Posts Tagged ‘utensils’

Summer grilling

May 26, 2009

Summer has unofficially begun with the passing of Memorial Day!  And with summer comes entertaining, and that means grilling and cocktails long into the evening.   So now comes the question, what kind of grill?  The query is beyond just the usual gas vs. charcoal (gas is the obvious choice at this point, it has a smaller carbon footprint) for some people there are limitations because of where they live.  You might have a swell backyard deck, replete with pool and fancy umbrellas.  Then again, maybe you live in the city and have a balcony or terrace. Or maybe you do not have a balcony, terrace or summer house and would like those nice grill marks on your steak or fish … now what?  We have suggestions for everyone.

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For the man who has everything and wants the BMW of grilling, sleek, sexy and nice handling, there is the Viking Outdoor Series.  I love cooking with Viking indoors and their outdoor equipment comes highly recommended.  They have a feature, called “TruSear which is 30,000 BTUs of searing infrared power.”   You want the hottest grill possible and this is one of them.  In addition, Viking has everything you could possibly imagine to create an elaborate outdoor kitchen.

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Viking 30" Ultra-Premium Gas Grill
Viking 30″ Ultra-Premium Gas Grill

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I imagine you thought I would recommend one of Weber’s charcoal grills, in truth, I do not recommend anyone use a charcoal grill unless you are camping.  Why?  Because it is not a responsible choice for the environment.  Research into this question by the Oak Ridge National Labratory has determined, “the majority of carbon dioxide emissions are from grills using charcoal briquettes, because the amount of carbon per Btu of gas is about one-third that of charcoal … A liquefied petroleum gas grill operated for an hour would emit 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide while a charcoal grill would emit about 11 pounds.And then I read on Huffington Post, “Bobby Flay in Boy Meets Grill expresses his preference for his gas grills, because, he says, “the real flavor boost (from grilling) comes from marinades and seasonings, and from quick searing directly over a very hot fire—which a good gas grill does as well as charcoal.” So there you have it from the mouth of the master.

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That being said, Weber does make some of the very best gas grills on the market.  If you are not creating an entire outdoor kitchen with a suite of matching appliances, then I recommend the Weber.  Their Genesis EP-310 series has 42,000 BTU-per-hour output and really, what more could you ask for since the hottest grill possible is always the best.  Searing the outside, seals in  juices and creates a delicious, moist product with a beautifully caramelized exterior.   How do you know that your food is done?  Firmness is the answer.  Do not cut into the meat, touch it, as it cooks the flesh gets firmer, the more firm the more cooked.  As the grill master, Bobby Flay says on his website, “A rare steak feels squishy; a medium steak feels more springy; a well-done steak feels as taut as a trampoline.” It will take a bit of experimenting until you get it just right.  Allow your meat and chicken rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to congeal inside the meat, keeping it moist.  Since your food is still cooking while it rests, it is a good idea to under cook your food slightly.

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Weber Genesis Series Grill
Weber Genesis Series Grill

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For those of you who would like to grill and feel impeded by the lack of outdoor space there are several easy solutions.  All-Clad, one of my favorite kitchen suppliers, has a wonderful indoor electric grill.  This will not have the very high heat of an outdoor gas grill, it will produce nice grill marks and use less oil than pan sauteing your food.

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All-Clad Electric Indoor Grill

All-Clad Electric Indoor Grill

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If the thought of another indoor appliance has you running out of your local kitchen store, and you still want those lovely grill marks and some of the flavor, then a grill pan is a great alternative.  I recommend Le Creuset’s cast-iron square grill pan.  Their enameled cast iron is industrial strength , it will last your lifetime and beyond.  As Le Creuset says “Cast iron has been used as “the” material for cooking pots since Roman times.”  And the Romans know something about cooking.  Their products come in several colors, just in case that is more inspirational for your cooking.

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Le Creuset Square Grill Pan
Le Creuset Square Grill Pan

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Lastly, marinades and dry rubs are the key to enhancing the flavor of anything you throw on the grill.  A marinade can be as simple as salt, pepper, olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar.  A friend of mine from South American used to marinate his lamb chops in a serious layer of sea salt and vodka.  They were incredible!  For steak, often salt is all you need.  For fish and chicken I recommend something more elaborate.  Experiment with dry spices, fresh herbs and citrus.  If that seems a bit too risky, Whole Foods has their own pre-packaged dry rubs and bottled marinades, which are wonderful and take all the worry out of getting it right.  Make sure you have a few basting brushes to apply the marinade and a good set of kitchen tongs to work with.

