Friday, December 28, 2007


From the overwhelming response I have received on the quiz, I know you want to hear more about sage. :-)

I believe sage is an herb that is under utilized in the kitchen. Often we see if once a year, in the Thanksgiving stuffing or perhaps we see it again during a holiday feast in December but many do not regularly use this herb in our kitchens. Sage has a strong, spicy flavor which can be bitter that some people do not enjoy. The flavor varies depending on the variety so experimentation might help you find a variety of sage you truly enjoy. Fresh sage has a wonder lemon zest flavor that you lose in the dried version. With your taste buds changing about every 7 years, it might be time to give sage another try.

Sage is an ancient herb that originated in the Mediterranean region. It has long been grown for its medicinal purposes before it was used as a culinary herb. In ancient Rome, it was especially used to aid in digestion of the fatty meat diet that was mainstay. The French grew sage for teas and the Chinese, so enamored with the French sage teas, traded four pounds of Chinese tea to one pound of the French tea.

Because sage is used to aid digestion of fatty meats, you often see it paired with sausage and goose. Infusions can be used to treat depression and nervous anxiety. They can also be used to help aid circulation and with menopausal problems. Since it is antiseptic, it can be used to gargle to help aid laryngitis and tonsillitis.

Dried sage comes in whole leaf, rubbed or ground. If you have dried sage in your cabinet that is 6 months old, you should throw it out. Sage, as will all dried herbs, lose their flavor as they age so you are doing little more than adding color to your dish when you use dated dried herbs. Fresh sage can be kept in the refrigerator for several days to a week. Once brown spots or dry edges appear on the leaves, you need to discard it.

Washed and dried fresh sage can be frozen and will keep for one year in the freezer. Add, loosely packed to resealable freezer bags or you can add to olive oil and keep refrigerated for up to 2 month.

Sage is a hardy herb and should be used in the beginning of cooking to develop its full flavor. Besides fatty meats, it also compliments cheese, chicken, eggplant, gnocchi, potatoes and tomatoes. Other herbs that compliment sage are garlic, onions, oregano, thyme and rosemary.

Try adding sage to your next grilled cheese or a vegetable dish. You can add sage leaves and stems to the grill to infuse your grilled meat dishes. But remember sage can easily overpower a dish, so use sparingly.

Sage Recipes

Monday, December 17, 2007

What Am I?

I found this interesting and I did not get it right on my first guess. Can you do better?

This herb is a perennial shrub about 2 feet high, it is a member of the mint family and has over 500 varieties. Its flowers are fragrant, usually purple or blue, sometimes white, red or pink. They are rich in nectar, and it's honey is in great demand in Europe because of its spicy flavor. Some varieties, have broad leaves; others have foliage variegated with red, yellow, or white.
For most of its long history it has been a healing herb (supposedly curing everything from snake bites, eye problems, infection, epilepsy, intoxication, memory loss, worms and intestinal problems) or prescribed as an aphrodisiac.The dried leaves are employed by food manufacturers in seasoning meats, baked goods, and beverages. They are also used to flavor vermouth and various bitters. For years it has been used in the preserving of foods. Now it is known that it contains powerful anti-oxidants which slow spoilage. It is also antibacterial in nature, it is effective in treating sore throats and is even effective as an antiperspirant.
What am I? Click on the comments to see the answer.
Taken from weekly culinary quiz

Monday, December 10, 2007

Panko-Crusted Pork Chops with a Wasabi-Ginger Sauce

Let me start this post by saying when I posted Post-Holiday Quick Meals several weeks ago, it never occurred to me to remind readers of the link I have on the right side for The Pantry Chef. This is a great resource where you can find recipes by checking off what type of pantry items you have on hand.

The reason I mention this link is that last night, when I was trying to decide what to do with the pork chops I had on hand, I used this site to find an idea for dinner. Unfortunately when you have a well stocked pantry, it provided me recipes for bean soup and fettuccini alfredo, but nothing exciting for pork chops. However from this site, I found a recipe for Wasabi and Panko-Crusted Pork Chops (followed several links on the top right corner) that sounded very interesting and ended up tasting even better!

