Tzatziki is so hard to say but so delicious to taste. If you’ve ever been to a Greek restaurant or had a gyro, there’s a good chance that you’ve sample this creamy, tart white sauce that has a bit of crunch thanks to pieces of cucumber. Tzatziki sauce can now be found in markets, but it’s a cinch to make at home. If you have a bowl a grater and a whisk, you can make tzatziki sauce. Pronunciation, by the way? Try: “zaht-zee-kee.”
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It’s hot. You don’t want to cook. The kids and/or you want something sweet in your mouth, pronto, and the temptation to pull into a convenience store, grab the biggest reservoir you can find and fill it with semi-frozen sugar water churned from a machine is running at a 99.9 percent chance.
It’s times like these where a little planning can save you and the family from catastrophe, not to mention the crazed state of mind resulting from sugar rush. You can easily make a better-tasting and better-for-you summer treat in less time than it takes to run to the corner quickie mart.
Homemade smoothies require only a blender, juice, fruit and your imagination. There are, of course, many juice shops eager to sell you their version, but more often than not those drinks are overpriced and over-iced. You can make your own for much less money, and you’ll know exactly what went into the thing.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s literally throwing ingredients into a blender and turning it on. If there’s one tricky part, it’s getting the right consistency and enough “frozen-ness” instead of liquid.
Bruschetta is one of those dishes that sounds complicated but in reality is a cinch to make. The name is technically used for crisped bread rubbed with garlic, but most of us know bruschetta as a savory, herb-licious tomato topping that sits above crostini. And there’s another, similar term, as crostini is simply bread that has been crisped in an oven or under a broiler.
If you have the grill going, there’s no reason not to create your crostinis over the fire or coals. When making them indoors, I prefer to brown the bread under a broiler in the oven. If you’re watching your carb intake or can’t do gluten, you can substitute the bread entirely for a piece sturdy lettuce such as romaine, making what I dub bruschetta boats.
Bruschetta is a perfect appetizer any time of year, but really shines in summer when tomatoes are cheap, plentiful and – most important – in season. I prefer Roma tomatoes because their thick flesh and relative lack of seeds, which are to be scooped out anyway for this recipe.
We all know that restaurant food usually costs far more than what you would pay to make the same thing yourself, and most of the time we’re OK with that. When it comes to things like good steak or seafood, it can make sense to have a professional chef perfectly cook an item of food whose base cost would still be relatively expensive even if you were to buy it at the store. This is especially true with ingredients like USDA Prime-graded steak or sushi-grade fish, which are often reserved for the food-service industry and thus are more difficult to attain.
Salad, on the other hand, is just the opposite. The menu item that vexes me most is the iceberg wedge. Basically it’s a wedge of iceberg lettuce slathered in blue cheese dressing and often garnished with small tomatoes and maybe some onions. It’s delicious and a fine complement to a hot summer day. But for the $10 or so restaurants can charge for this starter, it’s a rip off.
A few weeks ago I introduced you to the glory that is the stuffed bell pepper. This week it’s on to something a little more adventurous, yet even easier and quicker to cook: The shishito pepper. What’s the adventurous part of this dish? Acquiring of the main ingredient.
Shishito peppers look something like ET’s finger, long, green and wrinkled. True, they may not appear that special, but they taste amazing. Shishitos are not usually spicy. They are a sweet pepper, but occasionally you’ll hit one with a bit more kick.
If you’ve never heard of a shishito pepper, that’s probably an indicator of where you shop. You aren’t likely to find shishitos at your mainstream market. And here’s where the adventurous part of this recipe comes in. To buy these Asian peppers, you’ll need to go to – surprise! – an Asian store.
My go-to place for these is H Mart, but I’ve also seen them at 99 Ranch. You’ll find shishito peppers in the produce section, either in bulk or wrapped in plastic in small cartons. Sometimes they are labeled “sweet peppers.” And they’re inexpensive. On a recent trip to an H mart, they were about $1.30 a pound, and trust me, a pound will go far.
You probably already know that steaming is a great way to cook vegetables because it helps them retain nutrients and adds no fat. It’s also fast and super easy.
