Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Vocabulary of Cooking.....Q (well really, Qu)

We are on the Q's in our list of vocabulary words used in the culinary world.  We didn't realize just how many terms began with Q or rather Qu, but there are quite a number.  So let's begin and find some new and maybe some familiar things:

Quadriller is the marked surface of grilled or broiled food with a crisscross pattern of lines. The scorings are produced by contact with very hot single grill bars, which brown the surface of the food.

Quadrillers on grilled steak
Quahog - The Native American name for the (East Coast) hard-shelled clam. Quahog is also sometimes used to describe very large clams.

Ocean Quahog
Quail is a small game bird

Quark cheese (qwark) is a soft, unripened cheese with the texture and flavor of sour cream. Quark can be used as a sour cream substitute to top baked potatoes and as an ingredient in a variety of dishes including cheesecakes, dips, salads, and sauces.

Quark Cheese

Quatre epices (KAH-tray-PEES) - In French it means "four spices." It is a mixture of ground spices usually consisting of pepper, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Since there is no standard mixture for quatre epices, the mixture will vary with each preparation.

Spices that make up Quatre epices

Quenelle is a small football-shaped spoonful originally made with minced meat or fish. Ice cream or dessert garnish is often made into this shape to adorn a plate for presentation.

Quesadilla A flour tortilla folded in half around a savory filling, as of cheese or beans, then fried or toasted.

Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla

Queso - The Spanish word for cheese.

Queso fresco is a creamy, soft unaged white cheese commonly found in Mexican cuisine

Quiche is a rich unsweetened custard pie, often containing ingredients such as vegetables, cheese, or seafood.

Vegetable Quiche
Quinoa  is technically a fruit, but has all the characteristics of a grain and is considered a super food because it contains more protein than any other grain. It has a delicate nutty flavor with plenty of texture due to its high fiber content

Uncooked Quinoa
Here's a recipe for Quinoa Pilaf for those of you who are looking for a substitute for rice:

You will need:
1 cup quinoa (rinced very well)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 small onion chopped
1 cloves garlic minced
1/2 each red and yellow pepper chopped
1 tablespoon organic seasoning mix
salt and pepper

What you need to do:

Make sure you rince the quinoa really well under cold water.  Combine all ingredients in a medium size pan.  Bring to a soft boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook covered for 15-20 minutes.  When all the liquid is gone, fluff the pilaf with a fork and serve.

Quince  is a yellow-skinned fruit that looks and tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear. Its texture and flavor make it better cooked than raw. Its high pectin content makes it ideal for use in jams, jellies, and preserves.

Quick bread are breads that are made quickly and easily. Because the leavening agent is either baking powder, baking soda, or steam, there is no rising time required. A baked quick bread will generally have a gently rounded top that is slightly bumpy.

So there are the Qu word.  We hope you learned of something that sounds worth trying.  So go out and use your new words and experiment.  Enjoy good food!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Onion... tears of joy!

The 2 Prickly Pears feel that the lowly onion is so misunderstood.  It is one of the greats in the culinary world because it adds so much flavor to all sorts of dishes.  So come along with us as we take a closer look at ONIONS!

Onions can be dated back to 5000 BC.  Ancient Egyptians worshiped them believing the spherical shape and the concentric rings symbolized eternal life. Today 170 hundred countries grow onions.   

There are a wide variety of onions to pick from Bermuda Onion, Green Onion, Leek, Pearl Onion, Pickling Onion, Scallion, Shallot, Vidalia, Walla Walla Sweet… just to name a few.

Some of the most common used are…

Yellow – they are also known as brown onions.  Commonly used in French Onion soup because of its full flavor.  It is also the most commonly used onion in everyday use and can be found in most culinary dishes. They become sweeter the longer they cook.

Red – are used in many fresh dishes because of the color it brings to a dish.

White – are commonly used in Mexican cuisine and have a sweet flavor when sautéed.

We sauté, chop, can, freeze, dehydrate, deep fry and pickle them.  We put them in salsa, soups, stews, on top a burger or hot dog (don’t forget a good brat!), salads and yes some eat them like an apple.  Not much you can’t do with an onion.  They bring and excellent balance to a dish that even the pickiest eaters cannot deny.