These chops are light and flaky with a panko crust. Panko [pronounced PAHN-koh] or Japanese for “bread crumbs” translates as pan the Japanese word for “bread” and ko meaning “child of”. They are coarser, more flake-like than traditional bread crumbs giving them more surface area thus making for a lighter, crispier coating. Usually white in color because the bread crusts have been removed, they can be occasionally found in a darker, tanner color if the crusts were left on. I now use panko for my crab and salmon cakes. About 5 years ago, it was only available in Asian markets, but now I find it in the international aisle of all the larger markets. It usually comes in bags. If you do not have any available, you may substitute cracker crumbs or crushed melba toast.

Wasabi [pronounced WAH-sah-bee] is often called Japanese horseradish. Wasabi is a paste made from grating the root of an Asian plant. It is most often seen served with sushi. It has a sharp, pungent flavor much like horseradish. It is available in both a paste form and a powder form, again in the international aisle of most markets. If you do not have wasabi on hand, which I did not last night, you can combine horseradish and dry mustard to make a paste. It is great addition to mashed potatoes or added to sauces for a great, unexpected bite.

In about 35 minutes, dinner was ready. The menu consisted of Panko-Crusted Pork Chops with a Wasabi-Ginger Sauce, Sesame Orzo and Buttered Carrots. I started by gathering all of the spices and condiments I would need for this recipe: panko, sake, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, cooking oil, sugar, dry mustard and orzo. From the refrigerator, I pulled out an egg, the pork chops, carrots, ginger, horseradish, green onions and chicken broth. When cooking, I like to make sure I have all the ingredients close at hand to speed up the process and I am not wasting time looking for ingredients later on. It does not help that I store many of my ingredients in the basement since my kitchen does not have adequate space.

I began by turning my oven to 200°F so it would be warm when the pork was finished. I then started a pot of water boiling for the orzo (rice-shaped pasta) and began peeling and chopping my carrots. I placed the carrots on the stove in a steamer basket so that I could turn on the heat when I was almost finished cooking so they were not overcooked. I added oil to a skillet set over medium heat and while the oil was heating I added an egg and panko to 2 separate, shallow dishes. I quickly whisked the egg and dipped each pork chop into first the egg, then the panko and added to the hot oil.

While the chops were browning, I added all of my liquid ingredients and horseradish and mustard to a small bowl setting it next to my skillet. I then peeled and grated the ginger and quickly sliced a few green onions. About the time I turned the pork chops, my water was boiling so I added a large pinch of salt and orzo to the water, then turned the heat on high for my steamed carrots. When the pork chops were nicely browned on each side and had reached an internal temperature of 155°F, I removed them from the pan and kept them warm in the oven. I added the ginger to the pan, stirring continuously and before it started to brown, I added my liquid mixture to the pan, stirring vigorously scraping the pieces that had stuck to the bottom. I drained the orzo and added a splash of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds; drained the carrots and added a slab of butter; and removed the pork from the oven, spooned the sauce on top and sprinkled with green onions. Presto! dinner was ready.

I modified the original recipe slightly and this is my creation:

Serves 4
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 cup panko
1 large egg white
4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup sake or dry sherry
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add egg white to a shallow dish and beat until frothy. Add panko to another dish. Dip pork in egg white; dredge in panko. Place chops in skillet in a single layer, making sure to not over crowd. Make in two batches if need be.

While the pork is cooking, add the broth, sake, soy sauce, sugar and wasabi to a small bowl, keeping near the stovetop.

Cook pork chops for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until golden brown, adding more oil to pan if it becomes dry and chops begin to stick. Once they reach an internal temperature of 155°F, remove the pork to a oven-safe dish, sprinkle with salt and keep warm in the oven.

Add ginger to pan, stirring constantly. Before the ginger begins to brown, add the broth-wasabi mixture to the pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Continue stirring and cooking until the sauce has slightly thickened and all the bits are free from the bottom of the pan.

Serve each pork chop with several generous spoonfuls of sauce and a sprinkling of green onions.
Adapted from Melanie Barnard, Cooking Light, MARCH 2006

Friday, December 07, 2007

Gift Ideas - Books

I thought I would pass along a list of book idea from Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR's Splendid Table ( I have not read or flipped through any of these books.


With gift buying season upon us, I thought I'd share a few of my picks from this year's crop of new cookbooks. Any of these would please the cook and food lover on your list.

