Posts Tagged ‘technique’

How to Dice an Onion

Posted: September 16, 2011 in Technique
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Don’t be confused, this is still a food blog. But I only use the figure on the right to remind us all of high school geometry (ugh) and how your teacher always told you how important it was to learn without ever telling you exactly how you’ll use it. You see a set of axes (yes, that is the correct plural for axis – I looked it up) labeled X, Y, and Z for both right and left handed individuals. I’ll refer to these axes when discussing the technique behind dicing an onion because I end the terms horizontal, vertical, and across rather vague.

Step 1: Peel the onion and cut in half. Leave the root end attached and cut the other end off slightly. Lay one half cut side down on a cutting board.

Step Two: Lay your palm on top of the onion keeping your fingers extended straight. Very carefully cut the onion horizontally along the X-Axis two or three times (depending on the size of the onion).

Step Three: Now cut the onion on the Y-Axis as small as you would like the dice. Some chunks may come off. Just set these aside and dice them later.

Step Four: Lastly, cut the onion across the Z-Axis and the dice is complete.

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This appetizer was inspired from a trip to Fish Market, one of my favorite sushi restaurants in Boston. The restaurant had just opened, and being one of its new patrons, I was rewarded with a complimentary appetizer. What was served to me was a ball made out of avocado with a salad of raw tuna inside. It was delicious.

Here I’ve taken the same idea and made an American summer BBQ version using the avocado ball to deliver a mango salad served alongside large grilled shrimp. By and large, grilling  is my favorite method of cooking shrimp as it leaves the skin crispy directly contrasting the delicate flesh inside. This is an appetizer that can be made a few hours in advance and serves as an impressive beginning to a midsummer night dinner party.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 4 tiger shrimp (Size 8 – 12)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 mango, diced
1. Preheat the grill over medium high heat. Slice the avocado in half and scoop out the flesh onto a cutting board.
     
2. Using a very sharp knife, slice one half of the avocado as thin as possible. Use slow, deliberate strokes. There’s no rush.
3. Lay the avocado slices in a line over plastic wrap. Top the middle with 2 tbsp of the diced mango. Season with a little salt and olive oil.
     
4. Fold the plastic wrap over onto itself, folding the avocado in half. Then fold the plastic wrap back over the avocado as shown in the Step 5 picture.      
5. Twist one end of the plastic wrap so that it begins to smoosh the ends of the avocado together. Then repeat with the other side. If any mango begins to seep out, gently push it back it in, but be careful not to destroy the overlapping slices. Place the mango ball in the fridge to come together ensuring the twisted ends do not unravel.
 
6. Remove the shells from the shrimp except for the tails. Season with salt and pepper (I used some chili powder as well for additional heat).
     
7. Cook the shrimp on the grill until the tail has turned pink. Turn the shrimp over and finish cooking.
     
9. Assemble the plate by placing the avocado ball in the middle. Top with a slice of lemon and lean two shrimp on either side.

Homemade pasta is not nearly as hard as it seems. Essentially, it’s two ingredients: Flour and Eggs. That’s it. But, before you decide if making homemade pasta is right for you, there are three things to consider:

1) Do I have time?

Making pasta at home will not take eons of time. Making the dough will take roughly 20 minutes, but filling ravioli, tortellini, or pressing and drying other kinds of pasta does require a time committment. On a good note, if you are a parent, this is a fantastic project to do with children as it requires no knives, dangerous machinery, or the stove.

2) What kind of pasta should I make?

There are many accessories that will help you make perfectly uniform cuts. If you don’t want to make a big investment in these, I would stick with ravioli or tortelinni. Strand shaped pasta like spaghetti, linguine, and fettuccine requires uniform sized noodles so they all cook at the same speed. Otherwise, some will be al dente and the rest will be mush.

3) How much should I make?

While you are putting in the effort, make lots. Filled pastas will freeze and strand pasta will dry the same way you buy it in your grocery store.. This requires some additional time and steps, but this is a much healthier alternative to ingesting the sodium riddled frozen pasta we have all come to love.

Once you try homemade pasta, it will be difficult for you to go back to the boxed stuff.

Making Pasta

Ingredients

  • Flour
  • Eggs

Before I start, I want to note that I am using the ratio method of cooking here. Pasta dough uses a 3:2 flour to egg ratio. The reason for this is because each egg weighs something different. To simply say, use 1 egg, would be inaccurate. However, if you don’t have a kitchen scale (and if you are going to cook alot, I would recommend getting one), I have included approximations as well.

1) Measure out eggs first. You will need one egg for each serving. I am making 6 servings, so six eggs are cracked and weighed. This amounts to 324g.

2) Measure out the flour. Remember, we need a 3:2 ratio. I’ve shown the math below. You can use this method to figure out how much flour you need by solving for X. This also proves that your math teacher was right and this stuff can be used in real life. (3 1/4 cups of flour — ish)

3) Now make a well in the flour. You’ve probably seen on the Food Network that they tend to dump the flour on the counter. This is a terrible idea. You are going to pour the eggs into the well. If your walls break, you are going to have egg everywhere. This will make you sad. My method is to keep the flour is a large mixing bowl and use a glass to make a well. Then pour the eggs into the middle. You can see from the picture below that if you do it right, the eggs will smile at you.

4) Now the fun part! Take a fork and begin to scramble the eggs. As you move around, flour with become incorporated into the egg mixture. Make your circles bigger until you get a solid mixture. I’ve taken the liberty to attach my YouTube video demonstration below.

I removed the soundtrack from the video due in part to the noxious egg mixing sound. I replaced it with “Help, I’m Alive” by Metric. And yes, I realize I”m a dork.

5) When you get the pasta to look like the video, stop there and use your hands to finish the task. Keep kneading the dough until the flour has incorporated itself into the mixture and the dough is smooth and elastic. This can take anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes. This also counts as your strength training work out for the day. The dough will still be slightly sticky. DO NOT ADD EXTRA FLOUR. You will want to. Hold in the impulses.

6) Lay out some saran wrap on your counter and spray it with cooking spray. Then put the disc of dough in the middle, wrap it, and chill it in your refrigerator for at least 4 hours. You can make this up to 24 hours ahead of time, but I don’t recommend leaving it too long. Dough will absorb all the odors in your fridge and you may not want your ravioli to taste like last weeks leftovers. 
That’s it folks. You’ve made pasta dough. From here, you can roll it out, put it through a pasta press, use a pasta machine, whatever you want. Need some inspiration? Tomorrow, I’ll be posting the recipe for my Mushroom Ravioli.