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Parchment Paper: For Wrapping, Lining, and More

by Elizabeth Skipper September 11th, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
parchment pdParchment paper is indispensable to the French cook, and once you learn its many uses, you'll wonder how you lived without it. While it used to be difficult to find outside specialty stores, it's now readily available in grocery stores. If you don't use it very often, a roll of parchment paper – the way it's sold in grocery stores – doesn't take up much room. However, I suggest you do what the pros do and buy it by the sheet. Without the frustration of dealing with the curl it takes on when stored on a roll, you'll reach
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Garlic Oil & Flavored Oil, Continued

by Elizabeth Skipper August 28th, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
garlic n oil Jean ScheijenI ended my column on roasted garlic and garlic oil with a strong warning about the danger of botulism poisoning from raw garlic-infused oil. Let's pick up where I left off.

Usually it's fairly easy to tell when food is spoiled. Botulism isn't obvious, however – the food can look and smell normal. This is why home canning guidelines are so strict. And with raw garlic oil, the heat used in canning which might kill the micro-organisms isn't even present.

But garlic preserved in oil is readily available commercially – why is that safe? If you read the label, in
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Roasted Garlic and Garlic Oil the Easy Way

by Elizabeth Skipper August 14th, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
garlic n oil Jean ScheijenRecently I tried out a clay garlic roaster I've had for awhile. Following directions, I cut across the top of a head of garlic, placed it in the roaster, poured over a bit of extra virgin olive oil, put on the cover, and baked it at 350°F for the better part of an hour.

Some problems were immediately apparent. Unless all the cloves in a head of garlic converge at more or less the same height in the center, some will have too much cut off and others, not enough. The roaster is only large enough to fit one smallish
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Pepper: Any Color, Just Grind It Fresh

by Elizabeth Skipper July 31st, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
peppermill framedSalt & pepper. Trips off the tongue, doesn't it? They're so often linked we don't pay much attention to just the pepper portion of this seasoning duo. Lots of us use pepper as an adjunct to salt without really thinking about it.

Common and reasonably priced now, piper nigrum has a long history as a prized spice. In addition to the way its pungent flavor enhances the taste of food, pepper aids in digestion, contains some vitamins and minerals, and supposedly has antioxidant and antibacterial effects as well. Finding its way into most savory dishes and even some desserts, it's
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Berries, Jams & Jellies

by Elizabeth Skipper July 17th, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
strawberry jamSummer's in full swing, although many of us here in NH are wondering when we'll get to enjoy it. It's either been too wet or too hot and humid to want to venture outside except at dawn or dusk, and of course that's when the mosquitoes attack. But weather which makes me wilt is just what raspberries like, apparently, because this year the bushes have provided a bumper crop.

I've harvested enough to make a 100% raspberry pie – a first – sent some home with my daughter, frozen a couple of quarts, and eaten more than one bowl of
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Spatulas — Not All Created Equal

by Elizabeth Skipper July 3rd, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
spatulaKnowing what I wanted to write about this week, I asked my daughter while she was here what her favorite spatula was. "The blue one I had when I lived in my last place," she answered without hesitation. Ah, so she clearly had a preference. I asked what made it her favorite. She said the fact that it had a short offset handle and the blade was long (rather than the other way around), it wasn't too thick, and it had a thin edge.

I brought out my favorite spatula and asked, "You mean like this one?"

"Yes, exactly," she replied,
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Garlic: Bread and Beyond

by Elizabeth Skipper June 19th, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
garlicDid my mom use garlic in her cooking? If so, with one exception, I have no recollection of it. The exception was a garlic spread for bread she bought in a little plastic jar, and boy, did I love that stuff. I'm trying to remember now, was it mixed with softened or melted butter (or worse, margarine) before smearing between slices of an Italian loaf? I know the loaf was wrapped in foil and baked, then served hot. Soft, buttery, and overwhelmingly garlicky, it made any meal special for me.

Now I wouldn't touch it. The last time I saw
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Bring Out the Umami

by Elizabeth Skipper June 5th, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
ribs n friesHow is it that different cooks can use the same recipe and come out with such different results? It's because a recipe is a description of how to create a dish, and those directions can be interpreted differently. Some people know instinctively how to get the most out of ingredients, cooking methods, and flavorings; others need a little help.

It begins with – I'm sure you've heard this multiple times – selecting good ingredients. A mealy, too young tomato can never rival a properly ripe one. It means knowing how and when it's OK to make substitutions. Someone who shall
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Equipping a Kitchen on the Cheap

by Elizabeth Skipper May 22nd, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
wall o skilletsIs it possible to have too many toys in the kitchen? Even I think so, although it's tempting to accumulate more when it can be done so inexpensively. I've been adding to my kitchen collection for years now, and still find things I'd like to have. All I need is more room.

But let's say you're starting from scratch. If you look at cookware catalogs, or browse those departments at large stores or retailers, it seems a large outlay of cash is needed to outfit your kitchen with the finest catering equipment. Sometimes I think I'd like to start
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Thanks, Mom

by Elizabeth Skipper May 8th, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
sunflower kitchenThe kitchen of the house I grew up in was nothing special. In fact, as I reconstruct it now in my mind's eye, it was pretty limited. The counters were surfaced in that wretched tiny tile which was so hard to keep clean, the counter space was minimal as were the cupboards; and the stove was in a bad location, too far from the counters and sink, with no place near it to set anything down. The refrigerator was one of those old ones with a freezing compartment inside it rather than a separate freezer, which required defrosting on
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Pan Sauces: Quick and Delicious

by Elizabeth Skipper April 24th, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
steak n sauceOne of the easiest and quickest ways to cook thinner, smaller pieces of meats is to pan-fry or pan-grill them. However, served up as soon as they're cooked, without any embellishment, the results can be boring. Chicken, no matter how good it is, or steak, is just that. Pan sauces open a whole world of new flavors which enhance plain meats, and they're easy to make.

There are other kinds of pan sauces, but today I'm writing about those built on the flavorful bits, left in the pan after you've cooked a meat, which are too good to waste. The
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Using Salts

by Elizabeth Skipper April 10th, 2013| Techniques, Tools, and Tips
salt shakerGiven how frequently I'm asked about salt(s), perhaps a column on the salts found on my counter and how I use them is of interest. Here's the line-up: coarse Celtic sea salt in a grinder, fine Celtic sea salt in a shaker, extremely fine Real Salt (that's the name of it) from Utah in a shaker, and Diamond Crystal kosher salt in a glass jar.

Which do I reach for, and why? When I need salt in quantity, say for pasta-cooking or vegetable-blanching water, the Diamond Crystal kosher variety is my go-to. It's inexpensive and not overly salty; and while
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