Category Archives: food tools

Bragg’s Amino Acids

 Braggs Amino AcidsIn my recipe for seitan, I listed Bragg Liquid Aminos as one of the ingredients.  Everyone’s favorite Domestik Goddess then asked what exactly they are.

I thought it would be a good thing to talk about since until only the last few weeks did I actually become aware of how to cook with them.  Even then I went ahead and did a little research into what they are since all I knew is that they are a replacement for soy sauce in a number of recipes.

What I found is that Bragg Liquid Aminos is a raw, fermented soy-based sauce.  While the sources I looked at would not break down exactly how they are made, it is basically thought to be a chemical process in which the proteins in the soy are broken down with an acid and then nutralized (likely with baking soda.)

In practical use, Bragg Liquid Aminos is a very deep, salty sauce.  First and foremost, Bragg Liquid Amino acids taste like heavily concentrated soy sauce.  It is also slightly bitter and I think has an almost alkaline aftertaste.  Still, the sauce brings a lot of flavor to the party and is useful in a number of dishes.  It still hasn’t unseated tamari (low sodium, right Sue?) as my weapon of choice when it comes to making most Asian foods, but there are times when I will use it, especially when that is what the recipe calls for.


Filed under food tools, raw food

Howto: Buy a Knife

A good knife is the most important tool in a cook’s arsenal.  Other than proper use of salt and heat, nothing is more essential than the cook’s ability to break food down.   If food is not trimmed of excess fat, it becomes a stringy mess; if it is not cut down to regular sized pieces, some of it will be burnt and some of it raw; and if it is not cut well, it will not look nearly so nice.

For home cooks who are serious about preparing gourmet food, buying a set of knives is an important purchasing decision that should not be taken lightly.  This one tool can make a world of difference, but buying a nice chef’s knife can easily cost over one hundred dollars.  However, keeping the following advice will ensure it will be money well spent.

When knife shopping, there are three things to remember.  First, most home cooks only need three knives: a chef’s knife or a santoku knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife.  Cooks should do most of the cutting work with the chef’s knife, peeling and precision cutting with the paring knife, and cutting foods like bread and tomatoes which have hard outsides and very soft insides with the serrated knife.   There are other types of knives that can be purchased (boning knives, cleavers, etc.); however, they are certainly not mandatory and can be purchased at a later time.  

Secondly, a good chef’s knife has a lifetime warranty against most types of damage.  The manufacturer will replace for any reason short of deliberate acts of destruction on the blade.  This makes spending a great deal of money on a single knife more palatable as the cook will only need to shop for her knife once.

Lastly, be prepared to spend time purchasing the knife.  Knives come from different companies in different shapes, sizes, handles, and weights which make the knife feel differently.  There is no such thing as a better or worse knife, merely knives that fit the cook’s individual hand better.  While looking for a knife that “feels right” may be unscientific, it is the proper way to find the best knife.  To go about finding that perfect fit, the cook should go to a store with many knives for sale and ask to hold each one.  Any good kitchen store will be more than happy to take knives from their display case and let the cook feel the weight of blade and check its balance.  Many stores will also have a cutting board that the cook can use to test her cutting motion.

If the knife does not feel too heavy or too light and if it does not slip, then the knife is a good candidate for purchase.  However, the cook should test several more knives to find the proper one.  Only once the cook is sure, should the knife be purchased.


Filed under food tools, techniques

Food Tools: Zatarain’s Gumbo Mix with Rice

(Note: the blog author is in no way related, affiliated, or otherwise linked to Zatarain’s.)The weather is starting to get colder (well sort of.  Here in the Midwest cold is off and on) and cool weather gets me in the mood for soups and stews including my personal favorite: gumbo.  However, to make gumbo requires cooking a nice dark roux, remembering to buy fresh file, and a whole lot of time for slow cooking.  All of which makes it largely incompatible with my weekday schedule.That is why I love Zatarain’s gumbo mix.  I am not going to claim that one taste of its authentic New Orleans flavor takes me back to the French Quarter nor have I ever taken a bite and found myself hallucinating that I was marching down the street waving my napkin.  (I hope they recalled those boxes…)Instead, I find that if I add some extra cooked rice, some shredded chicken, a few medium sized shrimp, and a little extra chili for heat I have a very nice pot of gumbo that hits the spot.  In other words, the gumbo mix makes a very nice canvass that I can a few splashes of flavor and get dinner on the table quickly.Try these ideas.For authentic flavors use:

  • shrimp or other seafood
  • chicken and andouille (or chorizo or kielbasa) 

For less authentic tastes, try:

  • small slices of beef precooked beef
  • for vegetarians: okra and corn and tomatoes
  • white beans
  • thinly sliced zucchini and yellow squash

Give them a try, and tell me, what do you add to your gumbo?

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Filed under food tools