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11 Stock Photos of Cooking You Should NEVER, EVER Imitate

11 Stock Photos of Cooking You Should NEVER, EVER Imitate

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Stock photos. They help websites everywhere illustrate stories (and frankly, our jobs would be much tougher without them). However, for every great-looking stock photo out there, there are plenty of oddballs. Some are genuinely hilarious, while others are just plain bizarre.

Yes, stock photos can be pretty ridiculous—and you’d probably never think that they could also serve as valuable teaching tools, especially when it comes to cooking. How? Because sometimes, seeing what you shouldn’t do in the kitchen is the most effective way to learn what you should do. The thing is, you may not even know that something is wrong (though in some of these, you probably would)—but to a well-trained chef, they just look like trouble.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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Below, find 10 cooking-themed stock photos, courtesy of Getty Images, that are problematic. We’ve identified the main issue in each one, and some thoughts on what to do instead.

We hope they make you smile and we hope they impart a little culinary wisdom, but most importantly of all—please don’t replicate any of these photos at home!

Stock Photo #1: Woman is cutting parsley on the cutting board

The Issue: We’re begging this lady. Please, please—put your knife down immediately. What’s wrong? She’s resting her index finger on top of the knife, a position that gives her virtually zero control while using it. This is a very dangerous (and awkward) way to hold a knife, and you’re much more likely to cut yourself if you do it.

The Fix: Pinch the base of blade between your thumb and forefinger on your dominant hand, then grip the knife handle with your other three fingers. This way, you’ll have much greater control, and you’ll be able to make precise cuts.

Watch Test Kitchen Director Katie Barreira demonstrate the correct way to hold a knife in this video.

Stock Photo #2: Women’s hands preparing lunch

wihteorchid / Getty Images

The Issue: Oof. We fear for those generic stock photo hands. See how the lady is holding the cucumber with her left hand—the tips of her left fingers are completely exposed to the knife, meaning she could easily slice through them if she’s not careful.

The Fix: Hold the knife with your dominant hand, and use the other hand to guide it while you chop. Cup your hand over the food and curl your fingertips in towards your palm. Use the flat space between the first and second joint on your fingers to guide your knife as you slice through food. This gives you greater control and it also helps you make a smooth, rhythmic motion with your knife.

Culinary legend Jacques Pépin describes the motion as such: “Grab the knife—and glue it to your finger.” Watch him demonstrate the best way to chop veggies here.

Stock Photo #3: Whole roasted chicken on carving board

gwenael le vot / Getty Images

The Issue: To whoever is holding that knife—go ahead, keep slicing your beautifully roasted bird like that. Just do it. You’re about to leave a trove of perfectly good breast meat on the carcass (and this is just wasteful!).

The Fix: Remove the breasts from the bone first, instead of slicing pieces off the carcass. This way, you’ll get more meat from the chicken—and any bird for that matter. Once you’ve removed them, place the breasts on a cutting board and slice with a super sharp knife. Want to see this step in action? Watch Test Kitchen Professional Adam Hickman carve a turkey (the right way) here.

Stock Photo #4: Sauteed summer and zucchini squash in a frying pan

MSPhotographic / Getty Images

The Issue: Here’s a great way to saute veggies—cram as many as you can in your skillet, crank up the heat, and fry away. Just kidding. Please don’t do this. Overcrowding your skillet makes food steam, instead of sear, meaning you’ll end up with the mushy mess in the photo.

The Fix: When sauteing vegetables or meat, use a larger skillet than you’ll think you need. Make sure your food has plenty of space to spread out in the pan, otherwise it will never develop a crispy outer texture and golden-brown color.

Stock Photo #5: Smiling man on the phone chopping vegetables in the kitchen

The Issue: Is this really the best time for this guy to call up his friends? And what on earth is he looking at? We may never know the answers, but we do know this—multitasking while handling a knife is just plain unsafe!

The Fix: When you’re using a knife, don’t try to do five other tasks at the same time. Your lack of attention could land you in the ER for stitches. Focus on the food that you’re slicing or dicing, and please—wait until afterwards to catch up with your friends.

Stock Photo #6: Funny cooking image of woman crying and screaming in kitchen

The Issue: We’ve all been there—you planned to cook something a little ambitious for dinner, but it’s not going quite as planned. Nothing tastes right, you forgot to buy half of the ingredients, and your hungry kids are beating their fists on the table.

The Fix: If your recipe isn’t going as planned or if it isn’t tasting quite right, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, taste your food, and think about the flavors. Ask yourself how you can adjust the ingredients (or what you might need to add) to make the dish taste better. If you’re stumped, read our helpful guide: How to Taste—and Adjust Dishes Like a Pro.

Stock Photo #7: A dishwasher with knives sticking dangerously point side up

Ragnar Schmuck / Getty Images

The Issue: Yes, this is a poorly loaded dishwasher—but there’s another problem that’s far worse. Kitchen knives, especially nice ones, have no place in the dishwasher. Your knife is likely to be jostled around while the dishwasher runs, plus abrasive dishwasher detergent can dull the blade over time.

The Fix: Hand wash your knives with dish soap and hot water, dry them with a towel, then store them in a safe place.

Stock Photo #8: Woman looking at burnt food in cooking pot

AndreyPopov / Getty Images

The Issue: Your pot catches on fire while you’re cooking. What do you do? Well, you definitely don't grab the flaming pot WITH YOUR BARE HANDS.

The Fix: Unlike this woman, stay calm—and do NOT try to grab a pot that’s on fire. For small grease fires, the National Fire Protection Association recommends turning off the stovetop heat immediately and covering the pot with a metal lid. (This cuts off the fire’s oxygen supply and should quell the flames.) If you don’t have a lid, you can pour baking soda over the flames. Likewise, for oven fires, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Use the fire extinguisher as a last resort—and if this doesn’t put the fire out, then get outside and call 9-11!

Stock Photo #9: Chef

filadendron / Getty Images

The Issue: You invited your friends over for a dinner party tonight, but you’ve waited until the last minute to cook—so you hire a caterer to handle the food for you. You struggle to find someone last minute, but you manage to book some chef with a cheap hourly rate.

Unfortunately, this guy shows up at your front door. (If only you’d thought about this yesterday!)

The Fix: If you’re throwing a dinner party, avoid a last minute scramble and make a plan in advance. Decide what foods you can prep or cook the day before—and what must wait until the last minute. For example, if you’re serving a salad, you can make the vinaigrette and wash the lettuce ahead of time. If you’re making homemade quiche, you can pre-bake the crust in the morning, then pop it in the oven when your guests arrive in the evening.

Stock Photo #10: Clueless guy chopping lettuce

OlafSpeier / Getty Images

The Issue: Hedge clippers. Really?

The Fix: Obviously, hedge clippers are a poor choice for chopping lettuce, but that’s not the lesson here. Different tasks require different kitchen knives—and you’ll be much more effective at your prep work when you know how to choose the right one. For slicing and dicing most foods, a sharp chef’s knife will get the job done. A long serrated knife helps you saw through larger foods such as a head of lettuce or a whole pineapple. For peeling smaller fruit and vegetables, a paring knife gives you the most control.

Stock Photo #11: Muscular man with raw meat

The Issue: We hope this guy’s hands are clean.

