in the fridge

The refrigerator – quite possibly the one invention of the 20th century to singlehandedly transform the possibilities of what one can accomplish in the kitchen. It would have blown the minds of our ancestors – plug it in, fill it up and you’re good to go. Gone are the days of cellars and ice houses – the question of the day was whether to salt, smoke, can, pickle or preserve. Thank goodness those dilemmas are now elective activities, thanks to our refrigerators. And unbeknownst to most, those pre-refrigeration preserving techniques wrecked just as much havoc on the integrity of food as does today’s modern options – a whole load of ingredients nobody can pronounce – who knew? Just as beef could swing in the wind for 8 months in the 1800’s, today’s jerky can sit on the shelves for just as long, if not longer.

fridge basics

The concept of food preservation it seems, will plague man until the end of time – how to extend the shelf life of fresh food. So let’s bring a little common sense back onto the table and just go for the freshest of ingredients, use them within a few days and go forage for more – like you’re supposed to. How do you think the farmers’ market got such an appealing reputation?

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Back to the fridge – it has undergone many an overhaul since its humble beginnings, and has often become more about design than functionality. Sure it can dispense ice and water with the door shut and display frozen items like diamonds under wraps at a jewelry counter –  but somewhere along the line, our refrigerators have been taken slightly for granted, have lost a little respect and been somewhat overlooked and under appreciated. What are we thinking? Life pre-fridge? Can you even imagine? Me neither!

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So time to show the fridge a little love – keep it clean (give it a regular wipe down), keep it current (if you’re not going to use it, get rid of it), keep it cold (no ice crystals, please) and learn what to keep where – there really is a method to the madness called the contents of your fridge.

cheeses

What on earth would we do without cheese? Well apparently we’ve never had to find out as it’s been around since sheep were household pets, when ancient Rome wasn’t and the convenience of storing foodstuffs (like milk) in animal stomach sacs gives new meaning to recycling! With the natural rennet (what you add to milk to make cheese) in the sacs, this undoubtedly gave birth to what we now have come to know and love as “cheese”. Cheese is the the wine of food, think about it – it gets better with age, it can be smooth and silky, think brie and chardonnay or it it can tap dance on your tongue as in stilton and shiraz. See? So there you have it, edible wine, and maybe that’s why these “sisters from another mister” and “brothers from another mother” are seen out and about on such a regular basis.

cheese cookbooks

cheese basics

And just a word about the madness below. Some might prefer a straight alphabetical listing. Straightforward & alphabetical? Definitely. Practical & functional? Not so much – and here’s why. Cheese is most often discussed in terms of usage which is determined by texture, often moreso than flavor. Translation – any soft cheese can substitute for another soft cheese, any hard cheese can step in for it’s sister. Cheese types can be used interchangeably as it is the texture that creates the desired result. The flavor is a whole other story and is really up to you.  If you don’t have cheddar, use swiss, if you don’t like brie, use goat, if stilton breaks the bank, use blue and hopefully your local cheese shop does a better job than this cheese emporium – regardless, find a good one, be adventuresome and discover the vast and varied world of cheese beyond cheddar!

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basic recipes

Cheese brings it all together – like church! There are no small cheeses! Cheese is happy to play whatever role is required – a walk-on bit part in a creamy dressing, a dusting over pasta or a smear before the bagel gets loaded. Or it’s ready for its’ close-up in a fondue or decadent mac & cheese, or it’s perfectly happy shining in a supporting role on a pizza or in a risotto. Think theatre, where playing second-string (no pun intended) has its rewards – just ask any of these supporting players who have attained great success in the second banana box. When cheese is a player, no matter what the role – the show cannot go on without it. Oh yes, the show must go on – but not without the cheese!

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soft cheeses

Usually headed for dips, cream sauces and desserts – soft cheeses bring the creamy to the party, we’re talking cream cheeses, mascarpone, ricotta. Just a dollop can bring it all together – transform a sauce, thicken yogurt for a dressing, become the topping for dessert or stand in for butter or oil over pasta or potatoes.

The soft cheeses with rinds, like brie & camembert melt into oozy heaven – I’m having a vision – a wedge of brie tucked into a steaming hot baked potato or cubes of camembert stirred into hot rice or broiled over bread – nuff said.