Onions have some great healthy benefits. Here are some of the things that onions can do for your heart:
  • Boost beneficial HDL cholesterol.  Remember this is the good cholesterol your body needs to stay healthy.
  • Thin the blood… careful if you are on blood thinners.
  • Retard blood clotting
  • Lowers total blood cholesterol
  • Lowers triglycerides
  • Lowers blood pressure

Baked French Onion Soup (makes 6 individuals bowls)
3 tablespoons olive  
4 large onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups beef stock
1 cup dry white wine
Splash of whiskey if you have it
1/2 teaspoon   thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste
6 slices French bread
3 tablespoons butter
Mozzarella Cheese, sliced

  • Sauté onions and garlic in oil in Dutch oven until tender. 
  • Sprinkle flour over onions and cook for about 2 minutes 
  • Add stock and wine and bring to boil.
  • Add thyme and bay leaf. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. 
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Toast your bread and place in the bottom of 6 individual oven proof dishes.
  • Place dishes on a cookie sheet and ladle soup over bread.
  • Top with cheese
  • Leave the bowls on the cookie sheet and place in oven.  Bake at 400 for 10 -15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.  

DIG IN!!!!  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Vocabulary of Cooking.....P

Today is all about the letter P.  There are lots of terms here, so let's get started.  Don't forget to look for the recipe and also a little bit of silliness.

paella is a Spanish dish of rice cooked in stock with meats and vegetables.  Note the pan used is specific to this dish.

paella made in a paella pan

paillard is a flattened piece of meat.  For example, using a mallot to flatten a chicken breast for even cooking.

pain de mie is a type of basic white bread.

pancetta is a salt-cured Italian bacon.

sliced pancetta

panko is a flaky Japanese style of breadcrumb.

panna cotta is a custard that is delicate but just firm enough to hold when inverted.

panna cotta with raspberry sauce

parmigiano reggiano is an authentic parmesan that has a salty flavor with firm texture. 

parsnips are a pale yellow root vegetable (shaped like a carrot) with a sweet, delicate flavor.

pasilla peppers have a gentle, complex flavor with mild heat.
pasilla peppers
pearl onions are small mild-flavored onions.
sauted pearl onions

pectin is found naturally in fruits and helps ripe fruit remain firm, hence it’s thickening qualities. 

penne rigate is a pasta with ridges on the surface - which helps the sauce to stick to it.

uncooked penne regate
pepitas are edible pumpkin or squash seeds.
roasted and salted pepitas

pie crust - okay, we all know what pie crust is, but we included it because it is the recipe for this post.

a pre-baked pie crust

Your basic pie crust recipe
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks very cold salted butter, cut into 16 squares*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup very cold water**

Using your food processor, combine flour and salt with a few pulses. Add cut up butter (I cannot stress enough that the butter must be cold cold cold). Process the flour butter mixture until it is the consistency of meal. Slowly add the water and combine until the ingredients come together in a dough, but do not over mix.  I'll repeat that, do not over mix. Divide dough in two pieces and wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.*** Remove dough and let come to room temperature. Roll out and place in pie pan. If you only need one crust, the second crust can be frozen.

*The true test of a good pie crust is its flakiness. You will get a flaky crust if you use cold butter and if you do not overwork the dough.

**An old time secret ingredient for a tender crust is to add 1 teaspoon vinegar to the water. Do worry. The taste bakes out and no one will ever know it was in there. The vinegar breaks down the gluten so you get a tender crust. 

***It is vital that you let your dough rest. I often let my dough rest overnight. All the ingredients come together and the dough is easier to work with when it comes time to roll it out.

pilaf is a dish of rice that often contain other flavoring ingredients including meat and vegetables. 

plantains are a starchy, firm fruit that are related to bananas.  Because of its starch properties, plantains are cooked before eating.


poach is a gentle method of cooking in liquid. The poaching liquid can be bold in flavor or subtle or even simply water. 

polenta is cornmeal, or a dish of ground cornmeal boiled in water - served either set solid or as a warm, thick puree consistency.

polenta with a puree consistency
 port wine is a sweet fortified wine that is rich in flavor. 

Prickly Pears any of numerous cacti having flattened, usually spiny stem joints, yellow, orange, or reddish flowers, and often edible fruit.

prickly pears

Prickly Pears two sisters that are a little prickly, a little sweet, and wonderfully creative and talented when it comes to designing home and table.  ;)
PP #1 and PP #2
prosciutto is an Italian, salt-cured ham, usually very thinly sliced.
proscuitto ham

puff pastry is a light, flaky, leavened pastry. 

puree is an ingredient that has been processed, blended, passed or pressed to a very fine, smooth consistency.

