Ethnic dishes can be easy despite having many ingredients

By Dianna Marder
Knight Ridder Newspapers

In dreams, we cook effortlessly — stirring up dishes that win the hearts of family and are the envy of friends. In reality, many of us fumble our way through the kitchen — intimidated by any recipe with more than eight ingredients.

Rediscovering the kosher kitchen

Some Jews returning to food traditions later in life

By Robin Mather Jenkins
Chicago Tribune

When Barbara and Marc Slutsky of Highland Park, Ill., married, she never thought she would end up keeping kosher.

Pickles and more

That Pickle Guy products from Lisle, Ill., resident Greg Frederick got across-the-board approval from tasters. The pickles were fresh and crisp; the richly flavored giardinera and muffalata enhanced the sandwiches we added them to.

Secrets from cooking professionals

Insiders’ cooking lore is shared in a couple of new books, one that’s titled “How to Break An Egg” and another that includes, for beginners, tips on how to boil an egg.

Desserts for special diets

We were impressed with the tender yellow cake and creamy vanilla frosting we made from Cherrybrook Kitchen mixes. The products, which also come in chocolate flavors, are dairy-, egg- and nut-free.

Nuances of chocolate appreciation

How do we love chocolate? Let us count among the ways two recent, sharply contrasting approaches:

• “Naked Chocolate” by David Wolfe and Shazzie (Maul Brothers, $24.95) will seem tough love to many. The authors, an American nutritionist and a British woman described as a health educator, are passionate about the virtues of chocolate in a narrowly prescribed form: raw organic cacao beans.

Making the best use of skewers

We like to double the stability of ingredients such as shrimp by inserting two skewers instead of one. Double skewers help guarantee even grilling and easier turning, and they stop pieces from unnecessary rotating.

Everything in its place

The Family Facts Recipe Organizer (right) is a three-ring binder filled with dividers and forms to help organizationally challenged cooks lasso all those tempting recipes they clip — which somehow disappear when they’re needed.

What is canola oil?

Q: I know corn oil comes from corn and olive oil from olives, but what is canola — a grain, a vegetable or what?

— H.R., Akron, Ohio

Freezer bistro

Stouffer’s Corner Bistro line of frozen entrees delivers good-tasting, fresh-looking — and even attractive — finished dishes.

A new nut to crack

We marveled at this unusual Swedish-made nutcracker from Chef’s Planet: Pop a nut in the cylinder and squeeze the handle — it will effectively crack the nut while housing the broken shell. We had good luck cracking a variety of nuts. The plastic nutcracker is dishwasher-safe and costs $17 by mail at Kitchen Krafts ( or 800-776-0575).

Godiva goes diva

We thought Godiva already was pretty fancy, but the new Platinum Collection looks even snazzier — and tastes as good as it looks, with inventive designs and ingredients.

The doctor is in

Doctor Kracker seed- and grain-rich organic nibbles pleased tasters. They’re great alone, but topped with cheese or a nutty spread, they’re dynamite.

Red plaid cookbook goes pink

A limited edition of Better Homes and Gardens “New Cook Book” (Meredith, $29.95) is now available. It’s distinguished by its cover design, a pink plaid background that has been substituted for the familiar red plaid of other editions of the publication.

Handy way to keep soup in mind

The Culinary Institute of America’s “Book of Soups” is now available in paperback (Lebhar-Friedman, $17.95). The book, first published in hard cover in 2001, features more than 100 recipes for all kinds of soup, carefully worked out and well illustrated. The color photos includes plenty of step-by-step sequences.

Food briefs

Smashing success

Its called the Grate Salsa Maker, but its essentially a large mortar and pestle from William Bounds. Grooves in the 7-1/2-inch-wide bowl (above) create friction for grinding; we had no trouble mashing garlic, grinding peppercorns and mixing an ample serving of guacamole with two avocados which we served in the attractive porcelain bowl. Rubber pads prevent slippage, and its dishwasher-safe. It costs $35 at Bloomingdales and other retailers, and by mail: 800-473-0504 or


For great dining, head west

I love independent restaurants. Usually, these are the labors of love of a very determined chef who has worked in other restaurants and has finally decided its time to bite the bullet, find financing and open the space.

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