The sharper of the soft cheeses like feta and goat are great crumbled in and over anything – salads, pastas, egg dishes, meats, poultry – and you don’t need much. And the grainier of the soft cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese can be used as is, or puréed to a creamy smoothness with the help of your food processor or blender. Soft cheeses can pinch hit for each other, if you don’t have brie, use camembert, if you don’t have feta, use goat, if you don’t have mascarpone, use cream – you get the idea. You’re the cook – the last word is yours!

soft cheese basics

brie

camembert

cottage cheese

cream cheese

feta

goat cheese

mascarpone

ricotta

semi-soft cheeses

These cheeses melt beautifully, are great on pizza, in pastas, egg dishes, grilled breads – sneak it in anywhere you want to up the cheese factor. And remember, the line is fine between semi-soft and semi-hard (of course it is) – the line becomes a little clearer between semi-hard and hard (well, duh!). So let’s not split hairs, let’s split the difference – if it’s semi-soft to you and semi hard to your neighbour – move on. My point? Just make sure you keep a couple of the semi’s in your fridge for when you want to add a little ooze.

semi-soft cheese basics

havarti

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mozzarella

taleggio

semi-hard cheeses

My take on semi-hard cheeses is pretty much like my take on semi-soft – so much so, I’m going to repeat myself – a little – “the line is fine between semi-soft and semi-hard (of course it is) – the line becomes a little clearer between semi-hard and hard (well, duh!). So let’s not split hairs, let’s split the difference – if it’s semi-soft to you and semi hard to your neighbour – move on. My point? Just make sure you keep a couple of the semi’s in your fridge for when you want to add a little ooze.”

semi-hard cheese basics

cheddar

edam

emmental

fontina

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gouda

gruyère

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halloumi

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jarlsberg

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manchego

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monterey jack

provolone

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swiss

hard cheeses

There is no mistaking a hard cheese – we’re talking bricks, wheels and slabs of cheese that have been sleeping in the cellar for months, sometimes years. Don’t you think you’d get a little “hard” if that was your story. Of course, you would. We’d find you 3 years later with a pungent mindset, a salty attitude and I daresay a bit of a rind!

The beauty of hard cheeses? A little goes along way – which, by the way, applies to all sharply flavoured cheeses regardless of texture. When you grate, shred or shave any hard cheese – lives change! Talk about transforming pasta dishes; talk about keeping risotto happy; talk about instant crackers; not to mention where the heck a spicy chianti or fruity zinfandel would be without it. I rest my case.

hard cheese basics

asiago

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grana padano

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parmigiano-reggiano

pecorino romano

blue-veined cheeses

Blue cheeses are in a class by themselves and are probably are one of the founding members of the acquired tastes club – and when you acquire it, you’ll sure be glad you did. So once you’ve fallen in love with the biting, spicy, tangy, sharp flavours that are their trademark, your cooking style will be transformed. These have it all – creamy like gorgonzola, crumbly like roquefort and hard like stilton – and like all strongly flavoured cheeses, you don’t need much to make an impact – kinda like inviting Lady Gaga to a house party – she wouldn’t have to stay long to know she’s made an appearance. So get your Lady Gaga of the cheese plate going and bring on a bevy of big, bold, biting blues.

blue-veined cheese basics

blue

cambozola

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gorgonzola

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roquefort

stilton

condiments etc.

This is where you will find the magic. These are the real stars, the building blocks to sensational sauces, marinades, gravies and dips – supporting players in all culinary home runs. You can’t make great flavors happen without stimulating all the senses – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, heat (pungent) and acid (astringent). And I’m not the only one who thinks so, just see what the guru himself has to say about the power of hitting on all these sensations in one fell swoop. Not only does it make culinary sense it is a hole in one for your health.

So I hope the point has been made – stock up that fridge and begin to discover the never-ending ways a few simple ingredients can be combined to create completely different flavor experiences. And as Winston Churchill so aptly put it “never was so much owed (accolades, kudos & applause) by so many (your family and friends) to so few (the bottles & jars in your fridge).” So depending on which element (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, heat or acid) you choose to lead the dance, with just slight adjustments, you’ll be dancing a whole new twist! So take your taste buds for a spin on the dance floor and even if it takes a try or two, I promise the moonwalk is just around the corner!

condiments, dips & sauces cookbooks

condiment basics

anchovies

Poor anchovies – the mere mention of them is enough to make a grown man cringe. And if it does, it’s a grown man who’s a big sissy! Anchovies can brighten up many a dish far and beyond a the classic caesar salad. Once you make a pasta sauce with a couple of anchovies stirred in – they literally melt away and you wouldn’t even know they were there except for the fact that it is the best pasta sauce you’ve ever made – you too will realize that anchovies have made the short list of pantry items you simply cannot live without. Mash one part anchovy into 2 parts softened butter and see if your next serving of grilled fish or meat doesn’t do the happy dance. A swirl of olive oil, a little minced garlic, a couple of anchovies and then toss in your grilled, blanched or sautéed vegetables – sublime! And to make things even easier – it comes in a tube – like toothpaste – a little dab’ll do ya!

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capers

Whoever said that good things come in small packages must have been talking about capers. That little jar with those little salty, pickled buds make a lot of noise when added to any dish. Start with them, add them during or toss them in at the end, capers are that extra something you’ve been looking for to send your dishes over the top – dressings, sauces, marinades, pizzas, pastas, meats and especially fish & seafood, and don’t even get me started with vegetables & salads. I am never without these baby bits of the bold & the beautiful.

