Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Smoke Point of Oils

I'm pretty amazed that most people who I've met and into cooking, do not understand or know about the smoking point of an oil.

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which oil begins to decompose and it is during that process that it begins to give off fumes or smoke. This will affect the flavor of the food. Use an instant read or candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. Successful frying relies on the right temperatures.

Oils like Canola, Peanut, Vegetable and Sunflower have fairly high smoking points and are best for deep frying. The refining process of an oil also increases it smoke point.

If you don't have a thermometer handy, offered this explanation:
Alternatively, oil can be tested by dropping a cube of white bread into the hot oil. If it browns uniformly in 60 seconds, the temperature is 350 to 365F; 40 seconds, the temperature is about 365 to 382F; 20 seconds, the temperature is about 382 to 390F.
It was found in their "Tiptionary" section

Extra virgin olive oil that is cold pressed will have a very low smoking point at approximatley 200°F. It has Great Flavor and I tend to use it more for salad dressings and mixing. Check out The World's Healthiest Foods -, as this is some good information on olive oil and smoke points.

Companies are always coming with new types of oils as noted in the earlier entry I posted on Olivio Premium Spread who also produce an olive-canola oil mix. This provides you with some of the great taste and benefits of olive oil while raising the smoke point by adding canola.

Happy Frying!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Low Carb Pizza Dough - Experiment #1

What I Want: The lowest carb pizza dough possible while maintaining it's integrity.

Recipe Based On: Reverse Engineering. Tyler Florence has a great recipe that's become my staple. It has always produced very nice pizza dough, so I went with what I knew worked.

Pizza Dough - Tyler Florence
From Food
Show: Food 911
Episode: Pizza Party
Yield: 3 Pizza Crusts

1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups 00 flour, plus more for dusting

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water; stir gently to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until the yeast comes alive and starts to foam, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing at the lowest speed until all the flour has been incorporated. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium; stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Get a feel for the dough by squeezing a small amount together: if it's crumbly, add more water; if it's sticky, add more flour - 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix until the dough gathers into a ball, this should take about 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over itself a few times; kneading until it's smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a round and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turn it over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot (i.e. over a gas pilot light) until doubled in size, about 1 hour. This is a good time to stick a pizza stone in the oven and preheat them to 500 degrees F.

Once the dough is domed and spongy, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter. Roll and stretch the dough into a cylinder and divide into 3 equal pieces. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes so it will be easier to roll out.

Roll or pat out a piece of dough into a 12 inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Dust a pizza paddle with flour and slide it under the pizza dough. Brush the crust with a thin layer of olive oil, and top with your favorite flavors. Slide the pizza onto the hot stone in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and crisp. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Lowered Carb Recipe - First Try:
What I Did: Substitute the 3 cups of flour with:

1 1/2 cups of White Flour
1 cup Soy Flour
1/2 cup Flaxseed Meal

This is a close-up of the dough after rising and right before I started to roll some out. I only used about a one-third of it and put the rest in the freezer. We'll see how it holds up in a week or two.

When Mixing: It ended up taking one and 3/4 cups of flour.

Results: The dough rose very nicely. It was easy to work with, rolled out cleanly and baked very well making some very tasty cheese and spinach calzones.

Bottom Line: An excellent pizza dough and definitley a much healthier dough than an all white flour dough but I still want to decrease the amount of white flour.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Making Pasta - Part III

The last and final phase is to then roll all the sheets one more time into fettuccini or spaghetti, as they are the two options with my current machine. If you didn't want either of them, there are many, many ways to cut them up into different types of pasta. Lidia's Family Table just a aired a show entitled, "Fresh Pasta, The Long and Short of It", which is a great demonstration of this entire process and she shows how to create several handmade pastas, like gargenelli, from these sheets.
The first picture shows a side-by-side comparison showing what the sheet looks like when it comes out as spaghetti. As the pasta is cut, it is floured well to prevent sticking and put into containers headed for the freezer. I place the pasta in the containers as I'd want them come apart in boling water; gently laid on top of each other so that they come apart easily with no clumping or sticking. Lots O'Flour!! The third picture shows plain fettuccini getting ready for freezing. Before being run through the cutters, we cut the sheets of pasta into "normal" eating lengths. You don't want to handle them to much after they've been cut. You also can hang pasta to dry. When completely dry, you can safely store pasta without having to be refrigerated or frozen. I personally don't prefer this method because when they are dried, they are extremely delicate and can break easily.
When getting ready to cook the pasta, I ONLY take the pasta out of the freezer a minute before going into the boiling water. If you allow them to defrost, the water will combine with the flour and give you a gelatenous mess
I've kept pasta frozen, sealed very well, for up to 8 months and still tasted great. Although, it never lasts that long in the freezer.!
I guess I should do a "Making Pasta - Part IV" in the future when I have the digital camera around and it's cooked and dressed with gravy! Dee as well as others who cook with me in the kitchen often say that is like a "therapy" session for them. So if anyone in the Tampa Bay area needs some "therapy", give me a buzz!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Making Pasta - Part II

