cooking

Cannabis Cooking: the new haute cuisine

image via jantoo

image via jantoo

 

Cannabis edibles have emerged as a legitimate culinary pursuit.
Now that recreational and/or medical marijuana is legal in 23 states plus the District of Columbia, marijuana cookery is looking increasingly mainstream. No major food manufacturer or restaurant chain has jumped in yet, but hundreds of small producers are turning out a wide range of products. There are cannabis cookbooks in the works from major publishers, and cannabis cooking classes are taught by well-known and classically-trained chefs.

Chefs and marijuana go together like salt and pepper.
Many (many) restaurant workers and chefs blow off steam after a long shift in the kitchen by smoking a little dope, and naturally they’re adept at feeding their own munchies. Anthony Bourdain, who famously chronicled his own taste for drugs and debauchery, claims “There has been an entire strata of restaurants created by chefs to feed other chefs. These are restaurants created specially for the tastes of the slightly stoned, slightly drunk chef after work.”

The munchies are a well-documented phenomenon.
Generations of stoners, chemotherapy patients, and now a scientific study conducted under rigorous, double-blind controls can all confirm that ingesting weed makes you hungry. Marijuana perks up the taste and hunger receptors in your brain and body. Flavors are heightened on the tongue as happy-making mood compounds course through your body. Traditional munchies leaned toward big flavors that go down easy. You didn’t want to be fussing with little fish bones or seeds or sorting through too much tableware. Outstanding examples of the form cited by many chefs include the cereal milk soft-serve ice cream at Momofuku Milk Bar (a dessert based on the slightly sweet flavor of the milk left at the bottom of a cereal bowl) and the fleet of Kogi Korean taco trucks that circulate through Los Angeles.

In the cannabis kitchen.
Legalization has opened up culinary frontiers. Chefs aren’t just feeding the sugar-salt cravings of stoners; they’re exploring marijuana’s gastronomic potential for sophisticated palates, and they have the freedom and the ingredients to do so. Instead of grinding marijuana leaves, professional kitchens cook with cannabis extracts that reduce the psychoactive cannabinoids into a tincture that can be added to just about anything. Pastry chefs can buy CannaFlour and CannaOil, line cooks slather the flat top with cannabis-infused olive oil and compound butters, and deglaze pans with pot-infused brandy. Everything from pesto to sushi to cold-brewed coffee can be steeped in a few drops of extract.

Ganja goes gourmet.
Chefs and gastronomists are studying the art of matching food to marijuana varietals and pairing weed with wine. Restaurants (even the Michelin-starred) have constructed elaborate cannabis-imbued tasting menus, and the multi-city supper club Sinsemil.la organizes pot-themed, farm-to-table dinners that create “a carefully calibrated experience from start to finish…Sinsemil.la isn’t about getting high — it is about haute cuisine.”
It’s all a far cry from the gritty Alice B. Toklas creations of yore.

For the home cook:
The classic Stoner’s Cookbook is coming out with a new volume focusing on the haute end of high cuisine. You can help bring HERB to the masses through the project’s crowdfunding endeavor.
The indispensable tool of the cannabis kitchen is the pot crock pot, which comes to us from one of MSNBC’s top entrepreneurs of 2014The MB2e from Magical Butter is a botanical extractor that produces cannabis-infused butters, tinctures, and oils suitable for cooking. It’s available on Amazon where it can be found in the sub-category of Specialty Cookware-Butter Warmers.

 

 

 

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Rice Cooker Owners: What do they know that you don’t?

 

image by anomalous4

image by anomalous4

 

Few things divide the cooking community like the rice cooker.
If you don’t own a rice cooker…
You can’t imagine why any self-respecting home cook would. We’re talking about rice– boil water and you’re there. Why squander precious counter space on a single-purpose appliance that takes over such a basic function? And doesn’t even do it any faster than the stovetop?

If you already have one...
You smile knowingly, patiently. You remember when that was you.

It’s true, it’s a glorified water-boiler.
Manufacturers add in all manner of functions and features and upgrades, but at its core, every rice cooker is a bowl to hold rice and water that’s set inside a housing with a heat source and thermostat. The cooker heats the water to boiling, and when the temperature reaches 212° F, it switches to  a prolonged simmer. The thermostat recognizes a second temperature change when all of the water has been absorbed, and it switches to a lower setting that holds the rice in a perfect state at the perfect temperature for serving.

