste.
6. About twenty minutes into step 5 you should add the stock to the pressure cooker with the turkey and tomato mixture, bring to a boil, seal with pressure lid and bring to high pressure. Reduce heat and cook at high pressure for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and release pressure. Remove lid.
7. Turn heat back on and continue simmering. Add chocolate. Add half the mole. Allow to simmer and thicken. Balance flavor with sucanat/sugar and a little salt. At this point, taste and decide if you want to add the remainder of the mole, for a stronger, richer stew. If you decide not to add the remaining mole, put the rest in the freezer for future use. Continue simmering for another fifteen minutes or up to half an hour.
Serve with rice and/or tortillas and a salad. And for dessert; a glass of chilled Mar Azul chocolate tequila. If you can't wait until after dinner for a glass of this tequila, serve it as a cocktail on the rocks, mixed half and half with tequila reposada (aged tequila).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Win a Drosselmeyer nutcracker! Enter by 01/04/11

You can win a Drosselmeyer nutcracker! The same one that's featured in the November issue of Vegetarian Times. Just go to www.vegetariantimes.com and enter before January 4th, 2011.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall stew with turkey and pumpkin squash


One of my pressure cooker staples is turkey leg stew. Turkey legs are inexpensive, relatively lean, abundant in the Fall, and become falling-off-the-bone tender when cooked in a pressure cooker. You can vary the ingredients in your turkey leg stew to make a turkey leg osso buco (use canned tomatoes and white wine), or a traditional stew with potatoes, carrots and red wine, or this simple Fall stew/soup with acorn squash segments (I used an orange skinned acorn squash, as you can see in the picture above, but the green skinned acorn squash works fine too). You will be amazed at how easy it is to prepare, and how fast it cooks in the pressure cooker. The Fissler Blue Point Pressure Pan is ideal for this recipe because of the broad skillet design of the cooker. Large turkey legs fit easily inside the Blue Point pressure pan. Naturally, you could make this with four to six chicken legs instead of two turkey legs. Reduce the cooking time by 12 minutes though.

Here's the recipe:
2 turkey legs
1 large carrot cut into chunks
4 stalks celery cut into half inch pieces
1 small acorn squash or substitute a small pumpkin, seeds removed, cut into about six wedges
1 cup white wine
3 cups broth (any broth will do: vegetable, chicken, beef)
herbs such as bay leaf, parsley etc.
2 Tbsps oil

Heat oil in pressure cooker without lid, add turkey legs. Brown lightly on all sides on medium heat. Add carrots and celery. You can also add a chopped onion, if you like. Stir vegetables around for a couple of minutes. Place squash wedges between and around turkey legs. Add wine. Simmer for three minutes. Add broth and herbs. Increase heat to high. Put pressure lid on and close pressure valve. Allow to come to high pressure and then reduce heat to medium low. Cook on high pressure for 35 minutes. Turn off heat and release pressure. The meat will be very tender and the squash skins will also be tender and edible, although some people prefer to scoop the squash flesh off of the skin and discard the skin. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. If you like the stew to be thick and not soupy, you can thicken with flour or cornstarch.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A pan pizza and grilled pizza in one


