Monday, May 30, 2016

How to Cook Squash

Summer and winter squash give you lots of choices in cooking methods, from quick sauteing in a skillet to roasting in a hot oven, and many methods in between. Make your choice based on what else you're cooking on the stovetop or grill or what you plan to make with the cooked vegetables. For most cooking methods, toss either type of squash with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper before cooking. Then, go bold with more flavorful spices and herbs or let the natural flavors of the squash shine through.

You can roast squash whole, but slicing them first, into chunks or slices, allows more flavor to form on the cut surfaces when the sugars in the squash caramelize in a hot oven. Roast a whole or a half squash in a medium, 350-degree Fahrenheit oven until you can pierce it easily with a sharp knife -- a whole winter squash, such as acorn or butternut, takes up to an hour to become tender, while a summer squash, such as zucchini or crookneck, takes as little as 15 minutes.
Either type of squash cooks more quickly diced or sliced, and baked in a 400 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes for summer squash and 20 to 30 minutes for winter squash. Roast squash works well as a side dish or as part of a room-temperature, roasted vegetable salad. Summer squash doesn't need peeling or skinning, but even though roasting softens the skin of a winter squash enough to be edible, most people like winter squash peeled.
In a well-oiled skillet, slices or pieces of summer squash cook in 3 to 4 minutes per side and winter squash 5 to 10 minutes per side. Leave the pieces plain, dredge them in flour for a light crust or bread them by dipping them first in a beaten egg, then in breadcrumbs. Grated summer squash cooks in only 2 to 3 minutes in a pan with a few teaspoons of oil.

For unbreaded squash, add dried herbs, such as oregano, thyme or rosemary, after tossing them with oil. Or, save the seasonings for after cooking and sprinkle on fresh, chopped herbs; parsley and chives pair well with either variety of squash and the flavor of basil is a good match with summer squash.

Both types of squash take the same time to cook on the grill as they do sauteed in a skillet. Cut the squash into strips or slices to place directly on the grill, or cut them into chunks for skewers. Either squash takes well to bold spices, such as a jerk seasoning, citrus-flavored marinade, curry marinade or barbecue sauce. Sprinkle on fresh chopped cilantro to finish.

Microwave cooking works well when you're in a hurry because summer squash takes only 2 to 3 minutes, and winter squash 6 or 7 minutes, when the vegetables are cut into 1-inch chunks. Sprinkle the squash with a little water, cover them loosely and cook them on high heat. You'll know they're done when you can pierce them easily with a sharp knife. Stir in a teaspoon of butter, salt, pepper, fresh chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

You need to pierce whole squash in a few places with a knife before cooking. According to Marian Morash, author of The Victory Garden Cookbook, a 1-pound summer squash cooks in 4 to 6 minutes on high and a whole winter squash, such as a 3 1/2-pound spaghetti squash, cooks in 15 minutes.

Using a steamer basket placed inside a pot, with a few inches of water underneath, large chunks of winter squash cook in about 15 to 20 minutes. You can mash these as you would potatoes, or serve them whole with butter and a sprinkle of smoked paprika or cinnamon for a side dish to serve with chicken. Large chunks of summer squash steam in 5 to 10 minutes; season them with fresh herbs, salt and pepper. 

Pizza Stone Cooking Tips

Pizza stones are used at home and in restaurants to give pizzas a crisp crust. These kitchen tools are effective because the hard material that makes up a pizza stone heats evenly in the oven. This allows the pizza to cook on a surface that's free of hot spots and other inconsistencies. The porous pizza stones absorb oil and moisture, wicking it away from the crust. Cooking with a pizza stone is a fairly simple process, as long as you are aware of the basic rules that govern using one.

