June 2011 Archives

Prep School: How to Remove Corn Kernels From the Cob (Without Making a Mess!)

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Today, the next installment in your summer “prep” school lessons: how to remove corn kernels from the cob, without making a big old mess.

Anyone who’s ever tried to do this simple task on a cutting board knows how those kernels can go flying. I eat a lot of summer corn and tend to find the kernels in every corner of my apartment after performing what should be a simple procedure–cutting kernels from the cob. So I perfected my technique, and found an easier, cleaner, better way to shave them cobs.

As the fresh corn abounds, try using up your kernels in one of our favorite recipes from In the Small Kitchen–our Corn and Barley Salad with Chive Vinaigrette!

Stay tuned for more prep school, and don’t forget to check out some of our other videos here.

From our kitchen, getting prepped, to yours,

Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

Cheddar Cheese Burgers with Charred Red Onions

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CLASSIC FOURTH OF JULY COOK OUT MENU: Guacamole with Tortilla Chips; Cheddar Cheese Burgers with Charred Red Onions; Sarah’s Herbed Potato Salad; Blueberry Crisp Tart.

For a while now, the burger has been a staple of my restaurant dining. Not because I didn’t think a burger homemade by me would be up to par, but because it’s often the thing that jumps out at me from the menu and lands onto my plate. In part, this trend in my order is a result of that fact that Phoebe and I always want the burger’s side, French fries. But honestly it’s also because at many places in New York, from the casual to the more refined, the burger is the best bang for your buck–by far. Since I didn’t want to overdose, I mostly avoided making them at home (last summer’s Pork Burgers were the exception).

With summer here, however, and countless barbecues on the horizon, I’m bringing burgers home. These are classic, juicy burgers enhanced only by a slice of melted cheddar and some red onions, slightly charred on the grill beside those homemade burgers.

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,

Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipe**

 

Cheddar Cheese Burgers with Charred Red Onions
Serves 4

Schooled by Ina Garten’s recipe, the most important addition I’ve made to my burgers is some olive oil. This may seem strange–adding fat to fatty meat–but unless you grind it yourself, it’s actually difficult to get meat with enough fat content in it to make a juicy burger. If you really want to gild the lily, use melted butter instead of olive oil. In the lead picture, you can probably make out that I’ve spread the burgers with mashed avocado, another excellent (optional) burger condiment!

Ingredients
1 1/3 pounds good-quality ground beef (85 percent lean)
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large red onion, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
4 burger buns, preferable brioche buns – but use whatever you like, halved
4 thick slices sharp white cheddar
Condiments: mayo, mustard, ketchup, sliced pickles

If you’ve got a grill, build a fairly hot charcoal fire or preheat the gas grill. You can also make these under the broiler–if you’re doing so, turn it on.

Combine the ground beef in a large bowl with the mustard, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix until all the ingredients are just integrated–if you stir too hard you’ll compress the meat before you cook it, and your burger will be less tender. Gently form the meat into 4 equal patties.

When the grill is medium-hot, which means you can hold your hand above it for no more than 6 or 7 second, place the burgers on the grill. Leave them alone to cook for 4-5 minutes. Using a thin spatula, carefully flip the burgers and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how well you like them done. (The shortest cooking times are for medium-rare.) Just after flipping the burgers, place a slice of cheese on top. As those last 4 minutes pass, keep an eye on the cheese, and if it doesn’t seem to be melting, place the lid of the grill on (vents opened) for the final 2 minutes. If you’re using your broiler, flip the burgers as directed, but don’t add the cheese until the last 2 minutes.

While the burgers are cooking, use the rest of the grill to make the onions: Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil onto a plate and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Place each slice of onion in the oil, then carefully flip it, trying to keep the rings together. Place it on the grill and repeat with the remaining slices. Cook the onions for about 4 minutes per side, flipping them again carefully with a spatula, making sure not to lose any of the rings through the grill grates. When done, the onions will be softened and charred; remove them to a plate.

In the last little section of the grill, toast each bun half, cut side down, for 1-2 minutes, until crusty and marked by the grill. Place each burger on a bun, top with a few rings of grilled onions, and serve immediately with the condiments.

DICED: ICE Student For a Day

We were lucky enough to be students for a day at the Institute of Culinary Education. The class we chose? Essentials of Japanese Cooking! We made Katsudon, Negimaki, Tempura, Soba Noodles, and lots of, yes, Sushi!! Check out our write up and find out more about the dishes we cooked here.

