Sunday, November 25, 2012

Converting Dried Beans to Cooked/Canned

Not sure how to measure dried beans? Here are some helpful conversions:
Two cups of dried beans = one pound
A heaping half-cup of dried beans = one 15-ounce can
One and a half-cups cooked beans, drained = one 15 ounce can
One cup dried beans = 3 cups cooked beans
One pound dried beans = 6 cups cooked beans
-based on information from the U.S. Dry Bean Council  via frugal living  

Monday, February 07, 2011

Onions of All Shapes and Sizes

I recently was asked which onions to use when. I stumbled across this great video tutorial at Cook's Illustrated's Test Kitchen.

Naturally I had to add my two cents worth...

Leeks - only use the white and pale green parts. They're hardier than other onions, so they work best in soups & stews. Cleaning tips from a Jamie Oliver episode I saw...

Slice through the leek lengthwise starting just below the hairy roots. You don't want the leek to completely fall apart before rinsing.

Carefully rinse the sand from them, holding the hairy part closest to the tap so that the sand runs down and doesn't accumulate in the delicious white part.
Red onions are usually sweet and can be cooked or eaten raw in salads or sliced. I love them topping a burger or with bagels, lox & cream cheese.
Yellow onions (the ones most commonly found in supermarkets) are the most versatile. And they make the best caramelized onions that are so important, especially in my favorite French Onion Soup. They are one part of French, Italian and New Orleans "trilogy" - along with carrots & celery to flavor roasts, stews.

Green onions or scallions or Spring onions are very mild and can be eaten raw - I love them thinly sliced or chopped and sprinkled over Asian dumpling soups. I even love them quickly grilled on the barbecue to accompany some grilled chicken or beef.

Shallots are my newest love of the onion family. I finely chop them to make awesome vinaigrettes and caramelize them for so many dishes. When cooked slowly they are as sweet as candy.

Chives - almost garlic-tasting, and when finely chopped are the perfect addition to great mashed potatoes.

If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Preserving Techniques

Admittedly, preserving fruits and vegetables scares me. I'm always sure I'm going to poison everyone I love. So when my daughter decided to plant a garden this year and plans to do a lot of preserving, I thought I'd do a little research and get prepared to help her...and reap the rewards....lots of jars of Jellies, Jams & Chutneys, to start.

I will be writing much more about preserving, but to get us all off to a great start, here are the supplies to have at hand, according to Thane Prince, author of Jellies, Jams & Chutneys:
Preserving Pot:
  • should be wider than it is tall. This conducts heat quickly, so that the jam or jelly reduces fast, retaining it's fresh flavor and boils rapidly, which enables it to achieve a "set";

  • for chutneys and relishes, it's important that the pot has a heavy base for even heat;

  • use stainless steel or enameled pans, avoiding aluminum, as this reacts with the acids in fruit and vinegar.
Measuring equipment:
  • scales for accurate weighing of fruit, vegetables and sugar;

  • 1 quart/litre measuring cup plus 2 cup measuring jug;

  • spoon measures for accurate weighing of spices
Graters & Sieves:
  • microplane graters for ginger, garlic and zest;

  • food mill, for grating vegetables;

  • sieve to remove seeds from jam, if desired
  • Jam Funnel - try to find a wide mouth funnel making it easier to fill the jars
Jelly Bags & Stand:
  • (more about that later, but you can purchase them as a set);

  • or improvise with a fine sieve lined with double thickness of cheesecloth; Wash and scald bags, muslin, cheesecloth before use;

  • When dry, press with a hot iron to sterilize.
Containers & Covers:
  • Jars must be scrupulously lean and sterilized before use;

  • Dishwasher set on hot, fulfills requirements, so run it through the cycle just before potting;

  • Alternatively, wash jars in hot, soapy water, rinse well and drain until nearly dry. Put in a cold oven and heat at 300F/150C for 10-15 minutes.

  • Olive oil and vinegar bottles, well washed, dried and sealed with a lined screwtop or cork are good for flavored vinegars;

  • lids with vinegar proof inner plastic or rubber rings are best all-around covers;

  • lids with no inner rings may be used for vinegar-free preserves;

  • jars can be sealed with cellophane covers (no, this is not plastic wrap)- dip each cover in water. Place damp side down, over the jar. Stretch cellophane tightly, holding it in place with a rubber band. Top with waxed paper circle first cut to fit the top of the jar. Place directly on hot preserve. Screw on the lid or stretch over the cellophane cover.
Stay tuned for more tips here and more recipes here. First simple recipe is for Chef Craig's Amazing Pickled Beets and is pictured above. I can't wait for my trip to the market this Saturday. I saw lots of bunches of young carrots last week, so I'm sure to score big!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Converting Fresh Fenugreek Leaves to Dried

I received a plea for help from a reader and, although I've given the generic response, I'm wondering if any of you have a more definitive answer for Phil.

