Chef Michael Leviton’s 10 things every cook should know

I was searching the web for 10 things every cook should know and what do you know, I found this article in the Boston Globe written by Matt Barber.  There is a short video that accompanies this article. -Crystal A. Johnson

NEWTON — All chefs have their own way of doing things: cutting an onion, roasting potatoes, making a basic sauce. And all chefs will tell you their way is the right way.

It’s no wonder then, with so many celebrity chefs, cookbooks, and food personalities on TV, that home cooks are confused about even the most basic of kitchen tasks.

Enter Michael Leviton, chef and owner of Lumiere in Newton and chef and partner of Area Four in Cambridge. Leviton is no stranger to basic cooking instruction: He teaches in Boston University’s culinary arts program, and has worked with young chefs right out of school, so he’s aware what novices know and don’t know. As recent college graduates strike out on their own, and newlyweds settle into their own places, the time to start building a lifetime repertoire of cooking skills is now.

“You master things by doing them over and over,” says Leviton. But cheat where it makes sense. “Look, I’ve got two kids. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when I’m at home.” Translation: Open a can of beans instead of soaking the dried variety, or buy biscuits instead of baking them. Leviton’s list of the 10 cooking essentials covers the basics for many meals.

1. Blanch vegetables

Leviton demonstrates how to blanch geen beans and shock them in cold water.

PHOTO BY JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

This is a method of quickly cooking something in boiling water, then plunging it into ice water to stop the cooking process and lock in vibrant color. Leviton uses lots of salty water — his ratio is 1 cup salt to 1 gallon of water. “You want it to taste like the North Atlantic,” he says.

To blanch 1 pound of green beans to serve 4, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Working in small batches, add beans to the rapidly boiling water and cook 3½ minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the ice bath. Continue until all beans are cooked and cooled. Drain the beans, pat dry with paper towels, and saute briefly in a little butter or olive oil.

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Berry Important Info: How to Keep Berries Fresh

The key to preventing moldy berries? Vinegar! When you get your berries home, prepare a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider probably work best) and ten parts water. Dump the berries into the mixture and swirl around. Drain, rinse if you want, (though the mixture is so diluted I find you can’t taste the vinegar,) and pop in the fridge.

The vinegar kills any mold spores and other bacteria that might be on the surface of the fruit, and voila! Raspberries will last a week or more, and strawberries go almost two weeks without getting moldy and soft.

Want to Go into Business? Commercial Kitchen Requirements

Pickyourown.org-Have you got a great recipe for home-made salsa, jam, jelly or other home-canned food? Your friends and family tell you that you should go into business selling it? And now you’re wondering what it would take to actually sell your award-winning tomato salsa, apple butter, applesauce or strawberry jam? This page should answer your questions to help you Decide if it’s right for you!

The production and sales of processed foods is governed by state and federal regulations. Each state is different, so proper advice is needed from a specialist in each state. Some states allow sales at farmer’s markets of select foods; others prohibit sales altogether.

A licensed kitchen

Food must be produced, processed, and held in a manner which prevents spoilage and contamination to keep it wholesome. Processing establishments must submit to unannounced inspections of the building and grounds. Unhealthy or ill persons must not be allowed to handle foods and pets are not allowed. For these reasons and others, home kitchens are not usually considered appropriate for processing purposes. In order to sell your homemade jams on a commercial basis, in most states, you’ll need to have your kitchen meet commercial grade kitchen standards and pass a health department inspection, like a restaurant. People who have done this tell me it can easily cost $50,000 to convert a home kitchen.

I’ve heard that there are a handful of states that have small quantity exceptions and exceptions for church sales, etc., but I haven’t see a comprehensive list.  If you know where to find your state’s webpage of rules for selling home canned goods, please send it to me, and I’ll make a list here. (Read More)

About Blue Cheese & Dressing Recipe

Blue cheese is made of cow’s milk and has a distinctive tangy flavor. It is white, with blue streaks and
has a crumbly texture, similar to Roquefort cheese. Blue cheese is believed to have been discovered by accident. The caves in which early cheeses were aged shared the properties of being temperature and moisture controlled environments, as well as being favorable to many varieties of harmless mold.

In the European Union many blue cheeses such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Blue Stilton carry a protected designation of origin, meaning they can bear the name only if they have been made in a particular region in a certain country. The basic ingredients include blue cheese, mayo, sometimes buttermilk or sour cream, pepper, and sometime worcestershire sauce or vinegar.  (Watch How to Make Blue Cheese Dressing)


7 Tips to Prevent Gaining Weight During the Holidays

The Holiday season brings good cheer, lots of fun and laughter–and oh–a bit of weight gain to top it off.  With all the sweet potato pies, red velvet cakes, candied yams, cookies and all sorts of candy, who can resist the temptation?! Although its easy to forget about calorie counting until the new year, its much easier to avoid the weight gain altoghter.  Find out about how to stay trim during the holidays with these 7 tips: Sedentary activities, such as sitting on the couch watching TV, are common holiday traditions for many families.  Here are 3 tips.  Click Here for More

  1. Let’s Get Physical! -Inactivity may contribute to weight gain, especially if accompanied by overeating (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).

    Doing some type of physical activity with your family may prove beneficial for weight control. Even something as simple as a family walk can get your mind off food and allow you to bond with your loved ones.

  2. Avoid Snacking – Try to be mindful of your snacking habits. If you find yourself munching just because there’s food around — and not because you’re hungry — it’s best to avoid snacking altogether.

    However, if you are hungry and need a snack, opt for real foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are filling snacks that don’t contain added sugars or unhealthy fats — both of which can lead to weight gain.

  3. Watch Your Portions – When the holidays arrive, it can be easy to overload your plate.

    Those who eat larger portions tend to gain weight more easily than those who don’t (4Trusted Source).

    The best way to overcome this is to control portion sizes or use smaller plates.

    To determine an appropriate portion size, read food labels and the recommended serving sizes listed on recipes. If you can’t do either, use your best judgment to fill your plate with a reasonable amount of food.

Behind the Scenes of a Garden Party with Chef Jay

THE CHALLENGE: All Chefs have egos but MCCN Editor Crystal Johnson asked Chef Jay Bonilla of MCCN’s En La Cocina Para Mi Amor to put aside his ego to go where no chef really wants to go…work with food prepared by other people for… a Garden Party event.   He beautified donated items such as finger sandwiches(cucumber sandwiches), cupcakes, teacakes, fruit and Quiche for a Garden Party.  The former executive chef of D’Cache Restaurant in Toluca Lake, CA is a marvel.  Make no mistake he found a way to leave his mark with vinaigrette for the apple walnut based salad which left a buzz among the 70 women served and taste for more of what Chef Jay has to offer.

PART TWO: Teach inexperienced young adult males and teen volunteers the art of presentation and serving.

*Chef Jay talks with MCCN Editor while serving.

Look for up coming interview with Chef Jay about the challenge. 

About peeling and boiling Eggs:

Extremely fresh eggs will not peel easily. In fact, an egg that is just a day or two old is almost impossible to peel. As eggs age, the shells will peel more easily. It is advisable that eggs used for hard cooking (including Easter Eggs) be at least 2 weeks old before cooking for easiest peeling. Hard cooked eggs that are cooked slowly over low heat (and not ‘boiled’) will be more difficult to peel. READ MORE