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~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (7/23/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2 Three weeks have passed since my last Kitchen Encounters Culinary Q&A with you.  Things got really crazy here immediately after the July 4th holiday weekend.  I've told you that my husband Joe maintains two amazing vegetable and herb gardens in our backyard.  Well, he's just as talented when it comes to fruit trees and so far this July, his cherries, blueberries and peaches have all produced overwhelming quantities of fresh fruit!

PICT0401 Besides freezing 38 pounds of cherries, 20 pounds of blueberries and making peach preserves, I decided to put the spotlight on baking fruit desserts (pies and galettes).  Last Wednesday Kitchen Enounters shot its 11th cooking segment for WHVL-TV's Sunday Morning Centre of it All Show and I made... blueberry galettes.  The show will air this Sunday morning at 11:30AM on our local channel 235!

To view a short video/slideshow of how we shot this segment, and how we shoot cooking segments in general:

Download WHVL-Kitchen Encounters_ Galette & Pie Shoot-Medium

Kitchen Encounters had two great questions come in this week, both of which were posted directly here on the blog (sometimes I get them over on Facebook and other times via e-mail).  I apologize to both of you loyal KE readers for not getting my Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too post posted yesterday (Friday), as Friday is our regularly scheduled Q&A day, but I had a special guest from Atlanta coming for dinner last evening.  So, without any further pause, delay or adieu:  

Q.  Ken asks:  Mel, this may sound like an odd question, but what is the correct way to slice or dice an onion?  I read your post ~ How to:  Grill Great Sizzling Summertime Pizza ~ and I want to put sliced onion on my pizza this weekend!  Also, I remember the night at your house when you were making your ~ Blackened Flank Steak & Bacon Sandwiches ~ and you asked Joe to "shave" an onion for you.  What does "shave an onion" mean???

PICT1187  A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Ken, this is not an odd question, this is a great question.  It is such a great question, I've decided to do one of my "How to:" posts about it, with step-by-step photos to share with everyone.  You can look for it right here early next week.  As for a short answer:

There are two schools of thought on how to slice/dice onions.  I am not a proponent of the "leave the root end on and slice inwards toward the root".  Why?  I just think it's plain 'ole dumb and dangerous to teach people to slice toward their hands.  End of statement. That being said, as a lefty, self-taught chef, I found myself being most comfortable with "Plan B":  

 ~ Step 1:  Trim the root and top ends off the onion, to form two flat, stable surfaces and peel the skin away.

~ Step 2:  Place the onion on one of the flat, stable surfaces and slice it in half lengthwise.

~ Step 3:  Reposition the two halves with the stable "center" surface facing down on the cutting board.  Take notice of the lines on the surface of the onion that resemble stripes.  I'm going to refer to them as "the grain" of the onion, meaning:  to slice downward with the grain=follow the lines, and, to slice downward against the grain=don't follow the lines, slice opposite of them.

~ Step 4:  To slice the onion in semi-circlular sections:  slice downward, "against the grain" or "don't follow the lines".  The thickness of your slices will determine the thickness of your slices, but do your best to be as uniform as possible.  When I "shave" an onion, I am referring to paper thin slices of onion, which is how I like onions sliced for all sandwiches.

~ Step 5:  To dice the onion:  slice downward, "with the grain" or "follow the lines".  Once you have sliced through all of the lines, slice downward again, only this time "against the grain" or "don't follow the lines".  The thickness of your slices will determine the size of your dice and once again, do your best to be as uniform as possible. 

In Melanie's Kitchen, because I do not teach or train people for for the restaurant industry, I like to teach practical skills and encourage them to work at a pace they are comfortable with, meaning:  there is no need to chop an onion in 15-20 seconds like they do on reality TV shows. It's all about a job well done, not a race against the clock!


Q.  PSUinBosston asks:  Mel!!!!!  I just read your ~ Creamy, Chunky, Crunchy "Classic" Tuna Salad ~ post.  Tuna or chicken salad would be a dish I would really enjoy except I hate mayo and mustard.  I have heard rumors of great chicken salads in a light oil base.  I have tried to create them (with and without recipes) to no avail.  The closest I ever came was with my own modified crab cake recipe (which, of course, has no mayo).  It was fine, but tasted similar and made me sad there was no crab.  Please tell me you have the solution to my problems!?!?

PICT3418 A.  Kitchen Encounters: PSUinBosston... Great to hear from you again!!!  I'm so looking forward to getting back in touch with all of you Penn State football/tailgating fans/foodies over at Black Shoe Diaries.  I have some fun posts planned for our upcoming 2011 season, and, can you believe Penn State football and tailgate is only a few weeks away? 

As you probably already know, cooked chicken and canned tuna can be used interchangeably in almost all recipes.  It just so happens that back in May, I posted my recipe for ~ A Chilled Mediterranean-Style Tuna & Orzo Salad ~, which you can find by clicking into Categories 1, 2, or 14.  It is a light, refreshing change of pace from classic tuna salad and contains no mayonnaise.  It does contain 1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard (which trust me, you wouldn't guess was in there if I didn't tell you it was), but you could omit it if you want to.  Orzo, which is a small rice-shaped pasta, which gets stirred into the mix, turns this into a really delightful, filling, Summertime meal.  That being said, I occasionally like to serve this flavorful oil-based salad on sandwiches, so I make it without the orzo.  I think this is the recipe you have been searching for, am confident it will solve your problem and put a smile on your face too!

Have a nice rest of the weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


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I haven't done them as cakes. But I have done a sort of imitation arancini with my leftovers! They work great because when the risotto is cold it stays together in a ball while I dip, bread and pan fry!

PSUinBOSSTON! Swapping the mustard was a great idea because you still got the "tang" that only mustard can add. As you saw in the picture, I like to serve mine in or with tomatoes for added flavor and cucumber slices for crunch, but celery in the mix is a great alternative addition!!!

You'll be happy to know I have three lovely risotto recipes made using my homemade stocks. My, veal w/spring vegetables risotto will probably be first, as it is soon time for me to make a batch of veal stock and I'll make two posts out of it. It will be in the fall, when I tend to cook "home-y comfort food". Have you ever made risotto cakes out of leftovers? YUM!!!

Thanks Mel! The orzo really brought it home. I added back some more traditional "salad" ingredients (celery etc), and swapped the mustard for powdered. I'm almost there. I think it is missing a spice or two for personal preference, but I am almost there.

On another note, I would love if you could share some risotto recipes in the future. I make a lot of risottos for my wife and I (maybe more than I should). I always have arborio on hand, and do it every time I break down any meats since I have spare parts for homemade stocks. I would love to add some new flavors to them if you have any unique recipes you could share!

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