Perfect rice?
Perfect. Short-grain, long-grain, sushi, and brown rice; grains like quinoa and barley; beans and lentils; all perfect. In countries like China and Japan, where they know a thing or two about rice, you’ll find a cooker in every kitchen. Every Asian restaurant everywhere has a huge commercial version in its kitchen. You can even get a travel rice cooker that plugs into a car’s power sockets.

Rice cooker advocates will speak of its versatility in the kitchen, its ability to cook so much more than rice. Think dumplings and fish, custards and hot cereals, soups and stews. They’ll praise its safety and ease of use, with no open heat source and an automatic shut-off, so well-suited to children, seniors, and dorm rooms. They’ll tell you how it doesn’t heat the kitchen in the summer, humidifies it in the winter, and is easy to clean.

All true. But that’s not why I love my rice cooker.
There are so few certainties—in the kitchen as in life. Cakes don’t always rise and toast can burn. Phone calls aren’t returned, cars don’t get the mileage they should, and children don’t always listen.
But I can always count on the rice that comes out of my rice cooker. It might only do the one thing, but it does it perfectly.

 

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The More We Spend On Our Kitchens, The Less We Cook In Them

Julia Child in her pegboard kitchen

Julia Child in her pegboard kitchen

 

Are you looking or are you cooking?
According to Remodeling Magazine, the average cost of a midrange kitchen remodel in 2013 was $53,931 and the average upscale project cost $107,406. For all that expense, we’re not cranking up the six-burner Viking rangetop very often. About half of our food spending is in restaurants, and as incomes rise, cooking drops off even more. Just 11% of Americans eat two hot, home-cooked meals a day, and in households earning more than $120,000 a year, a mere 2.4% have those two hot meals at home. And presumably the higher earners represent the households with the pricey remodels.

We salivate over acres of gleaming granite and stainless steel and 22-slot blocks of Japanese knives from a hot new bladesmith, even when the dual door Sub-Zero is stocked with nothing more than red-boxed Stouffer’s, Trader Joe’s burritos, and pints of Ben & Jerry’s. Kitchen square footage has doubled over the last 30 years to give ample space for high-end appliances and specialized cookware. We spend giddy hours online drooling over the design possibilities on display at Houzz and Pinterest, and we’re consumed by choosing among the 55 different shapes and sizes of whisks for sale at Sur la Table. We love everything about our kitchens except for the actual cooking.

We love to watch others cook.
There’s a tv set in 35% of American kitchens and it’s probably tuned to a cooking channel. When it comes to our own cooking, we spend an average of 27 minutes a day on food preparation —less than half the time it takes to watch a single episode of Top Chef. Even when we do cook, the Viking’s 30,000 BTUs of firepower are sitting idle. In fact the stove is only our second favorite kitchen appliance with first place going to the microwave. Entrées are prepared from scratch just 59% of the time, down from 72% in the 1980’s, and we’ve even decreased the number of ingredients per dish, from a 1980’s average of 4.4 to a current 3.4. One in ten adults will literally never turn on their stove or oven.

Who wouldn’t want a spacious, good-looking, well-equipped kitchen? But real cooks know how to make the most of whatever they’ve got, and some of the best cooks work their magic with the least impressive batterie de cuisine.

Author, cooking tool expert, and home cook extraordinaire Michael Ruhlman shares his equipment recommendations in My Essential Kitchen Tools
Food writer Mark Bittman, formerly of the ‘Minimalist’ column in the New York Times, gives us the flip side, sharing his picks for 10 non-essential kitchen items in A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks.

 

 

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Chicken. Just Chicken.

image via BuyingChickens.net

image via BuyingChickens.net

 

Nobody buys just lettuce; it’s Romaine or arugula or Bibb. Beef is Angus, salmon is Sockeye, and a Granny Smith apple is never mistaken for a Honeycrisp. But we buy chicken, just chicken.