Wow!  That's a lot of culinary words that start with the letter P.  Now go out and use your ever growing vocabulary.  Go out and make a pie crust, while you are at it.  

Have fun and eat good things!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


“You like potato and I like potahto.
You like tomato and I like tomahto.
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto.
Let's call the whole thing off.”

"What is not to love about these tubers wonders?!" I ask.  We get to thank the ancients of modern day Peru and northern Bolivia for discovering potatoes between 8000 and 5000 BCE.  Since then the world has loved that potato.  

There is much to love. The average American eats 142 pounds of potatoes a year, about one potato per day.  It follows milk as the highest consumed food in the US.  The US grows 30 billion pounds a year.  North Dakota produces 2.7 billion pound with Minnesota close behind at 2.3 billion.  Idaho and Washington grows nearly half the US crops.  It is clear we love our spuds!!!

There is a lot to say about eating potatoes.  Some frown upon them and others, like the 2 Prickly Pears, embrace them.  Just look at them… how can you not love them!
As with everything moderation is important.  Too much is not healthy for you.  But consider this when you are planning your meal.

Regardless of what you hear, potatoes are not high in calories.  One medium potato contains 110 calories.  One serving of potatoes provides 45% of the recommended Daily Value of vitamin C.  Need more potassium in your diet?  May want to reach for a potato instead of a banana.  A potato contains 610 mg while a banana container 450 mg of potassium.

If you are someone who likes the peel of the potato that is even better.  The peel is loaded with vitamins; minerals, fiber, flavonoid, quercitin, and chlorogenic acid.  

We bake them, boil them, deep fry then, mash them, hash them and rice them.  We load them up with our favorite toppings and make a meal out of them.  We love them with our turkey or as a side with our favorite burger.  Here is a great site to know the different varieties of potatoes and how to cook them… Love Potatoes

Soon the farmers markets will be over flowing with potatoes.  Make sure you support your local growers.  You will be happy you did!!!

Here is an easy recipe to elevate to the next level buy adding truffle oil.

Roasted Potatoes with Sauteed Onions and Truffle Oil

1 lb potatoes pealed and cubed
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1-2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 - 1 teaspoon truffle oil (see note below)
Shredded Parmesan cheese (or cheese of choice)

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Place potatoes in an oven proof dish.  Pour olive oil on potatoes and toss to coat evenly. 
  • Season with salt and pepper.  You can also season with your favorite seasoning.  This batch was seasoned with organic Italian Seasoning.
  • Spread potatoes in a single layer in the pan.  This will help them cook evenly.
  • Cook for 40 minutes or until cooked through
  • While potatoes are baking saute onions and garlic in a pan. 
  • When potatoes are finished baking add onions, garlic and truffle oil together and toss.
  • Place in serving dish and sprinkle cheese on top.
  • Enjoy!
Note: Careful with the truffle oil.  If you have cooked with it before you know what we mean. If you haven't... remember a little goes a very long way!  The truffle oil will elevate your dish but too much will over power it and you will not be happy.  Start with 1/2 tsp and taste.  If you think it needs more then add another 1/2 tsp.

This is a great recipe because you can do so much with it.  Trust your imagination and have fun!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Vocabulary of Cooking....N & O

Hey!  We are already on the N's and O's of our vocabulary list.  We are so glad you are staying with us to learn, learn, learn the language of cooking.  We hope you have been making good use of the terminology.

Don't forget to try out today's recipe.  It is a refreshing dish made for hot weather.

Let's get started!

Nappe (pronouced nap) is the term for a consistency of sauce whereby it "coats the back of a spoon."
Coating the back of a spoon

Nectar  is a beverage of fruit juice and pulp such as apricot nectar.  A drink that is very yummy is call "nectar of the Gods."

Nicoise olives are small distinctively purplish-black olives that have a salty, slightly sour flavor.

Nicoise Olives look like Calamata, but are more sour.

Non-stick pan is a very useful tool to have when cooking delicate ingredients like flakey fillets of fish or cooking eggs.  One good non-stick pan is a key piece of cookware any chef should have in their kitchen.

Nosh is to snack or nibble on small items of food.

