06-Using the Recipes

Serves: 5



Throughout these pages you will find boxes and sidebars that explain how the various packaged ingredients called for in the recipes are manufactured. I have done this because it is my belief that once you understand that canned pears are the same thing as poached pears, and that a jar of salsa is nothing more than a mixture of tomatoes, onions, and peppers, you will be freed to use those products in ways that their manufacturers never envisioned. You will see that if you are making a curry that contains tomatoes, onions, and peppers, salsa gives you a head start, for there is nothing innately Mexican about the ingredients in a jar of salsa other than the context in which we place them. By seeing packaged foods for what they are, rather than what manufacturers tell us to do with them, we give ourselves the opportunity to make more elaborate, exciting dishes in less time and with less effort.

In general, I avoid the mention of specific brands. Each recipe in this book was tested with several brands of the specified ingredients, and though I almost always found some differences in flavor and consistency between brands, most of the time the disparity was not great. Usually all of the results were acceptable, and brand preferences were more a matter of taste than quality. In the cases where brand did make a difference, either positively or negatively, I have made a suggestion of a brand that worked well.

If you do find, when you are making one of the recipes, that a sauce is too thick or the flavor isn't spiced to your liking, feel free to make adjustments. It could be that you are using a brand that was unavailable to me, or that your preferences differ from mine. In either case, common sense is your best guide, but to help you out I offer the following tips:

* Baking mixes--Baking mixes, whether they are an all-purpose blend, like Bisquick or Jiffy brands, or designed to produce a particular kind of cake, muffin, cookie, or brownie, all contain the same basic elements: flour, flavoring, leavening, and fat. The ratio of these elements varies widely, but the main thing that differentiates one from another is what the consumer adds, such as the number of eggs, the amount of oil, and the amount of liquid.

Whenever a recipe in this book calls for a baking mix, it has been tested with all of the major brands--Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Krusteaz-and with as many smaller organic and all-natural brands as were available in my area supermarkets. Their package directions frequently call for slightly different amounts of added ingredients, and therefore the recipes reflect a compromise that has been tested and works as far as our testing went.

If you have a brand that calls for a radically different amount of liquid (more than 1/4 cup up or down), or oil (more than 2 tablespoons up or down), or eggs (more than 1 egg up or down), start with the lesser amount and see what the batter looks like. If it is overly thick or dry, add more of the ingredient in question until it is the texture described in the recipe. Note that this advice applies only if the mix is being used as the manufacturer intended. For instance, if you are making biscotti from a brownie mix, the amount of eggs, liquid, and oil in the recipe will have no connection to the amount recommended on the box for making brownies.

* Canned beans--The quality of canned beans varies greatly by brand. If you live on the East Coast, Goya is a high-quality brand, and nationally Bush's are far superior to other standard brands. Whole Foods markets beautiful cooked beans in jars under their 365 brand, although the pack size is larger than for canned beans, so you will have some left over if you use them in a recipe that gives amounts in cans.

* Coconut milk--Light coconut milk has been skimmed of most of its fat and coconut solids. It has a very different texture and flavor than regular coconut milk, and I don't recommend that you substitute one for the other.

* Curry cooking sauce (also called curry simmer sauce, masala sauce, or curry sauce)--These Indian convenience foods simplify complex curry recipes down to browning a few ingredients and adding the sauce. There are several brands the two that you will find most frequently are Patak and Raj, but there is also Curry King, and Trader Joe's has several curry cooking sauces. Because there are many curries in Indian cooking, you will find curry sauces that are interchangeable for shortcut recipes sold under several different names, such as tikka masala (an aromatic golden curry flavored with coriander and lemon), korma (rich with coconut, garlic, coriander, and ginger), Madras (spicy with cumin and chiles), and vindaloo (very spicy, made with tomatoes and lots of chiles). Don't confuse curry cooking sauce, which is fully prepared, with curry paste, which needs to be diluted to become a sauce. If you can't find curry sauce, you can make it by diluting a few spoonfuls of curry paste according to the directions on the jar or can.

* Broths, stocks, and concentrates--These products are all interchangeable. Although there is a distinct difference in classic terms between a stock and a broth, when it comes to manufactured products they are the same -- they are all broth. Stock is made mostly from bones broth is made mostly from meat, which means that broth has more flavor than stock, although stock has a rich, gelatinous consistency. Some companies call their product "stock" because they feel it lends a professional restaurant aura, but this has no bearing on the quality of the product.

Broth and stock concentrates vary greatly in quality and price. The best (and most expensive) are sold as paste or frozen. These products are made from stock that has been concentrated to about one sixteenth of its original volume (1 tablespoon of the concentrate makes 1 cup of stock). On the other end of the quality spectrum are bouillon powders, which tend to be salty and artificial tasting. Between these extremes are bouillon cubes, of which some are better than others. Knorr makes a fairly high-quality cube.

Minced garlic and ginger--Although I shy away from recommending specific brands, I have to recommend that you use Christopher Ranch minced garlic and ginger products. They simply taste better than any other brand I have experienced.

* Pumpkin--Libby's canned pumpkin puree gives better results with less work than cooking pumpkin from scratch. This is partially because the canning process helps to break down tough fibers and concentrates the flavors of pumpkin more completely than simmering would, but it's also because Libby's pumpkin is made from a special variety of pumpkin that is unavailable to you and me. I'm not sure why the other brands, regardless of price, can't compare.