Bland, mealy supermarket tomatoes just don’t cut it once you’ve had the juice of a just-picked, perfectly ripe Brandywine running down your chin, and freshly-dug Russian Banana fingerlings are a potato revelation after mass-produced russets. Heirloom fruits and vegetables are old-time varieties grown from seeds that are saved from season to season and handed down through multiple generations of growers. They’ve been saved, sometimes for centuries, because they taste so good .

Modern large-scale agriculture relies on hybrids. Commercial growers have breeding programs that focus on high yields and ship-ability. They need varieties that perform well in the field, can be picked green, travel long distances, and be gas-ripened when they reach their destination. Flavor and nutrition take a backseat to shelf-life and hardiness.

Breed makes an enormous difference to the taste of chicken, just as it does for other foods.
Most of us have yet to discover this difference because we’ve gone our entire lives eating just one chicken: the Cornish X Rock hybrid. The U.S. poultry industry, which cranks out eight billion of them a year, selectively bred the Cornish X Rock to grow quickly while eating as little as possible, and to carry a high ratio of white meat to dark with its giant breasts perched on stubby legs.

Just as tender heads of Little Gems lettuce will ruin you for iceberg, once you eat a heritage chicken, there’s no going back to Perdue.
These birds are more complex, more savory, just plain more chicken-y than what you’ve been eating. Even an organic, free-ranging Cornish X can’t come close. It will always be a flabby prisoner of its genetics, maturing too quickly, and too top-heavy to move. The meat never has a chance to develop any real character.

Each heritage chicken breed has its own ‘personality.’
It’s like apples— there are sweet ones and tart ones, apples for sauce and apples for pie. It’s not the worst thing if you bake with Red Delicious, but Pippins are a better choice. Same with the chickens: a Buff Orpington is a great fryer while the oil would overwhelm the delicate flesh of a Marans, and a meaty Speckled Sussex cries out for a slow braise. There is none of the multi-tasking versatility of Cornish X Rock, but each breed has its own distinctive textural and taste notes and even a sense of terroir. 

Heritage recipes for heritage birds.
Dust off the old cookbooks- you need to go all the way back to the 1950’s to find recipes that don’t presume you’re cooking a Cornish X Rock.
Contemporary cooking of old fashioned chickens is alive and well at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, a pioneering breeder and online seller of heritage chickens. The farm sponsors a heritage chicken recipe competition attracting hundreds of entrants. You can find winning recipes and more at The Heritage Chef.

 

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Cook Your Cupboard Wants to Know: What’s Languishing in Your Pantry?

 

Campbell's Limited Edition soups

Campbell’s Limited Edition soups

 

Cook Your Cupboard wants to know what’s in your pantry.
NPR has launched a food project inspired by a dilemma that every one of us has faced: What do I do with                   ?
Go ahead and fill in the blank with three of the odd, the random, and the esoteric items that lurk, semi-forgotten in the back of your cupboards.

We all have them. 
They might be edible mementoes from a long-ago road trip or bizarre condiments chosen on impulse. There’s the still-full bottle of rose water that was purchased for a specific recipe, the rice cakes from the diet you never started, the raspberry chipotle mustard you were gifted with last Christmas, and the Arborio rice and saffron bought for a dinner party you never gave.

Cook Your Cupboard is never stumped.
Poke around on high shelves and low ones, in the back of your cupboards, and the darkest reaches of your freezer. The Cook Your Cupboard blog invites you to submit three items that you’d like to salvage before they reach their expiration dates. The radio show listeners and blog readers offer suggestions, advice, and recipes, and a few lucky submissions are handled on-air by the week’s guest chef—past participants include big names like Jacques Pepin, Nigella Lawson, and Mollie Katzen.

We learn that canned vegetarian haggis is best left in the desert for coyotes, and powdered lemonade mix should only be used  to clean the insides of a dishwasher, but most pantry hodgepodge trios are put to legitimately appetizing use. Apple cider vinegar, almond milk, and dried red beans become vegetarian chili and cornbread; chick pea flour, chia seeds, and harissa are turned into Indian-inspired fritters. They’ve tackled fenugreek, bonita flakes, Georgian Tlekmani sauce, Moroccan fish balls, and canned custard. And anchovies. For some reason no one seems to know what to do with anchovies.

Submit a photo of your most regrettable purchases and let the culinary brain trust at NPR work some magic. Currently they’re looking for three items hidden in the forgotten corners of your freezer.