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Footnote, if you are going to use a charcoal grill because that is your only choice, I have two footnotes.  One, use a chimney starter to heat your coals, it is easy and does not require the use of lighter fluid.  Two, buy only charcoal that is made of wood ONLY.  Typically charcoal that you find at your local convenience store is composed of saw dust and lighter fluid. Really you do not want that in your food. Additionally, Oak Ridge National Labs did research and found that “Common charcoal has a heating value of 9,700 Btu per pound while solid wood charcoal has a heating value of about 13,000 Btu per pound.”  As I mentioned before, the higher the heat the better the better it is for searing.

Happy grilling!

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dale b. cohen

new york city

the 10 essential items for breakfast in bed

May 6, 2009

This list comprises the 10 essential items you need to prepare a simple breakfast in case she stays over.  Since a woman would rather lie around your, hopefully, tidy apartment than wander out to breakfast wearing last night’s outfit, running out to the grocery store and stocking-up might be a good idea. Most items will keep for a long time so you will be covered in between conquests.

1 Coffee

It goes without saying that one of the most important items you have to have for breakfast in bed is great coffee.  Many people like electronic coffee makers, I say it’s just the two of you, make it the old fashioned way.

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This stylish coffee maker is designed by the German designer Tassilo von Grolman. Cafino can be found at Mossonline.com.

pph_6112_lMany people like a french press.  This modern interpretation of the french press coffee maker is designed by the Italian architect, Aldo Rossi.

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My preference is the old fashioned Italian stovetop type.  This one from Oliver Hemming’s 66 Collection is simply beautiful.

drip_group_trio_250x250Make sure you buy the proper type of coffee grounds for the type of coffee maker you actually own.  I only use Illy Coffee.  It is like having a little piece of Rome right at home.

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Tea

Because not everyone drinks coffee, have at least one black tea, Lipton or Earl Grey or English Breakfast or Green and at least one herbal, mint, chamomile or a mixed floral.

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Bread

Buy sliced bread, one loaf of whole wheat and one of sourdough or rye and put them in the freezer (make sure sure you have a toaster).  Far and away the best sliced bread I have ever had, and I always have a loaf of in my freezer, is Eli Zabar’s Health Loaf.  Toast this bread and spread a little sweet cream butter and all is well with the world.

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For those of you who like old fashioned white bread, you are on your own.  I left white bread in the dust years ago along with fluffenutter sandwiches.  They were great, but our tastes have grown more sophisticated since then.

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Salt and Pepper

I love the flaky crystals of the Scottish salt, Maldon.  I have asked many chefs what their favorite salt is and to a person they all say Maldon is their every day salt.

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Eggs

Eggs, unbroken last a very long time, you might want to do what my dad does, write the purchase date on each egg, they will keep for 6 months.  Always best to buy cage free and organic, if possible.

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Butter

Buy a pound of organic sweet cream butter or unsalted butter, it is better for breakfast, and keep it in the freezer. It lasts practically forever in there.

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Milk

This is the only item with any real temporal issues, I buy organic low fat milk, which is healthier.  As an added bonus it has a much longer shelf life. If you want a very very long shelf life then buy Lactaid, it seems to last practically forever, but I have no idea what’s in it.

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Sugar and Sugar substitute

Pick your poison, I have organic Florida crystals at home and the “yellow” packets for those who prefer synthetic sweeteners. Choose from the Pink, Blue or Yellow artificial sweeteners and have at least of few packets of one of them.  They will all last even after a nuclear holocaust, which is why I stick with the real stuff.

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9 Pancake mix and real Maple Syrup

My favorite pancake mix is the Multigrain Pancake mix from Trader Joe’s, it makes fluffy hearty pancakes every time.

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10  Oranges, Orange Juice

Of course, what could be better than fresh squeezed orange juice.  Either you acquire a small juice press and keep some oranges on hand in the fridge – they do keep quite a while in there – or you find the best fresh frozen organic organic juice (from Whole Foods).

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The OrangeX Chrome Juicer is nicely styled, a bit retro and simple to use.

The elegant Breville Citurs press is easy to use, simply pressing the fruit in the press activates the motor.

The elegant Breville Citrus Press is easy to use, pressing the fruit activates the motor. Just lovely.