The Fix: Before you handle raw meat, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water beforehand (or use a pair of tongs if you prefer not to touch it). Secondly, if you’re planning to grill, saute, stir fry, deep fry, or cook using any other high-heat method—dress accordingly! At the very least, wear a shirt to protect your arms and chest area.

A Beginners Guide to New York City: A Tried & True Crash Course

Because of this, and my affinity for food and restaurants, I frequently get asked for recommendations by friends visiting the city for the first time so I figured I would put together a list of some classics and “can’t miss spots”. Before anyone gets up-in-arms about anything I left out – remember I had to draw the line somewhere and also there are a lot of restaurants in NYC and I don’t live there so I haven’t been to them all.


With restaurants, bars and fast food chains closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many have turned to replicating their favourite take-aways at home (stock image)

The home cook made multiple pieces of crispy chicken for her family - and it hardly took her any time at home.

To make the crispy chicken, she simply boiled the chicken pieces and then left them to soak in butter milk for 45 minutes.

Once the time passed, she then dipped the chicken in seasoned flour before frying it.

The tasty dish received positive comments from others online, with many tagging their friends and family to share the recipe further.

'I [took] a screenshot of your recipe. I will cook it next week. Thank you,' one woman said.

'Oh that looks so good,' another said, while a third added: 'Wow, looks wonderful!'

Another woman said she tried the recipe herself and used the INGHAM Chicken Seasoning Coating Mix rather than mixing the ingredients individually - which she said tasted delicious.

This isn't the first home chef to replicate popular fast food options, as earlier this week a thrifty woman made her own version of a McDonald's Big Mac burger (pictured)

This isn't the first home chef to replicate popular fast food meals, as earlier this week a thrifty woman made her own version of a McDonald's Big Mac burger meal and also shared the recipe on social media.

The woman named the burger the 'quarantine Big Mac' and made the entire dish herself – including the sesame seed buns - for her family.

'Big mac burgers are large, flat and shrink when fried so always go a bit bigger than the bun,' she said.

The mum also made the big mac sauce by combining mayonnaise, gherkin relish, garlic powder, onion powder, white wine vinegar, salt, yellow mustard and smoked paprika.

The homemade meal impressed other food enthusiasts across the country, with many saying the burger looked better than 'the real thing'.

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‘A writer’s tools are ideas and ideas are funny little things that don’t work unless you do!’ – Gloria Pitzer

Security, to a serious writer, is an amplitude of ideas. Seniority means nothing. Effort and ability mean everything. Competition? There are approximately 400,000 professional writers today [1989] with their articles or books in print, all clamoring for attention from a few thousand were the publications and book publishers. In my specific field, there are over 45,000 cookbooks on the market today [1989]. These are, both, collaborators and competitors.

A writer’s tools are ideas and ideas are funny little things that don’t work unless you do! Often, ideas come without an appointment – like at 2 o’clock in the morning, or in the middle of a pleasant lunch in a lovely restaurant. Then you pull out pen and paper and make notes because the ideas are fresh, and you cannot let yourself postpone the surge of inspiration you instinctively feel is touching you at that moment.

In honor of today, being National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, here is Mom’s imitation of Howard Johnson’s Chocolate Ice Cream, as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press Jan. 2018, p. 254)

[A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes TM , St. Clair, MI May 1983, 3 rd Edition)]

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…


Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Persistence Pays Off

Memorial Day is upon us, and in the midst of a global pandemic. Thus, I can’t find it in me to say, “Happy Monday” as I usually do in my blog openings. This is a day for respectful solace, set aside to remember and honor all of our veterans who have died, serving in our military. Keep in mind, we may celebrate our freedoms but let us never forget by what cost we have them, in the first place!

In the photo below, I have shared seven thoughts on old Memorial Day traditions, about which I learned, last year, from All of us can, and should, bring any one of these things (or all of them) to fruition, in observance of Memorial Day. They can still be done safely, even amidst this pandemic and our crazy new norms.

Background from 47th Bomb Wing Assoc., Ltd. An invitation for the B-45 Tornado Dedication

Nonetheless, it is still Monday and I have to say #TGIM because, regardless of the day’s events, I always look forward to Mondays as they are my #52Chances each year, in which I have to share my memories of Mom with all of you!

And, as I have mentioned the last couple of weeks, Mondays are even more special to me, now since, on the last Monday of every month, except for today, I will be sharing even more “Memories of My Mom” and the “behind-the-scene stories” of how she came up with some of her famous copycat recipes, over the radio airwaves, on WHBY’s “Good Neighbor” show, with host, Kathy Keene. This week, however, I will be on tomorrow, instead of today – same time.

The “Good Neighbor” show airs weekdays, from about 11AM to 1PM (Central Time). I will be on with Kathy for, at least, the first half-hour of the show. If you’re not in the Appleton, WI listening-area, you can also hear the show, live via the internet, through a link on WHBY’s website at

A few decades ago, Mom was a regular, monthly guest on Kathy’s show, for about 13 years. Now it’s my turn and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share even more memories of my mom!

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press Jan. 2018, p. 298-299)

It was 1977, and we were considering a move from Pearl Beach [MI] to St. Clair [MI], since our 80-year-old house was already packed, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, with recipe books and newsletter inventory. Just about the time we planned our move, the Phil Donahue Show called and invited us to… appear on their program…

I had to decline. We already had more work than we could handle, and I had found that television appearances were merely food demonstrations that I did not enjoy experiencing. I enjoyed my radio work more, and the number of stations on which I had become a regular participant had grown to include over 100, across the country and in Canada.

Pitzer’s House, St. Clair, MI 1978

We were settling down in our new house, in St. Clair, with our office in the basement. [However,] we outgrew that arrangement in a short time and rented a larger office uptown. But the books became more successful than we anticipated, and the newsletter circulation was growing to over 10,000. Soon, I found that we had to put the [office] back into our home.

I couldn’t depend on being in a writing mood between our regular ‘office’… hours of 8 AM to 5 PM. Some of the radio shows that I took part in were on-the-air at midnight, especially my favorite visits with KMOX in St. Louis and WGY in Schenectady.

With my files and reference materials at the office and me, at home, on the telephone with the radio shows, the arrangement was not satisfactory. So, Paul and our 2 sons remodeled our two-car garage, [which was] attached to the kitchen, and we moved the operation back there where, for the next 4 years, the business ran quite smoothly.

We were receiving about 1,000 letters a day from the radio shows that I took part in and the newspaper stories that I was more-or-less an acting consultant on subjects related to ‘fast food’. In the spring of 1981, our old friend, Carol Haddix, ran a story about our new book of ‘Homemade Groceries’ in the Chicago Tribune, where she had just been assigned the food department.

The Donahue Show people called once more and requested our appearance. We had just done a PM Magazine show with Detroit and had declined an invitation to appear in New York on Good Morning America, as well as declining an opportunity to have People Magazine interview us…

I still wonder why in the world I said I would do the Donahue show! On July 6 [1981], Paul and I flew to Chicago, staying at the Hyatt O’Hare, and did the Donahue show, live – for an entire hour – on July 7 th , flying back that same afternoon. The next day, 15,000 letters waited for us at the St. Clair post office.

And every day, for 4 months, we picked up THOUSANDS of letters – having received, by Christmas, well over 1 million letters, requesting information on how to acquire our books, which were still available only by mail from our address. We were bogged down with an unexpected response. It was an experience of mixed blessings!