The pasta dough is then cut into pieces, flattened and passed through the rollers on the widest level initially to begin stretching the dough. It takes about six passes for each piece of dough to achieve these beautiful silky sheets! And each time we make it, the dough is always just a little bit different. Hot & humid conditions will produce a much different dough than cool and dry. It becomes quite the production line to get all sheets turned out. Dee and I have made pasta so much together that we just get into a rhythm and we crank these sheets out pretty fast! Depending on the wetness of the dough, flouring the pasta sheets is an important step as they get thinner and thinner. In the pictures below, the dough on the left is plain pasta and spinach pasta is on the right. Dee just had her nails done and didn't mind posing for the camera! Every time we roll out the dough, we are always in awe and at the beautiful silky long pasta sheets that we create. Tyler Florence of Tyler's Ultimate did an amazing show on lasagna with some very unique ways of creating some incredible dishes using pasta sheets. Once we have all the pasta sheets rolled out, the last and final step is deciding to roll the sheets into spaghetti or fettuccini. The spinach dough usually turn out better as fettuccini since it has a more fiber in the sheets with the addition of purred spinach. Additionally, rolling out the dough with a rolling pin is another option when you need sheets for making something like manicotti.
We usually have some type of fresh pasta dish on pasta making day. One of the greatest pleasures is deciding what kinda of sauce we are going to have that night for dinner since it is such a treat to have fresh pasta as it is oh so delicious!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Quick Lo-Carb Chicken String Bean Wraps

The market had thin sliced boneless chicken breast on special, something I don't buy that often as they tend to be pricey and I can just cut my own. So I thought I'd share this rather healthy recipe that my dear partner helped brainstorm after I made these the other night for dinner. This was partly inspired from the String Bean Wraps we use to get from Su Tao restaurant, a wonderful Vegan Chinese restaurant in Malvern, PA.

First I steamed the green beans until just tender and then ran them under cold water and drained and set aside.

Next, using my biggest frying pan, filling it about 3/4" of water and bring it up to a boil, I stirred in about 5 tablespoons of some Kraft Carb Well BBQ sauce and some fresh ground pepper. I placed the chicken in the bubbly BBQ Sauce mixture and flipped them after 3-4 minutes for another 3-5 mins. I placed them on a paper towel lined plate and blotted them dry, cooled and then cut into strips, about 1/4"-1/2" wide.

With low-carb wraps (Mission Carb Balance Soft Taco Size Tortillas), then smeared some low-fat sour cream (I made a blend of sour cream and BBQ sauce for mine) and then staggered the chicken and string beans, wrapped it tightly and cut it in half!

This is another versatile recipe where the ingredients are interchangeable, pork or beef for the chicken, any vegetable you want for the string beans although I would be sure cut them in thin strips/julienned. Lastly use whatever sauces and condiments you desire! You could also marinate the string beans too!

I attempted twice to calculate the nutrition information in a program that I have and it crashed twice. I do remember the calories being around 262 each with 8g Net Carbs. NOT to shabby in my book!! I was asked if we could have more of these at our lunch and dinner table! Absolutely!

P.S. - If anyone knows of a good "freeware" nutrition calculator, please let me know!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Making Pasta - Part I

Dee and I made recently made homemade pasta. We used up a Five Pound Bag of Flour which made a boatload of Plain and Spinach pasta. I thought since we were making quite of bit, it was a good time to snap some pictures.
The top picture shows just about 4 cups of sifted flour. I usually just sift it right onto the cutting board. I started with 4 cups since this was a batch of spinach pasta.
In the middle picture I made a well in the flour and cracked 4 eggs and a added a pinch of salt. It's at this step that you can just use all egg yolks and a tablespoon or two of water. You'll get a much richer pasta. You can also use 2 eggs and 3 egg yolks. You get the idea. Next, with a fork I start beating the eggs but being careful not to break the flour ring as the egg will come pouring out.
I then start adding the spinach puree and continue beating the egg mixture. Additionally I start taking on more flour from about the rim an keep going until it gets too think for the fork. I then switch to my hands and finish until the dough is formed. It is needed for about 5 minutes and it should continue to take on more flour the more you kneed. It is then either put under a bowl or wrapped up in plastic and let to rest for at least 30 minutes.
I will make all my dough first. This particular day we made two batches each of plain and spinach. And that pretty much concludes the first part! This last picture shows all tools that we used!
On television, Mary Ann Espisito from Ciao Italia! as well as Lidia are always doing something interesting with homemade pasta dough! They are my teachers. Making homemade pasta is fun and we have such a good time, especially if a bottle of wine is involved!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Blueberries, Blueberries, Blueberries

Sweet and Tart - Loaded with Antioxidants

Our Blueberry Bush, West Chester, PA - Taken August 3, 2005.

Check out for everything you wanted to know. Be sure click on the Nutrition tab, I was amazed how many vitamins and minerals they contain!

We had a nice crop this year!!
I'm really going to miss this blueberry bush when we move to Tampa!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Recipe & Review: Chicken Fried Steak

Also on my Tivo Top Ten List, the recent episode of "Truck Stop Classics" on America's Test Kitchen, featured a Chicken Fried Steak recipe I've been wanting to make ever since I watched it. In this episode, the lovely Julia demonstrates how to make some of the best chicken fried steak I've ever had.

The steak is tender with a great crispy crust and the homemade gravy is equally as delicious and the two pair very well in this classic southern dish.

There are a few steps involved and you can probably still catch this episode in repeat as of this writing, as it's worth watching. Coconut cream pie, which looked amazing, finishes off the show.

This recipe is currently availabe on America's Test Kitchen website. They do require you to register, free of charge, to view the recipes of the current season. The printed recipe from the website provides great instructions.

It has definitly found a place in my recipe repertoire. I'm already planning on making this for our friends, Steve & Brent, as this is something I think they will really enjoy! That tells you just how good it was since I want to serve this to our friends for dinner!

I was bummed I didn't haven't the digital camera handy when I made it tonight for dinner as it got very high marks at the dinner table! (I was even making yummy noises) Next Time!

Thank You, America's Test Kitchen, for giving us a great way to make some really good down-home Chicken Fried Steak!! Definitly was worth the effort!

Wednesday, August 3, 2005 - Made this again for dinner for Stevie and Dee... here's the pic!