If steaming has one transgression, though, it’s that it doesn’t add flavor. When you’re depending on steam from boiling water to cook food held aloft in a basket, the flavor is ultimately dependent on the item being cooked. Begin with a rather plain veggie like cauliflower, for example, and you’ll end with up with a vegetable that is indeed softer and easier to chew, but whose flavor isn’t greatly enhanced.
Luckily, there’s a special method of steaming that is just as easy as the traditional one, yet offers much more flexibility when it comes to resulting flavor and what ends up on the plate. It’s even got a cool name that will make you sound like a kitchen rock star: pan steaming.
Shredded hash browns can be confidence killers in the kitchen. In restaurants they look and taste so darn good, we often think: “How hard can they be to make? Just shred potatoes and throw them in a pan, right?” And then we end up with mushy spuds that are overly browned on the outside but gray on the inside. To our chagrin, they’re anything but the crispy, delicious patties we get when dining out.
Some of us seek solace by making the easier, chunky style hash browns with diced potatoes, telling ourselves they’re just as good. Others never even try again.
Well, friends, buy a bag of Russets, ‘cause we’re about to change that.
If you made a bounty of colorful eggs for Easter and are still trying to eat your way through them, you’ve probably come to this realization by now: Eating plain, hard-boiled eggs gets boring rather quickly.
Solutions abound for ways to use hard-boiled eggs, from crumbling them over salads to making the party favorite of deviled eggs.
One of my favorite things to do with hard-boiled eggs is to transform them into egg salad, a delicious spread that can be used in sandwiches, wraps or served atop lettuce. Aside from being a snap to make, it is easily customizable.
Want some kick? Add a touch of cayenne powder. For a savory, earthy take, experiment with dried herbs like oregano or thyme. Once used, topping choices abound, from tomato and avocado to sprouts or even bacon bits. And you thought eggs and bacon were just for breakfast.
For this quick and easy version, I spruce up my chunky egg salad with cucumbers for crunch, paprika for color and taste, and a squeeze of lemon juice for extra tang. I add green onions for added visual appeal, but red or white onions can be substituted if that’s what you have on hand.
Oh, and if you’ve never hard-boiled an egg before, don’t worry: Your secret is safe with me. I’ll show you how to do that, too, and you’ll never have to buy those plastic Easter eggs again.
When it comes to roasting, meaty dishes usually steal the show. Almost all of us have enjoyed a hot-out-of-the-oven Thanksgiving turkey, juicy prime rib or flavorful and flaky salmon fillet.
But roasting needn’t be relegated to meat, poultry and fish. The same properties of roasting that impart so much flavor to those protein-rich dishes work wonders for vegetables, too.
The easiest way to roast is in an oven, which uses hot air as the main vehicle to cook food. (You could also call this “baking,” though that term is often used in reference to breads, pastries and meat without bones. For our purpose here, either word is safe, but “roasting” sounds more appetizing, no?) Roasting yields vegetables that are firm yet not hard, browned and visually interesting, and that taste so much more potent than when steamed or simmered.
When you roast, you actually concentrate flavors inward, vs. leeching them out. For example, when you simmer meat or vegetables in water, many of the flavors and nutrients go into that water. That’s great if you’re making broth or stock, but it’s wasted if you don’t use the liquid.
It’s the new year, that time when we make resolutions, ponder life’s big questions and wonder how that last year flew by so quickly. Oftentimes the first of these involves diets, and with them, vows to eat better.
Before you roll your eyes, don’t worry: This isn’t necessarily an article about nutrition or how to shed calories. Rather, it’s suggestions on five foods to try that may be new to you – all of which do happen to boost flavor in a relatively healthful way.
These foods are not usually eaten alone, and that’s the beauty of them: They can make a dish that’s tried and true better, and can be used in lieu of ingredients that are higher in fat and/or calories. They can introduce flavors you may not be familiar with, and are all ripe for experimentation.
Here are the five foods that top my recommended list of ones to try in the new year. I hope those that are new to you will find their way into your kitchen in 2012.