I am willing to begrudgingly admit that pizza is generally better in New York City than anywhere else. A New Yorker might tell you that the old, rusted pipes that carry the city's water supply magically imbues the pizza dough with flavorful qualities. Others might just claim that the ability to make a good pizza is genetically inherent in a New Yorker because the first pizza restaurant in America (Lombardi’s, in 189?) opened there, just as a World Series title is their birthright because one of their local baseball teams (the one not called the Mets) is able to carry a payroll four times the size of a Caribbean nation’s GDP.
After eating my fair share of pizza in New York this summer, I think I know why I prefer their pizza (hint: it’s not water) The superior quality is due to a properly crispy, yet chewy, crust. New York pizzerias inherently understand that the key to a good pizza is a proper dough that’s been almost incinerated under high heat. If it’s not a wood-fired oven, it’s a massive gas-burning oven that can reach temperatures of 800-900 degrees and can crisp up a pie in minutes.
This is why a pizza cooked at home is never as good as one we buy from a pizzeria; our ovens just aren’t hot enough. A new oven especially can’t get hot enough, the top temperature is 450-500 degrees (you can go higher, but your oven might start shaking as if possessed). That’s why a pizza stone is imperative if you want to make pizza at home. It’ll boost the temperature of the oven by an extra 200 degrees or so and will assist in properly crisping up your pizza. Even with a stone though, the stone will only get up to 700-degrees, which is far short of the 800-900 degrees a restaurant’s pizza oven can get to. This will lead to a puffed-up, bread-like pizza.
The best way to cook a pizza at home is to use an old gas oven with a pizza stone. If you pump up an old gas oven to it’s highest setting, then it’ll get to 700 degrees. With a pizza stone, you can get close to the temperature a pizza oven can get to. This will lead to a crisper, flatter crust.
If you don’t have an old, gas oven, then your best bet at cooking a pizza is grilling one. Over indirect heat, the dough will crisp up well. And you get the flavor of grilling in your pizza, which is never a bad thing. The disadvantage to this is that it requires you to set up a grill every time you want to make a pizza, and that’s not possible. More often than not, I’ll pan-fry a steak. With that in mind, I decided to “grill” pizzas using Fissler’s Crispy Steelux grill pan. This is really the only way that I can get the extremely high heat to cook the pizza dough without dragging out the grill or building a wood oven in my back yard (a friend of mine actually did that. He spent two months building a gas oven, made a few pizzas, then let the whole thing fall apart under neglect. It was sad)
I decided to use Mario Batali’s pizza dough recipe because he actually has a restaurant in New York dedicated to pizza cooked in a pan. Theoretically, Fissler’s grill pan should work as well, if not better because it has a higher peak temperature and the raised edges allow circulation underneath.
After making this recipe, I should note that the quality of wine you use is actually important. The wine flavor is pronounced in the dough and I wish I used a better quality than the $3 Charles Shaw I got at Trader Joe’s. Also, I'd use a pinch more salt than what the recipe called for. Honestly, if I could do this again, I’d just stick to a basic pizza dough recipe (flour, yeast, sugar, water and salt).
The first pizza I made with Fissler’s grill pan was a basic margherita pizza. It was overcooked because the pan got TOO hot. Within 30 seconds, there were burnt bits everywhere. The raised edges also meant that the part of the dough not in contact with the pan didn’t have enough time to develop any color. You essentially had a black-and-white pizza.
I turned to heat down to medium for subsequent attempts and it worked a lot better with the next pizza.
It only takes about 45 seconds to cook one side of the crust. Then you flip it over, top it, cover the pan and cook for another minute or so. There you go, pizza in less than 3 minutes. In less than an hour, I was able to turn out six pizzas.
This ended up being my favorite. It’s a pizza capricciosa (“capricious” pizza), which has mozzarella, tomato sauce, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, olives and olive oil. I added prosciutto and a hard-boiled egg, which is how the Romans eat one of the few pizzas that Italians load with ingredients.
I wish I got more color on the crusts. But the crusts were properly crispy and chewy at the same time. No, it’s not as good as a good slice of pizza from New York. But this is infinitely more convenient and economical. Even the Rangers can knock off the Yankees with less resources sometimes.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Fissler Chef Tour has begun!

