Radicchio Salad with Walnut Dressing

Radicchio Salad with Walnut DressingSpecial thanks to Martha Steward for not only posting a simple recipe for radicchio salad, but also explaining the differences between radicchio di Treviso (narrow, tapered head) and radicchio di Verona (loose, round head). Both radicchios are named after the Italian regions where they originated.

I chose this recipe because I was not familiar with the taste of radicchio di Treviso and wanted something that would highlight the flavors of the colorful vegetable.

The salad dressing made with white-wine vinegar, salt, ground pepper and walnut oil complimented the slightly bitter flavor of the leaves without overpowering it.

I suggest leaving the dressing on the salad for a few minutes before serving so the acidity of the vinegar can starts cooking the radicchio leaves and softens its texture. I also suggest cutting the leaves into several pieces to make it easier to eat.

If you decide to add walnuts, toast them for about five minutes to help bring out their flavors.

Overall, the nutty flavor of the dressing tamed the bitterness of the radicchio to make this an enjoyable salad I will definitely make again.

You say radicchio, I say Treviso

Treviso radicchioI was in an experimental mood today, so I went to the grocery story for the sole purpose of buying a vegetable I knew nothing about and figuring out how to prepare it for tonight’s dinner.

After a few minutes of exploring the vegetable aisles, I discovered Treviso radicchio, a purple-leafed vegetable with white veins and shaped like an elongated football.

After a quick search on Wikipedia, I discovered the waxy looking vegetable is a leaf chicory with a bitter and spicy taste. I don’t know what any of that means, but I bought it anyway.

Now all I have to do is find a recipe. I will post the results later this afternoon.

Cocoa Puffs cupcakes are easy to make

Cocoa puffs cupcakes

I would not say the Cocoa Puffs cupcakes were the best cupcakes I have ever made or eaten, but they were quite good.

The recipe called for two cups of crushed Cocoa Puffs. As a result, the batter had a cookie dough consistency. I dolloped the mix into the cupcake liner and even out the batter with my spoon.

I added instant pudding mix and sour cream to pull everything together for a moist, chocolatey cupcakes.

I made a brown sugar buttercream frosting and added whole Cocoa Puffs on top.

The final result was a dense chocolate cupcake. The frosting had a rich favor fro the butter a brown sugar, but with an interesting crunch from the Cocoa Puffs.

I decided to wait until my other nephew’s birthday next week to make the Trix cupcakes. There is only so much cold cereal I can bake with on any given week and I more than met my quota For this week.

Birthday cupcakes made from Trix and Cocoa Puffa cereals

CocoaPuffstrixToday is my nephew’s birthday, so I am making cupcakes using his favorite cold cereals as ingredients. I am baking a dozen Trix cupcakes and a dozen Cocoa Puffs cupcakes.

I spent the last few days looking for a good recipe and have decide to merge several recipes I found online, so wish me luck.

I am off to the store and will update later today.

Salted vs. unsalted butter

Unsalted butterI started preparing the ingredients for a cake and I noticed the recipe called for unsalted butter. I knew butter came salted and unsalted, but I didn’t know if using salted butter would affect the outcome of the cake.

After a few hours of research, I discovered most chefs seem to think it is an issue of control. The amount of salt in different brands of salted butter can range from 1/4 teaspoon of salt per stick to 1/2 teaspoon of salt per stick. The more you control the variables in your food preparation, the more consistent your results will be.

That is good enough for me to continue using unsalted butter.

Lessons learned:

– There are three types of butter: cultured, sweet cream and raw.
– Cultured butter is made from a fermented cream.
– Sweet cream butter is made from pasteurized fresh cream.
– Raw cream butter is made from fresh or cultured unpasteurized cream.
– All categories of butter are sold in both salted and unsalted forms.
– Cultured butter is sometimes labeled “European-style” butter in the United States.
– Normal butter softens to a spreadable consistency around 60 °F.
– Clarified butter is butter with almost all of its water and milk solids removed, leaving almost-pure butterfat.
– Ghee is clarified butter which is brought to higher temperatures of around 250 °F once the water has cooked off, allowing the milk solids to brown.
– Once butter is softened, spices, herbs or other flavoring agents can be mixed into it, producing what is called a compound butter or composite butter.
– Here are the smoking points for common cooking fats.

Soybean oil – 495 °F
Sunflower oil – 437 °F
Corn oil – 446 °F
Peanut oil – 437 °F
Canola oil – 401 °F
Suet – 400°F
Olive oil – 374 °F
Lard – 374 °F
Vegetable shortening – 329 °F
Butter – 302 °F

Herbs vs. spices

I always thought herbs and spices were the same and the two words could be used interchangeably.

It was brought to my attention after my previous post that herbs and spices are different.

Both are obtained from plants and are used to add flavor and aroma to foods.

Herbs are obtained from the leaves of herbaceous plants and spices are obtained from roots, flowers, fruits, seeds or bark.

The herb wheel I wrote about earlier does not differentiate between herbs and spices and refers to both as an herb.

Just in case you are wondering, salt is not a spice or an herb. It is a mineral.

Clueless about spices

A big challenge I need to face this year is my lack of knowledge about spices.

I honestly don’t know the difference between parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I have started tasting the spices I am using when I am cooking, but I have a long way to go.

WheelDiagram1_largeTo compensate for my ignorance, my wife was kind enough to buy me an herb wheel.

It is a pretty simple device. You pick a dish that you want to prepare such as shrimp. The wheel lists several spices that work well with the selection you are about to prepare. In this example, cayenne, garlic, parsely, oregano and cilantro are suggested.

The wheel does not give advice on the amount of spice to use or the best way to apply the spices. This would be helpful for me, but the list is a great start.

WheelDiagram2_largeMy only complaint with the wheel is it is constructed out of flimsy cardboard, so don’t expect to have it forever. The wheel does have a coating on it to make it easier to wipe off any spills.

For $10, it is a good learning device or gift for experienced and inexperienced chefs wanting to spice up their cooking skills.

After I have used the wheel for a few weeks, I will let you know if I change my opinion.

Here is a review of the herb wheel on Youtube.