• Ingredient,  Pastries,  Pies,  Technique

    Screwdriver Pie Crust

    Somewhere along the line, we came to treat pie crust like a prima donna. Handle it gingerly, they say, or it will toughen and refuse to cooperate. Use your best butter, make sure to chill the dough, yada yada yada. Happily, for decades our Orange Juice Pastry has worked yeoman’s duty without complaint. What makes it so agreeable? First, the shortening (yes, Crisco, thankfully now transfat-free) enjoys being handled at room temperature. And the orange juice—cold and a tad acidic—plays well with the shortening. One sticking point, though. How much OJ is just right? Too little and the dough gets dry and hard to roll. Too much liquid might develop the gluten in the…

  • Beef,  Chicken,  Ingredient,  Italian,  Main Dish,  Pasta,  Techniques & Ingredients

    Classic Ragù Bolognese Redux: Do Chicken Livers Deliver?

    A comment from an Italian cooking teacher about our Classic Ragù alla Bolognese from Ada Boni got us thinking about what makes a bolognese a bolognese. In particular, are there chicken livers in its DNA? So we put Recipephany’s Research and Testing Institute to work. Here’s what we learned from our deep dive into the evolution of one of the world’s favorite meat sauces. A genetic analysis of bolongese ragù’s ancestry brings you immediately to Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 seminal cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. The meats Artusi favored for his “Maccheroni Alla Bolognese” (which is curiously tomato-free in a book with many tomato sauces) were simply veal and…

  • Egg dishes,  Ingredient,  Technique

    Egg-centricity: A taste test

    (Photo courtesy of Lynn Osborn) It’s almost Passover and Easter, a perfect time to share results of an egg taste test by guest contributor, Stan Rowin. First, some background. Stan is a photographer who started his career taking photos in Julia Child’s Cambridge kitchen, now a culinary mecca at the Smithsonian. The same Julia who never got rattled by a fallen soufflé or a splattered pancake showed Stan her perfectionist side during a shoot. “Julia was doing a chapter on eggs, and she wanted to show how fresh eggs look when fried,” says Stan. Then the frenzy began. “Out of three dozen eggs, she got one egg that looked good, but couldn’t find a…

  • Ingredient,  Jams and Condiments,  Passover,  Technique,  Techniques & Ingredients

    Quick Homemade Horseradish: If You Can’t Stand the Fumes….

    Making your own horseradish takes just four ingredients: horseradish root, vinegar, salt, and courage. The goal is to get from root to jar as quickly as possible, minimizing the time you spend holding your breath, clenching your eyes, and stumbling out of the kitchen gasping for air. But if you like horseradish, you’ll enjoy the challenge. No store-bought brand can mess with your pleasure/pain center quite like the stuff you make fresh. My dad famously made horseradish from home-grown root, yet it was Mom who consumed it with the most gusto. She heaped it onto her gefilte fish, laughing through her tears about how well it cleared her sinuses. As my neuroscientist daughter points…

  • Ingredient,  Other,  Techniques & Ingredients

    Chillin’ With Vanillin: How to Beat the High Cost of Vanilla

    If you can believe headlines these days, vanilla is nearly as expensive as silver. A cyclone in Madagascar last year put vanilla bean on the “endangered spices” list. Maybe we should now include vanilla extract in our homeowners’ policies. But all is not lost. For those of us who swirl spoonfuls into our yogurt and pour it into our baking, there’s no need to cut back. It’s “vanillin,” the active flavor ingredient in vanilla, that we really love. “Vanilla extract” has other chemicals, too, but they have negligible taste and degrade when heated. We’re in it for the vanillin. And we can get it in “imitation vanilla.” But why, Mr. Science, should we settle…

  • Ingredient,  Technique,  Vegan,  Vegetables

    Butternut Squash Roasted Whole: The best one-ingredient dish ever

    This is more than a recipephany; it’s a revelation. It comes from Raegan Sales, the Veggie Whisperer. To capture the deep flavor of butternut squash, roast it whole at 400 degrees for about an hour until it yields when you stab it with a fork. Cool a little, then cut it in half, remove the seeds and peel off the paper-thin skin (unless you are like me and consume that, too). The juice is like maple syrup, so save it to spoon over or mash into the squash. Eat as is or use in other dishes. The squash is so sweet and velvety it tastes like it has been injected with butter and caramelized…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Ingredient

    Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

    Cinnamonth continues with this recipephany for cinnamon-lover’s bread. With a swirl that leans toward gooey, it’s a warm morning greeting when toasted, and a fun twist with peanut butter and jam. If you’re like me and enjoy stirring up mounds of cinnamon and sugar to create a spice cloud you can inhale while you bake, this is for you. Just thinking about it gives me a tingling in my sinuses. When my daughter Claire gave me the recipe she got from Allrecipes, she said, “Use TONS of cinnamon.” She reasoned that if you’re in this for the cinnamon—and it is “cinnamon bread” after all—then the more you can taste the better the bread will…

  • Cookies,  Ingredient,  Recipephany ingredient

    The Great Molasses Flood and Mighty Molasses Clove Cookies

    January 15, 1919. A bulging, overheated storage tank burst, spewing a towering wave of fast-flowing molasses into Boston’s busiest commercial district, killing 21, injuring 150, and wreaking tsunami-style devastation. The incongruity of “molasses” and “disaster” tends to rob the legendary Great Molasses Flood of its gravitas. Better viewed as a horrific industrial accident, it offers up five lessons worth mulling over on its 96th anniversary. 1. Heed warning signs. The massive tank, which held more than 2 million gallons, leaked so badly that neighborhood kids used to scoop up the puddles with pails. The owner, U.S. Industrial Alcohol (USIA) Company, chose camouflage as a solution when it repainted the gray tank to match the…

  • Fish,  Ingredient,  Main Dish,  Recipes,  Salads,  Tuna

    Charlie the Tuna Salad

    For 50 years I have credited my Mom’s olfactory alarm system for saving us from one of the deadliest poisons known to man. She religiously poked her nose into every can before ruling it fit for consumption. But my memory hasn’t kept up with that of my 97-year-old mother. She remembers that she rejected the Tainted Tuna because of how it looked. I was 13 at the time, and eager to make Mom’s sweet and crunchy tuna salad, a task I always relished (pun unavoidable). I opened the only can we had on the shelf and handed it to Mom. She took a whiff. Fine. But then she stopped. “It looked nasty,” she says.…

  • Poppy Seed Lemon Cake
    Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts,  Ingredient,  Recipephany ingredient

    Lemon Buttermilk Poppy Seed Cakes, and the Poppy Seed Predicament

    Poppy seeds and lemon adore each other, and prove it in these lovely mini loaves. You can feel the sparks fly in your mouth, with the teeny pop of the seeds and the puckery citrus. Tangy buttermilk, the one-two punch of lemon in the cake and the syrup, and the delicately nutty seeds create a sunny cake to boost your mood any time of day. Wrap a petite loaf in clear plastic, tie it up with some raffia, and it makes a luxuriously delicious gift. This recipephany, though, also has to do with how I solved the Poppy Seed Predicament. I’m not talking about how a slice of this will make you flunk a…

  • Persian Green Olive and Walnut Salad
    Appetizers,  Ingredient,  Other,  Recipephany ingredient,  Salads,  Vegan

    Persian Green Olive and Walnut Salad

    Some think a good waiter is someone who sneaks an extra shrimp into your cocktail. Me, I prefer a waiter who gives away the chef’s secrets. I got this recipephany many years ago from a waiter at Lala Rokh on Beacon Hill, an elegant Persian restaurant near John Kerry’s townhouse on Louisburg Square. It was my Dad’s birthday, when the kids were home and my folks could still negotiate at least some of the steep walk to the door. We started with this appetizer called zaitun-e parwardeh. It mesmerized me so much that—sort of like the Men in Black’s Neuralizer—it wiped out my entire memory of the rest of the meal. Sweet, tart, salty,…

  • Ingredient,  Recipes,  Snacks

    Sweet and salty Kettle Corn, with no extra calories

    Fats, sugars and salt. They comprise the snack food hat trick, and, frankly, are what we crave in food. When made with enough oil, popcorn with salt nails two out of three. Caramel corn solves the sweetness issue, but then you’ve got Cracker Jack, a real sugar-shock inducer. So when I discovered Kettle Corn, with its light sugary glaze, I decided to make it at home. It was disappointing. The recipe called for adding sugar to the popcorn and oil, and the sugar just caramelized and burned. Then I had a recipephany. Why not just sprinkle sucralose (aka Spenda) on top of the freshly popped kernels? It worked. Because it is light, it sticks…