Cooking Tip: Parsley

The second in a cooking tip series that I started a few years ago (ed. note: Yes, I do need to add a few more). These are some household tips that should come in handy when cooking at home. The goal: to make things easy, cheap, and useful. Today’s installment: getting more mileage out of herbs, specifically parsley.

I love adding parsley to dishes. Its herbal freshness provides a nice clean flavor pop, it’s healthy, and the color adds a vibrant hit to any dishes you sprinkle it on. I hadn’t thought about parsley as a vehicle until this article about Daniel Boulud a few years ago where he talks about parsley’s ability to balance garlic and other strong flavors. I used to always think of it as a boring garnish. After reading the article I went parsley crazy.

So you’ve bought your bushel of parsley from the market and leave in its bag. If you do this, you’ll maybe get your parsley to last a couple of days tops. Anything more and you’ll get herbal sludge. Here is how you can prolong your herb’s lifespan (note that this also works for cilantro):

  • Get a tall jar or container.
  • Place parsley, stem end, into the jar/container
  • Pour water into jar/container device to cover stems
  • Cover loosely with plastic bag
  • Enjoy your parsley for much longer than you thought

There you have it! Quick, easy and free. Plus, you won’t have to pay for a crappy kitchen gadget like this one. And what to do with your bounty of parsley? A couple of recipes are below, but really, you can add it to most anything. Be sure to save the stems to use in stock; waste not, want not.

  • Chimichurri (an Argentinean sauce that goes great with grilled steaks and vegetables)
  • Pesto (for a variation on the traditional basil, try it with parsley)
Photo courtesy of chez loulou
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Summer of grilling has begun

With the great weather that Seattle had last week, many a weekend warrior dusted off their grills to put food to flame. I love summer because a great meal is as easy as opening up the backdoor, lighting a fire, and getting dinner (or lunch) rolling. Although I will say that I’ve grilled in the rain, cold and in pitch black conditions, but I’m okay with this. That’s why they make grill lights and fleece; to cook outdoors when the elements go bad. Or so I’ve heard. But as we get going with the long nights that summer offers, here are some great grilling books that I find myself turning towards of late.

Two cool grilling books for the summer:

Top Chef Masters returns for Season 2

Its been announced and making the rounds; Top Chef Masters will be returning for Season 2 on Bravo. I’m looking forward to this season for a few reasons; I thought season 1 made for good watching, I always enjoy seeing top-tier chefs doing there thing, and most of all, Seattle has three entrants. Woot.

When we last talked about Top Chef Masters, season 1 was on the horizon and Kelly Choi was still an unknown to me. Well, after watching the season, we have a few more opinions on Kelly Choi, but most importantly, we were able to learn more about the roster of chefs. Going into the show I was already a fan of Rick Moonen and Rick Bayless, so it was pretty cool to see Chef Bayless walkaway with the prize. What I think is really great about the show is that it highlights chefs that are in the high-tier of their industry and expose them to a mass audience.

For this season, the net was cast a bit further and there are even more contestants. And also some returning contestants. So one of my faves, Chef Moonen will get another chance to take a stab. I’m also looking forward to seeing what’s up Marcus Samuelsson’s sleeve. I’m a fan of his style of cooking and have a lot of success with his recipes. Also, look forward to seeing what Susan Feniger brings to the table; she seems to be a blast.

What’s exciting for Seattleites is that we’ll have three entrants to the arena; Maria Hines of Tilth, Jerry Traunfeld of Poppy, and Thierry Rautureau of Rover’s. For season 1, Seattle didn’t have any competitors so to have these three is rather symbolic for the profile of our area. For any proof, read the comments in some of the blog posts about Top Chef Masters Season 2; people from San Francisco are freaking out because they aren’t represented.

I look forward to tuning in on April 7 for the start of the new season and to see what’s cooking. It’ll tide us over until the next season of Top Chef is at bat.

Here is the list of the chefs that will be competing in this season’s Top Chef Masters:

Jody Adams – Rialto Restaurant, Cambridge, Mass.
Govind Armstrong – 8 oz Burger Bar, Los Angeles, Calif.
Graham Elliot Bowles – Graham Elliot Restaurant, Chicago, Ill.
Jimmy Bradley – The Red Cat, New York, N.Y.
David Burke – David Burke Townhouse, New York, N.Y.
Wylie Dufresne – wd~50, New York, N.Y.
Susan Feniger – Street, Los Angeles, Calif.
Debbie Gold – The American Restaurant, Kansas City, Mo.
Carmen Gonzalez – Chef Consultant, New York, N.Y.
Maria Hines – Tilth, Seattle, Wash.
Susur Lee – Madeline’s, Toronto, Canada
Ludo Lefebvre – Ludo Bites, Los Angeles, Calif.
Tony Mantuano – Spiaggia, Chicago, Ill.
Rick Moonen – Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, Nev.
Mark Peel – Campanile, Los Angeles, Calif.
Monica Pope – t’afla, Houston, Texas
Thierry Rautureau – Rover’s, Seattle, Wash.
Marcus Samuelsson – The Red Rooster, New York, N.Y.
Ana Sortun – Oleana, Cambridge, Mass.
Rick Tramonto – TRU, Chicago, Ill.
Jerry Traunfeld – Poppy, Seattle, Wash.
Jonathan Waxman – Barbuto, New York, N.Y.