If you’ve ever seen one million letters, you know how we felt when we tried to handle the overwhelming response! It was exhausting! Our home, which was both our office and our sanctuary, became like a factory, with people helping us to process the mail eventually having to return thousands of orders to customers with our deepest regrets that we could not, in all fairness to them, delay their order. The onslaught of mail had forced us to do this.

We were all working from 7 AM until 1 or 2 AM, the next morning, just to open and read the mail. Our phone bill had been buried in some of that mail and in a month’s time, being something like 23 to 24 days behind in opening the mail, our phone was shut off for non-payment of our bill.

As soon as we realized what the mail was doing to us, we tried to get Donahue’s people to stop the continued scheduled showings of our appearance. But that show remained on their repeat schedule for almost a year, playing in the Panama Canal zone, Greenland, Iceland, Australia and on hundreds of small-town stations.

Most of the letters requested a sheet of ‘free’ recipes that were included with the order blank [in exchange] for a self-addressed stamped envelope… The offer would have been good for us, if it had only been shown that one time – the day on which we appeared on the show – but for nearly a year afterward, the requests still came, as did the complaints and the threats to report us to postal authorities for not having sent those ‘free’ recipes, tore us apart emotionally and physically!

Some people did not include their self-addressed-stamped envelope. Some envelopes were addressed to themselves, such as Joe Smith, but in care of OUR address instead of THEIR address. It was a confusing mess! Some people wrote threatening letters that they hadn’t received their orders and were turning us over to the postmaster general as frauds!

I laid my head on my desk many a time, in tears of anguish and fatigue. The family was falling apart. We couldn’t print our books fast enough, to fill all the orders! Then the post office, in delivering the thousands of books that we DID mail out, lost some, destroyed some, and delayed and even miss-directed other orders.

That was probably one of the most chaotic times in the lives our family. But, in the end, it opened doors for Mom that might never have happened otherwise. It also brought MILLIONS of new eyes to Mom’s cookbooks and newsletters – and overall talent – as she appeared on television screens, in millions of homes, world-wide.


Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press Jan. 2018, p. 87-88)

With the tests for COUNTERFEITING FRIED CHICKEN AT HOME that was as good as what you could buy out – but for less – I felt I HAD to have a pressure fryer. This meant I had to have a place to also put it in my kitchen, which was already bursting at the seams with appliances and gadgets and utensils I really didn’t get enough use from, as it was.

Then one summer [1971], while visiting [our Knotts] relatives in West Virginia, we sampled some pan-fried home-style chicken that was every bit as good as the chicken produced in a pressure fryer. Paul’s 82-year-old aunt claimed why the chicken always came out just right every time she made it – which was religiously every Sunday – it was the pan! She used an 80-year-old wrought iron skillet that had never been washed in soap and water. She ‘seasoned’ it with shortening – lard, mostly. She kept it in the oven of her wood-burning, porcelain enamel stove, where it was always warm.

THE FRIED CHICKEN RECIPE that first called attention to my recipes, nationally – through the ‘National Enquirer’, ‘Money Magazine’, ‘Catholic Digest’, ‘The Christian Science Monitor’, ‘Campus Life Magazine’ and, yes, even ‘Playboy Magazine’ – was this following combination of ingredients. [See Mom’s recipe near the end of this blog post.]

The method is quite unorthodox and the original idea for developing it in this manner, came from a conversation I had with ‘Col. Sanders’ over the air with radio station WFAA in Dallas when I was a regular guest on a talk show with them for several months.

We discussed the secrets of the food industry with listeners by phone from our homes. The Colonel was fascinated by the publicity I had received for my ‘Big Bucket in the Sky’ fried chicken recipe and agreed that I was on the right track if I’d add more pepper. He loved pepper!

He also suggested browning the chicken in a skillet and then, oven-baking it until tender to achieve a likeness more to the original recipe he had created in 1964. He told me to look around the grocery store for one packaged product to replace the 11 spices – which I did diligently – and discovered that powdered Italian salad dressing mix was the secret!

So, I set to work to revamp the recipe. My original recipe was quite close to the famous Colonel’s product, but the coating kept falling off – because, as he explained, I couldn’t get the oil hot enough. He liked peanut oil, himself, but suggested that I could achieve a similar result by using corn or Crisco oil – with 1 cup solid Crisco for every 4 cups of oil. He talked about the quality in his product changing after turning the business over to new owners.

When Heublein Conglomerate bought out the franchise, they paid a few million dollars for ‘The Colonel’s’ recipe and technique. It seemed unlikely that a home-kitchen-rendition of such a famous product could be had for the price of my book. But the letters came in – ‘best chicken we ever had’ ‘LOVED that fried chicken recipe’ ‘our favorite chicken recipe…’ and ‘maybe the Colonel should have used YOUR recipe!’

In honor of National Country Cooking Month in June, which is just around the corner, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for Oven-Fried Kentucky-Style Chicken!

SPECIAL NOTE: The tomato powder called for in the above recipe was also the recipe I shared in last week’s blog post at:

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

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How to Broil Fish + Meats 12 Videos

Spices + Herbs: A to Z

Get tips on buying, storing and cooking with every spice and herb under the sun, from allspice to za'atar.


Allspice is the brown, unripe berry of a tropical evergreen plant native to the Caribbean islands, where it is called pimento. It is the main ingredient in Jamaican jerk seasoning, but is also found in Mexican (called pimenta gorda or fat pepper) and Indian cuisines. It is used in the Lebanese kitchen as a substitute for their seven-spice mixture, which typically includes pepper, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, paprika, coriander and sometimes more.

Allspice adds bold, sweet and savory flavors to dishes and gives recipes hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. In Jamaica, seasoned meats are often cooked over an allspice wood fire. You can add it to soups, lentils, marinades, barbecue sauces, chili and slow-cooked stews. Allspice pairs well with pumpkin and is frequently used in pumpkin pies. You can buy it already ground or whole (five whole berries make about one teaspoon when ground).

Store in a sealed container, away from direct heat and light. Whole allspice can retain its flavor for up to three years ground, the flavor can last for 12 to 18 months.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos

Ancho Chile

Ancho chiles are native to Mexico. When the chile is sold fresh, it is deep green and called a poblano. But when sold in dried form, it’s an ancho. It is heart-shaped in appearance, a few inches in length, has a very dark brown color and is wrinkled (but should be pliable). It is very mild tasting.

It is typically found in Mexican stews and in tamales. You can buy anchos whole or ground. These chiles, used whole or pureed in mole sauces or ground in rubs, have a very mild, almost sweet flavor. They generally do not add any heat. Many sauce recipes require the dried chile to be soaked in hot water before using. You can use the chile as is (just cut off the stem) or sizzle it in hot oil before using.

Store in an airtight container in a cool and dark place. Use whole chiles before they become brittle.


Anise is a small, ridged, light brownish, crescent-shaped seed. It lends a sweet licorice-like flavor to dishes and is found in many cuisines including Indian, Italian, Greek, Turkish and other Mediterranean countries. It is known to have digestive properties. It is found in several liqueurs, including French Pernod and Greek ouzo.

Since it is so sweet, anise is typically used in cookies, cakes, stews, coffee, cocktails and liqueurs. But many Italians like to use it in their tomato sauces. Use it toasted, whole, or grind before use. Dry-roasting anise seeds before grinding them will make their flavor stronger.