Fissler chefs are teaching classes across the country! Here's the Fall schedule. Read the chef's bios below. Fissler foodies unite, at your local kitchen store!
Jane Gaither
Oct 12 Kitchen Affairs, Evansville, IN
Oct 28 International Pantry, Norman, OK
Oct 29 Distinctive Décor, Duncan, OK
Oct 30 Savory Chef, Tulsa, OK

Lars Liebisch 
Oct. 30, Board and Basket, West Lebanon, NH
Nov 11, Cook’s Warehouse, Decatur, GA
Nov 12, Bread Beckers, Woodstock, GA
Nov 12, Cook’s Warehouse, Decatur, GA
Nov 13, Bread Beckers (2 events same day), Woodstock, GA


Chef Dez
Nov 16 Der Kuchen Laden, Fredericksburg, TX
Nov 17 Homewerks, San Antonio, TX
Nov 18 Gourmet Pantry, Lubbock, TX
Nov 19 Gourmet Peddler, Midland, TX
Nov 20 Le Petite Gourmet, La Grange, TX


Chef Lars Liebisch
Lars Liebisch is a charismatic German chef who obtained his classical training at a guesthouse of the East German government, where he cooked for prestigious government officials. After the fall of the Berlin Wall he worked as a chef at one of East Berlin's first Gault-Millau awarded restaurants.  In 1999, Fissler, Europe's No.1 cookware brand, asked Lars to join their elite team of demonstration chefs. With his enthusiasm, talent, and experience, Lars was hugely successful in German television cooking battles. In 2005, he came to Boston, where he worked in fine restaurants and at Jurys Boston Hotel.
Lars now works as a chef for corporate and private events and teaches a variety of cooking classes in New England.  He is also Fissler USA’s official chef, traveling the country to do cooking demonstrations and trainings.
Chef Dez                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                              
When not writing his syndicated food column “Chef Dez on Cooking”, Gordon Desormeaux, better known as Chef Dez, is busy teaching cooking classes, performing live cooking shows, and writing cookbooks. Chef Dez has achieved Canadian certification as a Red Seal Chef. After many years in restaurants working with many different chefs, Dez has directed his broad knowledge and experience into a teaching performance that inspires people to cook. Being a father of four children has increased his understanding of the pressures of bringing daily meals together from scratch for busy families. When not cooking, he loves to look at classic cars and go for walks, but most of all to spend as much time with his family as possible. More about Chef Dez can be found at his website: www.chefdez.com

Jane Gaither
Though she wasn't born on a mountaintop, Jane Gaither has been a Tennessee girl all her life.  Nurtured by generations of farmers, orchardists, beekeepers, gardeners and good cooks, she struck out on her own after college as a baker, recipe developer and demonstrator and never looked back.   Jane develops recipes and menus based on old time country cooking, brought up to date with international adaptations.  Healthy eating and cooking convenience are principles Jane learned from her mother’s, and grandmother’s use of pressure cookers, one of Jane’s favorite kitchen tools. There's nothing hillbilly about the dishes she has created for her husband and the three little boys who love to help her in the kitchen - just deliciousness.  Appearing on local television, in newspaper features and at kitchen stores throughout the southeast, Jane loves to share her discoveries with her fans.  Accounts of her kitchen adventures can be found at http://gourmetgadgetgal.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On Why Rice Was Forbidden to Me (But Not Anymore)