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chutneys

My take on chutneys coming soon … so in the meantime feast on what’s already out there!

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horseradish

My take on horseradish coming soon … so in the meantime feast on what’s already out there!

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ketchup

Did you know you can make your own ketchup? Store-bought everything, I suppose, is more convenient, but where you can go if you make your own will astound you. Red, yellow, green, flavoured up in dozens of ways. Do for ketchup what’s been done to hot sauce – many varieties. We’ve all been seduced by Heinz, but if truth be told, the stuff in the bottle can be beat, hands down, in our own kitchens –  the flavour will be Heinz on steroids, not to mention what it packs in the health department – no corn syrup? No corn syrup. Why Heinz hasn’t created a line of ketchups is beyond me, so in the meantime take it from Jamie Oliver who has one of the best recipes for a homemade batch of ketchup you can put up in the summer just like anything else you’d put up in the summer – no you shut up! And if you don’t have a bushel of fresh tomatoes, the canned variety is a very respectable stand-in. So honour your burgers, hotdogs and oven fries with a dip worth dipping. And when you’ve made it yourself, you’ll be adding ketchup to sauces, marinades, stir-fries, stews, soups, dressings – anywhere you need a little added oomph.

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lemon & lime juice

I always have a jar of these 2 in my fridge – I go for organic and as “natural” as possible. You’ll pay a few dollars more, but is’s worth it. You can actually substitute some of the fresh lemon juice in lemonade, with a high-quality bottled brand and be none the wiser! Lemon & lime juice are one of the staples in cooking – with a variety of uses – from salad dressings to sweets to simply brightening up a dish at the end, this is one acid you’re going to want to have around.

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mayonnaise

My take on mayonnaise coming soon …

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mustards

olives

pastes

pickles

My take on pickles coming soon …

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relishes

My take on relishes coming soon …

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sauces

salsas

My take on salsas coming soon …

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sandwich spreads

My take on sandwich spreads coming soon …

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dairy & eggs

This is what goes on behind the scenes – butter, cream, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt – these are the ingredients we add to add to create richness, tartness and texture.

dairy basics

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butter & margarine

buttermilk

My take on buttermilk coming soon …

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cream

My take on cream coming soon …

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eggs

egg whites

My take on egg whites coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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milk

My take on milk coming soon …

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sour cream

My take on sour cream coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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yogurt

fish

Why fish? Ok, here goes –  it is high in protein, vitamins, minerals and is loaded with those life altering omega 3’s. And if that’s not enough, it is insanely low in the one thing the human race has spent billions on trying to avoid, you guessed it – fat. So that should be enough to get you to run right past the deli, on past the butcher, the baker and (if there is a candle stick maker) keep going and slam on the brakes at the fish counter. Aren’t you dying to see  what all the fuss is about? I’m sure if there was a survey, the survey would say that we all need to eat more fish. And with the best selection yet in the history of humans, there are no excuses. Finally, the best advice I can give you is to talk to the guy or gal behind the counter – they have their Phd’s in all things fish, not really, but pretty close.

fish basics

anchovies

Fresh anchovies litter the fish markets of many coastal areas and much of it is preserved in salt & oil which is headed straight for a Caesar salad and the rest of it is piled over ice at the local fish market, including yours, if you take a look. They are extremely easy to prepare, cook in a flash, hence, flash in the pan and they are loaded up with those omega-3’s us humans hunt for on a regular basis. The anchovy is similar to the sardine, and can be treated accordingly. A mound of grilled anchovies in the middle of the table is a regular siting in many a Mediterranean kitchen – just remember fresh & canned anchovies are not interchangeable – always use fresh for fresh and canned for canned.

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caviar

I keep a little jar of caviar tucked in the door of my refrigerator at all times. It is great addition to all sorts of things limited only by your imagination. Here a few ideas to get you started – and thankfully, a little goes a long way.

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cod

Cod is a great fish to stock in the freezer. Believe it or not the fresh or frozen argument doesn’t always end the way you think. Many bulk stores sell cod ready to go in the freezer and that’s an instant meal if there ever was one. It is a mild fish, kinda meaty and takes on any flavor you want it too. Wish I knew a few people like that!

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halibut

Another great fish to stock in your freezer is halibut. It is always available frozen but if you can get it fresh then by all means. It’s another mild white fish that is sturdy enough for the grill, perfect for cutting into steaks, so now it becomes all about the flavorings. FYI, they’re usually harvested at close to 50 kilos so let’s leave the filleting to the pros, shall we?.

