Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Test Kitchen

Test Kitchen tips: Peeling peaches and stone fruits

PeelingpeacheskenhivelyBecause peach skins can be overly tough for certain dishes, recipes sometimes call for peeling peaches before using them in pies and cobblers.

There's an easy way to peel them -- and the method works for peeling many fruits and vegetables. Simply mark an "x" on the bottom of the fruit, dunk it in boiling water to loosen the skin (about 30 seconds for a ripe peach, slightly longer if the peach is somewhat firm), then chill the fruit in an ice bath to cool. The skin should come off easily.

Continue reading the step-by-step below to see how easy the process is; we demonstrate using a tomato, but the peeling method is the same.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an e-mail at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter
You can find me on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter

Top photo: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times. Step-by-step photos below: Noelle Carter / Los Angeles Times

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Test Kitchen video tips: Brown butter for flavor

To give your dishes extra depth and richness, consider adding browned butter to the recipe.

Browned, or brown, butter (known in French as beurre noisette) works wonderfully in both sweet and savory recipes, whether you drizzle it over sauteed vegetables or fish, or fold it into cake batters or fudge. It can give a dish added complexity with its rich nuttiness when you're looking to enhance mashed potatoes, and is a perfect finishing touch for sauces, such as when you want to add some dimension to a sweet doughnut or cake glaze (as with the maple brown butter glaze recipe given below).

To brown butter, melt unsalted butter in a wide, shallow pan over medium heat, and cook until the water evaporates and the butter solids  turn a rich golden-brown (they will sink to the bottom of the pan). Whisk or stir the butter freqeuntly as it cooks so it browns evenly. Use immediately, or cool and chill until needed.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter
You can find me on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Video: Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times

Continue reading »

Kitchen gadget: Barbecue mop

BarbecuemopginaferazziIf you love outdoor cooking, there's nothing like taming a tough cut of meat through the mastery of a low and slow fire, or deftly handling a lean cut quickly over a hot grill. But often it's that signature touch -- a thoughtfully honed sauce -- that separates barbecue masters from weekend warriors.

And while you can baste the meat with almost anything -- paintbrush, fancy silicone kitchen brush, wooden spoon -- nothing does the job better than a basic barbecue mop.

A barbecue mop looks just like a old-fashioned floor mop, but on a much smaller scale. Typically a cotton mop head fitted on a wooden handle, these gadgets are great for soaking up sauces and basting mixtures so you can lovingly slather all that great flavor over your charred masterpiece as it cooks to perfection.

When looking for a mop, there are a couple things to keep in mind. Look for one with a longer handle (at least 12 inches), so you've got some distance between you and the food in case there are any flare-ups. And go with a classic cotton mop -- silicone may be nice, but I've found it doesn't hold a sauce or liquid as well when basting (that, and silicone is so much more expensive than a sturdy, inexpensive cotton mop). If you can't find a mop, I've found a small kitchen terry cloth towel works in a pinch; simply use a pair of tongs as a handle to baste with the soaked cloth.

Barbecue mops can generally be found at cooking supply stores and wherever barbecue and grilling supplies are sold (including some hardware stores), and are easily found online. A basic one should set you back no more than $5.

If you have any kitchen gadgets or tips you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter
You can find me on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Photo: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Test Kitchen video tips: Quinoa 101

Quinoa is a South American grain-like crop that is increasingly becoming popular in North American cuisine. While the leaves of the quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) plant can be cooked as a potherb, the seeds, or "grains" (while quinoa is not a true cereal, its seeds resemble and are similarly used like grains), of the plant are probably most commonly found (grains can be found at most major grocery stores), and can be cooked like rice, added to soups and stews, even popped.

Before cooking with quinoa, be sure to rinse the grains under running water; they are coated with sapopins (defensive compounds) that can give a finished dish a bitter taste if the seeds aren't rinsed before using.

For extra depth of flavor, try toasting the quinoa before cooking it. After rinsing the grains, dry them in a towel, then toast them briefly in a dry skillet until they color slightly and have a nutty aroma.

If you've never cooked quinoa before, the grains can be added to a variety of dishes, are easy to use and cook up quickly. Place the rinsed grains in boiling water (1 part seeds to 2 parts water) and cook until the quinoa is translucent and tender and the germ has spiraled out from the grain, 12 to 15 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Add the drained quinoa to salads, or flavor and serve as a side dish.

For some recipe ideas, continue reading after the jump.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter
You can find me on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Video: Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times

Continue reading »

This week's recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

Making your own English muffins is easier than you might think

Have you ever thought about making your own English muffins?