I don’t know how to use a rice cooker.
I’m also Korean.
This is an existential dilemma that I have to live with every day. It's the second-most harvested grain in the world (behind corn) and obviously, Asian cultures depend on it as the basis for their diets. I grew up eating it every day. You'd think that at some point, I'd have learned to cook it properly. I only learned how to swim in college, I can’t drive stick, can’t shuffle a deck of cards, and I can’t put rice and water in a cooker, press a button, and wait for it to cook without screwing it up somehow. And it’s not like I’m a terrible cook. I can make a spot-on risotto, which isn’t that simple. But ask me to operate a rice cooker and I might as well be trying to safely land an F-16 on an aircraft carrier.
Cooking rice can be a bigger pain in the butt than first perceived. First, if you buy it in bulk, then you'll probably have to wash the rice. Some types of white rice are coated with talc powder for preservation and presentation, and I don't think that's something fit for human consumption. Washing rice, if you haven’t done it before, is one of the most mind-numbing tasks imaginable. You soak rice in water until it turns opaque, replace the rinse, and repeat again and again until the water runs clear. Needless to say, it can take a while and I gave up 30 minutes into this process. I then put the talc-enriched rice in the cooker according to the directions along with the suggested amount of water, checked after the prescribed time and found a good inch of liquid still in there. I let it cook a little longer, checked again, and found the rice burnt and stuck to the inside of the rice cooker. I got about 26 edible grains of rice from this. Considering the fact that I wasted over 30 valuable minutes washing rice, and another hour cooking it, I was angry at the whole process and chucked the entire rice cooker in the trash. I’m done with you, rice cooker.
Nowadays, rice cookers are even more daunting. They come with even more buttons with digital readouts, and it even speaks to you. When the rice is done cooking, a female voice that is supposed to be inviting will tell you that “your rice is ready.” This might seem cool and convenient, with even a tinge of social bonding that lessens the loneliness of life, but they're also a bit scary. I’ve seen “2001: A Space Odyssey,” where HAL talks to you in a soothing voice, even becomes your friend, only to cut off your life support at the end when you try to shut it off. I’m not letting a rice cooker do that to me. You can’t put your life in the hands of a machine, unless you’re John Connor running away from the T-1000.
My friends Bobby and Frankie were horrified when I told them that I did not know how to use a rice cookers. “How can you not know how to use a rice cooker. It’s easy!” One of them would ask. Then I’d go into the whole explanation I just wrote about. “Why don’t you try using a pressure cooker?” they replied. Pressure cooking rice is like killing a house fly with a .38 revolver. At the same time, shooting guns at flies can still be fun, so why not?
Frankie hooked me up with a fancy Fissler Blue Point pressure cooker, which is complete overkill for cooking simple white, short-grained rice. I used two cups of water to one cup of rice. After five minutes, it came out pretty well. Hey, I actually didn’t screw it up. And it didn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Somehow, I can cook rice with a pressure cooker, but not a rice cooker. But for individual servings, it’s still a lot of trouble for just white rice.
Next, I decided to cook brown rice, which comes out gummy when cooked in rice cookers and takes a long time on a stovetop. I used a cup of wild rice from Trader Joe’s, used 1 ½ cups of water and 1 cup of chicken stock. I also doubled the cooking time to 10 minutes. Afterward, there was too much liquid and I had to discard that. But the rice itself came out perfectly. If I go back to the 2:1 ratio, it’d cook well, and at half the time on the stovetop.
