Coconut and Oatmeal Toffee

Get ready for Valentine’s Day with a simple shortcut to homemade toffee, no candy thermometer required! What better way to celebrate one of the sweetest days of the year than by layering chewy oats with semisweet chocolate. Toasted coconut and chopped pecans add a final touch of crunch to this quick-fix candy that’s guaranteed to be a sweet treat for your sweetheart.

Wine Essentials: Part 4

This week’s installment of Wine Essentials, the fourth in a series of six, introduced us to the wines produced in the warmer regions of France and Spain. We began with a light and dry Sherry then slowly made our way to the dark and smoky Rioja Reserva. Our final stop was marked with a sip of Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo, an amber-colored wine tasting of prunes and figs.

Each sip of Spanish wine brought back memories from the time I spent studying in Seville, where the sangria and the salmonella (shout out to my señora for almost killing me) were aplenty. I found that last week’s red wine epiphany has left me with an open mind and a less nervous palette when it comes to swirling, sniffing and sipping several heavier-bodied reds.

The Inside Dish: Culinary School Lessons 25-60

Grilled Salmon Tranche, Israeli Couscous, Duck Confit, Falafel with Tahini Sauce, Ravioli di Zucca, Crepes Normandy – you name it, I’ve cooked it (and eaten it). Officially halfway through my 6-month culinary school program, I find myself gaining a sense of confidence in the kitchen as I fall more in love with cooking every day.

Dinner conversations have evolved from chitchat over favorite restaurants to full-blown table tutorials about the proper way to sauté a chicken breast (hand motions included). Dialogue with new friends has shifted from “I love to cook” to “I eat for a living, ” as my palette has traveled from Burgundy to Beijing and beyond.

Wine Essentials: Part 3

I’ve never met a glass of white wine or champagne that I didn’t like. But red wine? We aren’t exactly amigos.

Up until yesterday, I had probably consumed a lifetime total of 1.3 glasses of red wine. My reluctance resulted from the burgundy-colored beverage smelling strange, tasting even worse and adding an awkward element, or what I’ve coined as Purple Tooth Syndrome, to social gatherings. Despite my reservations, the latest installment of my Wine Essentials program led me to discover that I may in fact have a taste for the red stuff.

The Ultimate Pizza Dough

I don’t do dough. I don’t do bread. I don’t do yeast. Or so I thought …

Alton Brown first introduced me to the wonderful world of bread-making a few months ago, but it wasn’t until a recent culinary school lesson that I really felt I’d perfected the simple yet finicky process of making dough. Once frozen with intimidation, I can now finally say “Fear not, my fellow dough doubters!” Check the list of tips below then tie on an apron and let the flour-flinging begin with my recipe for The Ultimate Pizza Dough.

Tips + Tricks for Total Doughmination:

  • When dissolving the yeast, use hot water – as in water that’s at a temperature your hand can stand. If your hand likes it, the yeast will like it.
  • Adding a tablespoon of flour to the yeast while it’s dissolving will make for a better rise (better rise = better dough).
  • “Knocking down” the dough refers to throwing it firmly against your work surface while holding on to one end. Fold the dough in half, then do it again. This helps to evenly distribute the yeast.
  • For storing the dough in a “warm dry place,” try your dryer shortly after it’s been used.