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Spicy Burgers on the Grill

Spicy Burgers on the Grill

Guacamole Salmon Burgers, Anyone?

Part 3: Hardening-Off and Transplanting

Part 3: Hardening-Off and Transplanting

The Next Step in Your Chile Pepper Garden

Sizzling Seafood, Part One

Sizzling Seafood, Part One

Mike Spices Up the Sea

The Pigs of the Sea

The Pigs of the Sea

Spicy Asian Seafood

Vibrant Veggie Soups for Spring

Vibrant Veggie Soups for Spring

Like Near-Vegan Minestrone

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  • Spring Has Sprung on Spring Baking Championship — Duff’s Recap of the Season Premiere 27 Apr 2015 | 12:00 pm FN Dish – Food Network Blog

    Spring Baking ChampionshipHey, baking fans! It’s spring and it’s time to … bake? Yeah, that’s what I said too! I bake all year long and mark my calendar by the treats that are coming out of my oven. I know it’s time to start buying presents when I have baked the last pecan pie for Thanksgiving. I know it’s Super Bowl time when I bake my brother’s birthday cake. Spring, though, I had to think about. It’s not as obvious as Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hanukkah. But as I prepared for Spring Baking Championship, I started seeing some really familiar desserts, and that got my wheels turning.

    Chiffon cake, buckle, lemon anything, rhubarb, trifle, pavlova — all these desserts are the pastry chef’s expression of baking in the spring. They are all light, with delicate textures and fruity flavors that are perfect for shrugging off that winter coat and getting ready to be outside a lot more. These were the challenges that the bakers faced in creating these sweets, and Lorraine Pascale, Nancy Fuller and I we were super excited to be tasting flavors and textures that we ourselves were gearing up to use.

    Baking in the spring is not easy, and it tests a baker’s skill. You need to have a light touch, a gentle hand and a clean palate. You have to be careful with your ingredients, as fresh fruits tend to get beat up much faster than pecans, chocolate or pumpkin puree. But above all, you have to create baked goods that don’t scream, but gently whisper “spring.”

    The First Test, Cupcakes!

    I don’t think these guys were as nervous as they seemed. This was a talented group of bakers. And cupcakes? Anyone can make a cupcake, right? Simone started smart with cake flour, which will keep her cupcakes light and airy (if she makes them right) and her flavors were spot on. Orange and vanilla? Creamsicle. Smart.

    Spring Baking ChampionshipDamiano is a favorite with all the ladies. I tried to get him to teach me that accent; it hasn’t helped. Now, Damiano can really bake, legit. I think his challenge is going to be helping me and Nancy be objective when judging European desserts. Lorraine has much more experience, obviously, and I looked to her for a point of view that wasn’t so American. I don’t think he was thrilled with the most-American thing of all: cupcakes. I share his reservation. When you listen to Damiano explain his desserts, it’s obvious he knows what he is talking about.

    Sandy is my kinda girl! She bakes, she has blue hair, and she’s got baking in the blood. Sandy should have no trouble with a cupcake challenge. I’m impressed that she knows how to work with lavender. She’s right: If you use it with a heavy hand, it tastes like soap.

    Juliana is the kind of baker I love in these baking competitions. She bakes at home, and she is not at all intimidated by all these professionals. You go, Juliana! I wasn’t sure how chocolate chip and vanilla said “flowers,” but we’ll see how she spins it.

    Andy might not strike you at first glance as a light-handed pastry chef. He’s a dude. He’s very dude-esque. But guess what? So am I, and I have a very high opinion of myself, so never count out the dudes!

    Spring Baking ChampionshipIt’s the same with Chris. Chris is like a real, honest-to-goodness scientist, with a Ph.D. and everything! Fancy. Here’s a fun fact: Bread bakers don’t use recipes. They use formulas; scientists use formulas. Chris might be tough to beat. I love hummingbird cake. The fact that Chris made it made me excited to taste it. I hope he gets it right. I have faith.

    Dwayne is all smiles — and so Southern. Before you say “Mayonnaise! Yuck!,” know that it’s an old Southern baking trick. What’s in mayonnaise? Eggs and oil. What’s in cake batter? Eggs and oil.

    I know Kristine can bake — my brother lives in her neighborhood and he loves her treats. She bakes from a Filipino point of view, and I was looking forward to learning a bunch about a region I have never studied. She made cupcakes with ube, which is a variety of Filipino yam. Tubers make cakes very moist, just so you know, and I was super stoked to try this cupcake.