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monkfish

If you’ve never seen a monkfish – well, don’t. Just don’t go there – you just don’t need to know. Let’s put it this way, it sure is a good thing it’s on par with lobster and crab in the taste department, ’cause man is it ugly! Poor monkish – hideously ferocious or ferociously hideous, either works, but let’s remember we’re eating it not taking it home to meet Mom. It is one of the most delicious fish out there and does very well braised in a little sauce. And all that means is sear the fish, take it out, make a pan sauce and put the fish back in. And just so you know, making a pan sauce is a method and it works for meat, chicken, fish or vegetables. So close your eyes and go get yourself some monkfish.

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salmon

Sexy salmon, what can I say. The one fish that floats around like a paid companion at the Ritz – it’s pretty, it’s pink, it’s pretty in pink, it’s delicious, it is good, good, good for us, and it can show up in a whole whack of ways – here we go – in its purest state as in sashimi, on the barbeque and grilled,  on a plank and smoked, in a cast-iron skillet and seared, in parchment & steamed –

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sardines

Talk about being at the bottom of the food chain – sardines are nature’s little power house. What more could you ask for – the oceans are loaded with them, they are not expensive, they couldn’t be healthier (for you … for you) and boy are they tasty. Buy them fresh, eat them fresh ’cause you can’t freeze a sardine, it just can’t take it, the poor little things. So when you spot a boatload of fresh sardines at the fish market, you know what to do – eat ’em before sundown.

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sole

Think of sole as the supermodel of fresh fish. That’s right – there’s nothing nasty to work through before you get to the good stuff – no skin, no bones, nobody’s staring – just perfection right from the minute you spot the creamy white delicate-as-paper fillets draped over ice behind the glass at the fish counter. And that is probably why sole is one of the more popular fish – who wouldn’t like to have dinner with a supermodel?

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tilapia

Move over halibut, cod, sole & salmon, there’s a new fish in town and it’s name is tilapia. Tilapia has slowly become one of the world’s most sustainable fish. It is readily available, it’s cheap, it’s delicate and it’s mild, mild, mild – mild like a Carolina winter. And that means it is a blank canvas for flavors and cooking methods, so mix up your favorite combos and take tilapia for a spin – you’ve just made a new friend.

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trout

I grew up on trout, rainbow trout – and it was one of my favorites – deeeeelish. It has a mild flavor, can be prepared however you wish and if you can find it whole, it is fantastic stuffed. And maybe they’re so good because they are actually a distant relative of Pacific salmon, so bring on the omega 3’s and the low cholesterol and add another guilt-free meal to your repertoire.

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tuna

Even though tuna is one of the most likely fish to head straight to the cannery, fresh tuna has carved out its own corner of the tuna market, thanks in large part to the 1000’s of kilos that end up gloriously fresh and raw at sushi bars around the world.

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fresh flavorings & fresh herbs

Make it your business to get familiar with all the different flavorings in the form of herbs and spices, both fresh 7 & dried. Part of mixing and matching flavors is preference, and believe it or not, the other part is science. Some flavors simply do not go together and chemically clash – never invite . With a little know how you can free yourself from the flavor shackles of your routine habit of dousing most dishes you prepare with the same 2-3 flavors. Welcome to the vast and varied and

chile peppers

ginger

My take on ginger coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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lemon grass

My take on lemon grass coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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fresh herb basics

basil

My take on fresh basil coming soon …

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bay leaves

My take on bay leaves coming soon …

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chervil

My take on chervil coming soon …

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chives

My take on chives coming soon …

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cilantro

How cilantro ever made it mainstream is another one of life’s little mysteries – especially when you wrap your head around it’s controversial reputation. Whether we agree or not, (and I absolutely, unequivocally do not) cilantro is on the not-so-short-list of foods we love to hate – other honourable mentions often include sardines, eggplant, blue cheeses, black licorice, liver, okra, wasabi, beets, oysters, tripe – ok, ok, I’ll stop.

red lentil coconut curry soup

I suppose there’s nothing we can do about a genetic predisposition to love certain foods or well, wonder why others are even considered edible  – so with that in mind – I LOVE CILANTRO! It belongs anywhere and everywhere – curry would be lost without it, as would tacos, burritos, samosas, salsas, salad rolls – it doesn’t need to overpower a dish, (which is a common misconception) – it just slides right in taking it to the front of the queue like a groupie at a rock concert. Anyway, I’m perfectly aware that your DNA will decide if you love it or hate it so I won’t go on – because my DNA says we’ve got a backstage pass to all things cilantro. So you can imagine how it pains me to point out that the Queen of French cuisine herself – yes Julia – was a a staunch member of the can’t stand cilantro crowd, so much so, that she told Larry King that she would “pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.” Now that’s a bit dramatic, but like I said, you either love it or you don’t. So in an attempt to bridge the gap – this is for all the cilantro lovers around the world, as well as those who long to know what all the fuss is about.

