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The Great Enhancer—in a Squeeze Tube

A great enhancer, indeed; it adds that oxymoron of a subtle jolt of umami. A quarter teaspoon is often all you need to pull tastes together and make it balance. Particularly useful with acidic favors like tomato or orange.

Mar 14, 2014
sparky401 in Features

One bowl baking

I don't understand why people respond with comments about why this posting person doesn't like two-step baking, or chiding visitors about not bringing baked gifts for a new mother. Get OVER yourselves. Maybe this new mother likes nurturing others by baking for them. Maybe baking calms her down. Why not simply answer her question? Which is what I am doing right now.
The Bon Appetit French Yogurt Cake recipe has become my go-to one bowl cake recipe. It's amazingly adaptable! Add citrus zest and freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice, or add a few tablespoons of instant coffee concentrate diluted with cold coffee. Reserve 1/4 of the batter, mix in some Valrhona cocoa powder and two tablespoons of white corn syrup, then swirl this into the white batter to make a marble cake. Make the vanilla version, but throw in some chocolate chunks, or some slivered candied oranges, or tiny slivers of crystallized ginger. Almond flavor, slivered almonds and demerara sugar on top. Spread the cake batter in a square pan, cover with sliced purple plums, squeeze a lemon half over it, dust with sugar mixed with cardamom and cinnamon, then bake. Or do the same thing with apples, only instead of the cardamom, use some allspice and nutmeg. This cake freezes well and has the potential to last for a week, which it never does; when I bring one into the office, it's gone within an hour. I keep the recipe on my IPad so I am never without it, and when I am visiting friends who want me to bake something for them, I make this. It's never failed me. Give it a try!

Sep 28, 2013
sparky401 in Home Cooking

Silicone Molds for Baking

I have both; I have been seduced, as have many of us, by the newness and shapeliness of the silicone molds for baking. I find them difficult to maneuver when you have to remove the baked substance, difficult to clean, and I'm concerned about plastic in general. What turned me completely was going to antique shows and yard sales: you see a million OLD, USED metal bakeware things, you buy them, and they work GREAT. I doubt if in years to come we will be saying the same thing about the silicone molds.

Dec 21, 2012
sparky401 in Cookware

need resto near FIT NYC

I have to take a group of people out for dinner near FIT in NYC- it's on 27th st and 7th ave. I want something not too casual but not too fancy, and definitely not too costly - maybe 45/person. Any suggestions?

Oct 09, 2012
sparky401 in Manhattan

Shortbread question

I am looking for the penultimate shortbread cookie recipe, and I am in a quandry due to two recipes I've found to be useful. I've been using the Barefoot Contessa recipe (butter, flour, sugar, salt, vanilla) to rave reviews, but I find that you have to roll it out and cut the shapes, then refrigerate them before baking or they spread too much. Also, the texture is somewhat large-pored and crunches sharply when you bite down. Just made the Mark Bittman recipe from the Sunday NYTimes, which specifies sugar, flour, salt, butter, but the addition of an egg yolk and cornstarch. The baked result was, to me, more of a "sand" cookie than a shortbread, but I can see how the cornstarch would lighten the texture and make the crunch gentler. Am almost ashamed to admit that Lorna Doones are my Proustian madeleine for shortbread, but those Scottish ones in the Tartan tins are rapidly becoming my replacement cookie when the urge strikes. That said, I still want a roll of unbaked shortbread to be there in the freezer for slicing and baking when necessary. Any Chowhounds out there have a foolproof shortbread recipe they depend on and are willing to share?

Sep 09, 2012
sparky401 in Home Cooking

Uses for Whey - the Real Deal, Not Powder

I've read all the food usages suggested by the posts, and I love all of them. But summer's almost here, and sometimes you don't want to put forth a ton of effort to make a whole production out of something, but you cannot stand the idea of wasting something as intriguing as whey. When I spy a tablespoon of whey sitting on top of the yogurt, I pour it off and brush it onto my face. It makes your skin smooth and even, and it's less involved than making cheese or bread (not that I have anything against making either, BTW).