    Spring Baking ChampionshipSandy was on fire with this challenge. She was in her comfort zone. Simone was totally in the Simone Zone! She was talking to her cupcakes like they were little kids. All good bakers are a little crazy — believe me. Watch Andy pipe the frosting on his cupcakes. That’s a man who has done that one million times. He pipes like he breathes, you know? In the end, Dwayne made the best cupcake, considering taste and presentation. Damiano’s cupcake was good, as were most of these cupcakes, but there can be only one winner.

    Now, On to Upside-Down Cakes!

    I have a confession to make: I’ve made only, like, 20 or so upside-down cakes. But that’s OK, because I’ve eaten hundreds! What a great way to show off the fruits of the season with a moist, buttery cake. I was taking notes during this round, and my money was on Juliana. Home bakers make a lot more upside-down cakes than the professionals. You don’t see too many upside-down cakes on menus or even in retail bakeries. I baked most of mine when I was an executive pastry chef at a ski resort.

    Spring Baking ChampionshipNow, if I was Dwayne, I would have picked something less obvious than a pineapple. Lorraine, Nancy and I want to be impressed. Dwayne made a really dark caramel, which is a real concern. Burnt sugar is burnt sugar, and you cannot hide it. Pineapples have a ton of natural sweetness and acidity that will help, but once sugar is burned, you need to start over. I think it is worth noticing that Dwayne used sour cream in his cake batter, much like he used mayonnaise in the pre-heat. He understands the use of traditional but obscure ingredients. He knows his baking, for real! Dwayne’s cake was gooey and drippy, and his fruit was in the right place and stayed pretty. He blew us away with flavor.

    Chris is hilarious: “Sandy elbows me right in the heart.” I know the feeling, Chris. Let’s hope she knows her way around an apricot. Chris spends a good amount of time arranging his fruit, which is great. Upside-down cakes are very visual, and it’s important to make them pretty as well as tasty. Chris had a few hiccups. His cake was a bit raw in spots and just on the fence of being done or not; that’s a huge miss in baking.

    Spring Baking ChampionshipAndy is going to be tough to beat. He whips up a caramel sauce like it’s no big deal and gets that cake in the oven super fast. He’s a culinary school instructor, and he knows how to move with confidence. Andy made an upside upside-down cake? I wasn’t having it. He made a cake. C’mon, Andy, you got to get up pretty early in the morning to get one past me. He made a beautiful and delicate sauce, but I found that the cake was kind of one note — not bland at all, but it just didn’t have a lot of dimension. But no kidding, it was perfectly baked and delicious.

    Sandy is super smart and understands what makes a good cake. She knows her fruit is thick, so she uses more batter. It takes a long time to bake, so she has that sense of urgency. I know from competing that it is very easy to lose your head and forget everything you know about baking, but Sandy doesn’t. She is super cool-headed. Sandy was in a jam, as she made too much cake! Too bad they can’t share, right? I liked her recovery, though. Championship worthy! I wish you could all see Sandy’s cake in real life. Those apricots looked like Cézanne painted them. Her cake was a bit chewy, and she probably should have used all cake flour or mixed it less. I didn’t mind it as much as Lorraine and Nancy did because I liked how the firmness of the cake held all the gooey caramel.

    Spring Baking ChampionshipI’m worried about Simone because plums have a tendency to release a lot of unpleasant flavors in the oven. Plums can become somewhat metallic and bitter in the oven, but the raspberries should help offset that by their acidity. You can bake with plums, but you have to be delicate. Simone’s cake wasn’t as pretty as I would want it to be, but taste counts just as much, so let’s see. I was so happy that Simone killed it with her plums. They were so good and soft and sweet — no bitterness anywhere.

    Damiano is fun to watch. Simmering the pears in milk with vanilla is such a gentle and classy way to respect that pear flavor. Pears are very delicate. You can make a pear juice and reduce it to get a lot of flavor, which is very forceful, or you can coax the pear flavor out by gently releasing its aroma. Milk won’t water down the pear like a simple syrup will, and the vanilla is another floral scent to accentuate the pear, rather than mask it. That was super smart of Damiano, and it sounds pretty delicious too. Damiano blew me away. That cake was rustically beautiful and looked so delicious! He was pretty proud; I like that. It wouldn’t be fair to say Damiano surprised anyone by baking something amazing, but it was cool to see that he was able to channel his talent into something he has never baked before. I’m not sure what Nancy was judging, but I think she liked his cake. Lorraine and I both loved the pears. I was super impressed that the pears didn’t turn into a pasty mush, as they are wont to do.