Store whole seeds in an airtight container in a cool and dark place. Ground anise will lose its flavor quickly so use within three months.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos


Annatto seeds come from a tree aptly named the “lipstick tree” because they impart a distinct red color to anything they are added to. The seeds themselves are brick red. Typically found in Latin American cuisines and also in the Philippines, annatto is also known as achiote.

Annatto has an earthy flavor and pairs well with meats, especially pork. When used in everything from butter to cheese to chocolate to stews, it imparts a deep yellow color. For frying use the seeds whole otherwise buy annatto ground (it is really hard to grind finely enough at home). It is also sold as part of achiote paste, which contains garlic, other spices and chile. Sizzle annatto seeds in hot oil and use the strained oil to flavor and color dishes.

Store in an airtight container in a cool and dark place. Whole seeds can keep their flavor for up to three years ground annatto deteriorates more quickly and may be prone to bug infestations.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos

Apple Pie Spice

Apple pie spice – a fragrant mix of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and mace – is used to flavor apple desserts such as pies and cobblers. It is commercially sold but many home cooks like to create their own personal combinations.

Toss apples in the spice mix, then cook according to the recipe you are using. You can also try to use this mix to flavor pancakes, muffins and even cocktails. Try spinkling over French toast or using in lamb stew to add sweetness. The mix is very aromatic a little goes a long way, so use sparingly.

Store in an airtight container away from direct heat. Ground spices lose their potency over time so use your nose to check for freshness. If there is an aroma, the spice mix is alive and can still be used.


Arrowroot, a starch, comes from a rhizome and is used as a thickener. It is preferred over other thickeners like rice flour or cornstarch since it can be used at lower temperatures and adds a lovely gloss to sauces in which it is incorporated. It is also flavor-neutral so it does not affect the flavor of the dishes.

It is commercially sold as a powder. Slowly dissolve the powder in an equal volume of cool water. Once the powder is dissolved, add the liquid slowly to your simmering sauces, whisking as you add. Arrowroot works well with most sauces but generally does not do well with dairy products a dairy sauce thickened with arrowroot will be really slippery and slimy.

Store in a container away from direct heat.

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Basil is a gentle, sweet-tasting herb found in many cuisines including Indian (where the variety is called holy basil), Italian, Thai (purple basil) and Moroccan. One thing is for sure: No matter which cuisine, the preference of cooks seems to be toward using the fresh leaves. There are over fifty types of basil and each one has a nuanced flavor ranging from cinnamon-like to sweet to peppery.

While basil is most often used to make pesto and to flavor tomato sauces, think beyond those uses. It brings freshness to a cocktail, pairs well with rice and with vegetables, and is a great flavor enhancer for chicken and shrimp. Also, think of it for desserts: A fresh fruit salad tossed with lemon juice and basil is very refreshing. While dried basil can provide a strong, sweet flavor, fresh leaves have the upper hand in most cuisines. Cut or tear them at the last minute before adding, as they blacken quickly.

The best way to have fresh basil on-hand is to grow your own. Fresh basil keeps for just a few days so buy often and use copiously. Wrap fresh basil leaves loosely in a paper towel and place in the refrigerator until needed. But use it soon basil does not like the cold. Or stand a bunch of basil in a jar or vase with water and keep on your kitchen table for a few days.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos

Bay Leaf

The bay laurel tree bears leaves that are popular in many cuisines including Turkish, American and Indian. The leaves are razor sharp and very tough, and should be removed from a dish before it is served. The leaves add a sweet flavor. Turkish bay leaves are milder than their Californian relatives. Indian bay leaves, known as tej patta, are generally harder to find in the US. These are leaves of the cassia tree (cassia is type of strong cinnamon) and are much milder than their US counterparts.

Bay leaves are generally sold dried and are added to tomato sauces, soups, stews, curries and even syrupy desserts. Add them to the liquid when poaching fish or shrimp, alone or as part of a bouquet garni. But use sparingly – even the mildest leaves are highly aromatic.

Store in an airtight container. The dried leaves have a long shelf life, up to three years. Ground bay leaves lose their flavor within 12 months.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos

Cajun Spice Mix

This spice mix, featured in blackened Cajun-style dishes, is one of the most popular mixes in the US. It is used to coat the main ingredient (typically fish or chicken), which is then cooked at a high heat so that a crust forms on the outside. Every cook has their own combination but typical mixes contain salt, paprika, thyme, cayenne, garlic, oregano, black pepper and onion powder.

As mentioned, rub the mix over chicken or fish fillets, then cook it at high temperatures to get the blackened effect. Cajun seasoning adds great flavor to chicken breasts (perfect for use in sandwiches), nice depth to stews and soups and a bit of spice to sweet potato fries or French fried potatoes (sprinkle as you would salt).

Store in an airtight container away from direct heat and light. As with most ground spices, it should be used sooner rather than later, or all you’ll taste is the salt.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos


Caraway, believe it or not, is a part of the parsley family. The seeds are crescent-shaped, impart an earthy, slightly bitter flavor, and are commonly found in Middle Eastern and northern European cuisines. They are typically used to flavor savory dishes like potatoes, cheeses and bread but appear in the occasional cookie and, of course, alcoholic drinks like aquavit.

You can add caraway to breads, soups and stews, where it provides a nice aroma and a pungent, thyme-like flavor. It’s especially good in braised cabbage, with or without sausages. If you want just a hint of the flavor, don’t roast the seeds before using. But if you prefer a stronger aroma, many chefs suggest you gently toast the seeds before using. You can also grind the seeds to a fine powder.

Whole seeds have a longer shelf life than the powder, which loses its potency rapidly (this is true with most ground spices), so it’s best to keep whole seeds and grind them as needed. Store in an airtight container away from direct heat and light.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos


Cardamom is a strong, aromatic and intense spice. There are two main types of cardamom: The gently sweet green cardamom is a small, light-colored pod with black seeds inside both pod and seeds are edible. Black cardamom is very fragrant and has a pungent, almost smoky flavor it is used whole to season dishes and is removed before serving. In some stores you will find white cardamom, which is green cardamom that has been sun-bleached. Cardamom is found in several ancient cuisines around the world including Indian, Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Ethiopian.

Green cardamom: Crush green cardamom with a mortar and pestle and use to flavor ice creams, cookies, pilafs and curries. Add whole pods to rice as you steam it. You can also grind it to a fine powder and sprinkle it in tea or coffee, or use it in a chocolate sauce. If you purchase ground cardamom, make sure it is dark gray in color, not light and fibrous, which indicates that the flavorless pods have been ground with the seeds to provide more bulk.

Black cardamom: Use whole to flavor soups, stews, curries and stocks to add sweet depth of flavor. Remove before serving the dish.

Store both types of cardamom (separately, of course) in airtight containers, away from direct heat and light. It’s better to keep the seeds in their green pods, as they lose their flavor and aroma much faster when out of the pods.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne, a slender red chile, is popular in Indian and many South American cuisines. It lends heat and a sharp flavor to dishes. In the US, it is mostly sold in ground form. While not as potent as some other chiles, it is still quite strong and should be used sparingly.