The Kitchn: In the Small Kitchen Review

Check out the wonderful review of our book on The Kitchn, along with our Sexy Ugly Onion Tart!

Working With What You Have: Iced Chai Tea Latte

Here are some more ideas for delicious summer drinks!

I can remember my first-ever chai tea latte. It was a Saturday in the early spring of 1998, and I had a terrible cold. Feeling sick, I had played hooky from a friend’s bat mitzvah (this was seventh grade, when every weekend’s activity revolved around bar and bat mitzvahs), yet I was somehow up to joining my family on a shopping trip to the Upper West Side. Not only was my nose running but it was also raining out, and at last my family and my whiny thirteen year-old self took refuge in the local Starbucks. I think I ordered a chamomile tea, adding honey to it to soothe my poor throat. I took a sip, and my sense of smell and taste clogged by my sickness, I couldn’t taste a thing. I might as well have been drinking hot water, and I set my tea angrily down.

Someone else–maybe my older sister, Jill–ordered a chai tea latte, which can’t have been on Starbucks’ menu for very long at that point. I for one had never seen it, heard of it, or tried it. But unlike every other scent in the world that day, I could smell it. The mix of black tea, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices made its way through my stuffy nose, and it was like an epiphany.

Jill, fearless of contagiousness or perhaps looking to pawn her tea off, for unknown reasons, onto her little sister, let me have a sip. Like the smell, the taste got through to me too, and from that moment I was hooked. The one sip became several, and soon I had finished the whole cup, tasting every sip. It’s the kind of flavor mix that appeals to me–creamy, like ice cream, and spiced, like gingersnaps.

As the years went by, I drank a lot of Chai Tea Lattes, hot and cold. At some point, I got a little tired of paying so much for them, and I looked into making them at home.

Though chai tea at home is far better than chai tea bought at coffee shops, mostly because it’s less achingly sweet, it’s not really a production to make. In fact, like many of our Working With What You Have dishes on this site, it’s just about having a stocked pantry and spice rack. After that, all it really takes is a scant bit of motivation, which in my case was derived from the arrival of summer and the desire for something very cold to drink.

From my kitchen, brewin’ chai tea, to yours,

Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipe**

Iced Chai Tea Latte
Makes 1 drink

 

Ingredients
6 tablespoons Chai Tea Concentrate (recipe follows)
1 cup milk of your choice*
Ice

*If you use sweetened almond, soy, or rice milk, you may need to play around to make the concentrate less sugary. This recipe was developed using 2% milk.

Pour both the Chai Tea Concentrate and the milk into a glass, stirring to combine them. Add a large handful of ice, and drink immediately.

You can make this into a hot drink for winter by warming the milk and chai concentrate slowly in a small saucepan until very hot. Serve in a mug.

Chai Tea Concentrate
Makes 1 1/2 cups, enough for 4 lattes

Ingredients
3 tablespoons sugar
8 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
1 slice ginger, peeled
5 whole cloves
4 whole black peppercorns
2 black teabags
1 tablespoon honey

Combine all ingredients except the honey in a pot. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower slightly and let simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat  and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove the teabags, squeezing out any liquid from them. Let the spices steep for another 15 minutes. Strain, removing all the spices. Add the honey and stir in. Taste, adding more honey if you like.

Cool completely.

The concentrate is easily doubled and will last a while in the fridge.

Great Minds Eat Alike: How To Snack Well While Traveling

We started our Great Minds Eat Alike series in order to mix up the usual BGSK offerings with interviews and submissions by cooks and eaters whose mentality towards cooking and eating meshes with ours. Today we are excited to bring you a great travel eating tips from someone who knows what it’s like to try to eat well when you’re far, far away from your kitchen. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure this summer, Dasha’s tips will serve you well in making the most of your time away. Don’t forget to send your stove a postcard!

Dasha Barannik is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who works as a management consultant in New York City. She collects balsamic vinegars from around the world, swears by gooey chocolate and peanut butter desserts, has a major crush on the color purple, and is never without her sarcasm. Her job takes her on travels far and wide, and she’s here today to share her great ideas on eating well and nutritiously while away from home.