Emboldened by the fact that I’m not screwing up rice for once (and it only took a top-of-the-line cooking vessel to do it), I decided to try and make a risotto, It’s not hard to prepare, but the cooking process is VERY time-consuming. Risotto is temperamental and requires constant attention. It’s like trying to put a newborn baby to sleep. You have to observe it constantly, treat it regularly until it just reaches the state you want, and then do nothing else to disturb it, otherwise you end up with a mess. To make a risotto, you slowly incorporate liquid into the rice in small batches, just to the point where the rice is creamy, toothsome, but not gummy. This process usually takes about 30 minutes, sometimes longer. It’s an inexact science because you cook by feel. It might take 3 ½ cups of liquid, it might take over 5, you won’t know until it gets to that point. Until then, you can only stand over a stove, stir, taste and repeat, for a laborious amount of time. It’s one of the least exciting foods you can make, even if the end result is good.
I thought there was a chance that the Fissler pressure cooker could help remove all the annoying aspects of making risotto. The problem is, you can’t keep track of the cooking process, or know that exact measurements will work. You can only estimate the amount of rice and liquid and hope for the best. There’s no way of telling if the risotto will dry out or be gummy until you’re done. Nevertheless, my urge to cut corners was strong. If making risotto is like raising a newborn, then using a pressure cooker is like hiring a live-in au pair to do all the parenting so you can be inattentive. At the same time, parenting is hard, so go through that with risotto as well. For the Fissler pressure cooked rice, I went with 1 ½ cups of rice to 4 cups of liquid. I wish I could tell you that I had an exact ratio figured out, but I just figured out a median that sounded right. As for cooking time, I decided on 8 minutes, since Arborio rice isn’t as tough as brown rice, which I cooked for 10. I used the pressure cooker to cook down the aromatics, mushrooms and toast the rice like a normal risotto. Then I poured in the liquid, sealed it up, let it build up steam and cooked it for 8 minutes.
When I checked after that time, the risotto was undercooked. But the consistency of the rice was pretty good. It wasn’t too soft or gummy, and there was a pleasing creaminess. Most of the rice retained it’s individual texture, save for a couple of spots where it did get too gummy. I sealed the pressure cooker back up and reheated it for a minute. When I was done, I had this:
It was a lovely risotto. And it only took 10 minutes. As a control in my experiment, I also cooked risotto using the traditional method. I was on my third batch of liquid when the pressurized risotto was done.
The normal risotto ended up taking 30 more minutes to finish. The Fissler pressure cooker cut down the cooking time by 75%. I will say that the traditional risotto had a slightly nicer consistency, the pressure cooker made the rice slightly soggy. But my friend Lucy, who joined me for dinner and tasted both, said it would take a discerning palate to notice the difference. The consistency was fairly indistinguishable. Handmade risotto might have the refinement of a Lamborghini, but a Honda’s more practical for every-day life. Considering that I didn’t have to stand over a stove for 30-40 minutes, I’ll make the risotto with a pressure cooker 90% of the time. And at this point, I no longer feared rice, or the possibility of the cooking vessel talking to me
Mushroom risotto recipe
1 ½ cups arborio rice
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (any kind, I used cremini and portabello)
3 ½ cups chicken stock
½ cup white wine
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsps. olive oil
2 Tbsps. butter
Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
truffle oil (optional)
1. Heat olive oil in the Fissler pressure cooker over medium low heat. Sautee garlic and shallots until they sweat.
2. Add mushrooms and cook until they start to get soft.
3. Add rice and stir to coat in the oil. Let grains toast until they’re translucent, about a minute or two.
4. Add all the liquid and bring to a boil.
5. Seal the lid and cook under pressure for 10 minutes
6. After it’s cooked, stir in butter, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper, if needed.
7. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes. When serving, you can drizzle it with truffle oil, if you’re fancy like that.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Holiday Gift Shopping in Summer? Check Out Oprah’s Pick for ‘World’s Coolest Nutcracker’