The pantry contents of celebrities, the secret language of grocery purchases, and more are revealed in Gigabiting’s Snooping in Other People’s Pantries.

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A Little Microwave Magic

image via Cargo Collective

image via Cargo Collective

 

The microwave oven is entirely redundant.
It does nothing more than duplicate cooking processes, and it almost never performs them as well as other appliances.
It’s known as a coffee warmer, a butter melter, a popcorn popper, and a leftover heater-upper. Yet 95% of us have one.
Because when it comes to convenience, it’s tough to top the microwave oven.

The following shortcuts play to the oven’s strengths. They’re are all about convenience. There’s nothing here that can’t be done elsewhere in the kitchen. But all of them rely on the microwave oven for ease, speed, and minimal cleanup afterward.

Make skinny potato chips: Lay thin potato slices in a single layer on a plate. Season (salt, pepper, vinegar- whatever you like). Microwave for about 5 minutes until they reach the desired point of brown and crispy done-ness. You can also revive soggy chips with a few second blast on a paper towel.

Dry fresh herbs or grated citrus peels: Spread herbs or peels on a paper towel. Microwave for 1-2 minutes or until dried, stirring every 30 seconds. Cook another 1-2 minutes for thicker peels and herbs.

Make scratch chocolate pudding: Mix 1/3 c. cornstarch, 1/4 c. cocoa powder, 1/2 c. sugar, pinch of salt, and 2 1/4 c. milk. Cook for 2 minutes and stir. 2 more minutes and stir. 2 more minutes and stir in 1 t. vanilla and 2 T. butter. Let stand for about 5 minutes until it’s pudding-thick.

Get twice as much juice from a lemon: Give it 30 seconds in the microwave and then roll it around a few times on the counter. Double juice.

Roast a whole head of garlic: Put a whole, unpeeled bulb of garlic on a paper towel. Microwave on high for 1 minute, turn it upside down and give it another minutes. The soft, roasted cloves will squeeze right out.

Need some melted chocolate for a recipe? Snip the corner off of a bag of chips. Microwave for 20 seconds and knead the bag to mix. Keep repeating in 20 second increments (you’ll need a potholder as it heats up) until fully melted. Squeeze the chocolate out of the cut corner for a completely bowl-less, spoon-less experience.

Peel tomatoes for sauce: 30 seconds of cooking plus a two minute rest and the skins slip right off.

Cook corn on the cob right in its husk: Put unshucked ears of corn on damp paper towel. You can microwave 4 or so at a time, adding a little under 2 minutes cooking time for each ear. Let the corn stand for 5 minutes before serving. The husks and silk will slip off easily.

Make a little cake in a mug: Coat the mug with nonstick spray. Add to the mug 4 T.  flour, 9 T. hot chocolate mix, and a pinch of salt. Give a stir and add an egg, 3 T. water, and 3 T. oil.  Mix it up well and microwave for 3 minutes. It will rise to alarming heights and then settle back into the mug. It’s not the best chocolate cake you ever tasted, but not-the-best is better than no chocolate cake.

Steam an artichoke: Place a rinsed and trimmed artichoke in a dish deep enough to hold it, cover it with a damp paper towel and top with a sheet of waxed paper. Cook on high for 7 minutes.

Clean-Microwave-Wall-Sign-SE-1723_buUse the microwave to clean your microwave: Boil a bowl of water with a few added splashes of vinegar for five minutes, then wipe. The acidic steam removes odors and loosens any stuck-on bits.

 

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Intermarriage and the Price of Skirt Steak

image via Meat Sections

 

One in seven marriages in the United States is between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another.
That was the big news earlier this year when the Pew Research Center released its Social and Demographic Trends Report, a giant, once-a-decade, number-crunching project based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census. Of course anyone who’s shopped for skirt steak already knew this.

All those multicultural households means that more than a third of Americans can claim a family member, by marriage, of a different ethnicity or race. More and more Americans are sharing the cultures, customs, and especially the cuisines of a variety of racial and ethnic traditions. According to the Mintel marketing group, in a given month 63% of American households will have cooked Mexican food, 46% have cooked Chinese, and another 29% are fusion cooks. And a lot of those households seem to be cooking skirt steak.