* Quick-cooking brown rice--For anyone in a hurry who is at all interested in cooking with whole grains, quick-cooking or instant brown rice is essential. It trims cooking time from 45 minutes to 5 or 10 minutes, depending on the brand. Unlike instant white rice, the results are quite good-not as chewy or aromatic as long-cooking brown rice but very acceptable, considering the time difference. For testing the recipes in this book I used a product that cooked in 5 minutes. If you have the 10-minute variety, you should follow the cooking directions for that product.

An alternative to quick-cooking products is fully cooked brown rice in a vacuum-sealed bag. These products are generally heated in a microwave and also take about 5 minutes to prepare. I found that they had a slightly better flavor than the quick-cooking rice, but a mushy texture. They are also much more expensive.

* Salsa--Standard tomato-based salsas differ in heat level, the size of the vegetable pieces, and the thickness of the sauce. In most recipes, heat is not the main attraction. Mild or medium heat levels are the most versatile, for you can always add hot sauce to taste. But if you like your food incendiary, and all you ever buy is hot salsa, feel free to use it. More important than heat level is thickness. The consistency of a salsa depends on the amount of tomato solids used in its production. Look at the label if tomato puree (or paste) is the first ingredient, the salsa will tend to be thick if it's crushed tomatoes the liquid will be medium-thick and if tomatoes or water is the first or second ingredient, it indicates a thin salsa. I usually use salsas in the middle range. If you are preparing a recipe that has a large amount of salsa in it, and the finished product seems thick, add a little water. If it is too thin, add a bit of tomato paste or puree to the recipe.

* Tomato pasta sauce--There are two styles of tomato pasta sauce: ragù, which is made with meat and is long simmered until the meat breaks down and integrates into the sauce, and marinara, which is a fresh vegetable sauce that cooks briefly just until the tomato is soft. In general, ragùs are thick and marinaras are light, although there are many jarred meatless pasta sauces that have been loaded with tomato paste until they resemble thick ragùs. These are designed to cling to pasta, but they are too thick to cook with, which is why I recommend that you look for a jarred marinara sauce that is thin enough to move freely in the jar. Even though these may appear thin when you pour them into a pan, they will thicken as they cook. If all you have is a thick marinara, thin it with water or broth before you start cooking with it.

This 06-Using the Recipes recipe is from the Homemade in a Hurry Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

More Recipes from the Homemade in a Hurry Cookbook:
01-The Changing Face of Homemade
02-What's Your Hurry?
03-The Ingredients
04-Organic and All-Natural Ingredients
05-Setting Up A Pantry
06-Using the Recipes
_Asian Quick-Soak Noodles
_Baby Carrots
_Buying And Storing Honey
_Buying Leafy Vegetables
_Canned Dairy
_Canned Pumpkin Is Better Than Fresh
_Canned Tomatoes
_Chai Concentrate
_Chiles-Too Hot To Handle
_Choosing Meat
_Cook Your Vegetables By Color
_Cooking With Salad Dressing
_Cooking Without Heat
_Cornbread Mixes
_Curry Paste
_Defining Fruit
_Don't Overlook (Seafood)
_Dried Wild Mushrooms
_Dry-Pack, Day-Boat, Unsoaked Scallops
_Fennel, Celery, And Other Stem Vegetables
_Fish On The Bone
_Fishing For Broth
_Flavored Oils
_Flavored Salsa
_Food In A Tube
_Frozen Dough
_Frozen Potatoes
_Hanger Steak
_How Do You Know When The Fish Is Done?
_How Does A Slow-Cooker Work?
_Instant And Precooked Polenta
_Instant Polenta
_Judging Freshness
_Keep Your Skin On
_Lean Fish / Fat Fish
_Leftovers: Turkey Salad Reinvented
_Lemon Zest
_Making Substitutions For Cream
_Making Substitutions: Salsa And Dressing
_Meatless Protein
_Melting Cheese
_Mesquite Sauces
_Microwave Steaming
_Mole Paste
_Perfect Cheesecake
_Pots And Pans
_Precut Produce
_Prepared Pie Crust
_Preservatives In Jarred Garlic
_Puff Pastry
_Quick Tomato Sauces
_Quick-Cooking Whole-Grain Rice
_Ready-To-Serve Precooked Bacon
_Refried Beans
_Refrigerated Guacamole
_Restaurant-Style Stock And Sauce Concentrates
_Resting Lasagna (Or Any Casserole)
_Salting To Cook, Not Just For Flavor
_Shopping For Root Vegetables
_Speed-Baking Potatoes
_Sprouts: An Instant Salad
_Techniques For Cooking Vegetables
_The Allure Of Pouched Fish
_The Joy Of Soy
_The Sweet Side Of Pepper Spread
_The Theory Behind Slow-Roasting
_The Two Faces Of Veggie Burgers
_Tomatoes And Cream
_Tough Cuts Of Meat
_V8: A Garden In A Jar
_Vegetables That Are Fruit
_What Is Bruschetta?
_What Makes An Onion Sweet?
_White Beans
_You Say Tabbouleh, I Say Tabouli

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