It’s never too early to think ahead towards the holidays. Chances are, you’ll be going to parties or even entertaining at your place. There are gifts to buy for hosts, friends, family and colleagues.

Impress them all with an alluring Scandinavian nutcracker by the Drosselmeyer Design Group of Sweden. It combines award-winning design with user-friendly features to do its job with grace, style, and above all, tidiness! No more shells and pieces flying across the room uncontrollably. And it’s an attractive addition to the holiday snack table. It makes a tasteful gift that hasn’t been seen and given so many times over, since it’s just now coming on the U.S. market.

Just take Oprah’s word for it: “The world’s coolest-looking nutcracker is also the easiest – no stress, no mess. Too bad it can’t dance.”

Maybe it can’t dance, but it makes a snappy holiday gift.

Curious about the name? Here’s the story:

Drosselmeyer is named after a character in Tchaikovsky’s famous Christmas ballet “The Nutcracker.” As the owner of the town’s toy factory, it is said that whenever he appears, magic and unexpected things occur.


See DrosselmeyerUSA.com for details and stores. Whatcha waitin’ for ... Christmas? Get cracking.

Attention New York-based editors: you can set an appointment to view the nutcracker in person Aug. 3-5 by calling (323) 731-1111 ext. 105.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mariel and Me



The Fissler foodies made a trip to New York recently to participate in a housewares show for media people put on by the International Housewares Association. While in New York we visited the famous Zabar's which is probably New York's oldest, largest and certainly most fun gourmet shop/deli. And there on a shelf, amidst the lox and pickles and cheeses and rugalach, were my pal Mariel's Blisscuits. See that picture: not the one of the tea and Blisscuit: the other one. That's Mariel and me. Okay, we're not really pals, but I met her briefly at the Natural Products Expo back in March, and she's really one of the nicest celebrities you'll ever meet: truly friendly and down-to-earth. And she's on the right track when it comes to food and nutrition. She's written an excellent cookbook and now she's making Blisscuits. Mariel's Blisscuits are gluten free snack cakes made with ingredients like almond meal, organic agave nectar, organic coconut, egg whites and other good ingredients. They take a reasonable approach to snacking. In other words they are made from real food ingredients so they are not fat-free or sugar-free or carb-free or anything like that. But they are good for you and they come in four flavors that happen to taste great. If you aren't near Zabar's you can find some other places to buy them at the Blisscuit website.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Spring Rolls for the beginning of Summer



I was invited to Ojai for a Memorial Day weekend afternoon of food and friendship. Ojai, as you may know, is a gorgeous green valley of orange and lemon groves surrounded by beautiful hillsides with vineyards and oak forests leading up to rocky peaks. Down in the valley is a little village that epitomizes California charm. Our hostess, Catherine has a lovely home overlooking the valley, and that's where she invited a group of friends for a fabulous Italian influenced meal. I hadn't gotten the Italian message so I brought along a package of frozen Vietnamese Spring Rolls from Spring Kitchen. Well, good food is good food, so the spring rolls made a nice appetizer before the pasta and baked fish, despite the cultural dichotomy. I have three packages of Spring Kitchen spring rolls in the freezer, in three different flavors. Actually, I have two now, since I brought the shrimp spring rolls to this event. Pork and chicken and pork and shrimp are the other flavors and I'm saving those for the next party and a future blog post. Tina whipped together a dipping sauce with a Hoisin base and some other things she found in the fridge but if you order some spring rolls for your next party you can use the easy recipe for a dipping sauce at the Spring Kitchen site. We loved these spring rolls: easy and delicious.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A different kind of grilled cheese sandwich



I picked up a pack of Yanni grilling cheese the other day, made by Karoun Dairies. It's their version of Mediterranean Halloumi cheese, which has the unusual property of not melting at high temperatures. Instead it develops a browned crust making it great for cooking on the grill, or in a grill pan, like the Fissler Crispy Steelux. Wow: it came out great. I cut a slice about one fourth of an inch thick. It has a high enough fat content that you don't need to add fat to the pan. Just heat the pan on a high flame until a drop of water bounces and bubbles in the pan, lay down the slice of cheese, lower the heat to medium and cook until browned (this only takes about a minute). Flip it over by carefully getting a metal turner under the cheese, without disturbing the browned crust. Then allow the other side to brown for about a minute. As you can see from the photo, I ate it with tabbouleh salad, half an avocado and whole wheat pita. So easy and delicious. For extra "cheese" put on a Yanni CD while eating.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Win a Fissler Solea saucepan in the VT 2010 Foodie Awards


Vegetarian Times has a really fun contest called the 2010 Foodie Awards, in which you can vote for your favorite foods in 30 different categories. The foods are things that you can find in most Whole Foods or other health food stores. And the best part is that you can win a Fissler Solea Saucepan. Enter before the contest ends on 06/09/10.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Giada's a Fissler Foodie!




Check out Giada De Laurentiis' new book, Giada At Home. She chose Fissler's Original Pro Collection pots and pans in her kitchen "at home". Yup, those are the same pieces you can buy on Amazon or at a kitchenware store near you.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fine Food Found: LA Food Truck Madness

I don’t know what possesses me to do it. I don’t like crowds and I don’t like heat. Because I drink green tea non-stop all day, I can never be too far from the ladies room. Yet still, I’ve eagerly plunged into food truck madness twice this year in L.A.

The most recent foray was the “Street Feast” at the Americana at Brand in Glendale this week. Food trucks from Asian-inspired to French fries to American barbecue couldn’t keep up with the overwhelming demand for their sweets and savories.