For years, skirt steak lived in relative obscurity, ignored by America’s traditional home cooks. It’s a humble and homely cut that’s positioned on a cow between the flank and the brisket, and it basically acts like a girdle holding in those other belly parts. It’s coarsely-grained and chewy, but long marinating, quick cooking, and thin slicing reveals its distinctly juicy, decidedly tasty charms.

Until the 1980’s, skirt steak was priced below ground beef, and still butchers couldn’t give it away. Too tough and tendon-y to grind up for hamburger, most skirt steak ended up as dog food.

Then fajitas happened.
And Chinese stir-fries, Japanese negimaki, Korean bulgogi, and Brazilian churrasco. This flavorful, marbled steak proved to be the ideal cut for a multitude of robust, ethnic preparations. Its popularity skyrocketed,  fueled by the surging multiculturalism. Today the skirt steak is the second most expensive cut of beef at the wholesale level, with only the tenderloin costing more. It’s worth every penny.

Learn the ins and outs of shopping, prepping, cooking, and serving this (now) all-American cut:
Serious Eats has a skirt steak how-to guide (sponsored by the Texas Beef Council), and you’ll find more recipes and tips at The Art of Manliness.

 

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A Message to the Unconverted: you really want a rice cooker.

Creative Commons image by anomalous4
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To those of you who don’t own a rice cooker…

I know what you’re thinking. What self-respecting home cook keeps a one-hit wonder? Especially a single-purpose appliance that hogs counter space AND requires electricity.

To those of you who have one…

Remember when that was you?
Few things divide the cooking community into two distinct, equally impassioned camps like the rice cooker. […]
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The Rumors of their Death have been Greatly Exaggerated

 image courtesy of EAT ME DAILY 

Cookbooks have not just survived the online onslaught, they have thrived.

The recession gave cookbook sales a boost by taking us out of restaurants and putting us back in our home kitchens. We had the manic sales of any title penned by Julie or Julia. And then there were the chart-topping holiday sales of both Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio and Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.

Reading on the internet is a skip through cyberspace. We compose our own narratives as we wend our way through Googled results. Those of us who read traditional cookbooks find it unsatisfying because we know that, like a novel, a cookbook has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The author’s voice is in our heads even when there is little prose strung between the recipes. […]

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Just in Time for Easter: learn how to boil an egg

image courtesy of Bella Irae

You

You think you know how to boil an egg.

I’m here to tell you that you can do better.

Eggs, water, pan, heat.
It’s not exactly rocket science. But we want the perfect hard-cooked egg. We want shells that don’t crack, firm but tender whites, the barest hint of a moist sheen at the center of a bright yellow yolk. We want shells that peel off easily and a kitchen free of sulfur smells. […]
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A Bunch of Things About Bananas

..

I’m all for leaving well enough alone when it comes to the banana.

I think bananas are just about perfect. Each comes in a neat, little package. It tells you when it’s ripe without any of the sniffing or thumping or squeezing required by other fruits. There’s a handy pull tab when you’re ready to open it. And it consistently delivers as promised– who’s ever heard of a dud?

For those of you who believe there’s always room for improvement, I give you a round-up of the latest banana innovations. […]

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5 Foods to Try. Don’t be afraid!

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Try something new

Stretch those culinary muscles. New food experiences can satisfy your soul while they perk up your palate.

Step out of your culinary comfort zone, but not too far

We are not talking about chancy mouthfuls, unless that’s your thing. This is not about the macho challenge of Anthony Bourdain-style extreme eating. We know that offal is trendy right now, but it’s not for everyone. That special maggot-enhanced Italian cheese? No shame in taking a pass.

This list will ease you gently into the unfamiliar. Deliciousness is paramount. […]

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Are You a Food Geek?

image courtesy of Consumer Eroski

In the world of geeky niches, Food Geeks are a little more socially-acceptable than Gamers and Gadget Nerds but not as cool as Music or Movie Geeks. At least according to Gizmodo’s Socially-Acceptable Geek Subgenre Scale Gallery. Food Geeks have a middling rank between top-of-the-heap Finance Geeks (Math Nerds turned cool… who’s getting a wedgie after calculus class now,  jocks?) and the bottom-dwelling human/animal fantasy-hybridists known as Furries.