Thanksgiving leftovers, courtesy of David Chang

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A holiday that is centered around food. And this is the reason why I feel that Thanksgiving is pretty awesome. It’s the start of the holiday season, you’re around friends and family, and you can stuff yourself silly with food; all together it’s a winning combination. But amongst the volume of eating you’ll find yourself with a mountain of leftovers. Unless you can go through a 14 lb turkey, several side dishes, and pumpkin pie, chances are you’ll need to find something to do with them. Have no fear, David Chang has ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers. And they sound amazing.

David Chang is the brightest culinary star of the moment. An opinionated and supremely talented chef who has been a game changer in the restaurant world. His Momofuku restaurants are considered some of the best in New York and his style of food is utterly unique and blow-your-mind delicious. Recently, he and Peter Meehan released an amazing cookbook, Momofuku, that tells the story of Chef Chang and his restaurants. Needless to say, David Chang knows how to make enticingly tasty food.

Last year, I wrote a couple of short posts about Thanksgiving; one was about what wine to have with the dinner, the other was what to do with the leftovers. Chef Chang has taken what to do with those leftovers to another level. In a recent article in Food & Wine magazine, Peter Meehan did a short feature on what David Chang would do with Thanksgiving leftovers. And the results sound amazing. For example:

What’s really cool about some of these recipes is that they aren’t too ‘chefy,’ – recipes that are crazy complicated with obscure ingredients and technique most home cooks don’t have. Most of these recipes are straightforward and use the leftovers that stick around from Thanksgiving. I’m already looking forward to trying some of them.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving! Take in the moment, exhale, eat up, and most of all have fun!

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine

Cool food book: Phaidon’s Coco

In the world of cooking, I’m always amazed at the ability of the chef. The culinary artists that can take ingredients, technique, and personal style to create something amazing and delicious. Their ability to elevate the food they work with is a big reason why I love food so much. We live in a chef culture where television networks create stars out of these folks; they become a part of pop culture, not just food culture. In some cases this is a good thing. Food fans will travel far and wide to experience their cooking. They’ll devour their food and their cookbooks. All of this I think is very cool. That is why I am completely taken with this food book; Coco. If you love food and chef culture, you will too.

The premise of the book is this; take 10 of the world’s true ‘masters’ in food, and have them pick 100 chefs that are emerging chefs worldwide. Coco: 10 World-Leading Maters choose 100 Contemporary Chefs comes to us from the folks at Phaidon. You may know them from their cookbooks like Silver Spoon, Pork & Sons, or 1080 Recipes, but their entire product line is excellent. I first discovered Coco on a recent trip to New York and stumbled upon Phaidon’s store in SoHo. This day happened to be their grand opening and much impulse shopping commenced. Coco was there and when I leafed through it, I instantly fell in love with the premise.

Here is a rundown of the 10 masters featured in the book:

  • Ferran Adria
  • Mario Batali
  • Shannon Bennett
  • Alain Ducasse
  • Fergus Henderson
  • Yoshihiro Murata
  • Gordon Ramsey
  • René Redzepi
  • Alice Waters
  • Jacky Yu

The format of Coco is to spend some time with each of the 100 selected chefs. There is a brief bio, some recipes, and one of the masters will espouse on their choice. What’s interesting is to find the theme that binds the choices of the masters. I love learning about food and the people that make it, so I enjoyed the write-ups. For instance, you could delve into what Mario Batali values; a sense of niches, an appreciation of history, and high standards.

What I like about Coco is that you can pick it up to leaf through a few pages at your leisure. It’s a weighty book that clocks in at over 400 pages (!), but flip through it, open it up randomly and read about a chef you’ve never heard of before. It also has the ability to be a good resource; traveling to the Bay Area? There are about five chefs doing their thing there. New Orleans? Always a great eating city and they have two representatives. Locally, Seattle is proudly represented by Kevin Davis and his Steelhead Diner. I’m a fan of the place and so is Chef Batali. You’ll find all sorts of interesting chefs and restaurants around the world, so when globetrotting strikes your palate will be ready.

One of the interesting tweaks about food lovers is that we acquire and accrue cookbooks voraciously. Chances are we never ‘read’ the entire thing. Most of the time they are used to impress our fellow food friends. But they always serve to inspire us. They give us ideas. Point us in a direction we may not have considered. And Coco is all of these things.