    Spring Baking ChampionshipJuliana ran into a snag when she realized she didn’t make enough cake batter. At home, she is probably used to baking in 9-inch pans, but in the Baking Championship kitchen, those cake pans are bigger. Uh-oh! Juliana knew exactly what she was doing. Don’t let her fool you! Juliana’s cake was beautiful, and the caramelization was perfect. Let me explain what I meant when I said “bagel-y.” Bagels are made with a very high-protein flour, and when you see big holes, that means that the protein was allowed to develop too much. Where else do you see big holes like that? Chewy French bread. You don’t want a cake to share a consistency with chewy bread and bagels. It was delicious and well-seasoned, but a bit tough.

    I thought it was very interesting that Kristine chose to make a clafoutis. Clafoutis are delicious, but when done in a hurry can be very eggy. Also, in my experience, clafoutis aren’t turned upside down, but that’s just me. No reason why you can’t flip it over, right? Also, clafoutis are traditionally made with cherries and cherry pits, so they have a slightly almondy flavor. I’m not sure if I’d buy a blackberry clafoutis. Proof is in the pudding, right? Kristine flipped over her clafoutis and it went smoosh. Dwayne flipped over his cake and it looked amazing! It was tough for Kristine. I’m usually fine with bending the rules as long as you have a good explanation why, and if I believe you, I’m always willing to fight with my fellow judges about what was good about your dish. Here, Kristine didn’t convince me that a clafoutis should be admissible, so I followed Lorraine’s lead. She did not think it was a cake, and neither did I.

    Spring Baking ChampionshipThis was such a hard decision to come by. Dwayne, I think, just tugged on all of our heartstrings by making the perfect, classic pineapple upside-down cake. This deliberation was over an hour; we all had our favorites, and they were all so good, but in the end it was Dwayne who made the most-perfect cake. Damiano and Simone were super close, but Dwayne just had that extra spark. Dwayne went two for two today, and that was nice. Look out, bakers. Kristine’s cake was dark and too eggy, Chris underbaked his cake, and Juliana made a loaf. Chris did great and we know he can bake. He beat out thousands of bakers to get to the Spring Baking Championship, and a few more minutes in the oven would have made the difference for him. I’ve been there. I’ve lost three or four competitions in the last few minutes, and there’s no shame in that. Good job, Chris! Keep baking, man.

    And all you baking fans, keep those ovens hot and that ice cream cold, and enjoy being outside. I’ll see you next week on Spring Baking Championship!

  • Scrambled Egg Subs — Meatless Monday 27 Apr 2015 | 10:00 am FN Dish – Food Network Blog

    Scrambled Egg SubsWhile breakfast for dinner may be part of the usual suppertime routine in many homes, you most likely look to a standard stack of pancakes or a platter of eggs and bacon to get the job done. But the options for morning meals at dinner indeed go beyond the traditional. Think Food Network Kitchen’s cinnamon-scented Coconut-Almond French Toast Casserole, Food Network Magazine’s Mushroom-Spinach Baked Eggs laced with nutty Gruyère cheese, or the Scrambled Egg Subs (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine.

    Instead of featuring scrambled eggs alongside toast, this quick-fix recipe has them stuffed inside buttered hot dog buns for a heartier dish. The secret to turning out soft, fluffy scrambled eggs — and not tough, dry ones — is to not overcook the eggs. Here the eggs come together over medium heat, so they’re not scorched right away, and only when they’ve begun to set is it time to add the fresh herbs and melty cheese, like Havarti or Muenster, for over-the-top gooeyness. A handful of fresh scallions in the eggs promises a subtle, welcome bite, while a cool side salad of radishes and celery rounds out the fuss-free meal in a hurry.

    Get the Recipe: Scrambled Egg Subs from Food Network Magazine

    Meatless Monday, an international movement, encourages people everywhere to cut meat one day a week for personal and planetary health. Browse more Meatless Monday recipes.

  • 7 Kid-Tested Freezer Meals That’ll Change Your Life 27 Apr 2015 | 7:30 am FN Dish – Food Network Blog

    7 Kid-Tested Freezer Meals That'll Change Your LifeEvery afternoon was the same at my house: tired kids running around, alternately asking for snacks, playing and fighting. I was distracted in the kitchen trying to get a fresh meal on the table — something that didn’t come out of a sack and something that would nourish us. Then I discovered how to use my freezer to cook dinner.

