Tag Archives: cooking

Tip of the Day: Cooking Pumpkin

Having grown up on a pumpkin farm, I get this question a ton…  How do I take a pumpkin I buy at the market and turn it into a pumpkin pie? Well, believe it or not, pumpkin pie doesn’t always come from that canned pumpkin in the preserved foods aisle at the grocery store.

Here are my tips for the perfect mashed pumpkin:

  • Avoid field pumpkins, which are bred for perfect jack o’ lanterns: they tend to be too large and stringy and not very flavorful.
  • Ask the farmer for sugar pie pumpkins or other flavorful varieties: small and sweet, with dark orange-colored flesh, these are the suckers you want.
  • A medium-sized (4-pound) sugar pumpkin should yield around 1½ cups of mashed pumpkin. This puree can be used in all your recipes calling for canned pumpkin.

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I prefer baking the pumpkin over boiling or steaming to get the flesh soft enough to work with.  Here’s how…

Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast if you’d like. In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down and cover with foil. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven for about 1½ hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender. (Stick a fork in it – if it’s not soft, keep roasting.) Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it. For silky smooth custards or soups, press the pumpkin puree through a sieve or pulse in a food processor.

Enjoy!

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The Incredible Chocolate Cake

I know, I’m showing you a picture of a cupcake and I turned my chocolate cake recipe into a batch of chocolate cupcakes, but I’m still calling it The Incredible Chocolate Cake.  That’s because it is incredible. What’s the secret you ask?  Click below for the recipe and you’ll see what I’m talking about.chocolatecupcake Continue reading

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How to: Make Hard Boiled Eggs

dscn2473While my husband was away for work, he called to ask me how to hard boil eggs. Now this might sound a bit ridiculous, but he realized that though he’s often in the kitchen while I’m making most things, he never pays attention to exactly what I’m doing.  So, honey, here you go… My tips for perfectly cooked hard boiled eggs!

1. Figure out how many eggs you want to make, then get a pot that is big enough they all fit in one level in the bottom with a little room to move around while cooking.  This may be the only time you hear this, but using eggs that are a few days older is better – as eggs age, the membrane pulls away from the shell, making it much easier to peel off the shell after cooking.

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Tip of the Day: Letting it Rest

392_rare_roast_beef“Letting it rest” for several minutes after it comes out of the oven is an important part of succeeding in roasting meat.  Resting meat before carving allows the juices that have accumulated under the skin to seep back into the meat, keeping it succulent and delicious!  This is true for most roasted meats and also makes the carving process easier.  So, enjoy your glass of wine and guests for 20-30 minutes after taking the roast out of the oven and your guests will have you to thank for a moist and tasty dinner!

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From the Kitchen of: Tarver King

downloadFrom the French Laundry to The Inn at Little Washington to The Fat Duck in England to The Goodstone Inn & Estate and Hilltoppers Restaurant in Middleburg, Virginia, Tarver King has been cooking up a storm!  Since taking the reigns at Hilltoppers back in October, Chef King set the standard of cooking “approachable cuisine that involves the guest in bold, straight-forward and rounded flavors,” stimulating all five senses. “My food will always be extremely fresh- what is growing in kitchen gardens and what is in season locally.  This is how I love to cook… fresh, aromatic and tender vegetables, herbs, fruits, fish and meats.  I want to bring what’s growing outside on The Goodstone’s estate inside to Hilltoppers’ table, creating a seamless sensory experience for our guests.”  We were able to snag a few minutes of his time for our usual questions.

What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
My favorite kitchen gadget has to be a pressure cooker. I have a couple of small six quarts, and a massive 42 quart cooker that some say looks like a space ship! Pressure cookers are quite unique in the way that they cook foods four times faster than normal, which in a professional environment can free time to focus on other things. In the small cookers we cook beets in fifteen minutes, chick peas in ten, and potatoes in about eight! In the big cooker we make stocks that are crystal clear and made in a quarter the amount of time. Stocks are great because at full pressure (about 15 pounds) the temperature inside reaches two hundred fifty degrees, forty eight degrees higher than normal, and at that temperature it pulls every bit of flavor and gelatin from the bones. The contents inside the cooker don’t move. No bubbles and no vibrations so particles from the bones, and meat don’t cloud the stock. the steam that usually escapes from a stock pot has allot of flavor trapped in moisture particles. if you’ve ever walked into a kitchen that has a stew cooking and said “wow it smells good in here!” actually the stew is loosing a lot of flavor in the steam but not in a pressure cooker because all the aroma is trapped inside. In a normal stock pot a good strong veal, or beef stock can take two days. In a pressure cooker it can be made in about four hours. I love these things!

What is the most overrated food/technique in restaurants today?
Searing meat to hold in juices, which is an old myth that is not true at all. If it was true you would never have a dry piece of meat no matter how long you cooked it. Cooking meat slowly retains much more juices; and has a much better texture. but the searing of a piece of meat does add a good roasty flavor. So to achieve both benefits in a nut shell so to speak. Cook meat slowly to the desired temperature, then rest the meat to temper the heat inside, then quickly searing to “color” the outside.

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In Print: Clips from Food Sections

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5. – The San Francisco Chronicle Posh Squash “Nature seems to have had some of her giddiest moments in the pumpkin patch, judging by the winter squash and gourds for sale at Bay Area markets these days. They have warts and bumps, ridges and furrows, stripes and speckles, and come-hither curves. Few denizens of the produce world are more alluring – or more confusing.”

4. – The Boston Globe CheapSteak “Call it the meat index. If you want to know whether times are tough, ask your butcher. “We are selling so much more hamburg,” says Charles Silva, owner of New England Meat Market.”

3. – The LA Times The Bagel: An L.A. Story “Friedman is not a stickler for a particular-size bagel and does not have a problem tweaking his recipe here and there to suit a customer, but he has been raised in a strict bagel-making tradition. Sitting in his glass-enclosed office looking out over his Brooklyn Bagel factory, the scene does not appear to have changed much in five decades.”

2. – The NY Times Eurpoe Relaxes Rules on Sale of Ugly Fruits and Vegetables “Misshapen fruit and vegetables won a reprieve on Wednesday from the European Union as it scrapped rules banning overly curved, extra knobbly or oddly shaped produce from supermarket shelves. Ending regulations on the size and shape of 26 types of fruit and vegetables, the European authorities killed off restrictions that had become synonymous with bureaucratic meddling.”

1. – The Washington Post Oolong, the Tea Lover’s Tea “Asking a wine, chocolate or coffee expert to pick a favorite is like asking a mother to choose between her children. Not so for tea connoisseurs: Oolong “is the tea that got me hooked on tea,” says importer Brian Wright.”

photo from The Boston Globe

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In Baking Heaven

Last weekend I spent a therapeutic Sunday baking up a storm starting with homemade bagels!  The process was long, but most of that time was the dough rising, which happens a three times. All of the effort involved was surely worth it as the outside of these bagels had that perfect slight “crunch” to the outside “crust” and soft doughiness on the inside.

I didn’t think to make the “starter” that most recipes call for Saturday night, so I scoured the internet for a recipe that doesn’t involve prepping the dough the night before and found one in my Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite cookbooks.  I modified just a few things as I was out of a couple of the ingredients and didn’t have barley malt syrup.

Bagels! (from scratch!)
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 2/3 cup warm water
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 lb 6 oz flour (this is about 4.5 cups)
1 1/2 tbsp salt
toppings (I used sesame seeds)

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