It was madness, best described as Disneyland for foodies. Instead of waiting hours to get on the most popular rides, it’s a different kind of sensory thrill that comes from the tortuous victory of scoring a dish from a food truck.

Knowing I’d make it through no more than three lines, I tried to be methodical in my approach to the madness and check out all the trucks’ menus beforehand. Wedging through the crowds became too tiring and the lines were building, so I just jumped into the line for Indian food from Dosa Truck. It was the beginning of the festival and my wait was an extraordinarily short 30 minutes.

My food was only fair. Here’s what I ordered: the “Slumdog” dosa, which they describe as containing “Indian ‘pesto’ rubbed inside a dosa with paneer, spinach and masala potatoes.” It was decent but not remarkable.


Then I opted for the insanely long line at the Grilled Cheese Truck. I’m almost afraid to admit this publicly, lest someone dispatch medical personnel to cart me off to a padded room. It was 3½ hours from the time I started in line to the time I took my first bite. Just process that for a moment. Now if it’s any consolation, I wasn’t the only one to partake of such lunacy.

I ordered the Harvest Melt, which comes on six-grain bread with “roasted butternut squash, Gruyere, agave, fresh thyme and a balsamic reduction.”



It had a more sophisticated flavor profile than the Indian dish, but it was obvious the cooking had been rushed and tender loving care was lacking. Ultimately not worth an insane wait, but a fine experience nonetheless.

All told, I was prepared for the adventure because I had been baptized by fire in February at the infamous LA Street Food Fest in downtown L.A.

That one was more crowded and more chaotic, insofar as it was a grassroots event without precedent. The one this week was organized by the Americana at Brand, which had the stage management and crowd control down pat. Everything was orderly to a fault, with polite concierges and security officers telling you exactly where to stand and how to curve the queue.

For further reading (and yummy pictures), check out these stories on this week’s food truck madness:

Brand X
Glendale News-Press
LAist.com

With regards to the L.A. madness from February, I’m especially fond of Jonathan Gold’s piece in the LA Weekly. Like Gold, I waited f........o........r........e........v........e........r for the Ludo Bites fried chicken and deemed it maddeningly worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BOMBAY PALACE RESTAURANT CELEBRATES 25TH ANNIVERSARY


We were amazed to find out that one of our favorite Indian restaurants is 25 years old. You would never know it by the look of the Bombay Palace interior. The restaurant has a remarkable space that doesn't look dated at all. But more importantly, the food still achieves a level of quality that you just don't find at cheaper places. We got to the party early, before the crowds arrived, so we didn't have to compete for the fabulous appetizers that were being passed. The highlight was the Indian stuffed mushrooms: so good. They don't seem to be on the menu but the fish pakora is, and that was our other favorite. Bombay Palace 8690 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 310-659-9944. www.bombaypalace.com

Friday, March 19, 2010

Saveur savors Suzanne's flavors




Saveur magazine had a party last week at Lucques, to celebrate the special Los Angeles March issue. It was wonderful to see the LA food pros mixing with the home chefs that are always a feature of Saveur magazine. Saveur treats four star restaurant chefs and church ladies who cook the Friday fish fry, equally, which is what makes it such a great magazine: it's about good food no matter where it comes from. And that's what made Los Angeles a natural candidate for a dedicated special issue: we've got it all here, from haute cuisine to street food from every corner of the globe. But we were glad the party was at Lucques and not next to a taco truck. Lucques chef/owner Suzanne Goin, in her signature black headband, popped out of the kitchen to say hi to Saveur editor James Oseland, seen smiling above. In the meantime Brendan Francis Newnam, of the Dinner Party Download, and Alan Rosenberg listened to Noura Samimi, who was profiled in the magazine for her famed Persian home cooking. Click here for her recipe for Kuku Kadoo!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pickle Power!