Pizza stones may be made from heavy stone or ceramic material, but they are actually quite delicate in nature. Sharp changes in temperature can cause the stone to shatter. Before using a pizza stone, brush it off with a dry cloth. Place the pizza stone in a cold oven, then turn on the heat. Allowing the pizza stone to heat with the oven decreases the risk of thermal shock. Generally speaking, pizza stones should not be treated with oil or nonstick spray.
Homemade and frozen pizzas can be prepared on a pizza stone. If making a frozen pizza, slide the pizza straight onto the cold stone, then turn on the oven. Place the icy pizza on the hot stone could cause the stone to buckle. If making a homemade pizza, prepare it as you normally would. Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal onto the heated pizza stone, then slide the pizza onto the stone using a pizza peel. A peel, which is shaped like a paddle, is necessary because the stone will be far too hot to handle. Sliding out the oven rack to place the pizza on the stone is also dangerous, as it may not be able to fully support the weight of the heavy stone.
Plan to bake the pizza for the recommended amount of time, but check on it every five minutes or so to ensure that the bottom isn't burning. To remove the pizza, slide the pizza peel between it and the pizza stone and lift it out of the oven. Never cut a pizza on a pizza stone, as the sharp edge can damage the stone.
Before doing anything, it's important to allow the stone to cool naturally. Turn off the oven and remove the stone using either the pizza peel or some heavy-duty heatproof gloves. Remember that the stone will be very heavy and hot; it can easily transmit heat through thin potholders. Place the pizza stone on a heat-resistant surface and allow it to cool completely. This may take a few hours, but is necessary to keep the stone from breaking.

After the stone is cool, lightly scrub the surface with a stiff, dry brush. If desired, wipe it down with a damp cloth. As pizza stones absorb moisture, it's important to never submerge the stone in water or clean it with soap. Additionally, washing the stone can ruin the natural seasoning that it gets from absorbing oil during use.

How to Cook Beef Loin Tri Tip Steak

Beef tri-tip is a member of the sirloin family of beef. It is a lean, boneless, tender cut of beef that can be sliced into steaks from a tri-tip roast. It is affordable and easy to work with. A 3-ounce serving packs about 30 grams of protein and 250 calories. Like any sirloin, it lends itself well to a few methods of cooking. It can be grilled, broiled or stir-fried in a skillet.

Step 1Heat the grill or grill pan to medium heat.

Step 2Season the steaks with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 3Place the steaks on the grill for 9 to 13 minutes for medium rare to medium. Turn once halfway through cooking. This timing is based on a 3/4-inch steak. Allow about 4 additional minutes for a 1-inch steak.

Step 4Remove the steak using kitchen tongs and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Using tongs instead of a fork assures that the juices will not escape through punctures in the tissue. Resting time allows for the juices to redistribute throughout the steak.

Step 1Raise the oven rack to 4 inches below the coils and preheat the oven to the broil setting at 500 degrees.
Step 2Line the bottom of the grill pan with aluminum foil to allow for easy cleanup.

Step 3Season the steaks with salt and pepper to taste and place on the grill rack without overcrowding.

Step 4Broil 3/4-inch thick steaks 6 to 9 minutes for medium rare to medium. Add 3 minutes to the cooking time for 1-inch thick steaks. Turn steaks once halfway through the cooking time.

Step 5Use tongs to remove the steaks and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Do not pierce the steaks with a fork or the juices will escape. Resting time allows those juices to redistribute throughout the steak.

Step 1Cut the steaks into 1/8-inch thick strips and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 2Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. If the skillet is not a nonstick variety, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Step 3Stir the steak strips constantly for about 60 to 90 seconds. Transfer to a serving platter.

How to Bake Beef Sirloin Tip Steaks in Oven

Sirloin tip steaks never disappoint when you want a tender cut beef for a tender price. Beef sirloin is a richly flavored cut of meat located near the rib portion of the cow. While sirloin from this area is commonly used for larger roasts, it is sometimes cut into steaks and sold at much lower prices than porterhouse, filet mignon and New York strip steaks. Sirloin tips have enough tenderness for simple dry roasting, so you can forgo the long wait times of a braised roast without sacrificing flavor.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the steaks out of the refrigerator and let them sit on a plate at room temperature while the oven heats.
  • Pat the tip steaks dry with a paper towel and brush them with vegetable oil. Season the steaks to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add spices and fresh herbs to taste, if desired.
  • Place the steaks in a shallow dish or roasting pan and set it on the middle oven rack. Roast the steaks for 10 minutes then turn them over.
  • Roast the tip steaks an additional 12 to 15 minutes for medium rare, or until they reach an internal temperature of 130 F; roast the steaks for 15 to 20 more minutes for medium, or an internal temperature of 135 F.
  • Take the steaks out of the pan and transfer them to a carving board or plate. Cover the steaks loosely with aluminum foil and let them rest about 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

