Ask the Chef

by Chef Boy Ari

Q: Dear Chef Boy Ari,

I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and over the years I’ve become pretty good at it. But all this expertise seemed to vanish last weekend when I had a date with a very nice lady. The lamb chops were overcooked, the salad dressing had too much vinegar and the broccoli was camo-green mush. Luckily, my natural wit and charm salvaged the evening, and I think if I ask her out again she’ll say yes. I could take her out, but I want to redeem my culinary failure. Please, Chef Boy, help me score points. —Not Yet Naked Chef

A: Dear Not Yet Naked,

I know, it sucks to be running around the kitchen stressed about getting everything right by the time the doorbell rings. When I finally figured out a way around this speed bump in the road to dating bliss, I became a happy man. Not a Don Juan, mind you, but I definitely ate fewer meals alone.

My secret? Cook the meal together.

Picture the two of you in the kitchen, squeezing by and reaching around each other as you share the sensory buffet of preparing dinner. She’ll tell you about the trick she learned from her aunt about adding olive oil to the pasta water – and you’ll pretend you didn’t already know that one. And when she raises an eyebrow at all the butter you’re putting in the brownie frosting, prepare for checkmate.

With a gleam in your eye, you reply: “I gotta fatten you up for the slaughter.”

Then, when the dinner is done and you’re eating those brownies, don’t forget that for many women a bite of chocolate is as good as five minutes of foreplay. In no time, you’ll be enjoying a sensory buffet of a different sort – in the buff!

Q: Dear Chef Boy Ari,

While steaming a head of locally-grown, organic, cheddar-colored cauliflower over medium heat, I managed to burn off all the water in a 3-quart nonstick KitchenAid sauté pan. The smoke alarm went off, the cheddar-colored cauliflower turned a nasty tar color, and my $100 nonstick pan (a wedding gift) looks like toast. My question is: can I still use that pan or will I die? Alternately, do you think KitchenAid will reimburse me for my stupidity?


A: Dear Steamed,

Did you eat your cheddar-colored cauliflower that had “turned a nasty tar color?” Probably not, because it was gross, and it sounds like your pan is too. It doesn’t sound like something I would want to eat from. But you never know. Read on.

Best case scenario: it’s possible that the tarry stuff is just soot from the blackened cheddar-colored cauliflower that burned on the pan. In this case, simply wash the blackened goo from the pan, perhaps after soaking it overnight. If the pan looks good to go, it probably is.

If not, I’m a little confused. What I’ve learned about KitchenAid sauté pans is that they don’t use Teflon-like coatings, but rather a process called “hard-anodization” to form a tough outer skin on their nonstick aluminum cookware. Your sauté pan was submerged in an acid bath and then subjected to electrical charges. This treatment caused the aluminum to oxidize on the surface, resulting in a very hard and smooth finish that shouldn’t burn off.

I suppose you could try submerging your pan in a tub of battery acid and then jamming the handle into the wall electrical socket, but that might negate whatever’s left of your KitchenAid limited lifetime warranty – which I’m afraid doesn’t cover stupidity.

Q:Dear Chef Boy Ari,

What the heck is kohlrabi? I see it all over the farmers’ market this time of year and it kind of freaks me out. —Bulb-o-phobic

A:Dear Bulbophobe,

Although often mistaken for a root crop, kohlrabi is actually a swollen stem. The name is a combination of the German kohl, which means cabbage, and rabi which means turnip. As the kohl in kohlrabi suggests, it’s a member of the cabbage family, along with broccoli, kale and mustard. The closest thing to it that you’ve ever probably eaten is a broccoli stem. It’s juicy, with a mild mustardy taste.

Kohlrabi is definitely a funny looking unit. Just imagine a garter snake swallowing a tennis ball and then standing upright, with leaves. After it’s harvested, kohlrabi looks kind of like a Sputnik satellite.

To use kohlrabi, simply peel the skin off the spheroid. Then you can slice and steam, julienne and stir-fry it, bake it whole, shred it on salads…whatever.

My new favorite thing to do with kohlrabi is to cut it up and put it in the blender with garlic, soy sauce, olive oil, vinegar and a splash of sesame oil. Whiz that into a thick froth and pour it on a big salad like ranch dressing. Kohlrabi can be grown as either a spring or fall crop. As the summer fades away, you’ll see more kohlrabi coming on strong. But don’t buy them if they’re too big – when kohlrabi gets to about baseball size it can begin to get pretty woody. •



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