Basics

All About Pepper

July 7, 2014
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A little bit about pepper….

You might be surprised, but pepper is the most traded and most popular spice in the world. Peppercorns are the fruit (aka drupes) of the tropical vine, Piper Nigrum. When the fruit is ripe, it turns red, but sometimes it’s picked and processed before it’s ripe which then changes the pepper.

The flavor profile of peppercorns can change like wine, depending on where the pepper is grown, when it is picked, and how it is processed. Also like wine, descriptions of the peppercorn’s favor can vary widely; floral, cedar, fruity, smoky, citrus and licorice are commonly used. Vietnam may be the world’s largest producer of pepper but the most coveted peppercorns hail from Telicherry, in India, where the spice originates.



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What does the color of the pepper tell you about it?

  • Black peppercorns are the mature fruit of the pepper vine, picked when between
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How To Make Vegetable Stock

June 17, 2014
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In previous posts we’ve talked about the basics of making any kind of homemade stock, learned how to make chicken stock and veal/beef stock and now it’s time to look at making a vegetable stock.

While vegetable stock may not have some of the “body” of a stock made with bones, it can still add significant flavor and is excellent for enhancing vegetarian dishes, soups, stews, curries and risottos. Use a light vegetable stock in the same way you would use a light chicken stock; for poaching vegetables, cooking a rice pilaf, or as an addition to a light sauce or light colored curry. Use a darker, roasted vegetable stock, for soups and vegetarian chilies and stews. Consider adding dried mushrooms to a vegetable stock to add color and enhance the flavor (mushrooms are a flavor enhancer because they contain glutamic acid, a naturally occurring version of MSG).

There …

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Soft Shell Crab Piccata Plus How To Clean Soft Shell Crabs

May 17, 2014
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Friends, we’re now in soft shell crab season, which typically runs late April through September. The season seems to have started late this year, but with the weird weather all over the country, that’s not surprising.

Soft Shell Crab Primer:

Just what are soft shell crabs you ask? Soft shells are Blue Crabs which have molted their hard shell to grow a larger one. This phase only lasts a few days until the new shell hardens. During the “soft shell” phase the entire crab can be eaten, “shell” and all. Blue Crabs, with their blue tinged claws (hence the name), are found on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and are very popular in Maryland. In the soft shell phase they are most commonly fried, sautéed or tempura battered.If possible, buy soft shell crabs still alive. If you are only able to find ones which have been cleaned, then make sure …

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How To Make Veal Stock

May 3, 2014
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In a previous post featured Stocks 101, all about the ease, affordability and impact of making a great stock from scratch. Since we’ve already covered making a chicken stock, the next stock in your repertoire should be a beef or veal stock.

Everyone should make a true veal stock at least once to experience the wonder of the flavor it imparts to a dish. Veal stock is typically used as the base for French onion soup and in meat sauces. Cook book author and food writer Michael Ruhlman says that veal stock has the “qualities of humility and generosity—it brings out and expands other flavors without calling attention to itself” and this is true. Take a small amount of veal stock demi-glace, swirl it with butter, and you have an instant sauce for homemade pasta. Add shallots to that swirl and it’s perfect over a grilled steak. Veal …

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Stocks 101-All About Home Made Meat, Fish and Vegetable Stocks and Broth

April 27, 2014
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Bones. Vegetables. Herbs. Water.

Combine them all, add fire, and you have a magic elixir which can breathe life into a sauce, become the base for a delicate soup or hearty stew, or poach a fish filet to perfection.

Many people don’t realize how easy it is to make a flavorful stock. Once you make stock at home, you may never buy those cans or boxes again. Homemade stock is usually healthier too because commercially made stocks tend to be very high in sodium, while stocks made at home can be tailored to the cook’s preference for salt and fat content. Consider not adding any salt at all. Instead, add salt to the recipe using the stock as needed. Let meat and chicken stocks chill and when the fat rises to the top it solidifies and can be easily skimmed off.

Besides being healthier, homemade stock is often one of …

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How To Cook and Clean A Dungeness Crab

November 30, 2013
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This is part 3 in an ongoing series about crab which includes Crab 101 (all you ever wanted to know about Crabs) and Stone Crab with Traditional Mustard Sauce. More to come…

How to Cook:
It’s Dungeness Crab season right now, September to June, on the Pacific Coast of North America. Much of the time you will find whole crabs already cooked and chilled. If not, and you’re buying live crabs, then the rule of thumb is to steam or boil them for 7-8 minutes per pound.  If boiling in multiple crabs, start timing when the water comes back to a boil. Base the number of minutes needed for cooking on the average crab weight, not the total weight.

Once your crab is cooked, rinse under cool water until just cool enough to handle. The crab in the photo below is a cooked crab. You can tell because the …

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