On food magazines…

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A thought that has been bouncing around my head has been on the subject of food magazines. I admit that I love the idea of them. Some are excellent. Some have ‘opportunities’. But after going through one recently, I reminded myself that there isn’t a perfect food magazine.

I’ll admit there are plenty out there that are very good. Food & Wine leaps to mind. Saveur is also excellent. Cook’s Illustrated is outstanding for information. And with the demise of Gourmet, our world of food writing becomes a bit darker. But none of these magazines are perfect.

One of my favorites, though, was Chow. But to my disappointment, the magazine stopped printing and moved to a web presence exclusively. Chow was the closest to my views and perspectives on the world of food. RIP Chow. Ultimately, I’m a sucker for food mags and grab them at the ready on impulse. And given the number of magazines in the market, it seems that publishers think that there is a niche worth filling too.

Why is it that there isn’t one that completely gets it? (Although to be fair, there isn’t really a perfect magazine for any industry, I just wish there was one for food). Some magazines hit it too heavy with recipes that aren’t realistic or empowering. Some have very poor levels of editing and photography (I really want to out the one mag that inspired this post, but I’m taking the high road, but trust me, they sucked). Others just don’t really get it. The world of food and wine is deep and organic. It moves naturally with a skittish flow. Trends come and go. The ultimate point for any great magazine is to tell a story that can inspire. A lot of today’s current magazines aim for this but don’t always hit the bullseye.

What my expectations are for the perfect food magazine is this; great writing, interesting recipes, innovative ideas, a good mix of irreverence, and all of it wrapped into one beautifully designed package that screams to be read. I don’t think this is too much to ask.

I suppose that in today’s gloomy print publishing world, the thought of a perfect food magazine is fleeting. I may be alone as this recent article by the LA Times Russ Parsons points out; magazines are becoming more niche and focused in their goals. Which is fine, but within those defined goals, I still want the right mix that speaks to me. In the end, I have hopes for that ideal mag and will continue to read and dip my toe into what the newsstand has in store for me.

Summer grilling

Summer is so close I can taste it. The long nights, flip flops (but never with jeans), baseball in full swing, summer movies: all of these things fit the bill for summer. Grilling is part of the fabric of summer; parties are centered around the grill, the allure of the flame is like a magnet for guys, given the potential of what to do with it. Take everything that comes under the umbrella of the grill and you have something that I love. In fact, I’ll do it in the winter. However, I know that most won’t plan on grilling under layers of fleece or raincoats, so the summer is the season. This is my little intro on getting the best food experience over an open flame or smoldering charcoal.

First, let’s get something out of the way; a BBQing isn’t the same as grilling. Barbecue uses long periods of methodical cooking with indirect heat from smoke. Grilling uses high heat for shorter bursts of time. Think they are the same? Mention you’re having a BBQ in front of a pitmaster and see what they say. Okay, got that out of the way; let’s talk about the act of putting food to flame.

Things to do:

Gas or charcoal. – I prefer gas, because I love the convenience and speed of getting rolling. It’s super easy; ignite, wait, and in about 15 minutes your outdoor cooking adventure can start. Though charcoal burns hotter, I don’t like the wait of having the charcoal hot enough to start. More power to those that love the gamesmanship of charcoal grilling. Not for me.

Preheating – When using a grill, (and like most cooking) the idea is to get the cooking area properly heated. Most grill grates use cast iron and will need time to get warmed up. You also want to load the grates with heat to get those sear marks. In fact, using an aluminum tray to cover your cooking area will help.

Fun things to try on the grill – Here are foods that are awesome to give a try: watermelon, bananas, avocados, green onions, apples, peaches, pineapple, oranges, iceberg lettuce wedges, hard cheese,. The key with all is high heat and timing. Just put them on long enough to get grill marks.

Things not to do:

Pressing down on burgers – This drives me nuts. Everytime a burger gets pressed down, the juices in the meat get squeezed out and you’re left with a dry burger. Don’t press. It doesn’t look cool. It’ll look like you don’t know what you’re doing. And don’t leave the burger on there so long that it overcooks and becomes a weird meat coaster. Not good.

Poke your food – This is the hardest to adhere to, because it’s natural to poke and prod. This won’t help the food cook faster. The saying goes, “set it and forget it.” If you really want to know when things are done get an internal thermometer. A thermometer also helps to avoiding over or undercooked food.

This should be a primer for your summer grilling adventures. Not really breaking any new ground, mostly just gentle nudges of how to be that grillmaster all of us want to be. And there are a ton of resources out there on how to work the grill! Websites, books, tv shows (video plays); you name it! Enjoy your time in front of grill! We’ll be sharing all sorts of stories this summer. See you around the picnic table.

Photo from MyColoringPages