Find us on Google+ cooking lounge * FOOD * LIFESTYLE * MUSIC *: March 2010

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Top 10 Easy Cooking Tips

                               Spring, Awright!              photo wbj
FOOD/LIFESTYLE:
Lately, several people (yo! Gordon, was listening) have told me they would cook more and eat healthier, if they had a guide.  Once you wrap your head around 'no need for a big production' and understand the basics, cooking a good meal is simple.  In New York City, people expect and accept near empty fridges. 

Eating in means calling out.  With subtle lifestyle adjustments, you can chow fresh food and feel full and satisfied.  Plus, you will save a chunk of change.  That's money for drinks later.  Go out; it's Spring.

Here's the Cooking Lounge Top 10 for Easy Cooking.
Top 10 Easy Cooking Tips
  1. Olive Oil
  2. Butter
  3. Sea Salt and Black Peppercorns (buy a grinder)
  4. Brown Rice, whole grains or other good carbohydrates (fiber, fiber, fiber)
  5. Pasta
  6. Garlic
  7. Onions
  8. Quality Herbs and Spices (buy a pre-filled spice rack)
  9. Fresh produce (salad greens, tomato, zucchini, green beans, kale, spinach, whatever you eat or is convenient or is in SEASON).  Seasonal produce tends to be fresher, more local.
  10. Fresh chicken, beef, pork, seafood (or a meat substitute if a vege... protein is the point)
With the above items on hand a 30-minute meal is within reach.  
Let's be real.  This is doable.  You can pick-up a meat or a veg on the way home from work, or stock up on items over the weekend.  Plus, there are companies like Fresh Direct that will deliver in a lot of metropolitan areas.  If you travel a bit or have an unpredictable schedule, buy high quality frozen vegetables and stick the meat or seafood in the freezer (in serving portions - so it's grab, thaw, cook). 

The bottom-line is have it in the house; so, you can cook a quick, easy, healthy, meal.
Suggest you cook a batch of brown rice in advance when you have a little downtime because brown rice can take 45 minutes or so. Or get the quick cook version (not my usual choice).  With the cooked brown rice on hand, all you need to do is microwave or reheat with a little water and a touch of oil or butter in pan.  Quinoa is a great side dish that is making its way onto more US plates.  Pasta is a no brainer and fast.  Add whole-wheat pasta to your choices for a change.  

Now, all you have to do is saute, broil or bake your meat or seafood.  Make a salad.  Wilt some spinach with slivers of garlic and squeeze lemon over it.  Saute green beans and toss with strips of red peppers. Broil some zucchini brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs.  

Snap.  Done.  Minimal mess. Minimal fuss.  Minimal cost.  Give this a try!

Garden of Eden is one of my favorite food places in the New York City area.  They import a wide range of specialty foods; so if you look around, you will find bargains.  Check out the Garden of Eden with shelves and aisles ladened with goodness.  

Oh and as I have noted before, I am not a health or food expert; so, it is best to check with you doctor prior to making significant lifestyle changes.

MUSIC:
Spare beauty and a dark resonance haunts The xx's music.  The single "Crystalised" topped the UK charts in 2009.  I listened to several tracks on the debut release "xx" plus some Rough Trade bonus tracks.  "Heart Skipped a Beat" is my favorite at the moment.  Thought of the soulful, engrossing pull of Portishead on "Dummy" while listening to The xx.   "VCR" is the  latest single, released in January 2010.  Here's the video.