For the Beginning Cook:

Cooking: 600 Recipes, 1500 Photographs, One Kitchen Education by James Peterson (Ten Speed Press, 2007).

For the Baker:

Lost Desserts: Delicious Indulgences of the Past: Recipes from Legendary Restaurants and Famous Chefs by Gail Monaghan (Rizzoli, 2007).

Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma (W. W. Norton, 2007).

Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More: 200 Anytime Treats and Special Sweets for Morning to Midnight by Carole Walter (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2007).

For the Vegetarian:

Vegetable Harvest: Vegetables at the Center of the Plate by Patricia Wells (William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2007).

Mediterranean Harvest: Vegetarian Recipes from the World's Healthiest Cuisine by Martha Rose Shulman (Rodale, 2007).

For the Vegan:

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero (Marlowe & Company, 2007).

For the Francophile:

Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook by Jacques Pepin (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2007).

For the Italophile:

Cucina Del Sole: A Celebration of Southern Italian Cooking by Nancy Harmon Jenkins (William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2007).

Books by Restaurant Chefs:

The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food by Jasper White (W. W. Norton, 2007).

Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking by Laurent Tourondel and Michele Scicolone (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Holiday Gift Ideas

Whether you love to cook or you know someone who does gifts from the kitchen are always great ideas. I am often asked what some of my favorite tools are or what items I would recommend. Here is a list of some of my favorite tools and items I find useful:

Silicone Spatula
I love my Chef'n Switchit. I was first introduced to these 100% silicone, heat resistant to 650°F, angled end that really work, spatulas at a personal chefs convention. Now I am hooked. I have used other heat-resistant spatulas, but find the handles are constantly breaking or warping. These ingenious items have a steel core so they do not bend, warp or break. I can safely leave these in a pot of soup or while simmering a sauce and do not have to worry about what will happen to the spatula. They come in several sizes and colors. I prefer the Dual Ended Long Spatula. They are available at many online stores and have seen them in Bed, Bath and Beyond stores and Linen n’ Things stores. ($8.95 - $9.95)

A microplane grater is a fabulous tool and I use mine almost every time I am in the kitchen. I use it to grate ginger, nutmeg, hard cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano, or to zest lemons, limes and oranges. These tools were originally designed for woodworkers, but have found their way into the kitchen as a very useful tool. (approximately $15.00)

Garlic Press
All garlic presses do the job, yes that is true. I am a fan of the Ikea Konics press. This device seems to cleanly press the garlic with minimal waste and cleans up very easily. I am very sure they are other presses that work equally well, but a good garlic press is a cook's best friend. ($4.99)

Vegetable Peeler
The Mega Ceramic Peeler from Williams-Sonoma is great work horse. This baby works really well on peeling stubborn squashes and is a whiz at peeling carrots, potatoes and fruit. (available internet only for $19.95)
Although you can easily get by without one, once you start using one you will wish you had one sooner. This is an easy and efficient way to get all the juice from your citrus fruit. ($4.99)


Digital Thermometer or Oven and Roasting Thermometer
A digital read instant thermometer is essential when cooking meats. You can prick open your meat, but for safety purposes you should really check the internal temperature. A digital read gives you immediate and accurate temperatures.
Or for an even easier read, an oven friendly model allows you to insert the probe into the meat in the oven or stovetop, set an alarm and you are notified when your meat hits the desired temperature. It takes the guess work out of cooking and most have multiple settings for different meats (chicken vs beef) and desired doneness (rare vs well done). (ranges $10 - $20 for instant read and $30 - $40 for oven probe)
Vacuum Wine Saver / Preserver
This gadget removes the air from an opened bottle of wine to preserve the contents for up to 2 weeks. Vacu Vin is a popular brand. A few pumps and you have saved the bottle when you have a few glasses left. Depending on how much wine your wine lover consumes, you may want to invest in some extra stoppers. The pump usually comes with one or two stoppers. However, I often have 2 to 3 open bottles (for cooking purposes of course) so I have invested in extra stoppers. Available at Linens n' Things and Bed, Bath and Beyond or local wine shops or markets with descent wine selections should carry. I know both Dusty's Cellar in Okemos and Goodrich's on Trowbridge in East Lansing carry them. (Pump around $15, with extra stoppers between $5 - $10 depending on how many stoppers in the pack)