    Now when I’m prepping dinner, I can double (or split) it into two portions, one for now and one for later. Not every recipe will cooperate, but these family-friendly dishes work beautifully for just such a job:

    Honey-Mustard Chicken: If you try nothing else, try this one that our kids love. Chicken thighs (or breasts) bake in a simple sweet sauce; double the recipe and throw half into a baking dish for dinner and the other serving into a zip-top bag bound for the freezer. Serve both over your favorite grain to soak up all that juice.

    Giada De Laurentiis’ Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables: A one-pot meal brimming with fresh veggies like zucchini, summer squash and peppers sounds perfect for spring, but Giada’s penne goes the extra kid-friendly mile with two kinds of cheeses. Prep the entire recipe and pour into two pans (or double it for large groups); cook one pan and cover the other with foil for the freezer.

    Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala: This is beginner masala. It’s not too spicy, but every bite is still full of flavor. And best of all, you can prep two batches; throw one in the slow cooker and pour the other (uncooked) into a zip-top bag and freeze.

    Ina Garten’s Mac and Cheese: No boxed stuff here. Ina’s five-star mac and cheese oozes with gooey Gruyère and freshly grated cheddar, and it’s perfect topped with slivers of juicy tomatoes. It’s a big, rich recipe, and you can easily freeze half.

    Zucchini, Rice & Sausage Bake: Another one-pot meal with a built-in veggie, this Italian casserole is our go-to potluck dish or the one we always bring to a friend in need. I usually have one in the freezer — unless we eat it first!

    Food Network Magazine’s Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches: Cook the entire pork roast first, then divvy it up, freezing half the meat for later. For tonight, mix up your BBQ sauce and set out all the fixings: buns, pickles and even crunchy coleslaw for a topping kids can add themselves.

    Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole with Quinoa: This is basically an assembled casserole with everything already precooked, so you don’t need to bake it ahead of time to freeze. Just use two small pans; bake one and freeze the other.

    Charity Curley Mathews is a mother of four kids under six and the founder of Foodlets.com: Mini Foodies in the Making…Maybe. She’s a contributor to The Huffington Post and POPSUGAR. Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.

  • “That Is a Huge Tip” — Alton’s After-Show 26 Apr 2015 | 8:58 pm FN Dish – Food Network Blog

    Alton Brown and Jet Tila

    By now Cutthroat Kitchen superfans know that when it comes to evaluating the plates before them, judges assess just three elements of the offering: its taste, its presentation and whether or not it reminds them of the challenge dish at hand. While that indeed seems simple enough, Alton Brown and Jet Tila discussed a common mistake chefs make when facing off in battle: muddling their dishes with non-essential components.

    During tonight’s installment of the After-Show, the two looked back on Heat 2 of the Cutthroat Kitchen: Evilicious tournament and a sabotage that introduced what Alton deemed to be “a distraction” to chefs’ dishes. The sabotage at hand afforded one chef sole control over the ingredients needed to make chicken-fried steak and another chef control over the required tools. It was up to them to share both sets of items, considering what they wanted to keep for themselves and what they’d be willing to part with. As for the cornmeal Jet found within the ingredient basket, Alton explained, “That’s a distraction, ’cause what it says is ‘Hey, make a side.'” Jet agreed, adding that the distinction between what’s required of the test at hand and what isn’t is a key to success in this contest. “That is a huge tip,” Jet noted. “Make the challenge and don’t go crazy.”

    Click the play button on the video above to watch more of Jet and Alton as they recap the latest After-Show, then browse top photo moments of the Evilicious tournament.

    Don’t miss Heat 3 of Cutthroat Kitchen: Evilicious on Sunday, May 3 at 10|9c.

  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner: Melissa d’Arabian’s Perfect San Diego Day 26 Apr 2015 | 1:00 pm FN Dish – Food Network Blog

    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner: San Diego

    If you had to plan your perfect day of eating, where would you go?

    That’s the question we pose to Food Network stars and guests on the new Web series Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Wonder where Melissa d’Arabian gets her morning fuel in San Diego? Or which Los Angeles restaurants could make tough-as-nails critic Simon Majumdar smile? This new series reveals perfect meals from coast to coast.

    Check out more episodes of Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and nab details on the restaurants, whether you’re traveling to a new city or just looking for new ideas in your own hometown.

    Learn more about the hosts and their restaurant picks.

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