Everyday kitchen problems solved
An attractive blend of the esoteric and the essential is the best way to describe James Peterson’s latest book, the digest-sized (yet still substantial) “What’s a Cook to Do?” It’s a how-to manual for the home cook with 484 handy kitchen tips and tricks.Some of the tips are basic (how to deglaze a pan). Others are the sort that most home cooks will never use (how to use a red-hot metal skewer to decorate a cake). But most tackle the sort of everyday problems everyone struggles with, such as how to patch pie crust, what to do if your whipped cream weeps, and how to chill wine fast (hint: kosher salt).Simple recipes and great photographs throughout make the book especially useful. A truly inspired section on seasonings guides novice cooks on using (or in many cases using up) various herbs, from basil and bay leaves to tarragon and thyme.New gear: Spin ‘n StorNo more bulky salad spinners. That’s the promise from Argee Corp.’s Spin ‘n Stor bags, which (like the device they aim to supplant) are intended to remove excess water from freshly washed greens.
Like spinners, Spin ‘n Stor bags work by centrifugal force. Wet greens are placed in the bags, which are twisted shut and spun for about 10 seconds (children would love this). The water collects in channels along the outer edge of the bags and is poured out.Tested against a salad spinner, the Spin ‘n Stor held its own on salad greens and cilantro, but left dill a bit watery.The “Stor” in the name refers to using the bags to store the greens after draining the water. The bags did work well for this, keeping the greens just moist enough to stay fresh and crisp.These would be good for space-starved apartment dwellers. However, the bags needed to be spun with considerable force to get them to drain well, which some users might find onerous.On the table: Carrot Bisque
(Start to finish: 25 minutes)Naturally sweet carrots make a terrific – and simple – pureed bisque. A bit of creme fraiche (sour cream would work, too) and fresh dill add depth. For a bit of kick, add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes at the start of the recipe.1 1/2 pounds carrots (multiple colors, such as yellow and orange, are nice), cut into large chunks1 large yellow onion, chopped1 quart low-sodium chicken broth2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
4 ounces creme fraicheSalt and freshly ground black pepperIn a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the carrots, onion and broth. Bring to a boil and cook until carrots are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 to 12 minutes.Carefully transfer the carrots, onions and broth to a blender. Add the dill and creme fraiche, then puree until smooth. If desired, the bisque can be thinned by adding water or milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with bread.Makes 4 to 6 servings.