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If you are a very lucky man, the woman you choose to be with will be a great cook and can prepare breakfast with the materials laid out in this blogpost.  I know, this is wishful thinking.  Many women I know do not know how to cook, which always mystified me … until one day when I was living in Los Angeles and preparing an elaborate dinner party for 20 or so friends and I asked my adorable and very slender friend V.M. “Why don’t you or any of our girlfriends know how to cook?”   To which she replied, “My mother always told me not to eat, so why would I learn to cook?”  And with that I understood so much about my many years in Los Angeles and moved back to New York the following year.

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dale b. cohen

new york city

knives, knives, knives … part one

February 20, 2009

An interview with  Gretchen Young, Chef

This week we are going to begin to delve into knives and as Chef Gretchen says, “If you’re going to cook, you need good knives since scissors and ripping by hand are two methods that do not work in every food prep situation.”  As with any tool, it is a given that all are the not the same in terms of quality or function.  There are reasons to buy the very best and different knives do different tasks.

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In my conversation with Chef Gretchen, she stressed quality matters more than quantity.  Her feeling is that you begin your knife drawer with 3 knives and build from there.  Those 3 knives should be of the highest quality you can afford and “be based on how you cook. If your repertoire is limited to burgers, pastas and the occasional stir-fry, why have every knife known to man? Keep it simple!”

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Here are the selection of knives that Chef Gretchen recommends;
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Shun Kaji Chef’s Knife

A good quality chef’s knife will cost in the range of $75 to $300.  A chef’s knife comes in 8″ or 10″ blade length, choose depending on your size, and is for general all-purpose knife work.  This Shun Kaji Chef’s knife comes in a 6″, 8″ and 10″ blade.

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Shun Kaji Paring Knife, 4 1/2″

A good paring knife is $35 to $80.  Which you use “for the details, like coring apples, cutting limes, etc.”

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Shun Kaji Bread Knife, 9″

A good serrated bread knife is $60 to $150.  A serrated knife is used to slice through breads and other baked goods, and can also be used for tomatoes.
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Chef Gretchen had a few other salient points about knives, buying them, choosing them and why …

First, she stresses that you need to buy your own knives, as she said “Even if you move mom’s well-worn couch to your new apartment, it’s best to leave her old knives at home.”

Second,  you choose a knife because of how it works for you and how it feels.  To that end, she remarked “Similar to car shopping, before you plunk down any money, take the knife on a test drive — have the salesperson in the store take the knife out of the packaging (or use a floor model) and feel the knife in your hand. The handle should fit. It should feel balanced and not weigh your arm down.”

Thirdly, if you have a girlfriend and she cooks when she is at your home,  Chef Gretchen says “I always suggest that couples each maintain their own chef’s knife.”  This is so you can cook together and because the size and weight of the knife is related to the height of the person using it and the size of their hands.  “So if you are a tall guy with big hands, an 8″ chef’s knife will be like a toothpick in your hand, it is better to get a 10″ or longer bladed knife.  Alternatively, if your significant other is smaller than you, she’ll have a hard time maneuvering the knife (no kidding!). So in addition to giving a her a set of keys, she will also need her own knife.”

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As for which manufacturer to buy, there is the question of Japanese or Western.  Chef Gretchen has the following thoughts.  “Japanese knives, such as Shun, Global or Kyoce, are single ground; meaning, they’re sharpened only on one side, at approximately 22 degrees, and are designed for people who are right handed (they can often be special-ordered for left handed users).   The German, or Western, knives are double-beveled, sharpened at a 45 degree angle on both sides.”

If you are left handed you may prefer a Western knife, such as Lamson Sharp, Cutco, Wustof and Henckel.  “These knives are made primarily in the German tradition of knife making. As these knives are double-beveled, they are therefore ambidextrous.”

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Here is the real deal, when I spoke with my friend Chef Mitchell London, owner of Burgers & Cupcakes and Mitchell London Foods, about Japanese knives, and the Shun specifically, he spoke longingly, fondly of his now lost Shun Chef’s knife (someone else in his kitchen loved it so much that they ran off with it).  Chef Mitchell talked about the feel, the weight and the knife’s dexterity.  He said “it was a dream to work with”.  And when I was wondering around the knife department with Chef Gretchen, she too was clearly enamored of the Shun and while she liked other knives and thought they could do the job, you could see in her eyes how much she loved the Shun knives.  My next knives will be Shun, thank goodness I am right handed.