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dill

My take on fresh dill coming soon …

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marjoram

My take on marjoram coming soon …

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mint

My take on fresh mint coming soon …

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oregano

My take on fresh oregano coming soon …

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parsley

My take on parsley coming soon …

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rosemary

My take on fresh rosemary coming soon …

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sage

My take on fresh sage coming soon …

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savory

My take on fresh savory coming soon …

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tarragon

My take on fresh tarragon coming soon …

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thyme

meats

And for all us carnivores – a song and since we are the enthusiasts of all things meat, we appreciate a slow braise, we value the fast sear, we understand the merit of smoking … meat, meat, smoking meat, geesh! Where was I? Right …  we have high regard for brines, marinades and rubs, I’ll just say it, it’s foreplay, culinary foreplay – the love happens just as much before, as it does during (the cooking) and after (all meat should rest). Us carnivores love the feasting part, the licking of the fingers part and most of all the chewing part. May we never have to stop chewing … think vitameatavegamin (forgive me, I couldn’t resist!) And I will leave you with the most important message about meat – time is money. Think about it – we all pony up one way or another, on the clock or at the register. To end up with a glorious piece of mouth-watering meat in our mouths, it is the method of cooking which creates the magic. The less it costs, the slower it should cook and the more it costs, the faster it should cook. See? Time really is money. And because us humans are all about instant gratification (butchers know this) they get us at the till or they get us on the clock. The most expensive cuts like rib-eye, prime rib or sirloins require the least amount of fuss and the cheaper cuts like blades and briskets, need the most amount of time to become ambrosial, on par with that rib-eye. It’s the tortoise and the hare of the butcher counter. Now go and cook some meat …

meat cookbooks

meat basics

bacon

First, I know bacon is pork, but it deserves it’s own moment in the sun. Don’t shy away from bacon. I do indulge in actual strips occasionally but it’s the cooking with bacon that fires me up.  Bacon will transform a dish and it won’t take much. Start with bacon or stop with bacon – just get bacon in the game, the depth of flavor is unmistakable. Start your next soup or stew with a few slices diced up in a hot skillet and carry on with the recipe –  just take the bacon out after it’s rendered its fat and add it back in at the end. And remember a little bacon to finish all sorts of dishes – salads, pastas, rice, soups, sandwiches – just dice & fry and you’ve just discovered how to enjoy bacon without shortening your life.

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beef

If you’re a beef lover, there is simply nothing better than a big juicy burger cooked to succulent perfection or a richly flavored stew braised to a fork-tender finish or a mouth-watering grilled rib-eye or a seared-to-perfection flank steak or, or, or. What can I say – get to know a few cuts of beef, master a few ways to prepare them and no one at your house will be wondering where’s the beef?

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beef recipes

charcuterie & sausages

Don’t be put off by a fancy food word like charcuterie. It simply refers to all processed meats and they’re usually found at the deli counter. Get to know this side of meat and you’re halfway to meal before you’ve even pulled into the driveway. It’s a chef’s little secret – cured, processed, prepared meats are loaded with flavor so a little goes a long way. Their intensity lends itself to pizzas, pastas, salads

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lamb

First, to enjoy lamb to its fullest, the first thing that has got to go is the story about Mary and her little #$%& – we don’t let Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web stop us from devouring ribs and bacon, nor do we get too sentimental about that cow jumping over the moon when it comes time to dig into a juicy steak. So with that in mind, lamb is a glorious meat to add to your arsenal. It is perfect for grilling, works like magic when slow-cooked and you simply can’t beat it roasted. Here’s a thought, think outside the box, (or should I say the pen), and go for lamb instead of turkey at Thanksgiving or Christmas – a big, glorious roast of lamb is a thing to behold, amen.

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livers

Let’s face it, livers have a bad rap. To be honest, they do look a bit unappetizing in their raw state and if you dwell on from whenst they came, well, I can sorta see how you might need a little convincing. So here goes – whether beef or chicken, when cooked properly, nothing can beat them. Let’s start with chicken – who can resist a creamy, herby, bourbony rich pâté? I thought so – paired with crusty bread and a glass of red, (I feel a song comin’ on) you’ll be on the French Riviera by sundown. Take the same chicken livers, pat them dry, dust them with flour and sear them to perfection with their creamy interiors intact. Caramelize an onion or 2, add a splash of liquid, toss those livers back in and bob’s your uncle or livers is dinner! My point? Do not overcook livers, that’s when nasty sets in and you’d swear you were chewing on your shoe. Same goes for beef – high heat, seared to a crispy  crust and well, you know what to do next – open your mouth!