Phil: ....for advice on dried-vs-fresh fenugreek/methi conversions. I'm hoping you can help me in this regard: a chicken fenugreek recipe I've found calls for "a bunch" of fresh leaves...what might that be in "dried" terms?

Ruth: Like any fresh to dried substitution, it's 1 tablespoon of fresh leaves to 1 teaspoon of dried. I'm not sure what an actual "bunch" of fresh fenugreek looks like, because that depends on the time of year, the shop you're buying them at.... Sometimes bunches large, other times small. So I suggest starting with 1 tablespoon of dried fenugreek leaves, let it simmer in the sauce for a couple of minutes, taste and add more as you need, adding only 1 tsp at a time and letting it simmer before tasting and adding more.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More Tips on Herbs

I've shared a few tips about herbs before....especially about keeping fresh ones fresh longer and drying your fresh herbs.

And now that I have a lovely new book The Cook's Herb Garden and want to share a few things I found really interesting, not to mention the fantastic recipes like the rub I used to make Roasted Lamb with Oregano, Citrus & Rosemary Rub.

Probably the most frustrating part about buying fresh herbs is that they should be used quickly or will lose their wonderful fragrance...the reason we use them in the first place. I'm sure I'm not alone in needing a scant tablespoon or two of dill only to find a bunch that would keep a restaurant kitchen in business for a month.

Here are some great tips to extend the life of your cut herbs.

Short term Storage in the fridge:
Chopped herbs will save you prep time, especially if you're cooking for a crowd or making a few dishes that need last minute cooking (stir frying for example).
1. Rinse, drain and gently pat dry whole herbs.

2. Chop and place in small dishes or bowls.

3. Cover with dampened paper towels and chill for up to 3 days. If you need to store longer, cover with an additional layer of plastic wrap.

Whole herbs in the fridge:
1. Rinse, drain and gently pat dry.

2. Dampen a sheet of paper towel, squeeze out excess water and flatten. The damp towel prevents the herbs from drying out.

3. Fold and wrap the paper towel loosely around the stems or around the whole sprig.

4. Slip the wrapped herbs in a freezer bag, flatten gently to remove some of the air. Seal the bag and chill in the fridge for up to a week. And if you're lucky enough to have a local farmers market with a vendor or two that sells herbs - usually picked the day before, they'll last even longer.

Freezing herbs:
Most herbs will keep their flavour when frozen, but will not look very pretty. So they are best used in salad dressings, sauces, stuffings, soups and other slow cooked dishes.

Here are a few options:
Herb oil mix -
1. Coarsely chop the herbs in a food processor. With the motor running, add just enough olive oil to lightly coat the herbs (about 1 tbsp oil to 3 tbsp herbs)

2. Spoon the mixture into small freezer bags and seal securely. Or my favorite way...use Glad seal n press wrap...lay one sheet flat, spoon 1 tbsp portions of the herb mix over top, leaving about 1-2 inches between portions. Lay a second layer of wrap over top and seal around each portion. Then place in a zip lock freezer bag, label and store for up to 4 months.

Herb Ice Cubes - best for soups or other hot liquids.
1. Finely chop individual types of herbs or your favorite blend.

2. Fill an ice cube tray to the brim with herbs and pour some water over top - just enough to cover. Freeze until solid (about 2 hours).

3. Pop the frozen cubes out and lip into freezer bags. Seal, label and freeze for up to 6 months.

Please share your favorite ways in the comments.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Salad Dressing Tips

I recently got a new cookbook - Salad Dressing 101: Dressings for All Occasions. I do make a good vinaigrette, changing up my oils and vinegars to match the rest of the meal, but somehow, I find myself falling into a rut. The intro is so great, I thought I'd share some of Nathan Hyam's tips with you.
"'s best to remember that (the dressing) is really a seasoning meant to enhance the main ingredients. It should augment their flavors, not overpower them....

1. Transluscent mixtures of oil and vinegar, with added taste elements such as herbs, are best when paired with leafy greens.

2. Creamy dressings with their thicker texture are ideal with heavier ingredients like vegetables, pastas, grains or potatoes and meats.

3. Vinaigrettes (from the French vin aigre "sour wine") are very versatile and can be used to dress most types of salads. "
Key things to remember: flavor & texture of the salad ingredients, plus what ever else you're serving along with the salad. For more about the book and a couple of the recipes I've tried so far...check here.

Spring is here...and so are local baby greens and fresh herbs...have fun with your salad and leave any tip you might have in the comments.