A warm, freshly made English muffin has the subtle tang of yeast-risen dough and a golden-brown crust. Split it open and the crisp exterior gives way to the most delicate interior, light as air, yet slightly chewy, full of peaks and crevices — those magical "nooks and crannies," made even more magical when the muffin halves are toasted and all but drowned in butter or jam.

Sure, you can find the standard packaged varieties at your grocery store. Maybe you even know of a bakery that makes them from scratch. But have you ever tried to make them yourself? It's not as hard as you might think, and there is nothing like the flavor of a muffin fresh off the griddle.

Some bread flour, a touch of sugar, salt and yeast will get you started. Add some melted butter and milk and you're well on your way! Continue reading below for a quick step-by-step on making your own English muffins.

This week's recipes include:

When you try one of this week's recipes or any L.A. Times recipe, let us know! Upload a photo onto the "Our recipes, your kitchen" gallery to share your take on the recipe and tell us about yourself. Your photo will be posted online and may be selected to run in print with our weekly section.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter
You can find me on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Photo: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

Continue reading »

Test Kitchen tips: Homemade gelato

Homemade gelatoHave you ever wanted to make your own homemade gelato, but didn't think it was possible without the proper equipment? Well, it can be done with nothing more than some bowls, a whisk ... and a little arm power.

Sheri Jennings contributed a great story on homemade gelatos, including recipes for making a variety of them -- chocolate, lemon, strawberry and even Parmesan -- using basic equipment. Try one, or a few, this weekend. They make a great weekend project.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter
You can find me on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter

Photo credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

Continue reading »

Kitchen gadget: Cake decorating stand

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Ever dream about cake decorating like a pro? Find yourself spending hours adding the final touches to your latest layered creation? You might want to invest in a good, sturdy cake decorating stand.

Cake decorating stands, also known as revolving cake stands and turntables, are lifesavers when it comes to frosting and decorating. A wide top swivels on top of a sturdy metal base, making it easy to rotate the cake when you’re smoothing out frosting or focused on detailed decorations.

The stands come in all shapes and materials. Avoid cheap stands that are often flimsy and wobble. Good ones generally consist of a light metal (typically aluminum) top over a heavy cast iron base; some are even fitted with ball bearings for a smooth swivel.

Cake decorating stands can be found at cooking and bakery supply stores, as well as at select craft and hobby stores. Stands range in price by type, but you can generally find one for $30 to $60.

If you have any kitchen gadgets or tips you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter
You can find me on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Photo: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Test Kitchen video tips: Fixing broken mayonnaise

There's something decidedly noble about making your own stuff in the kitchen, whatever it is -- spice blends, bread, cured meat. Or your own basic sauces, like mayonnaise. Try a little dab of homemade mayonnaise once -- bright with a light tang from a squeeze of fresh lemon, this custardy marvel is richer and more velvety than anything you'll find at the store -- and you may never want the jarred spread again.

And while it's not that hard to make -- combine one or two egg yolks, lemon juice, a touch of mustard, salt and then slowly whisk in a long drizzle of oil -- mayonnaise can be tricky if you don't take your time or give it the attention it deserves. Homemade mayonnaise takes some patience and care. Move too fast and your homemade mayonnaise can "break," its delicate emulsion coming undone and looking like a curdled mess.

If your mayonnaise breaks, don't worry (it's happened to all of us). It can be fixed. Grab a fresh egg yolk, and slowly beat your broken mayonnaise into the yolk. The fresh yolk will help to re-emulsify the sauce, bringing everything together and making for a smooth and happy sauce.

For a recipe for homemade mayonnaise and a quick step-by-step on how it's made, follow the jump.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter
twitter.com/noellecarter

Video: Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times (top); Photos: George Wilhelm / Los Angeles Times (step-by-step photos below)

Continue reading »

Test Kitchen video tips: Portion dough using an ice cream scoop

Next time you're making a batch of cookies or muffins, consider portioning the dough using an ice cream scoop. The scoop is perfect for getting consistent amounts and makes quick work of divvying up the dough.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter

twitter/noellecarter

Video: Myung Chun

Test Kitchen tips: Soak onions in water to soften flavor

Red onions

Want to use raw onions in a dish, but concerned they might be a bit too strong or pungent? Soak them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes before using.

Soaking the onions for 15 minutes or so in cold water will help to soften the their flavor, mellowing it out a bit. Perfect when you're planning your next burger party, or if you're fixing a salad like Nancy Silverton's little gem with dates, red onion and Gorgonzola dolce (recipe follows below).

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter
twitter/noellecarter

Photo credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Continue reading »
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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.