–Cara and Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS

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For those who love food, traveling can be both thrilling and anxiety-inducing. Regardless of whether we’re away from home for business or for pleasure, we can’t wait to eat our way through a new city, book reservations at the hottest restaurants and forage for local delicacies not available at home. But after a few days of subsisting on eggs Benedict, duck confit, and salted caramel ice cream, reality hits: we feel sluggish, a bit gluttonous, and not at all like our normal quinoa-and-kale-loving selves. With a bit of forethought, however, it’s possible to enjoy a delicious trip without sacrificing health or sanity.

**Tips & Tricks**

Plan ahead. Before you leave, think about the meals you’ll need to account for during your travel, and check out food options online. CIBO Gourmet Markets have a vast, albeit expensive, selection of Greek yogurt, vegan lunches, fruit and energy bars, and you can always find a banana and a KIND bar at Starbucks. Make the effort to survey your options when arriving in a new airport or city — it’s worth it to walk a few extra minutes for healthy and delicious food. If there’s a grocery store near your hotel, stock up on simple foods to prepare yourself, such as salads, sandwiches and oatmeal.

BYO. Instead of shelling out $20 for subpar airport cuisine, pack your own meals and snacks. Aim for a combination of protein, fat and carbs. Bring banana-peanut butter oatmeal chilled overnight, fruit, protein powder, or granola along for breakfast. Since meal times become blurred across time zones, a few snacks can morph into lunch or dinner. Carrots, celery, hard boiled eggs, Justin’s almond butter packets, bananas, apples, grapes, grain-based salads, cereal, dried fruit, nuts, Amazing Grass bars and greens packets, nut butter and jam or hummus and veggie sandwiches, and whole grain crackers will all survive the journey in your carry-on, with TSA’s blessing.

Focus on fresh. Though the siren song of peanut M&Ms and fast food is especially tantalizing when traveling, it’s also hard to deny that meals rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods make us more energetic and happier. Avoid salty foods (check the label for high sodium), long ingredient lists, anything fried, fat free “diet” foods and sugary stuff high in refined carbs. Consume real, whole foods as much as possible, and your body will thank you!

Stick to your “normal.” Dining out every night on a business trip may seem glamorous, but can quickly lead to daily overindulging. Keep things balanced by prioritizing which meals to splurge on and which to enjoy as you would at home — with reasonable portions and simple ingredients. To make things easier, most hotels and restaurants will gladly accommodate requests to pack up half of an entree or omit heavy ingredients. I like to start each day with a stabilizing and comforting bowl of banana oatmeal and make veggies a priority at lunch.

Hydrate often. Drinking plenty of water is always important, but so much more valuable in the desert-like environment of a plane. Buy the largest bottle of water you can find and drink up. Your skin will stay fresh, you’ll feel energized, and your stomach won’t mistake dehydration for hunger.

Be prepared. Eating mindfully when away from home can be a challenge, complicated by a lack of healthy or appealing options when you need them most. Having snacks ready to go lets you eat when you’re truly hungry and prevents the all-consuming, ravenous hunger that leads to overeating later in the day. Make it a point to hoard healthy snacks from hotel buffets and airport lounges. Fruit is a no-brainer, but protein is easier to forget. Grab a few raw almonds, a skim latte, or a Greek yogurt.

Save room for special treats. Nearly every destination has at least one amazing specialty that most people don’t eat on a regular basis. When I’m flying through Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, I always make it a point to stop by the Vosges shop for some black salt caramel chocolate. No trip to LA is complete without street-style tacos. And who can leave Paris without sampling an array of gloriously stinky cheeses and Pierre Hermé macarons? Indulge mindfully and savor these moments — you have an entire lifetime to be healthy!

Find local gems. Before I visit a new city, I search online for the “can’t miss” food destinations: blogs, Yelp, and food magazines are all great resources. From food trucks in Portland to night markets in Chiang Mai to la Boqueria in Barcelona, each place has a unique and lively scene waiting to be uncovered. Places like this have yielded some of my most authentic and memorable food memories, unrivaled by anything experienced at a fast food chain.

Write it down. Keep a journal to jot down notes on incredible dishes, interesting ingredients, restaurant recommendations, or just daily eats. You’ll have a wealth of inspiration for later, and recording a few meals will keep you honest about what you’re putting into your body while away from home.

–Dasha Barannik, BGSK Contributor