Knife Skills: How To Dice, Julienne, Brunoise & Batonnet by Jacob Burton from Stella Culinary

Every now and again, I try to brush up on my knife skill knowledge. I still don’t have the best cutting techniques, but I’m always trying to work on them. Stella Culinary has some great instructional videos, to this end. Today, just a review of those little cuboids and cuboe: julienne, brunoise, and batonnet.

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A Guide To Truffles, The Funkiest Of The Fungi by gothamist

If I had a truffle… If I had a truffle, I would shave it over fresh baked sourdough toast drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fleur de sel.  If I had a truffle, I would shave it over a steaming bowl of Isa Chandra’s “Glam Chowder.”  If I had a truffle, I would have friends over EVERY day to have a _________________ with truffles dinner.

But, alas… I do not have a truffle.

Ok, so, instead, I DO use truffle oil… because I’m a GRAD STUDENT… and, yes, I know what truffle oil is… I do… If I didn’t, I surely got suspicious when I saw it in Trader Joe’s (no disrespect TJs, but let’s be real) and on more folks’ french fries than I could count.  But, as with any rage about an ingredient, so few people really understand what a truffle is or why they should even eat it.  Anyway, here’s a great article from gothamist that breaks it ALL down.

A Guide To Truffles, The Funkiest Of The Fungi

By Nell Casey
October 14, 2013

Black truffle.  Image courtesy of TheItalianRetreat

Black truffle. Image courtesy of TheItalianRetreat

Truffles, truffles, truffles—they’re all over the foodiot blogs and local chefs have been worked into a tizzy over these odd-looking little lumps. With autumn comes truffle season, which means you’ll be seeing the funky fungi pop up on menus all over the place, demanding that you part with serious cash for a shower of shavings on top of your agnolotti. “Aren’t truffles just some bourgey ingredient chefs like to tack on to dishes to jack up the price?” skeptics will ask. You’ll be tempted to listen to them, but don’t. Yes, truffles can be expensive, but they are also really, really delicious and—if you known the right way to go about it—very much worth your money.

We’ve put together a little Truffle FAQ for anyone wanting to know what all the fuss is about and, hopefully, also interested in seeking out some truffles of their own.

So aren’t truffles really just absurdly priced mushrooms? In a sense, yes. Truffles are a type of fungus that grows on the roots of trees like oaks and beeches, drawing nutrients from the tree and developing its musky flavor. In certain parts of the world truffles are cultivated in special fields, though for many purists they’re still foraged in the wild, which is why you’re going to be paying hundreds of dollars for something that most closely resembles a rock and kind of smells a little funky. Originally, foragers used pigs to scout out the goods, though their eagerness to eat the truffle has caused many regions to switch to using dogs. In Italy, it’s actually against the law to use pigs to hunt truffles.

Read the rest, here.

How to Veganize Cakes: The Basics, from One Green Planet

Yay, One Green Planet!!  This is a perfect “get started” with vegan cake baking.  I have recently switched from looking for vegan recipes to converting some of my favorites from my pre-vegan-eating (even pre-veggie) days.  It does make life a lot easier, and also means I can get back to The Joy of Cooking–which may, always, be my favorite cookbook, ever!

How to Veganize Cakes: The Basics

The basis for most vegan cakes is simple. You make a dry mixture and a wet mixture, and combine them. Easy! Once you get the hang of the concept, this simplicity means it’s easy to play with ingredients and create your own inventive recipes. Before you start getting creative, just master these basics.

1. Make a thicker batter

The main difference between ‘traditional’ and vegan cake batters is the consistency.  Vegan cake batter should be much thicker – like a softly melting ice cream rather than a liquid batter. This is why many first-time vegan bakers end up with something quite stodgy, because there was simply too much liquid in their batter.

One reason for this difference is the use of, or absence of, eggs. Think about what happens when egg is heated – it goes from liquid to solid. In a traditional batter, the egg part of the batter literally solidifies as it cooks, turning from liquid into solid to hold the risen structure firmly in place. In vegan baking, the batter doesn’t travel so far along the liquid-solid spectrum, so you need to start with something thicker.

2. Make sure there is a binding ingredient

If you are using flour that contains gluten (wheat or spelt), the gluten will do the job of binding the ingredients. However, it’s advisable to include at least one of the following in your recipe to make sure you don’t end up with a cake that crumbles as you slice it:

  • 1tbsp ground golden linseed mixed with 2 tbsp water (can be used to replace 1 egg in any baking recipe)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp ground chia seeds mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • 100g silken tofu, blended smooth
  • 1 mashed banana

3. Reduce oven time

Many vegan cake batters will require less baking time because of their lower liquid content. With a fan oven, you probably won’t be waiting more than 15 minutes. The exception to this rule is brownies, which always need a longer time at a low temperature to make them really fudgey.

Read the rest of the article, here.

Review: Vegetable Cleavers by America’s Test Kitchen

If you’ve been watching this blog, you know I LOVE America’s Test Kitchen.  They are my go-to for equipment and grocery store food reviews.  Well… this is the newest thing I’ve been thinking about.

Fall is upon us (yay!), and an array of gorgeous gourds will be available soon.  I always struggle with cutting through acorn and butternut squashes.  What to do?  Well, how about the right tool:  a vegetable cleaver?

The winner: MAC 6 1/2" Japanese Style Vegetable Cleaver. Image courtesy of MAC.

The winner: MAC 6 1/2″ Japanese Style Vegetable Cleaver which retails for up to $105. Image courtesy of MAC.

From America’s Test Kitchen (and check out the site to watch the review video!  Totally worth it!!):

Overview:

What the heck is a vegetable cleaver? Rectangular vegetable cleavers, which are traditional in Asia, have a straighter edge that, unlike curving Western-style knives, stays in contact with food as you cut and chop, ostensibly streamlining vegetable prep. Unlike meat cleavers, which have thick, heavy blades and a blunter edge for hacking through bone, vegetable cleavers have thin blades that taper gently to a honed edge, for cleanly slicing vegetables and other, more delicate boneless foods.

There are two basic types of vegetable cleaver. Chinese-style vegetable cleavers (also known as Chinese chef’s knives) look like meat cleavers but are more slender and versatile: besides chopping vegetables and fruits, they’re also used for slicing boneless meats and mincing and crushing aromatics, and they can serve as a broad surface for scooping and transferring chopped food from cutting board to bowl or pan. Japanese-style vegetable cleavers (available either as double-bevel nakiri or single-bevel usuba) are shorter, resemble a squared-off santoku, and are primarily used for cutting vegetables. (According to experts in the field, santoku knives likely evolved from vegetable cleavers.)

We chose seven knives—three Chinese cleavers, three nakiri, and one usuba, priced from $30 to $190—and used them to dice onions, mince parsley, slice potatoes, and quarter butternut squash. Most sliced beautifully. Taller, heavier Chinese cleavers were easier to guide through large vegetables, and we found that their heft did most of the work. But they were too unwieldy for some testers, who preferred smaller, lighter Japanese blades.

Read the rest of the article and see the video, here.