Cayenne plays well with vinegar, so it’s ideal for barbecue sauces. In fact, it is the ingredient that provides the heat in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, a necessity for Buffalo chicken wings! You can add it to pretty much any savory dish you want. In India, ground cayenne is also added to fresh fruit salads, along with a pinch of salt, as the heat helps amplify the sweetness of the fruit. Try adding it to a pie spice mix for heat, sprinkle on popcorn in lieu of salt or sprinkle on a bowl of yogurt for an Indian raita.

Store in an airtight container away from direct heat and light.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos

Celery Seed

Little tiny celery seeds are part of the parsley family and are bitter in taste. Sometimes, they are referred to as smallage because they come from a plant of the same name – not from the celery we eat. Though the seed is tiny, it packs a punch with its grassy aroma, so use it sparingly.

The pungent seed does become a bit mellower with cooking. Use it to flavor sandwiches, soups, stews, macaroni and cheese, hearty vegetables and poultry. Ground celery seed is one of the most identifiable ingredients in Old Bay Seasoning. One of its most popular uses is in the Bloody Mary.

Buy and use whole, as the ground seed tends to lose its flavor quickly. Store in an airtight container away from direct heat and light.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos

Chaat Masala

This classic North Indian spice mix is similar to a finishing salt. It has several ingredients including dried mango powder (which adds tartness), black salt and many more spices. The commercially available brands are so good that fewer people seem to be making this from scratch. It adds a tang and savory flavor to all sorts of dishes.

Sprinkle it on fritters, salads, fries, kebabs and popcorn. Sprinkle on freshly sliced mango, then season with some lemon juice. This mix is generally not used during the cooking process, but as a final garnish to the dish. A pinch or two just before serving can turn almost any dish from ordinary into exotic.

Store it an airtight container away from direct heat.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos


Chamomile has a very distinct sweet and flowery flavor (it is a flower, after all!). It is used in teas as a soothing, nerve-calming agent. You can purchase it fresh or dried. There are several types of chamomile available in the market. Herbalists usually use flowers from German chamomile, while Roman chamomile is used in cooking applications.

You can use chamomile to make tea, which is especially nice with honey for a sore throat. Add it to cookies and crumbles, or add to simple syrup to give it nice depth. Infuse it into jams (it’s lovely with plums or other gentle fruits) or use as a flavor note in your fruit crisp topping. Chamomile is also great in cocktails chamomile-infused grappa is delicious.

Store dried chamomile in a cool dark cupboard, in a glass spice jar. Fresh chamomile flowers should be used immediately.

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Chervil has a delicate, lacy appearance, tastes like a cross between very mild parsley and anise, and is very aromatic. It is used in French and other European cuisines. It is part of aromatic mixes like herbes de Provence and fines herbes.

Because it is so delicate, it is generally not used during the cooking process but rather is added at the end. You will find it in gently cooked classic sauces like béarnaise and in omelets. It pairs especially well with mild fish. Chervil is also often used as a garnish.

Use fresh chervil as soon as possible as it perishes quickly, turning yellow.

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Chili Powder

Chili powders, in fine to medium grinds, are generally comprised of different kinds of chiles (of various heat indexes) balanced with garlic and onion powders and other flavorings. There are many variations available in the market, so please check the label to be sure you know what you are getting! The powders may contain ingredients like allspice, black pepper, cumin and salt. Don’t confuse them with pure chile powders that contain only the named chile, with no additional ingredients.

Typically these powders are used in making chili and in dry rubs and marinades. They can add depth to curries and stews, and work well with most meats, poultry, game and fish. Add it at the beginning of the cooking process. Cooking the mix along with other ingredients will make the flavors truly blossom. Try making a marinade out of your favorite powder and olive oil. Because the powders vary in heat, be careful about how much you add at one time.

Store in an airtight container away from direct heat and light. As with other blends, as time goes by some ingredients will fade while others will grow stronger, so always check it for balance before using.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos

Chinese Five-Spice Powder

This ground mix is, as its name would imply, an important part of the Chinese kitchen. The aromatic mix contains star anise, cinnamon, fennel, Szechuan peppercorns and cloves. Since all the spices used are pretty strong, the resulting mix is quite pungent. The most prominent flavor in the mix is that of the star anise.

You can use this as a rub for meat, in stir-fries or to liven up stews. It adds something close to sweetness – but without sugar – to savory dishes and to barbecue sauces. Mixed with hoisin sauce, it makes an excellent dipping sauce for Chinese steamed buns. Remember to use it sparingly as the mix is quite strong.

Store in an airtight container away from direct heat and light.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos

Chipotle Chile

Chipotle chiles are jalapeño peppers that have been smoke-dried. While common in Mexican cuisine, they are gaining popularity all over America. They are hot, spicy and more than a bit smoky. They are sold as whole dried pods, ground into pure chile powder or within small cans, moistened in a tomato-garlic sauce called adobo.

In all forms, chipotle chiles can be added to stews, sauces, salsas, meat marinades and more. Puree chipotles in adobo in a blender and mix with mayonnaise for a zippy sandwich spread or dip (in fact, this puree can add flavor to almost any dish). Start with a little, taste, and add more as desired. Whole pods should be roasted in a dry skillet until fragrant they can then be ground to powder form once cooled, or softened by soaking in hot water before being chopped. Consider adding ground chipotles to the batter when you make fried chicken or using the chipotle puree to add zing to salad dressing.

Store whole and ground chiles in an airtight container. Transfer unused chiles in adobo from the can to a covered plastic container or jar and refrigerate they will keep quite a long time so long as you employ a clean implement whenever you remove some to use.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos


These very delicate, vibrant, hollow green stalks are part of the onion family and sometimes also referred to as onion grass. Their flavor is milder than that of bulb onions or scallions (green onions). They are often used in American cooking, chopped, as a garnish. Their Asian counterpart, called Chinese chives, are larger, flatter and stronger in flavor.

Add chives toward the end of the cooking process or as a final garnish. Top spuds, boiled eggs, soups, stews and Asian dishes with them. Mix chopped chives into cream cheese for your bagel. Chives are a classic garnish on potato soup, either hot or cold as vichyssoise. And they are a component of fines herbes along with parsley, chervil, and tarragon, used in delicate sauces and omelets.

Fresh chives don’t keep for very long. Spreading them whole on a paper towel, rolling it up, and storing in a loose plastic bag helps. But just a couple of days in the refrigerator and they will begin to rot, so use them as quickly as possible.


Cilantro is an herb born from the coriander seed. It has a refreshing citrusy flavor and adds freshness to dishes. It is frequently used in Indian, Thai, Portuguese and Mexican cuisines. The herb is indigenous to southern Europe and the Middle East it's often called Arab parsley or Chinese parsley in French cooking. Cilantro, the herb form of coriander, and the coriander seed have very different flavor profiles and cannot be substituted for one another.

Use cilantro in pestos, sauces cooked on low heat, salad dressings, fresh chutneys and of course as a garnish for Mexican food. If the cilantro you are using is young, the tender stems are also edible as the plant matures, the stalks get tougher and should be discarded. But the entire plant, even the roots, is pounded to make Thai curry pastes.

Fresh cilantro has a short shelf life. Wrap it in newspaper and place in the refrigerator. Use within two to three days. It will keep slightly longer if the bunch is placed in a jar with water (like a bouquet).

Typical Recipes Using Cilantro:

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Aromatic cinnamon – actually the bark of a tropical tree – is a versatile spice, which adds its gentle bite to both sweet and savory dishes. A lot of the cinnamon sold in the US is actually cassia (also called Chinese cinnamon), a more pungent type of bark. The best cinnamon is said to come from Vietnam. Cinnamon is popular in cuisines all over the world.

