Crispy Cucumber from my new Chamber Vacuum Sealer

Because I cook sous-vide so often, a vacuum sealer is a necessity in my kitchen. The simple ‘clamp’ or ‘edge’ vacuum sealer (also known as ‘Foodsaver type’ vacuum sealer) that I have been using for three years is starting to fall apart and so it was time for a new one. That was a good excuse reason to purchase a chamber vacuum sealer. Continue reading “Crispy Cucumber from my new Chamber Vacuum Sealer”

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Richard’s Ancho Chile Rub

Months ago I received a surprise package from Richard McGary with a challenge and lots of chile peppers. One of the contents of the package was a jar with Richard’s homemade Ancho Chile Rub. This is a spice mix with ancho chile as the main ingredient that I liked a lot. I tried it with salmon and tuna. The ancho chile rub is not just spicy — it has a deep earthy flavor that goes well with both meat and fish. I liked it so much in fact, that I finished the jar that Richard sent pretty quickly. And so I had to make my own. Continue reading “Richard’s Ancho Chile Rub”

Tuna Confit Sous-Vide

Canned tuna is cheap, but often of inferior quality. The tuna is dry and tastes mostly of salt. I have found good quality ‘organic’ canned tuna from the Ortiz brand, but that is more expensive than sashimi grade fresh tuna. So when I read about tuna cooked sous-vide with olive oil at 71ºC/160ºF for an hour as a tasty alternative for canned tuna on SVKitchen.com, my interest was piqued and I decided to give this a try. As the tuna will be pasteurized with this cooking time and temperature, it is perfectly fine to use frozen tuna for this that is a lot cheaper than sushi grade fresh tuna. Continue reading “Tuna Confit Sous-Vide”

Homemade Flour Tortillas

After yesterday’s post telling you about making the components for fajitas from scratch, it’s not much of a surprise that today’s post is about making homemade flour tortillas.

I have a confession to make. I’m not good with rolling pins. Maybe it’s a matter of patience (of which I have very little), but I always get grumpy when I try to roll out dough with a rolling pin. I especially hate it when it keeps shrinking (I know it helps to allow the dough to rest to avoid this, but still). This is why I never make pasta the classical way with a rolling pin (which according to Italians is the superior method), but with a pasta rolling machine. And this is also part of the reason why I never made flour tortillas from scratch before. So when I was purchasing some dried chipotle and ancho chiles from an online store that sells Mexican stuff, on a whim I clicked and added a tortilla press to my order. Continue reading “Homemade Flour Tortillas”

Salsa Roja (Roasted Tomato Salsa)

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I like making everything from scratch using fresh ingredients. Chicken fajitas are one of my favorite dishes to prepare when I don’t have time and/or equipment to make everything from scratch (like when we are vacationing in an RV), as they are very tasty and store-bought flour tortillas and salsa are of acceptable quality. I had never made fajitas from scratch yet, and I wanted to try to see if it would be worth the effort compared to using store-bought components. And so I needed to make my own salsa as one of the components. Continue reading “Salsa Roja (Roasted Tomato Salsa)”

Brown Beef Stock

Home-made stock is an important success factor to many dishes and sauces. It is vastly superior to bouillon cubes and in most cases also better than anything else you can buy in a store. It’s not hard to make — it just takes a bit of time. After the success of pressure-cooked chicken stock I am a strong supporter of using a pressure cooker to make stock (with the most important reason more flavor, not the shorter cooking time), and so I also prepared this beef stock in my pressure cooker. You could however also prepare it in an ordinary pot and it will still turn out great. Continue reading “Brown Beef Stock”

Is a Pressure Cooker better for making Stock?

You may not believe this, but until recently I did not own a pressure cooker. I didn’t know much about pressure cookers and I never really saw the need for one. I knew a pressure cooker cooks at a higher temperature in a shorter time, but since I’m mostly interested in cooking at a lower temperature at a longer time (such as sous-vide), that doesn’t seem very appealing to me. After some of my gourmet friends told me that it really worked better for making stock, I decided to buy one. Of course the first thing to try it with was homemade stock. Is a pressure cooker really better for making stock? Time for another side-by-side experiment! Continue reading “Is a Pressure Cooker better for making Stock?”

