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Archive for the ‘Life Changing Cooking Tips’ Category

One of our favorite vegetables for Fall and Winter is fennel. It’s subtle anise flavor, lends a  certain sweetness that complements this season’s cooking perfectly. The best part about this root vegetable is it’s versatility. It can be eaten roasted, sautéed, braised or raw. While the white bulb is the most used part of this vegetable, don’t throw away the stems — they can be used to subtly flavor soups and stocks. The feathery fronds that sprout from the tops can be used as a finishing herb or added to salads and sauces. When it comes to flavor and bang for your buck, fennel is definitely the seasonal produce that packs a punch! Here are some of our favorite ways to use this Fall gem:

KEEP IT RAW
One of our go-to salads this time of year is an explosion of flavors and textures and it all starts with thinly shaved fennel (to shave it thinly, we recommend a hand-held slicer like the Kyocera ones – great tool to have in your kitchen). Then we have halved grapes, thinly shaved apples and leaves of watercress. We toss the whole thing lightly in a maple vinaigrette (maple, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil). This is a salad that makes you want to eat salads.

SWAP IT OUT
A great way to start using fennel is to swap it out for onions. Any time a recipe starts with some sautéed onions and garlic try using some fennel and garlic instead – you’ll notice it’s sweet, rich flavor in the background of dish. For instance, try caramelizing it in some butter and thyme in place of caramelized onions…..you’ll be eating this sweet concoction right out of the pan!

BRAISED & BROWNED
Leave it to the French to figure out the most luscious way to prepare fennel: braised in buttery stock and finish in the oven with cheese. To do this, cut the stalks off the fennel and then cut the bulb in quarters. Place in a pot with a couple pats of butter and enough stock to just barely cover the fennel. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until very tender. Strain out the soft fennel and place in a shallow baking dish. Top with a sprinkle of parmesan or Gruyère cheese and some salt and pepper. Bake at 450 until golden and melted. A vegetable has never tasted so good!

Join us for our popular Global Comfort Food class to learn an amazing Fennel, Bread and Tomato Soup recipe that is perfect for cold Winter nights. If you already have Thanksgiving on the brain, we have you covered with our annual Thanksgiving 101 class, where we’ll demonstrate how to create a Brioche Dressing with Caramelized Fennel, Fuji Apples and Pancetta that is sure to become a family favorite!!

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Thanksgiving is around the corner and one of the most important parts of the meal is the gravy. If you’re like me, it ends up covering everything on the plate! But how many times have you been standing over the stove 10 minutes before dinner is meant to be served, whisking like mad over a hot pan trying to get your gravy lump-free and perfect? No more! Here’s everything you need to know about to make the perfect gravy. This is a step-by-step tutorial followed by our Life Changing Cooking Tip video — it’s meant to be a base point recipe that you can adapt and modify with your favorite flavors. Enjoy!

 

The Master Recipe –

This makes 1 cup so for Thanksgiving you’ll want to make this at least 4x. But once you know this master ratio, you can make a small batch or a huge batch of gravy and it will be perfect every time.

1 tablespoon butter (or fat from your roasting pan)

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup liquid (any mixture of wine, stock, juices from your roasting pan, heavy cream, fruit juices)

chopped herbs (like tarragon, thyme, rosemary) or sauteed vegetables (like onions, mushrooms) or meat (crumbled sausage or bacon or pancetta)- optional

 

The Rules –

1. Use a skillet, not a saucepan. This will make whisking easier and will allow the gravy to cook and thicken faster.

2. Start with the butter and flour in the pan and cook, whisking constantly for 1-2 minutes — this helps begin to cook out the flour flavor.

3. Make sure any liquid you’re using is room temperature — if it’s cold it will be more likely to make the gravy lumpy. Add the liquid slowly, whisking as you go. Once you’ve gotten enough liquid in the pan to thin out the flour mixture, add the rest.

4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. This is step most often missed. By cooking for 10-15 minutes, the flour flavor will cook out, the flavors will meld and the gravy will reduce and thicken a bit more.

5. If you’re adding herbs or veggies, add them once the liquid is added.

6. Be sure to taste and season with salt and pepper at the end. Depending on what liquid you use, it may already have salt from the stock or pan juices.

7. A note on thickness: Gravy should be glossy and the thickness of maple syrup — not gloppy and thickness of pudding. Gravy will thicken as it cools. Once it’s cooked for 10-15 minutes, remove from the heat and just allow to sit in the pan for another 10 minuets to cool slightly, whisking often so a skin doesn’t appear. Then your gravy should be the perfect thickness. IF you need your gravy to be thicker at the end of cooking, you have two options: (1) whisk together 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 1 tbl cold water and whisk into boiling gravy – cook for 1 minute OR (2) mash together 1 tablespoon flour with 1 tablespoon butter and whisk it into the bubbling gravy a little at a time – cook for 5 minutes once it’s all been added.

I hope this roadmap leads to a lump-free gravy on your Thanksgiving table this year. We encourage you to get creative with this basic recipe! Our favorite version from our Thanksgiving cooking class this year is flavored with some sauteed pancetta, shallots, marsala wine and a splash of heavy cream. Delicious! Check out our video tutorial and share with us your gravy tips, disasters and flavoring ideas.

 

 

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We love avocados! But picking the perfect one can be tricky. Here are our tips on choosing the perfect avocado and what to do with these yummy Summer treats.

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Winter squash is so easy to cook and can be such a hearty and delicious addition to your Fall or Winter table. Here are our tips on cooking with some of our favorite winter squash.

 

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