Jen Smith is an artist, but not a starving one. She’s been packing pickles that she makes herself and sells by monthly subscription. Forty dollars a month (plus a $15 joining fee that goes towards reusable jars) gets you five big jars of fermented and pickled vegetables, preserved fruits and sometimes even spicy condiments like Moroccan Harrissa. Currently on hand are: Bread and Butter Pickles; Brussel Sprouts, Fennel and Onion in a citrus brine; Curried Cauliflower; Pickled Cactus; Meyer Lemon Marmalade and a variety of fermented Krauts, Kim Chi and quick cucumber pickles! A side of sauerkraut would go great with pork chops and potato cubes.

Jen had a pickle tasting party at Statler-Waldorf Gallery in Los Angeles recently, where guests munched on pickles, looked at art and drank an intoxicating punch, after a few glasses of which, the colorful array of pickles began to look like a contemporary sculpture installation. Everyone was amazed at how incredibly good the pickled veggies were. Jen may expand to local Los Angeles farmers’ markets but in the meantime you can get fresh pickles for LA pick up or delivery, by contacting Jen at tenderwilding@gmail.com

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Valentine's Day Recipe: Mary Ellen Rae's Poulet aux Fines Herbes

News flash – Valentine’s Day is in two weeks. What are you doing? What are you buying your sweetie? Most importantly, what’s for dinner?

We asked Chef Mary Ellen Rae to suggest a special home-cooked meal. Chef Mary Ellen toiled for years as a chef in the Los Angeles Times test kitchen and now owns Personal Touch Gourmet, a full-service foodie operation for catering, cooking classes, freelance recipe testing and more.

Here’s her recipe for Poulet aux Fines Herbes, a richly flavorful main course that she suggests pairing with roasted asparagus and buttered egg noodles sprinkled with fresh minced chives. A version of this recipe previously appeared in the Times.



As a variation to these sides, I used corn-quinoa pasta as shown in the picture above. On a related note, Fissler USA is about to debut a new line that makes pasta preparation a breeze. When introduced in March, the Solea line promises to dazzle and inspire with its sophisticated, visionary and individual approach to fine cookware. Solea lids are engineered for straining, so there’s no need for a colander when cooking pasta or vegetables. Combined with the renowned CookStar base and other high-tech features, Solea can help you cook pasta Fissler-style — i.e., “perfect every time.” Your pasta — and your Valentine — will love you for your discriminating taste in cookware.

The thoughtful editor/publisher of SeductionMeals.com has posted many more suggestions for enticing Valentine’s Day food, drink, music and other mood setters. Wishing you a lovely evening …

Poulet aux Fines Herbes
Recipe by Chef Mary Ellen Rae of Personal Touch Gourmet

Serves 4

½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup finely ground fresh breadcrumbs
¾ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup minced fines herbes (a combination of chives, tarragon, chervil and parsley)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fat trimmed
½ cup shredded Gruyère cheese

Heat oven to 375°. Line a small roasting pan with foil and set aside.

Stir the Parmesan cheese into the breadcrumbs and place on a shallow plate. Stir the flour and salt together on a second plate and pour the egg into a shallow bowl.

Combine the butter and fresh herbs in a food processor and process until smooth. Pound the chicken breasts to flatten to ¼ inch. Place one chicken breast on work surface and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon 1 tablespoon of butter mixture in the center of the chicken. Put 2 tablespoons of Gruyère cheese on top of butter. Fold in the sides lengthwise and roll up jellyroll style so the mixture will form a bundle. Set aside and fill remaining chicken breasts.

Dip each chicken bundle into the flour, shaking off excess, then into the egg mixture and finally into the breadcrumbs. Place in the roasting pan or casserole. Press the sides of the chicken to form a round shape, ensuring the bottom sides are tucked under. This will help to keep the butter-cheese mixture inside the bundle. Finish with remaining chicken breasts.

(Chicken can be frozen at this point and placed in an airtight container. When cooking frozen chicken, add an additional 10 minutes to the cooking time).

Bake chicken for 25-30 minutes or until thermometer placed in the chicken (not butter center) reaches 165°.