There is much more to say, as Chef Gretchen remarked to me, “I could talk about knives for days”.  To be continued …

Please be sure to share your thoughts about the blogpost and any ideas you have for future posts.

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Gretchen Young has a culinary career that stretches over 10 years, satisfying high profile individuals, restaurants, small businesses and non-profit groups through a catering business, cake design studio and as a private chef. She teaches cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and Whole Foods Bowery Culinary Education Center. During the Fragrance Foundation’s 2006 Fragrance Week, Chef Gretchen partnered with Takasago Perfumerie and Bacardi to create a multi-sensory experience of food, cocktails and scent.  She earned an MBA from the University of Michigan and trained at the Institute of Culinary Education.

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dale b. cohen

new york city

the top 5 kitchen utensils, part one

January 8, 2009

For this post I interviewed my friend and chef Gretchen Young.  She is a chef for William’s Sonoma’s store at Columbus Circle and personal chef for a bachelor in New York City.  I will share her top picks for kitchen utensils and equipment over the next few months.

So to begin, this month’s top 5 kitchen utensils.  The things you simply cannot live without.

ONE Pepper mill (and Salt mill if you are so inclined)

Peugot Chateauneuf Adjustable Salt & Pepper Mills

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Did you know that the French car maker Peugot also makes world class pepper mills? The mechanism was created in the 1840s and this same engineering has been the best since then! Sleek and shapely, this traditional grinder is top quality and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Mini Salt/Pepper Mills

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Let’s say you don’t have a lot of space on your counter, yet you still want fresh pepper or salt on your plate. Try the “Pump N Grind!” In one hand, hold down with your thumb and pump away. No adjustment possible to the coarseness of the grind.  Salt and pepper grinders fit easily in utensil drawer.

TWO Utensil Set

All Clad Utensil Set

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Oxo Utensil Set

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While I prefer All Clad’s stainless tool set, this set has a bit of everything and it is non-stick which means that you do not scratch your pots and pans (something I do not seem to worry about, but does seem to stress out others).


THREE
Wooden Spoons

Beechwood Spoons

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You’ve invested a lot of energy equipping your kitchen. Now it’s about the maintenance. Wooden spoons are the way to go when cooking. They will not scratch metal pans, clean up is easy and there is no scraping. Save the metal spoons for serving. Just remember not to toss wood spoons in the dishwasher.

Batali Wooden Spoons

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A wooden spoon is a basic and beautiful tool to have in your kitchen.  When I pull out my wooden spoons I recall fond moments of watching  images chef’s and home cooks the world over I have watched in their kitchens.  Gretchen likes the beechwood spoons, I love the lines of the Batali spoons.

FOUR Measuring Tools

All Clad Standard Cups & Spoons

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Heavy stainless measuring cups and spoons. All-Clad makes wonderful tools for the kitchen. They are perfect for recipes that call for “scoop and sweep” methods. And they won’t rust. Gotta love that.

OXO Angled Measuring Cup

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The OXO Angled Measuring Cup is another item on the “must have” list. No more raising the measuring cup to eye level to figure out just how much is in one of these things. Just pour liquid into the cup and read levels instantly. Dishwasher safe. Colorful and easy to read.

As for the dry measuring utensils vs. wet measuring utensils.  As Gretchen remarked to me, you cannot use one in lieu of the other, dry ingredients and liquids are volumetricaly dissimilar.


FIVE
Microplane Grater

Microplane Zester Grater

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No more scraping your knuckles with a box grater. This brilliant, versatile tool is used for lemon/lime zest (you’d be surprised how many uses you can find for zesting), for Parmesan cheese and chocolate shavings (on those nights you want to make dinner special for your honey).  Rinses clean, dishwasher safe.

Microplane Grater-Zester without Grip

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This is my favorite, though Gretchen claims that men will like the one above more as she finds it easier to handle.  They both do the same job and do it beautifully.
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Gretchen Young has a culinary career that stretches over 10 years, having satisfied high profile individuals, restaurants, small businesses and non-profit groups through a catering business, cake design studio and as a private chef. She has taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and the Whole Foods Bowery Culinary Education Center. During the Fragrance Foundation’s 2006 Fragrance Week, she partnered with Takasago Perfumerie and Bacardi to create a multi-sensory experience of food, cocktails and scent. She earned an MBA from the University of Michigan and was trained at the Institute of Culinary Education.