Homemade Pesto: Man versus Machine

Freshly made pesto is vastly superior to anything bought in a jar, which is why I never buy pesto and always make it myself from scratch. I’ve always used the ‘modern’ way of making pesto: in the food processor or blender. My Italian blogging buddy Tuttacronaca convinced me to try at least once to make it using the traditional method with mortar and pestle. And so I decided to do a side-by-side comparison. The word “pesto” has been derived from the word “pestle”. Making pesto in the food processor takes only a few minutes, whereas by hand with mortar and pestle it almost requires half an hour of hard work. So it’d better be worth it! Is it? Read on to find out! Continue reading “Homemade Pesto: Man versus Machine”

Brown Chicken Stock

Good quality chicken is often sold as whole chickens. I take off the legs and breast, and use the rest to make stock. When making stock from bones, chefs differentiate between ‘white’ stock and ‘brown’ stock. The difference is that white stock is made from raw or blanched bones, whereas for brown stock the bones are roasted first. Brown stock has a more rich, fuller flavor than white stock. For the best Coq au Vin sauce, it is best to use a brown stock. Since I posted about Coq au Vin the other day, I thought I’d share a recipe for brown chicken stock with you. Please note that I did not include salt in the recipe because it is never a good idea to add salt to stock before you know what you are going to do with it. You may have to simmer the stock down to make a sauce, and then it may end up too salty. Continue reading “Brown Chicken Stock”

How to make Fresh Pasta Dough using a Stand Mixer

I’m really happy with my new stand mixer. One of the things it does really well is making pasta dough. Of course you can also do this by hand, but especially when you’d like to make pasta dough from eggs and 100% semola di grano duro rimanicato (rather than 50% or 100% flour of type “00”) it is much more pleasant to use the stand mixer instead. Such dough can be very tough and difficult to knead, but the stand mixer does the trick as easily as with 00 flour. A stand mixer is also great if you’re lazy! Sometimes … Continue reading How to make Fresh Pasta Dough using a Stand Mixer

Italian Green Sauce (Salsa Verde)

Salsa Verde is a green sauce that is great with boiled meats, like the chicken that’s left over when you make brodo (broth) for tortellini. It is also good with steamed or baked fish. Salsa verde turns bland fish or chicken into something really nice. With a blender it is very easy to make. The main ingredients are parsley, capers, garlic, anchovies, vinegar, and olive oil. There are many recipes for salsa verde around, some also include pickles, fresh breadcrumbs, or hard-boiled egg yolks. I like to include a bell pepper. In the photo you can see that the Salsa Verde I … Continue reading Italian Green Sauce (Salsa Verde)

How to Rescue Wilted Basil (or Parsley)

No recipe today but just a simple trick. I tried it on a hunch and was surprised how well it worked! Basil is notoriously difficult to keep because the leaves are not very robust and can’t withstand refrigerator temperatures — they turn black when kept below 12C/55F or so. But outside of the fridge basil wilts easily, as shown in the picture above. If it is only just a bit limp but not completely dry or black, it can be rescued with a very simple trick! Just submerge the wilted basil in cold (not too cold) clean water and wait. … Continue reading How to Rescue Wilted Basil (or Parsley)

Home-made Mayonnaise

One of the basics that many people fear is making your own mayonnaise from scratch. It is actually quite easy if you follow three rules: make sure the egg yolks and the oil are the same (room) temperature, separate the egg yolks neatly, and start by adding the oil drop for drop. It also helps to have an electric appliance (mixer, food processor, blender) to do the whisking for you, but you can also make it by hand. Mayonnaise is one of the basic sauces, and in the Netherlands and Belgium it can’t be missed with fries. Mayonnaise is an … Continue reading Home-made Mayonnaise

Lamb Stock

A lamb menu (more about that in yesterday’s post) would not be complete without sauces based on stock made from the bones and scraps of meat from the same lamb. And so I asked the butcher for some of the bones and used them to make a stock. Making a meat stock is very easy and doesn’t take a lot of active time. The process is the same for most types of stock, the main difference is that in lamb stock you use bones from lamb, in beef stock from beef, etc. The quality of the stock is very important … Continue reading Lamb Stock

Home-made Beef Gravy

When preparing meat and gravy, you always have to decide whether you want most of the taste to be in the meat or in the gravy.  It is very simple really: all the flavor that goes into the gravy, will go out of the meat. You can’t have both, unless you cheat a little by using other meat to flavor your gravy. And that’s exactly what this recipe is for, or for cases when you just want the gravy and don’t need the meat. Of course you can buy gravy in the store, but home-made is so much better and really … Continue reading Home-made Beef Gravy

Clarified Butter

So far, I have been too lazy to had never seen the need  make clarified butter. I mostly used a mixture of olive oil and butter when I wanted to brown something. The butter did burn once in a while when I wasn’t being  careful with the heat, but I didn’t really know how to clarify and just didn’t bother. I finally did give it a try, and it turned out to be quite easy and make a huge difference: both easier and better browning! So from now on I will be clarifying butter, and I urge you to not … Continue reading Clarified Butter