Heated oil helps cinnamon release its flavor. Add whole or broken cinnamon quills or ground cinnamon to hot oil, then use as needed. Use cinnamon to add aroma and flavor to muffins, cookies, stews, chili, pork chops, moussaka, ratatouille, rice pudding and cocktails.

Store the quills in a jar and grate as needed. Ground cinnamon loses potency quickly. Store in an airtight container away from direct heat and light.

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Cloves are actually dried flower buds which add a deep sweet and spicy aroma to dishes. They can be used whole or ground, but one thing remains constant: They are very strong, so use them sparingly. Raw cloves are very bitter. Cloves have been used in Asian, Mexican and European cooking for years.

Adding whole cloves to hot oil really helps bring out their flavor. You can then use the oil to start stews and vegetables. When adding whole cloves directly to a dish, it’s best to add them in such a way that they can easily be removed. (For example, leave them in a steamed rice dish, whole, but warn diners.) They make a glazed baked ham wonderfully fragrant and festive. You can use ground cloves in cookies, cakes, barbecue rubs and both sweet and savory sauces. Cloves add great depth to jams, chutneys and stewed fruits. Steep them in simple syrup and use the syrup in desserts and cocktails just be aware that the syrup will darken.

As with all spices, store whole or ground cloves in tight sealed plastic bags or jars in a dark cool cupboard. When they lose their fragrance, replace them.

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Coriander is a light-tan-colored ridged round seed that births the cilantro plant. When ground, it releases a lovely lemony flavor. It is used in Indian, Thai, Mediterranean, North African and Mexican cuisines. The coriander seed and the herb (cilantro) are not substitutes for one another.

The best way to use the seeds is to dry-roast, then grind them. The ground seed is great in marinades for grilled meats, barbecue sauces, tomato-based sauces and salad dressings. The seeds provide the best flavor when they are crushed open. In this form they are often used in the Indian kitchen to thicken curries. Use coriander to bring depth to stocks.

Store in an airtight container away from direct heat and light. Use ground coriander quickly before its flavor fades.

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Cumin – a small, oblong, ridged seed – is actually a dried fruit that lends a toasty, smoky flavor when roasted or sizzled in oil. It is almost never used raw. Cumin is said to be one of the most popular spices in the world, preceded only by black pepper. There are many varieties of cumin from mild to pungent, and it is used in Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisines. In Indian cuisine, you will also find black cumin, which is smaller and sweeter than regular cumin.

Sizzle cumin in hot oil, then use the oil to flavor curries, stews, rice dishes and meats. You can also dry-roast it in a skillet, grind it and use it to garnish almost any dish that needs a savory, earthy flavor. Dry-roasting the cumin really magnifies its flavor and aroma. Whole or ground, cumin is a major ingredient in Tex-Mex dishes like pinto beans and chile con carne and in North African sauces like chermoula.

Buy it whole and store it in an airtight container. Roast and grind as needed. Ground spices tend to lose their potency within a year. Use your nose to check for the freshness of ground cumin: If it is still aromatic, then it can still be used.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos

Curry Leaves

Curry leaves, popularly known in India as kariveppilai, karivepaaku or kari patta, are aromatic and flavorful leaves that add a pungent, lemony flavor to dishes. They are popular in many southern regional Indian cuisines. They have no substitute. Curry leaves (from the curry tree) have nothing to do with curry powder, although some curry powders may contain ground curry leaves. Unlike bay leaves, curry leaves are edible so there is no need to remove them from a dish before serving.

The leaves, sizzled first in oil, can add depth to rice dishes, vegetable sides, lentil broths and curries. They add tang to marinades for seafood, and can flavor Indian-style pickles. For a unique flavor, use curry leaves in breads and even to flavor drinks. They do not freeze well so it is best to use them fresh.

Fresh curry leaves can last up to two weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge. To make them last longer, air-dry them and store in an airtight container.

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Curry Powder

The British, who ruled India decades ago, actually created this product to imitate the Indian flavors they had come to love. “Curry powder” is a collection of ground spices mixed together in a particular proportion. Different versions add sweetness, bitterness, heat, sourness and color to dishes. Some are generic and can be used to add an Indian-style touch to almost any dish, while others are meant to be used only for specific dishes. There are also Jamaican versions that tend to be heavy on turmeric, adding more color and bitterness.

Most commercial powders are added during cooking, not used as a garnish. A quick rule of thumb here: Use a couple of teaspoons to flavor a dish that is meant to serve four. Taste to check seasoning, then increase if you need to. Give an exotic touch to standard American dishes by adding a pinch or more to vinaigrettes, dairy sauces, meatloaf and even cookies.

Store in airtight containers and away from direct heat. Be sure to check the expiration dates on packages before you buy them.

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Dill has soft, long, grass-like leaves. Fresh dill has a distinctive flavor (think dill pickles) with sour notes. It is very popular in many northern European and Middle Eastern cuisines. Dill seeds (actually the dried fruit of the plant) are stronger and more pungent in flavor than the delicate-looking leaves, but less aromatic.

Dill leaves are primarily used as a garnish and as a flavoring for chicken soup. Try adding them to casseroles, stews, yogurt-based dishes, soups and seafood dishes. Dried dill works almost as well as fresh, and can be cooked a bit longer. The seeds are used to flavor breads, pickled vegetables and anything that needs a punchier flavor. Seeds can be sizzled in oil or toasted before using to bring out a stronger flavor. If a recipe calls for them to be ground, grind them yourself, as the aroma and flavor dissipate quickly in storage.

The leaves have a very short shelf life and should be used as soon as possible. To keep for a few days, wrap the bottom of the bunch in foil and stand in a container of water in the fridge. The seeds can be stored in an airtight container away from direct heat.

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Fennel Seed

These light green, ridged seeds may look like slightly larger cumin, but their flavors are worlds apart. Fennel seeds have a sweetness very similar to licorice. They are highly aromatic and used in cuisines around the world. In India, they are used in curries, breads and drinks. Raw fennel seeds are said to aid digestion, which is why you’ll often see a bowl of them by the door of Indian restaurants. Chinese five-spice powder uses ground fennel seeds as one of its ingredients, while blends such as herbes de Provence use them whole. Feathery fennel fronds (that look like dill) are much milder and don’t carry as strong of an anise punch as the seeds they are best for garnishes.

You can use the seeds whole or ground. To get the most flavor, grind the seeds just before using. Use the seeds to flavor bread doughs, salad dressings, fish soups and stews, and pork dishes (especially sausage). They add a Mediterranean flavor to lamb dishes. Try adding to simple syrup for use with desserts or adding to spice rubs. You can also buy fennel pollen to use as a garnish – although please note that it is very expensive.

Store in an airtight container away from direct heat. Whole seeds retain their flavor up to three years, and ground, up to one.

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Fenugreek Seed and Leaf (Dried)

Fenugreek seeds are small, flat and caramel-colored. But don’t let their small size fool you. They have a strong aroma (think maple syrup) and bitter flavor. They are used primarily in Indian and North African cuisines, and are a major ingredient in generic curry powders. Dried fenugreek leaves, dark green in color, are also used to provide a similar, but grassier, aroma to a dish. The seeds and leaves cannot be substituted for one another.