Nutmeg is the hard, aromatic, spherical seed of the evergreen tree.   The seed is grated and used as a spice.  Fresh nutmeg has a powerful aromatic and should be used sparingly.

Ground and whole nutmeg

Nutrients are foods or other substances that provides energy or building material for the survival and growth of a living organism.  All living organisms, large and small, need nutrients to survive.

Oats a cereal plant cultivated chiefly in cool climates and widely used for animal feed as well as human consumption.

Okra is a tall annual herb of the herb and shrub family that is cultivated for its sticky green pods used especially in soups or stews.

Raw Okra
Olive Oil  is the oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree.  There is a lot to know about olive oil, not only is it good for cooking but also your skin.  Check out the article from Clairalience to learn more.

Onions are an essential savory ingredient found in many dishes.  They add a depth of flavor and are the foundation for many sauces and stocks.

Onion picante is typically an onion studded with cloves and bay leaf.

Oregano is an aromatic plant of the mint family, related to marjoram, with leaves that are used fresh or dried as a culinary herb.

Fresh Oregano
Orzo is a shape of pasta - shaped like a large grain of rice.

Uncooked Orzo
Orzo Salad served cold
You will need:
1 lb Orzo
1 1/2 Cup cherry tomatoes
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 Cup fresh chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

Here's what you do:
Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil.  Add orzo and cook until soft, but al dente.  Drain and place orzo in large bowl.  Quickly add all the other ingredients and mix until well combined.  While this can be served warm, try placing it in the refrigerator for an hour or so before serving.  It is great along side your grilled chicken or steaks.  Enjoy!

Oyster, also known as a mollusk, has a rough irregular shells.  Several kinds are eaten (especially raw) as a delicacy and may be farmed for food or pearls.

Oyster with a pearl!
Oyster sauce is a savory Asian sauce made from caramelized and reduced oyster liquor.

Those are words for this Thursday.  We hope you enjoy learning new stuff like we do.  Now go out and find your own pearls.  Happy eating!

Monday, July 8, 2013

4th of July... was good eat'n!

Hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July.  The 2 Prickly Pears were busy in the kitchen preparing food for a few dinners we were invited to plus testing out new recipes for the cookbook we are creating.  Lots of great things were created.  A few surprises along the way.  Don’t you just love it when happy surprises happen along the way?

Terry started out with a lot of cooking for the picnic on the 4th with old family friends.  Tater Salad, Red, White & Blueberry fruit salad and gooey brownies.   At the last minute we came up with a Rhubarb Mulberry Sour Cream Crumble.  That was one of the happy surprises of the weekend.  Wow was that dessert good!

Friends cooked brats, burgers and a tasty brisket to go with the sides we made.  It seemed everyone was pretty happy with the meal.
Even Louie(corgi) was waiting for a scrap to fall on the ground... it didn't happen.  Poor Louie!

The day ended with Terry trying to walk Major back to the barn for the evening. She had to have a discussion with him about who was to lead who. She (Terry) clearly didn't understand that Major was in control.

I, on the other hand, picked a horse more my size... it was love at first sight.  He was so sweet!

The next night was Fri Fish Fry!   It was OUTSTANDING!!!!

We brought Pull A Part Garlic Bread (Happy Surprise).... Yicks that was great.  We will definitely make that one again! Of course Tater Salad, what is a fish fry without it? And a repeat of Rhubarb Mulberry Sour Cream Crumble. Our friend Cliffy was in charge of the fish and he did a superb job.  (And we got to take the left over fish home!!  Hurray for next day fish sandwiches!)  All I can say is I am glad I wore stretchy pants!

Then we sat out in the backyard where Terry played with her new pals Bud and Barry the beagle!

Lovely 4th with friends and family!

And of course a recipe to share.
Tater Salad
Here's what you need:
2-3 lbs red potatoes peeled and cubed
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon minced sweet onion
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
Salt and Pepper to taste

Here's what you do:

Boil cubed potatoes until fork tender.  (Don't over cook or they will fall apart and get mushy in the salad).  Let potatoes cook completely.  In the meantime, mix mayonnaise, sour cream, onion, mustard, dill, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Place cooled potatoes and eggs in large bowl.  Pour mayo mixture over potatoes.  Very gently toss everything together.  Taste to make sure your seasoning is as you like it.

The 2 Prickly Pears hope that all your summer activities are filled with fun and happiness, and don't forget the  yummy things that make get-togethers even more fun!