May 18, 2012
sparky401 in General Topics

Don't Be a Diet Bore

It's unnecessary and rude to burden other people with your dietary concerns, unless, of course, they specifically ask (or they're professionals and you're paying them to do it). It's like children, or pets, or your vacation photos: we often talk about this stuff and we're the only ones who want to hear about it. I have been on all sorts of diets in my lifetime, and pasta's healthiness or unhealthiness depends more on which regime you're sticking to. All diets work if you stick to them; the key is to find the regimen that most makes your life pleasant while losing weight. Just be civilized, and keep the TMI to yourself. TMI= too much information)

Jan 13, 2012
sparky401 in Features

What do you think are the best parts (tasting and texture) of a goose, a duck, and a chicken?

Shatteringly crisp skin from whatever section is crispiest. Then you eat the pope's nose, with those two meltingly satisfying globes of meat and fat all in one mouthful. You can finish your mini orgy with the oysters, content with the knowledge that any calories and cholesterol consumed with the fingers while standing does not count towards your daily totals. This is common knowledge, no?

May 13, 2011
sparky401 in General Topics

Matza Brie

Hate to be pedantic, but BRIE is a cheese, and BREI is the traditional matzoh omelet (sweet or savory) made not just during Passover but any time of year. Now that I think of it, why not try brie in the brei? Sounds yummola to me.

Apr 13, 2011
sparky401 in Recipes

What Are Your Baking and Cooking Uses for Coffee?

Coll, it's me, the Ropa Vieja Girl. I think in a braise, you could use just about any non-tender meat- I think your hangar or flatiron would work just fine and dandy. I would cook it for a slightly shorter time, as the hangar is thinner than a flank steak. You have to keep checking every 20 min or so; you know when it's done as you pierce the meat with your fork and pull gently - the meat will happily yield to the pressure. Oh, and apologies to all - I forgot to tell you that there's celery in there with the sauteed onions and green peppers. Now I am off to make my pre-Superbowl Sunday meal for six men, five women, and three children: indian style chicken chunks (I will marinate the cubed breast meat in yogurt, lime and lemon juice, plenty of crushed garlic, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, a touch of chili powder for some heat, salt, grated ginger and onion. Marinate for a couple of hours, shake marinade off, broil or grill. Serve with toothpicks!) and flank steak with a non-sweet BBQ marinade (I mix a couple of Splenda packets, a couple Tblsp ketchup, a Tblsp frozen OJ concentrate, a few shakes of soy sauce - it's meat, we need umami! - some Worcestershire sauce, strong coffee left over from brekkie (or use espresso powder - no one's watching you in your kitchen, right?), a Tblsp or so of orange marmelade or honey for caramelization. Crushed garlic, of course, and a splash of any vinegar you have handy. A few tblsp oil to smooth it out. Taste it before plunking the flank in - if it needs a touch more of something, just throw it in till it's right. Marinate for a minimum of three hours and as much as overnight. Grill over a high flame, let rest, slice on diagonal. A universally satisfying dish for carnivores of all ages. Thanks for listening to my rants.

Jan 23, 2011
sparky401 in Home Cooking

What Are Your Baking and Cooking Uses for Coffee?

Here's something you might want to experiment with; it's great for making, then freezing into serving sizes to grab for when you want something fast and savory. It's Ropa Vieja, a Cuban stew that I add espresso to for deepening the flavor, as so many of you have mentioned in these posts. Heat two tblsp of neutral oil in a Dutch oven till shimmering (don't you just love that word?), then sear both sides of a flank steak till lightly browned. Remove steak from pan, add coarsely chopped onions and green peppers, saute till no longer crunchy. Add in a can of whole Italian tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their liquid, maybe a tblsp of ground cumin, a few shakes of both onion powder and garlic powder, a tsp of espresso powder stirred into some white vinegar before you throw it in. I also add the zest of half an orange - it brightens the flavor in savory dishes, especially tomato-based ones. Now here's the good part: cover, lower heat, and leave it alone to simmer till you can pull the meat into shreds (the "rags") without effort. Stirring and scraping the bottom at some point along the way will stir up the slightly burned bits and get them incorporated into the sauce. When done, shred all the beef into "rags" and enjoy over rice, or steamed veggies, or sauteed kale. This is my first post on a recipe site: please be gentle with me!

Jan 21, 2011
sparky401 in Home Cooking