The seeds work best when lightly toasted or soaked in water for an hour or so. Do not overcook these or they will become terribly bitter. Also, a little goes a really long way, and too much can also be bitter. Because they are extremely hard and difficult to grind, buy them already powdered. Use in curries, vegetable dishes, lentil dishes and tomato-based sauces.

The leaves can be added to lentils, tomato sauces or meat stews to give them great aroma. They work very well in potato dishes, especially finely crumbled into mashed potatoes for an unusual twist.

Whole seeds can be stored up to two years. Toast and grind the seeds (if you have a strong grinder) as you need them. The aroma of ground seeds does not last long. Dried fenugreek leaves can be stored for up to a year (if not more), but be sure to keep them away from light, which destroys their color and flavor. Use your nose: If it smells good, it can still be used.

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Galangal is a rhizome: the underground stem of a plant. It has a sharp, spicy flavor similar to ginger, which it resembles physically. It also looks similar to turmeric, but is less orange in color. Many East Asian cuisines, especially Malaysian and Thai, use it liberally. There are two primary types of galangal: greater and lesser. Greater galangal is used in cooking and is sold fresh lesser galangal is more often used in medicine, and is usually sold in jars, dried and ground.

If you are lucky enough to find galangal, use it as you would ginger in savory dishes. Young galangal can be eaten raw in salads or added to stir-fries, stews or soups. For a unique application, add young galangal to apple cider. Just peel it (a vegetable peeler works well) and grate or cut it really thin as it can be fibrous. Older galangal can be hard and woody, and is generally pounded into Thai curry pastes.

Store galangal in a paper bag in the fridge. It will stay fresh for up to two weeks. Peel it just before using. Fresh galangal can be found in Asian markets and is becoming more available in stores like Whole Foods.

Garam Masala

Garam masala is an Indian spice blend its name translates literally to “warm spice mix,” although it can range from spicy hot to somewhat mild. The strong-tasting mix is typically a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, mace, peppercorns, coriander and cumin. The ingredients vary from region to region, family to family, and even from one cook to another within a family. It is used both whole and ground.

When used whole, garam masala spices are added to hot oil before the other ingredients. The seasoned oil can then be used as a foundation for making curries, rice and lentil dishes.

To use it ground, gently dry-roast the spices until they release their aromas, then grind together into a powder. In powdered form, it is traditionally used as finishing spice to add depth to stews and curries. It can also be added to rubs and marinades. It is a very strong mix, so use sparingly.

The whole spices can be stored for a year or so, but the ground mix will lose its potency over time. Store in an airtight container away from direct heat and light.

Unusual Recipes Using Garam Masala:

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos


This bulb, with its milk-colored cloves enveloped by super-thin papery skin, is possibly one of the most widely used ingredients in the world. Garlic comes in different sizes and colors, from tiny bulbs to huge elephant garlic, and from white to purplish. Softneck garlic is the one most commonly seen in supermarkets, while hardneck varieties are increasingly available at farmers’ markets. Garlic adds a pungent flavor and depth to dishes. Depending on how it’s cooked, though, it can also add mellow sweetness. Garlic is sold as fresh whole bulbs, dried and ground, and minced or pureed (in jars with oil or water). Some groceries also carry jars of whole peeled cloves.

For best results, use fresh garlic. To bring out its pungency, peel it, then crush with the flat of your knife blade. Chop or slice it as fine or coarse as you need and use it to flavor salad dressings, soups, sauces, rice, stews, curries, casseroles, or pretty much any savory dish you’d like. Don’t let garlic burn it becomes terribly bitter and ruins the dish (so it’s best to start it in cold oil rather than adding it to a hot pan).

Slow, gentle cooking – especially roasting – calms garlic’s volatile oils and brings out its sweetness. An easy way to roast garlic is to separate a bulb into cloves, trim off the hard ends, toss the unpeeled cloves with a little oil, place them in a covered baking dish and bake until soft and golden. When cool, squeeze out the sweet paste. Use it as a spread or mix it into sauces and other dishes.

Whole bulbs can keep for months be sure they are well ventilated, or they may become moldy. Store garlic powder away from direct heat. Minced garlic in jars can keep for months in the fridge, but do not store your own chopped fresh garlic in oil for more than a day or two it could develop botulism.

Photo By: Penny De Los Santos ©2011, Penny De Los Santos


Ginger is a rhizome (an underground stem). Tender young ginger adds richness and a peppery, almost hot flavor to dishes. Older ginger adds depth, intensity and a spicier flavor. Ginger is said to help digestion. It is used in European, Asian, Caribbean and Middle Eastern cuisines, in sweet and savory dishes. In addition to being sold fresh, ginger is available in jars as a puree or paste, and sliced or chopped in syrup (stem ginger) or coated with coarse sugar (crystallized ginger). Dried, ground ginger is familiar to all American and European bakers, while sushi lovers know pickled sliced ginger very well.

You can use fresh ginger in pretty much anything: pickles and chutneys, sautés, braises, juices, cocktails, curries, breads, desserts and candies. Peel with the edge of a spoon (if young) or a vegetable peeler (if older and less tender). Grate, shred or slice thin to add to stir-fries it’s also great with sweet potatoes or carrots and adds a surprise kick to coleslaw. Try blending it into fruit smoothies or making your own ginger ale by mixing ginger syrup and sparkling water. Older ginger can be fibrous, so look for special ginger graters in Asian markets. Puree it with garlic and green chiles to add depth to curries. Ground ginger is classic in spiced cookies and gingerbread.

Fresh unpeeled ginger keeps well in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks, loosely wrapped. Freezing ginger changes the texture, making it easy to press out the juice (wrap well and thaw before using). Crystallized ginger can be stored in the cupboard in a sealed bag or jar it can dry out over time, though, and become too hard to cut. Ground ginger holds up well over time, stored away from direct heat and light.

How do You Check the temperature of Baked Ham?

To check the temperature of baked ham, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the ham without touching the bone, as the bone conducts heat and will be a much higher temperature than the meat. Also, only check the ham after 90 minutes and limit the amount of times you check the temperature to prevent the ham from drying out.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Braised Cabbage

I know that braised cabbage doesn't sound incredibly appealing. Believe me, I know. It took me over two years of having this bookmarked from Orangette before finally feeling the urge to actually. make it. But I promise, it really is very good.

For a special touch, I bet you can add a splash of white wine rather than water, I just didn't happen to have any at the moment. I will make sure of it next time. And do serve this with something nice and salty - I chose (not surprisingly) crispy bacon. And while Orangette served it with a great poached egg, my poaching skills sucked and after waiting for the cabbage for more than two hours I didn't want to waste more eggs, so I simply fried mine. That was good, too.

1/2 small cabbage head
2 small carrots
1 yellow onion
3-4 tbsp water
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt, black pepper and/or crushed chili flakes

Cut the cabbage into four wedges, and make sure that they still hold together. Place in an oven-proof dish, preferrably one that fits them quite snugly in one layer. Slice the onion and carrots and place on top. Drizzle with water and olive oil, and season with salt, black pepper and some crushed chili if you're feeling spicy.

Cover the pan with foil, and make sure it's nice and tight. Bake in the oven for an hour. After that, remove it and flip the wedges. Add more water if it looks dry. Re-cover with foil, and bake for one more hour.

