Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Trade Secrets


Tips on dining in and dining out

By Compiled by Polly Campbell, pcampbell@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Required Reading

        Every cook needs a reference cookbook, something like The Joy of Cooking that has basic recipes and techniques. Charmaine Solomon's Complete Vegetarian Cookbook (Ten Speed Press; $39.95) aims to be that book for people who don't eat meat. It is heavy on basic recipes for standards such as baba ghanoush, ratatouille, mushroom lasagne, couscous and veggie burgers, making it a good choice for a beginner cook or beginner vegetarian. There are plenty of more unusual recipes as well, such as Indian pea pod curry, braised endive Lebanese style and beet and orange soup. Ms. Solomon is Australian, so recipes include metric measurements as well as cups and ounces. You will occasionally find a Britishism ("cornflour' instead of cornstarch,entree meaning an appetizer), but not enough to compromise its usefulness.

Combo of the Week

        I returned from vacation to find my basil plants had turned into huge lush bushes. Only a few of the tomatoes, however, were ripe. Fortunately, the farmer's market that visits my neighborhood once a week has plenty of tomatoes. Basil and tomatoes are a classic, undeniably great combination. One of its best attributes is that it isn't available long — you can really eat it well only in the summer. (Never order it in a restaurant in the winter.) I could eat a salad of sliced tomatoes, chiffonade of basil, pepper and a little olive oil every night in August — fresh mozzarella optional. Or the same combination, diced and served cold on hot pasta.

        How to chiffonade basil: This french cooking term literally means "made of rags.' It refers to thin strips of greens or vegetables. To create thin, delicate strips of basil, stack several large leaves, then roll them up into a cigar shape, and slice across.

Timely Tip

        The intrepid testers at Cook's Illustrated Magazine decided to test one of the most counter-intuitive but common pieces of advice in cooking: When you boil water, say for pasta, it is important to start with cold water. I have never understood this, but always done it. They found that it was impossible to tell the difference in taste between pasta boiled in water that started out hot from the tap and water that started cold. And the hot water took a minute and a half less time to boil. (There was a gallon of it.) So culinarily there is no reason not to jump-start the process. But they pass along the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's advice that water hot from the tap can contain much higher levels of lead than cold tap water. So the advice seems worth following after all.

       



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- Trade Secrets
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