How to Cook Pork Rib Tips

Pork ribs have an underside of meat that is removed and often discarded. This meat is referred to as pork rib tips, and when it isn't tossed, it is sold at a cheap price. Pork rib tips contain plenty of flavor and can feed a large group because of their low cost. Cooking the pork rib tips isn't any harder than cooking your regular ribs. The use of a crock pot makes cooking the pork rib tips convenient because you can put the dish together before you leave for work in the morning.
  • Mix 1 tbsp. of salt, 1 tbsp. of grated ginger, 1/2 tbsp. of pepper, 1 tsp. of cinnamon, 1 tsp. of ground cloves and 1 tsp. of ground fennel seeds in a large bowl.
  • Throw 5 lbs. of pork rib tips in the bowl of spices and toss to coat. Set in a crock pot.
  • Combine 4 oz. of orange marmalade, 2 tbsp. of rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp. of teriyaki sauce, 1/2 tbsp. of chili sauce, 1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes and 2 tbsp. of melted butter in a second large bowl.
  • Pour the sauce from the second bowl over the pork rib tips in the crock pot.
  • Set the crock pot to medium heat, and allow it to cook for six to eight hours.

How to Cook Sirloin Tips on a Stove

One of the cheaper cuts of meat, sirloin tips are by no means second rate on the plate. Marinate first to secure the tenderness, and cook quickly on the stove to lock in the flavors.

Regional Cut

Also known as flap meat, or bavette in French cuisine, sirloin tips are a common dish in New England. Cut from the round, the steak comes as a coarsely grained strip with very little fat. Marinating is essential to tenderize the flesh, but the meat also has its own assertive, beefy flavor.
Because of the absence of fat and the texture, these are not steaks to cook to rare or medium rare. Bring them to at least medium, and cut them into thinner strips against the grain.

Marinate First

The coarse grain on the sirloin strip sucks up flavor, so you can be bold with the marinade. Aim for the conventional steak-marinating combo of oil, acid and seasoning.
  • Other than standard kosher salt and pepper, soy sauce,
    Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and mustard will all round out the beefy
    notes, while balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or red wine vinegar add some
    counter-punching tartness.
  • Pour the marinade into a resealable plastic bag. Add the
    steak, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 to 5
    hours, or overnight if time allows.  

Exotic Flourishes

Give an Asian twist, perhaps for a stir-fry, with soy sauce, ginger, chili flakes and brown sugar, or go for some full-on heat with a soy sauce and harissa marinade. Just a couple of teaspoons of the North African chili paste will give a noticeable kick.

Pan Fried

Give sirloin tip its due as a steak by pan-frying it briefly in a skillet over moderate heat.

Step 1

Season the steak first with salt and pepper.

Step 2

Cut it into strips or cubes to increase the surface area, and brown it for 5 to 10 minutes in a little butter. The steak should sizzle the moment it hits the pan.

Step 3

Remove the meat from the pan and let it rest. Meanwhile, prepare a pan sauce of finely chopped onion and garlic, and then deglaze the pan with some red wine and beef stock. Reduce the sauce until it is thick, and pour over the steak.


  • Sirloin tip doesn’t have to be cut first into strips. You can fry it in the same way as a rib-eye or New York strip, allowing 5 to 6 minutes per side. Unlike the other steaks, though, it's usually cut into strips afterward to release some of the toughness in the meat fibers.
Showcase the steak’s rich, meaty flavor by elevating the sauce to a stroganoff, adding mushrooms, onions, mustard, and some vegetable stock and sour cream to finish.
The sauce benefits from a skillet that has first browned the meat, then gathered the juices and flavors from the mushrooms and onions in the 10 or so minutes it takes to saute them, finishing off with the velvety mouthfeel of the cream.

Brief Braise

Sirloin tip makes a hearty casserole or stew, but doesn’t require as long on the stove as thicker, fattier steaks. In fact, too long over the heat and the meat can turn tough.
  • Rub the steaks first with brown sugar, mustard, paprika and
    thyme, or a similarly strong-flavored rub. Pat dry and leave to come up to room temperature.
  • Cut the steaks into strips or cubes and sear them thoroughly
    in a heavy Dutch oven, one that will deliver a consistent heat.
  • Add red wine or dark beer, onions and mushrooms, and simmer
    over a gentle heat for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • If adding carrots or potatoes, introduce them for the last 10 minutes, so they
    don’t turn mushy.