Then, remove the foil, heat the oven to 200°C and bake the cabbage uncovered until the edges start to go brown - about 15 minutes. Then serve right away.

Sweet potato cake with marshmallow frosting

I hope you don’t mind me going briefly off-topic here. I know that the holiday week demands exclusive chatter about giblets and squash and all the things we can pour butter and cream into, but I had the best revelation this week and even though it’s about as revolutionary of a concept as, brr, it’s cold outside in November, I’m going to tell you about it anyway because that’s what I do here.

It began, as distress often does, on Sunday night when I should have been watching Homeland and going to sleep early. Instead, I was on the internet when I came across a gorgeous apartment only to look up from the laptop and see my own decidedly less gorgeous apartment sprawled out before me, and said, as I have a zillion Sunday nights before this one, “Why is this place such a MESS?” And continued, “Alex, look at this apartment on the web. Why can’t we do this? We have these to-do piles everywhere and whole weekends pass and we never get to them and uuuugh.” And my husband, he of few words but exceptional insight, said “We went to the Museum of Natural History today.”

And then the obviousness of it hit me. It is amazing how easy it is to look around and react with frustration and stress, and so much harder to remember that, duh, the second we have free time that could feasibly be spent dealing with that pile of unfiled preschool art projects, weeding out the chipped glassware, steam-cleaning the carpets, hanging those pictures on the wall, we’d rather do anything else in the world. This is us we chose this. We decided a long time ago to actively, consciously do everything in our power to keep our weekends clear of work and tedious tasks so that we may enjoy them as a family to mentally sign off for 48 hours, so that on Monday, when real life returned, we’d be ready for it. The upside of this is that I love our weekends [our general rule is that we either must leave the city for a while or stay in it, but pretend to be tourists — Central Park and museums and ice-skating and hot cocoa] the downside is that our home doesn’t look the way I want it to, as it hasn’t yet learned to fix itself up in our absence (rude).

Obviously, this is not to say that people with exceptionally pretty homes have weird priorities or no fun at all (they’re no doubt better at time management than we are, or less lazy), nor does it mean that because goofed off this weekend, we live in a sty*. Like I forewarned, this isn’t going to seem earth-shattering to most people. But since this clicked in my head on Sunday, I’ve found a delicious patch of mental calm, remembering that life as we know it is often the result a series of choices we’d make again in a heartbeat [indeed, I just auditioned this conversation with myself: “Deb, should we hang find a better place for those table panels this weekend?” “Meh, I was hoping we could walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.” See? I did it again.] thus we might as well embrace it in all of its imperfect glory.

This is less difficult to do when the “imperfect glory” in question is cake-shaped. I spent last week reconsidering Thanksgiving classics I’d regarded thus far with a healthy dose of skepticism, things like green bean casseroles and breakfast stuffing. I knew it was time to find a level of acceptance for the strangest of American Thanksgiving traditions, sweet potato casseroles with toasted marshmallows. I could never get my head around this dish — so sweet! so weird on a plate with turkey and gravy! — and so I just relocated it to what I consider its rightful place, the dessert table. Here, more than a pound of sweet potatoes burrow in a thick, insanely moist and lush spiced cake before being dolloped with toasted marshmallow frosting. It’s a little campy, sure, possibly outright strange (pumpkin cakes = acceptable, sweet potato cakes = suspicious seems the general logic of fall recipes) but to taste it is to hopefully be as converted as we were.

I hope that wherever you eat this week, your travels are easy, your stuffing is just the way you like it, and that you, too, enjoy your perfect-in-it’s-imperfect-glory holiday.

* I realize that I’ve probably worried some people, who now think that our apartment is crawling with vermin and dirty dishes, or that you’ll next see us on a Hoarders episode, so for the sake of honesty, here is my living room this very second, in all of its work-in-progress — thank you notes that need to be written, cookbooks that need to be read, board books that need to be packed up, crooked paintings on the wall, groceries that are waiting to be put away, piles of cookware that have spilled out of the kitchen — reality.

Thanksgiving recipes: My favorites are listed here, but if you think I’ve missed something, head to the search box (top left, under the logo) and type in the ingredient — I bet it’s here. Unless you’re looking for a whole turkey recipe… um, next year, I promise. [Thanksgiving Recipes]

Thanksgiving questions: As always, I am responding to questions left in the comments as often as possible (yesterday, I answered a record 54!), and will be checking for new comments throughout the holiday, so feel free to give me a shout if you run into trouble.

Sweet Potato Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

Please, don’t limit this cake to Thanksgiving. With or without the marshmallow frosting, this would be a fine fine layer cake (one layer is a grand 1 1/2 inches tall) for a first birthday or for that friend that insists they like pumpkin desserts but doesn’t know that they will actually prefer sweet potatoes. Why sweet potatoes? I suspect most Southerners already knew this, but they are so much better in baked goods than pumpkin, more creamy and dense, with more flavor and depth. Pumpkin is usually either often from a can of indeterminate date and origin, or has been tediously roasted and pureed and then sometimes reduced again, only to yield what (to me) often has just half the flavor of a sweet potato. Nevertheless, before it is asked, yes, you could use the equivalent amount of pumpkin puree here instead.

Serves 16 in approximately 2-inch squares

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 to 3 medium or 2 large)
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (more to taste) ground ginger
Two pinches (more to taste) ground cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick or 115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (190 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (will help stabilize egg whites, don’t worry if you don’t have it)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Roast sweet potatoes: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Prick potatoes all over with a fork. Rest on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning once or twice, until soft. Let cool completely. Can be kept in fridge for up to 3 days, if baked in advance.

Make cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of an 8- to 9-inch square pan with parchment paper, then butter the paper and sides of the pan. [If you trust your nonstick pan, you might be able to skip the parchment, but I don’t like to live on the edge when it comes to getting cakes out of a pan.]

Peel cooled sweet potatoes and run flesh through a potato ricer, or mash until very smooth. (Do not blend in a blender or food processor.) Measure 1 1/2 packed cups (about 12 to 13 ounces) from sweet potato mash you may have a little extra, which you should warm up with a pat of butter and sprinkle of sea salt and not share with anyone.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until just combined. Mix in sweet potato puree, then stir in dry ingredients just until they disappear.

Spread batter in prepared pan, and bake cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cake rest in pan for 5 minutes on a cooling rack, then invert onto cooling rack, and let cool completely. You can speed this up, as I always do, in the fridge.

Make frosting: Place egg whites, granulated sugar, a pinch of salt and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Whisk mixture for 3 minutes, until whites are warmed and sugar granules feels mostly dissolved. Remove bowl from top of saucepan, then, with an electric mixer, beat egg white mixture on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 to 7 minutes longer. Add vanilla and mix until combined.

Frost and decorate: If you’d like to make huge, marshmallow-like dollops, spread a bit of frosting thinly over cooled sweet potato cake. Then, using a very large round piping tip (I have an almost comically large one with a 1/2-inch opening) or the corner snipped off a freezer bag, pipe large dollops of frosting all over thin frosting layer. If you’d like to skip the dollops, you can just spread the frosting, thick and swirly, all over.

Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the dollops so that they look (and smell!) like toasted marshmallows.

Serve: At room temperature cut into squares. Cake keeps at room temperature for two days any longer, I like to keep it in the fridge.

Watch the video: Life In A Day 2010 Film (August 2022).