In my out of control cookbook collection is a shelf of reference books that includes "The Flavor Bible", "Food Lover's Companion", "The Food Substitutions Bible", and others too numerous to mention. It's the food geek in me, but I love to learn things about food, tips and tricks for better cooking or just to be reminded of things I may have heard before but have forgotten. Because of this I was happy to get a review copy of "Tips Cooks Love" by Sur La Table and Rick Rodgers. I LOVE Sur La Table--starting from when I moved to Seattle many moons ago and I used to go down to the original Sur La Table store at Pike's Place Market, gaze longingly at the shiny pots and pans and cool cooking tools and drool. Sadly, we don't have them here in Honolulu so I do my gazing and drooling online and I love to visit them on the mainland whenever I get a chance. Rick Rodgers is a culinary instructor and author of over 30 cookbooks--so there is some pedigree and experience behind this book.
"Tips Cooks Love" is a small book (5"x7") but it is packed with more than 500 useful cooking and food tips in many different areas. Not everything about food and cooking is covered in this book but there is a lot of information and it is organized alphabetically so it is pretty easy to use. The book includes tips and advice about ingredients as well as cookware, tools, cooking methods, food preparation and other handy information.
A few of my favorite tips from the book:
Under "Bananas": "If you want ripened bananas for baking but don't have them on hand, you can imitate the ripening process in the oven. Bake peeled and thickly sliced bananas in a glass baking dish in a preheated 400 degree F. oven for about 30 minutes, or until well-softened. Let cool completely before using." As someone who gets banana bread cravings at inopportune times in their ripening process, I am happy to learn this one!
Under "Fruits, Dried": "To chop dried fruit in a food processor, partially freeze the fruit to minimize sticking, and spray the chopping blade and the work bowl with flavorless oil. Use 1 to 2 second pulses to chop the fruit to the desired size."
Finally, my favorite tip that some of you may already know, is this great trick for getting the seeds out of a pomegranate without getting the juice all over. (I typically cut them in quarters on my cutting board and end up shooting seeds and juice all over my kitchen ;-( making a "small kine" (little) mess!) Very timely advice since November is "National Pomegranate Month" and they are big, gorgeous and even on sale in many of the grocery stores here.
The book has you score the pomegranate just through the skin into quarters and then submerge it a large bowl of water
Then break the quarters apart, keeping them under water, and "coax the seeds out" with your fingers from the spongy membranes.
The membranes then float right to the top where you can easily skim them off and discard.
Just drain the seeds and there you go--no seeds wasted and no mess.
Also in the book are 10 "deconstructed" recipes that are designed to put the various tips to practice. They include Nine-Grain Whole Wheat Harvest Bread, Fudgy Classic Brownies, Fleur desel Caramels, and the one I "road tested", Salmon with Sesame-Panko Crust. A quick and easy recipe where salmon fillets are seasoned and then one side is coated with a mixture of mayo and wasabi paste. (I used a lite mayo). Next a panko-sesame crust is applied on top of the wasabi-mayo, crisped with canola oil or cooking oil spray and baked on parchment paper. Delicious--lots of flavor and a nice crisp crust from spraying the oil on the panko mixture before it bakes and then again, halfway through cooking. This is a make-again recipe for me.
Although smaller and not as extensive as some of my other resource books, "Tips Cooks Love" is a fun useful guide for foodies, new cooks and more experienced cooks interested in learning some new tricks. It is the perfect size for a stocking stuffer or it would make a great addition to a larger shower gift or a nice hostess gift too. It has earned its spot on my cookbook shelf and I think those Fleur desel Caramels (you can find the recipe here) are calling my name!