What We Learned This Week: July 20-24

How to make the best chipwich, take care of truffles, and why you should grill avocados

byJake Cohen| PUBLISHED Jul 25, 2015 12:56 AM
What We Learned This Week: July 20-24

Test kitchen director Farideh Sadeghin was nice enough to make chocolate chip cookies for the office the other day. I decided to take them a step further and make chipwiches for the kitchen team. I used one of my favorite tricks for making the perfect ice cream sandwich. On a cutting board, take a one pint-container of vanilla ice cream and put it on its side. Using a very sharp knife, cut the pint into 4 equal disks. Remove the outer ring of the container from the ice cream rounds, and place each between two cookies. You now have a perfect chipwich ready to be covered with sprinkles, nuts, or more chocolate chips.

We had to test a recipe for the October issue that called for dried lima beans, and while in a perfect world we would have soaked them overnight, we had to test the recipe that day. So, we quick-soaked them, a technique you can use with any bean to get it ready to cook in a hurry. All you have to do is cover the beans with water in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat, and let soak in the pot, covered, for 1 hour. The beans have now been soaked and you are ready to continue with the recipe.

This week I worked with banana leaves and used them as a cooking vessel. With a porous skin, the large leaves are perfect for steaming fish or vegetables. Wrap whatever you are steaming in a 12" square of banana leaf and place it in a steamer basket to cook. Alternatively, try laying a large banana leaf on the grill as a way to cook seafood that sticks easily. The leaf will begin to char, giving the seafood a smoky flavor. Here are some of our favorite recipes that highlight banana leaves: an Indian steamed fish and banana-coconut packets.

We had our digital editorial assistant, Sara Tane, helping out in the test kitchen this week, and her first task was making a custard pie. After a demonstration in making and rolling out pie dough, she was confused as to why one would blind bake a crust. The kitchen team assembled to give her a lesson in all things pie-related. Blind baking is a technique where you bake the pie shell without any filling. You do this to partially bake the crust for a custard filling. The custard would soak into the crust making it soggy before it would have a chance to fully cook. Heat an oven to 375°. With a pre-rolled and chilled pie crust, prick the dough all over with a fork. Line dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans; bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the paper and weights; let the crust cool completely before filling and continuing to bake the pie. Check out our video on blind baking!

We love avocados here at Saveur, which is evident by the parade of editors coming into the test kitchen every morning to make their avocado toasts. In testing one of her upcoming Simple Weeknight Meals, test kitchen director Farideh Sadeghin grilled avocados for a summery shrimp salad. She charred halves of them for about 2 minutes on a super hot, oiled grill. While in this recipe the avocado was sliced, the flesh can then be used in any application for a smokier flavor. Try grilling your avocados next time you want to make our guacamole or avocado-mango salad.

This week we had the chef from Delicatessen in New York City, Michael Ferraro, come by with a pretty big stash of fresh black truffles. I noticed he was storing them in rice, so I inquired about the reasoning behind his method. The rice absorbs any moisture, keeping the truffles dry so they last longer. In addition, the rice then takes on the flavor of the truffles. He left us with one truffle and a few cups of the rice, so truffle risotto is definitely for dinner tonight.