Dashi sous-vide

Dashi, a stock from kombu seaweed and bonito flakes, is as essential to Japanese cooking. It is used as a basic ingredient in so many dishes that it has a big influence on the taste of a Japanese meal. It is used in many soups or sauces, including miso soup and tempura sauce. Kikunoi is a famous restaurant from Kyoto with three Michelin stars that has been named after the well from which it draws the water for its dashi. We ate at the Tokyo branch, where they use dashi made from water from the original Kyoto well. That’s how … Continue reading Dashi sous-vide

Home-made Ricotta

  I had never made my own ricotta before. It turns out to be surprisingly easy and surprisingly tasty. It is even cheaper than buying ready-made ricotta. I found this recipe with Google, tried it and loved it! Since I wanted to use it for dessert, I decided to add some additional cream. Ingredients For approximately 1 cup (250 ml) ricotta 1 liter (4 cups) whole milk 2 Tbsp white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar since that is what I had) pinch of salt optional: 100 ml (3/8 cups) whipping cream Preparation   Put the milk (and the cream, … Continue reading Home-made Ricotta

How to make home-made Vegetable Stock

The success of dishes such as soup and risotto depends to a great extent on the stock used. It will be so much better if you make your own stock from scratch rather than using a bouillon cube. I was about to post a recipe that requires vegetable stock, and realized that I had not posted about how to make vegetable stock yet. So this one comes first, and the truffle, leek and shallot risotto will follow tomorrow. The nice thing is that you can make this for free if you save up vegetable scraps in the crisper of your … Continue reading How to make home-made Vegetable Stock

How to use juices from the bag after sous-vide braising

I don’t like to throw away food and when I’m cooking I definitely don’t want to throw away any flavor. So when I brown meat, I always deglaze the pan to make a sauce out of the browned bits that have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pan. I’ve been cooking sous-vide for over a year now, but until recently I had not figured out how to use the juices that are left in the bag after cooking something sous-vide. Especially when braising meat for two to three days, there can be a lot of juice and since it … Continue reading How to use juices from the bag after sous-vide braising

Slow food: Ragù alla Bolognese

One of the most well-known Italian dishes outside of Italy is Spaghetti alla Bolognese. The funny thing about this is that Bolognese Meat Sauce (Ragù Bolognese) originates from the city of Bologna, where it is never eaten over spaghetti but always over fresh tagliatelle! So Spaghetti alla Bolognese is not really an Italian dish, even though today you can eat it in restaurants in Italy, especially the tourist traps. Another common misconception is that Ragù alla Bolognese is a quick sauce of tomato sauce and ground beef. First of all it is not quick but should simmer for hours, and … Continue reading Slow food: Ragù alla Bolognese

How to make fresh spinach pasta

The ‘how to’ I wrote for making fresh pasta did mention spinach pasta, but didn’t really go into the details. I took some pictures when I recently made spinach tagliatelle with white ragù so now I can show step by step how to make fresh home-made spinach pasta from scratch. Spinach pasta can be used for all kinds of pasta such as tagliatelle, lasagne or ravioli. Ingredients per person: 1 egg, 100 grams (3/4 cup) of semolina flour, 50 grams (2 oz) of fresh spinach. You can go as high as 100 grams (4 oz) of fresh spinach, but then … Continue reading How to make fresh spinach pasta

How to make your own Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto is one of those things that is so much better when you make it yourself rather than buy it in a store! I’m talking about the most common and famous type of pesto here: Pesto alla Genovese. This sauce is made from basil, pine nuts, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, aged pecorino, and some salt. If you buy a jar of pesto in a store, chances are that it will contain parsley, sunflower oil, cashew nuts, or even potato. Not to mention preservatives. But the worst problem is that store-bought pesto in most cases has a strong … Continue reading How to make your own Pesto alla Genovese

How to make fish stock

Homemade fish stock is an essential ingredient for seafood risotto, soups and sauces. It is easy to make and handy to keep deep-frozen. Ingredients For 1 liter (1 quart) of fish stock: 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of fresh fish bones and heads of white fish (fatty fish such as salmon gives a different flavor) 450 grams (1 pound) of mixed aromatic vegetables such as carrots, leeks, celery stalks, onions, fennel trimmings 1 tomato 1 sprig thyme 1 bay leaf some pepper corns olive oil Preparation Make sure to remove the gills and eyes from the fish heads and soak the … Continue reading How to make fish stock

How to make fresh pasta

With some practice, fresh pasta is quite easy to make and does not take that much time. Especially if you are not making a large quantity. The taste and especially the texture are better from what you can buy in a store, and the best thing is: you can make your own stuffed pasta such as ravioli and tortellini. Store-bought ravioli stuffing very often mostly consists of bread crumbs and other ‘fillers’. Home-made stuffed pasta is always a big hit at my dinner parties because of the wonderful light texture of the  pasta and the delicious filling. Some people think … Continue reading How to make fresh pasta