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pork

veal

Though I don’t venture to veal often, it is a trip worth taking. Don’t be scared by all those fancy words that follow the word “veal” – marsala, milanese, scaloppine, medallions, parmigiana, piccata – marsala refers to the wine, milanese refers to the egg, breadcrumb/parmesan fried in butter, scaloppine refers to the thickness, medallions refer to the shape, parmigiana refers to, you guessed it, the parmesan and piccata refers to the lemon, capers & parsley. See? Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? It’s not rocket science, and speaking of rocket science, the astronaut of them all in your veal arsenal is osso buco – that long, lovely, simmering pot of gorgeousness you can’t create any other way than with those shanks of veal. And when the shanks give up the marrow – stand back, you’ve never tasted anything like it. Now back to reality, veal is available in a variety of cuts that can be prepared like any other meat, easily and simply. So go get yourself a cutlet or 2 and introduce yourself to the appeal of veal.

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venison

It’s too bad venison is not more readily available as it beats most meats, hands-down, in the fat and cholesterol departments. And as far as flavor goes, think of it this way – venison is to meat as duck is to poultry, as salmon is to fish – a distinct “wild” flavor which is unmistakable and oh so very delish. Venison lends itself to cooking quickly as its low fat content makes it a perfect candidate for the grill or it can take a long slow braise to bring on the love. If you’re unfamiliar with venison, ask your butcher and switch up that beef stew for a much healthier option – your waistline will thank you.

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nuts & seeds

Surprise! Fancy meeting you here – yes, nuts and seeds need to be kept in the fridge. Unbeknownst to most, nuts and seeds do not have an open-ended shelf-life and when they turn, boy do they turn – we’re talkin’ a bitter, rancid 180°! And if you’ve ever bit into an old nut (stop, this is a family show) you’d know it, and it wouldn’t make it past the second chomp. And if you’re so inclined, delve into the world of nut & seed butters (they’re in the cupboard under bottles & jars) that you can so easily make yourself, talk about ridiculously simple. So besides to 1000’s of ways to enjoy nuts, well, as nuts, save your sheckles and whip up some butter.

nut & seed cookbooks

nut basics

almonds

You’d be hard-pressed to add a more nutritional snack to your diet. Bag the chips and go for a nut – and not just any nut – almonds. Almonds have it all going for them, like a beautiful, rich, Pulitzer prize-winning Olympic gold medalist –  they are fully-loaded! They come in more models than Ford as in whole, sliced, flaked, slivered, halved, diced, chopped, meal, milk, butter, oil, whoa, the room is spinning – needless to say, the humble almond has made it very difficult to resist. So whatever form you choose to consume almonds, start consuming and it won’t cost you a thing (except for the almonds).

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brazil nuts

Of all the nuts, brazil nuts are the misunderstood nut – where they come from, what the heck are they and why the heck should I be eating them must certainly contribute to why they’re usually the last to go in a bowl of mixed nuts. Like some people we all know, the brazil nut is one of the hardest nuts to crack, which is why their reputation is not all that it should be. Once you get to know a brazil nut, your health will thank you  as it is one of the best sources of selenium around. And what, pray tell, is selenium doing for me, you ask? Weeellll, all you really need to know is it does for your immune system what a spark does for your car battery – you got it – soups it up to high gear. So with that in mind, get to know brazil nuts – they’re delicious, nutritious and is one more small thing you can do for your health.

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cashews

Nothing can drive the price of a nut up faster than constant handling (I couldn’t resist), which is why cashews are one of the more expensive nuts out there. Ever wonder why you never see them in the shell? No? Well, wonder no more. Cashews have to be shelled before they reach the consumer, as nature has so kindly added a toxic layer of oil that when extracted shows up in pesticides and plastics. Don’t worry, this toxic-to-humans membrane between the nut and the shell is removed before we ever get near a cashew. So needless to say, the journey a cashew takes from tree to table would make your head spin. And thank goodness it is willing to make the trek as cashews are one of the most buttery versatile nuts that will ever cross your lips.

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chestnuts

” … and visions of sugar plums danced in their heads … and chestnuts roasting on an open fire and jack frost nipping at something … ” – and if we’re honest, that’s about how far chestnuts have made it into our collective conscience – Charles Dickens, Scrooge and roasting chestnuts, and I’m here to change all that. Chestnuts are now readily available and when you learn how to enjoy them, you’ll be nipping something along side your chestnuts that will have nothing to do with Jack Frost.

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hazelnuts

Hang on to your hat – hazelnuts are second to only one nut, that’s right, the peanut in the plentiful department and Turkey heads up that department. Wouldn’t have thought that. Like all nuts, you can find a way to sprinkle them on just about anything whether sweet or savory. But when it comes to hazelnuts, they’ve found a permanent home in most bakeries worth their salt – think chocolate truffles, biscotti, pie crusts, streudels, cookies – so next time you roll out some dough make sure you’ve worked in a few hazelnuts – there sure are enough of them.

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macadamia nuts

I dare you to think of a macadamia nut without thinking of a luau. I would go out on a limb to say that macadamia nuts are second only to sunshine when it comes to Hawaiian commodities even though Australia is really on title when it comes who owns the macadamia nut.