Food Geeks should not be confused with Foodies

Foodies talk about past and future meals while eating the current one. They know the pedigree of the eggs they eat and […]

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Weigh Your Options

Gadget Love

Do you get a little weak in the knees in a cookware store?  If you’re like most of us, your love for kitchen gadgets knows no bounds. Cherry pitters and fondue pots, rice steamers and egg separators,  presses for garlic and sandwiches, grinders for coffee and spices— no gizmo is too esoteric or uni-tasking to lust after.

First the bad news: with all that kitchenware overflowing your drawers and cupboards, you’re missing a most essential piece of equipment. The good news: you get to buy a new gadget.

A scale will make you a better cook. Recipes work better when you weigh the ingredients. Measurements depend on how you purchase, store, and scoop dry ingredients: a cup of flour can weigh anywhere from 4 to 6 ounces. If a recipe calls for 4 cups of flour, without a scale you can end up with as little as 16 ounces or as much as 24 ounces. That means your main ingredient could be off by as much as 50%.

Even if you’re not a baker, a kitchen scale makes measuring quicker, easier, and cleaner. A good scale will have a repeatable tare function that reports the net weight of each ingredient as it’s added in sequence. You can measure and mix in one bowl without dirtying a single measuring cup.

What to look for

Measurements should be precise. The scale should update instantaneously so that you can see the changing measurement as you add ingredients.

The display should be easy to read and  switch between metric units and U.S. pounds and ounces.

Need more bells and whistles? Take a look at these:

For smaller tasks, try a measuring cup or measuring spoon with a built-in digital scale.

The Rhianna combines a digital scale with an ipod dock and speaker system.

The Breville Ikon scale adds a kitchen timer and temperature probe.

Old Will Knott Scales maintains a folksy website, human phone-answerers and order-takers, and stocks an enormous selection of kitchen scales.

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YouTube’s Own Brand of Celebrity Chef

Type ‘cooking’ into the YouTube search engine and you get 510,000 videos results. Granted, the number is dwarfed by the search results for ‘sex’ or ‘Xbox’ or even ‘cats,’ but it’s still impressive. While there are plenty of quirky, niche, and gratuitously not-ready-for-prime-time submissions, the bulk of the YouTube cooking videos are charmingly entertaining and solidly instructive. Relax the production standards, take away the preening celebrity chefs, and you could be watching the Food Network. […]

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The Joy of (Online) Cooking

Where do you look for culinary inspiration?

Online recipe collections are giving traditional cookbooks a run for the money. More and more of us are bypassing the cookbooks in our own collections and turning to cooking blogs and websites. The web has the advantage of immediacy, with an infinite number of recipes at your fingertips. And the web wins out in searchability; no back-of-the-cookbook index can rival the encyclopedic search terms of an online recipe database. […]

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Prime Time for a Steak

080660_bull_main

They say that every cloud has a silver lining.

A byproduct of the dismal state of the economy is the glut of prime beef on the market. The high-end steakhouses that normally snap up the best grades of beef have been especially hard hit as corporate expense accounts and special occasion diners grow ever more tight-fisted. Prime beef has been showing up in warehouse clubs and local supermarkets, often at prices comparable to those for the lower-graded choice beef. […]

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Recipe Generators: random acts of cooking


You’re not Old Mother Hubbard. There’s always something to work with.                             You’ve got cans of beans and bags of pasta, salsa, olive oil, frozen peas, and bread crumbs, a forgotten can of hearts of palm, tomato sauce, salad dressing, an opened jar of pesto, and a hunk of parmesan mouldering away in the deli drawer.

An online recipe generator can take random and disparate items and turn them into dinner. Most work with a basic search algorithm, matching your ingredients with recipes in their database. But each has its own twist.

[…]

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The Fifth Flavor

umamitongue

                 image courtesy of Tiscali UK

A recent episode of the Food Network series The Next Iron Chef had viewers scurrying to Wikipedia for a bit of research. With ‘Iron Chef’ Morimoto as judge, the chefs were challenged to create a series of dishes incorporating each of the five basic flavor profiles.

That’s right, five flavors. That would be sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and… and…

[…]

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