Enjoy!
Cooking Lounge

Monday, March 8, 2010

Beef Stew Slow Cooked in Red Wine with Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms - Beef Bourguignon

FOOD:
Beef Slow Cooked in Red Wine with Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms
Craving food that envelops you in comfort?  Beef Bourguignon is perfect.  Sooo much snow the last few weeks, right as you start thinking, winter's end.  Bacchanal celebrations to chase away the dead season have waned.  Come oooon Spring.  Knee-deep snow still covering the ground, icy rain slicking streets, brisk sunny days turning into near freezing nights, make stews and soups seem more appropriate, more seasonal.  I used Julia Child's classic Beef Bourguignon recipe as a guide to making this beef stew slow cooked in red wine (a very traditional French favorite).  
Here's what I did:
Serves 6, easily stretched to 8.  
8 oz of slab bacon
3.5 lbs of lean beef.  I used a rump roast ( cut into 2 inch cubes).
2 diced carrots.  If you want, use whole baby carrots...nice presentation; guesstimate on amount 1/3 - 1/2 of a cup.
1 large onion diced
3 cups of hearty red wine.  Selected a liter bottle of Chilean Concho y Toro, the ubiquitous brand of choice at gallery openings for awhile.  Went with Frontera, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend...drinkable (yep!) and very reasonably priced around $12.00.  I marinated the beef over night in 1 1/2 cups of wine with thyme, garlic and a little salt and pepper. Some recipes marinated for two days.  Julia Child's not all.  Do your own thing.
2-3 cups of beef stock.  I made my own.  But a quality packaged stock works. 
1lb - 1 1/2lb Small boiling onions.  You want 18 - 24 according to Julia Child. I added more.
1 lb of small whole Crimini mushrooms
1 tbs of Tomato sauce
2 tsp Sea salt
1 tbs of cracked whole black peppercorns (use less if you like)
Garlic
Thyme
Bay Leaves
Olive oil
Flour
Sides Dishes
Green beans (threw in a few sauteed cloves of garlic and grape tomatoes for color)
Little Fingerling potatoes boiled in salted water w/ bay leaf
Hardware: Fireproof casserole dish (like Le Creuset) or a Dutch oven as most people know this type of sturdy stove top to oven cookware.   Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Drain the marinade from the beef and blot dry with paper towels.
Trim the rind from the bacon.  Cut into chunky strips.  Toss all into a quart or so of water and boil for 10 minutes.  Drain and place chunky strips on the side.  Then saute for a couple of minutes to brown in casserole/Dutch oven.  Remove bacon.   In same pan, brown small batches of beef in the bacon fat. Set aside with bacon.  Saute diced onion and carrots in bacon fat; you may need to add a little additional oil.  Remove the onions and carrots; place with the bacon and beef.  Empty the oil.  Return beef, bacon, onions and carrots to pan.  Sprinkle in salt and pepper then dust with flour, tossing all through these steps.  Place in the HOT oven (450 degrees) uncovered for about 5 minutes, toss, and return to oven for about 4 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Lower temp to 325 degrees.  Time for the wine.   Stir in the wine, beef stock to cover meat.  Add tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf (remember to remove bay at end).  Cover and place oven.  Slow cookfor approximately 3 hours until meat is fork tender.
Now the onions and the mushrooms:
Basically you need to braise, saute, boil or roast the onions and mushrooms because they are going to be added just before serving. Cook them how you like.
Finishing Beef Slow Cooked in Red Wine with Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms.
When beef is done, use a colander over a saucepan to drain off all the luscious liquid that will become the sauce. Skim fat from the top and reduce the cooking liquid. May want to add a little butter or cream, maybe a bit more wine. After thickened, the sauce can be refined by pouring through a sieve. Wash up the casserole pan because all the ingredients go back in and it can be used for serving. Add all the elements. Pour on the sauce and the Beef Slow cooked in Red Wine with Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms is ready to serve.
Here's a video impression of the process.

video:wbj
Enjoy!
Cooking Lounge

Thursday, March 4, 2010

GQ Cooks Eat + Drink: GQ.com, 10 essential tips

LIFESTYLE:
Knowing how to cook warms hearts, stomachs and beds.  It's no secret women love a guy who knows his way around a kitchen.  Skilled hands are useful.  Eating is sensual.  
The GQ Cooks article/slideshow caught my eye.  Contains lots of helpful, practical information.  

GQ Cooks 10 essential tips, techniques, and secrets that every man should know.

Enjoy!
Cooking Lounge