It Ain’t What You Do, It’s How You Do It

by Dave on October 15, 2009

by Andy Meddick
Making dinner this past weekend, it struck me how much easier it’s gotten. There’s never a dumb question – trust me, I’ve asked some corkers! Here are some really handy tips that I’ve gotten from professional, local Chefs, as a result of asking a ‘dumb’ question. I’ve included a recipe for dinner this past Sunday that uses all these techniques with vegetables that are currently in season.

Chiffonade: not a wedding dress fabric, a knife technique that saves time with greens and large leaf herbs. Using a Swiss Chard leaf as an example, fold the leaf in half along the stem. Cut the stem out with one long cut straight down the stem. Keep the stem – it can be eaten, or juiced; is very nutritious and tasty. Roll the leaf into a cigar- shape. Cut the leaf horizontally, moving along the entire roll, making a cut every ¼ inch. Admire a chard leaf now sitting in a pretty collection of ribbons. The closer you make the cuts, the narrower the ribbon. So much easier, and prettier than just rough-chopping the leaf.

Pan Handling. A quick sauté at high heat, is my preferred cooking method. Fast, easy, and does not overly cook the flavor and nutrition out of the food. Choose the right pan for this. Shallow, cast iron, flat-bottomed, skillet-type pans are best.

Oil Smoke-points: the temperature at which you see smoke from the heating of oil. Used as the gauge for when the fatty acids in the oil begin to break down, causing chemical changes in the oil. These changes may cause reduced flavor and nutritional value, generating cancer causing oxygen radicals that are harmful to your health. Do not heat oil past its smoke-point. Different oils have differing smoke-points. Refined oils have higher smoke points than unrefined. Organic, unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, for example, has a low smoke-point, 250F. It is best suited to making sauces, dressings and vinaigrette, not for 350F baking and high-heat cooking. Grapeseed oil has an extremely high smoke-point (485F), making it a great sauté oil. Choose the right type of oil, for the right type of cooking technique, cook at the correct temperature, in the correct pan, and for the correct amount of time. Recap: oil, pan, cooking-technique, time. Got it.

Sautéing is not frying: the light bulb that illuminated my cooking the most. Sautéing cooks food at high-heat with a small amount of fat; food flavors enhance by browning in the pan. Suitable for a wide range of foods, including vegetables, meat, and seafood, resulting in a flavorful dish which can be dressed with a wide range of sauces. Putting too much food, or too much oil in the pan defaults to steaming caused by over

crowding. The food absorbs the oil, causing

a limp, oily mess. Using too much oil with too deep a pan means you are deep-frying.

Sauté comes from the French verb, “Sautér,” meaning, “To Jump.” Food should literally, ‘jump’ in the pan, helped along by rigorous pan tossing!

Deglazing: not a window replacement technique – simply uses the scrumps of caramelized food left in the sauté pan after searing foods. Add a liquid, such as a cooking stock, pureed tomatoes, or sweet potatoes, or wine, and form a sauce in the sauté pan using the caramelized scrumps. This makes a delicious sauce, leaving the pan much easier to clean! Haven’t you already been deglazing when making gravy out of the leftover bits in the turkey pan at Thanksgiving?

Reducing: making sauces, or balsamic, by simmering at very low heat in order to reduce the volume and concentrate flavor. I use this for making my own pasta sauces, or even salad dressings using pureed vegetables and red wine.

Recipe: Good For You Quinoa Stuffed Red Peppers with a Red Wine Reggiano Tomato Reduction

Red Quinoa ensures a complete protein and lots of flavor. Serves: 4
Ingredients: Filling and Pepper

4 Red Bell Peppers

2 cups Red Quinoa

1 Bunch Gold Swiss Chard

2 Carrots

1 small sweet potato

2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms

2tbs grapeseed oil
Ingredients: Sauce

2 large ripe tomatoes

2 cups red wine

1/6 lb fresh Parmesan Reggiano (the REAL deal, not the fake stuff sold in tubs)

1 cup crimini mushrooms

1 sweet red onion

1 large leek

2tbs grapeseed oil
Directions: peppers and filling

* Slice the tops off of the red peppers. Keep for decoration. Remove core and seeds. Place in shallow baking dish with 1 inch water. Cover with foil and heat in a 350F oven for 30 minutes to soften the peppers.
* Rinse the quinoa. Boil in 2 cups water for 15 minutes, or until the water has evaporated.
* Remove the chard stems. Chiffonade the chard leaves. Cube the carrots and sweet potato. Dice 2 cups cremini mushrooms.
* Sauté all in 2tbs grapeseed oil in a shallow pan until the chard has wilted and the carrot and sweet potato cubes are softened. Remove vegetables and set aside.

Directions: sauce

* Deglaze the vegetable pan with the 2 cups red wine. Remove wine mix and set aside.
* Sauté the onion and leek in 2tbs grapeseed oil until translucent. Add the tomatoes, red wine mix, and mushrooms. Grate in the parmesan reggiano. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and let the sauce reduce for around 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
* Transfer the sauce reduction to a blender and puree.

To serve

* Mix the sautéed vegetables and pureed sauce with the quinoa. Add a pinch of coarse sea salt and ground pepper to taste.
* Use mix to stuff the bell peppers. Top with the saved pepper lids.
* Heat and serve with a sprig of fresh basil.

Until next time Treehuggers, remember, hugs not drugs. Andy for Good For You Market.

This column first appeared in Coastal Sussex Weekly, July 23, 2009.

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