And if you think cashews are hard to crack, macadamias are on par with government code, bank safes and a smile from the Mona Lisa, so fortunately they come shelled and ready to devour. They show up most often in sweets but can offset salty savory dishes beautifully where we find ourselves wondering, what is that and where can I get me some more?

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peanuts

First, the idea that a peanut is just a regular nut, well think again. Technically speaking, it’s not a nut at all – a peanut is a legume. Yes, a legume. You need a tree to be called a nut. Second, since its beginning, the poor peanut got about as much respect as I don’t know what, but it couldn’t have been good. Peanuts were plentiful, peanuts were cheap, and before you knew it, so were certain seats in the theatre, go figure – hence, the peanut gallery. And if that’s not bad enough, how about being honoured for being yesterdays lunch, as in “whaddya pay? Peanuts!”

Well, times sure have changed and I dare say there a few celebrities who can only wish their reputations could have recovered as well as the peanut. Discover the versatile peanut – its reach is far and wide, its uses are many, its fan base vast (sorry to those who can’t join the party) and start giving that peanut the R-E-S-P-E-C-T it deserves … just a little bit. Thank you.

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pecans

Probably the one nut that you can safely refer to as the dessert nut, as you can’t make pecan pie or real pralines without them – and that alone is reason enough to pick up a peck of precious pecans! Know this going in, they have the highest fat content of any nut on the planet, a whopping 70+ %! Think of pecans as the bacon of nuts, so when it comes time to slice up that pie, by all means slice it – just remember, a slice, is not a slice, is not a slice – translation? Less is more.

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pine nuts

Gram for gram, pine nuts are right up there in price with the big guns like truffles, saffron, caviar & gold leaf. So with that in mind, treat your nuts with the utmost respect. When roasting, stay put – the high oil content makes burning them a certainty unless you hover like an over-protective mother. Think of roasting pine nuts like making popcorn, don’t take your hand off the pan, keep them moving and you will have perfectly toasted nuts every time. Because of their delicate nature, pine nuts are perfect for sprinkling over and stirring into salads, rice, stuffings, pastas or eat them as is. Of course, you’ll be out of pine nuts much faster with the direct method. Finally, classic pesto would not be classic without the addition of pine nuts – they lend a distinct velvety richness, thanks to their softer-than-most-nuts texture. If any nut could melt in your mouth – say hello to the pine nut.

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pistachio nuts

Two words – get crackin’! In case you haven’t heard, pistachio nuts have hit the big time as in celebrity status. Who knew? And move over Pac-Man, meet Crac-Man. What will they think of next?
At my house, when pistachios are headed for the snack bowl I wouldn’t dream of buying them shelled – at least the shells slow down the consumption. If the pistachios are headed for a recipe, I buy them shelled to lessen my workload. And when they’re in the shell, I don’t go for the ones that are dyed red, as they dye your fingers too. And if there’re kids involved, alot more than fingers turn red – clothing, walls, furniture, the dog –  and what’s up with the red dye in the first place? History has a couple of explanations – one, a certain pistachio vendor wanted to set his pistachios apart from his competitors, two, to help them stand out in a bowl of fellow nuts or beside the Smarties in a vending machine, and three, to mask their natural mottled appearance. Why a few markings turned anybody off is beyond me, ’cause when you meet the nut, it’s bright green! Whose nuts now?

walnuts

Meet one of the superheros of the nut world – the walnut – you wouldn’t be hanging around since 7000 B.C. if their wasn’t something super about your powers. Walnuts would be the ones in the tights, the cape and the big “W” on their chests. When it comes to superpowers, walnuts could teach the class. Not only are they loaded with all things healthy to humans, they could not be more versatile in the kitchen. No pine nuts for pesto? Use walnuts. Need crunch for pastas, salads, stuffings, cakes, cookies & ice cream? Add walnuts. Got the munchies? Try walnuts. Talk about perfect, talk about portable. Talk about powerful. And if they can do for you, what they do for a squirrel, we’d all be walking around in tights and a cape.

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seed basics

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chia seeds

Talk about superseding? Remember chia pets? If we’d only known we should’ve been eating the seeds instead of growing them, we may be a collectively smaller planet! Chia seeds are like little sponges, which soak up water and expand – just like they do on the backs of those cute little pottery planters, which means you feel full sooner, and longer. For starters, chia seeds absorb 10, I tell you, 10 times their weight in water – imagine sprinkling a little seed over any dish which will magically take that fork out of your hand and rest it on the plate – bewitching I tell you, absolutely bewitching – you won’t know what hit you. Here’s a wild idea – fill a stylish little shaker with seeds and put it next to the salt & pepper on the table and use accordingly – before you know it you’ll have consumed more nutrition and less nosh with a couple of shakes than you have in a long time! Aside from the 10x-their-weight-in-water-thing – they’re easily-digested, mild-tasting, energy-generating, brain-building, weight-trimming, endurance-enhancing – all packed into a little tiny seed – now that’s a seed I want at the party!

chia seeds 1

So get yourself some chia and start sprinkling this omega-3-loaded plant source all over everything – you won’t even know it’s there, but your bottom line will – and isn’t that what it’s really all about – that bottom line and said reduction of such! Sprinkling is the easiest way to get on the ch-ch-ch-chia bandwagon – and then you can move on from there – and a great place to start your chia challenge is in baking – as in chia seed peanut butter cookies – makes scarfing cookies a pleasure really, sans guilt –  when you know they’re packed with a boatload of nutrition. So go ahead, lace your next batch of cookies, muffins, quick breads or granola with chia seeds and see if you can ever make another batch without them – how about shortbread with a few specks of chia – I think you can picture it! I’m going to get off my chia seed soapbox now.

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flax seeds

Every “health” food gets their 15 minutes of fame, and some get a lions share.

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hemp seeds

My take on hemp coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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poppy seeds

My take on poppy seeds coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds need to make a run for it and get the heck out of October! True, they are the unsung heroes of Halloween (and often get trashed along with the pumpkin) but there are 11 other months and thanks to the bulk section, you can enjoy these all year round. Truth be told, a healthier seed is hard to find – they’ve made the short list of superfoods you should be eating. And when you wrap your head around the versatility of this yummy little seed, it’ll start showing up everywhere.

pumpkin seeds

Like where?  – salads, soups, stir-fries, pastas, pestos, dips, granola, breads, cookies, muffins, pies – that’s where! So head to your local grocer and suss out the bulk section and get yourself a load of pumpkin seeds and start expanding the possibilities of what a little seed can do for many dishes you’re already making – talk about smashing! I keep a jar of these in my pantry at all times. Pumpkin seeds – who knew? Now we both do.

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sesame seeds

My take on sesame seeds coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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sunflower seeds

Talk about a powerhouse! The little ‘ole sunflower seed is jam-packed with more nutrition and versatility per square millimetre than most other seeds.

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poultry

poultry basics

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chicken

cornish game hens

Cornish hens have lost their place in line – they were much more popular in the ’80’s and need to make reclaim their place.

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duck

My take on duck coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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turkey

My take on turkey coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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seafood & shellfish

Let’s face it, the real culinary sparklers on planet earth are the edible treasures found in the seas and oceans  – the seafood and shellfish – little, sweet nuggets of heaven. Prawns, shrimp, scallops, crabs, clams, mussels – and speaking of muscles, you’re going to need some to shuck a few dozen oysters or to excavate a boatload of lobsters. AAhhhhhh, those sexy succulent shellfish – they may play hard to get, – he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not – are you following this? Coy to get the boy, hang in to get the girl – and you will!

So join the party, discover the world of  the crustacean – what could be better, they’re high in protein, low in fat and off the charts in the vit department.

seafood & shellfish cookbooks

seafood & shellfish basics

Occasionally swapping seafood and shellfish for their higher fat land roamers will improve your health, reduce your weight and allow you to indulge beyond your wildest dreams. I’ll leave you with this – a heaping bowl of heaven – the seafood of your choice, glistening in a shower of succulent broth and butter – and you really can eat as much as you want – I know you’ll be reasonable. So do the math – a little burger or a huge heaping pile of succulent plump shrimp sweating garlic and lemon in a lip-smackin’ broth. Oh yeah…

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clams

My take on clams coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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crab

My take on crab coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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lobster

mussels

My take on mussels coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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oysters

I grew up with a crate of oysters from PEI, Canada, on  my back porch from Novemeber to February – lucky me!

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scallops

shrimp & prawns

squid

My take on squid coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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tofu & soy

Tofu – the chameleon in the kitchen – tofu’s ability to transform itself is truly impressive – the soft and silken variety take over for butter and cream in sauces, dips & smoothies, mashed medium tofu can stand in for ground meat anytime and the firm variety cubed up and tossed around over high heat become crunchy little morsels. And that’s just the beginning. Throw in the idea that tofu is a blank canvas and will take on any flavor it lays down with – now that’s impressive!

soy & tofu cookbooks

tofu basics

So with all that in mind it’s a wonder that tofu has managed to remain as mysterious as a few of these cats? How is it that the east has more than figured it out while the west stands at the soybean gates peering in.  Well, the curtain is comin’ down on this “meat without a bone”. Believe me when I say there is not a more versatile, amiable, cooperative player in the kitchen than tofu. And just for fun, if you find yourself looking for something to do … you too can become as mysterious and charismatic as tofu!

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tofu recipes

My take on tofu recipes coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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tvp (textured vegetable protein)

My take on tvp coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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soy basics

My take on soy coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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edamame

My take on edamame coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

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