Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Get Juiced!! Why you need to learn this.

How to use vegetable juices to flavor your cooking.

It's easy to forget that food is about more than taste. We have four other senses, each of which can play a role in how we perceive what we eat. Today, we'll focus on texture, in particular how changing the texture of vegetables by juicing can increase their versatility while at the same time encourage your own creativity.

Why you need to learn this

One of our goals here at Prep School has always been to get you thinking outside your own box, to start thinking like a chef. Too many of us get into a rut, where we rely on the same old foods and standards that we've been making forever. Meatloaf Monday. Taco Tuesday. Whaleburger Wednesday. By taking something as simple as a vegetable — something we think of mostly as a side dish — and changing its form, suddenly we're presented with a completely new ingredient.

Moreover, as any juice fanatic can tell you, vegetable juices are very, very good for you. Getting more of them into your diet can only be a good thing.

The steps you take

Before we get started, a quick word on the difference between juices and purees, both of which involve taking a whole or cut up vegetable and pulverizing it. One difference is that, with juice, the solids are removed whereas with puree, the solids remain part of the final product. The other difference is that pureed vegetables generally are cooked first to make them easier to puree, whereas juices generally are extracted from raw vegetables.

There are several ways to get vegetable juice:

1. They sell it at the store. You can buy bottles of various juices and juice combinations, of course.

2. You can pass veggies through a juicer. Quality juicers produce great juices. If you're already into juicing, you know that you can juice just about anything, and you've probably been delighted, not only with the great flavors, but also with the vibrant colors of fresh juice. Imagine using these same great flavors and colors in supporting positions for dinner plates.

3. Even without a juicer, all you have to do is grate your vegetables or pulse them in a food processor. Then, place the pieces in some cheesecloth and wring out the juice. Not as easy or efficient as the juicer, but the results are good.

Obviously, there are exactly 2 bajillion vegetables on the planet, so we'll just mention a handful along with a few ideas. With any luck, that will spur your imagination to try some new ideas yourselves. (If you've got a good one, please share it with all of us at
foods@tribune.com or in the Comments section at the bottom of this article.)

What to juice

GingerCarrots Use this sweet, bright orange liquid in place of milk for mashed potatoes. You'll love the color and creaminess. Enrich it with butter or, to keep it vegan, extra-virgin olive oil. Use carrot juice to replace some or all the liquid in baked goods or starches.

Beets Beet juice is fantastic — and I'm one of the few people I know who dislikes beets. Deep purple and wonderfully sweet, try reducing it in a saucepan until it's slightly syrupy. Use a pastry brush to paint a broad swath of purple across a white plate as a striking background for your plated food.

Or, after plating your food, spoon droplets of the beet juice around as a decorative sauce. Or drizzle it over vanilla ice cream (with a bit of crumbled bacon, if you're really getting crazy). One note about beets: Wear rubber gloves to prevent your hands from getting stained.

Sweeten ginger juice with sugar and add it to bubbly water for your own homemade ginger ale. Pouring a few drops of the juice into pureed soups like carrot or lentil will give it bright, spicy, gingery flavor. Use drops of ginger juice as you might soy sauce over Asian inspired stir-fries.

Using that juiceHere are a few general ideas that you can use with just about any juice. Think of each of these as a way to get good vegetable flavor into something that typically is a liquid:

VinaigrettesWhisk vegetable juices to taste into your favorite vinaigrette recipe to dress salads, blanched and shocked vegetables or grilled meats or fish.

Heavy cream
Whip cream until thickened, but not stiff. Whisk some juice into it, season with salt and drizzle over pureed or cream soups as a tasty and decorative garnish.

Whisk vegetable juice into mayonnaise and spread on toasted bread for grilled veggie sandwiches.

Signature drinks
Stir juices into clear mixed drinks to create signature cocktails like a beety vodka tonic or a carrotini.

Frozen juice cubes
Speaking of signature drinks, imagine frozen celery or tomato juice cubes in your Sunday brunch bloody Marys.

However you use your juice, just be sure to use it within a day or so of making, as it's best when fresh. And no matter how you use it, think like a chef and ask yourself two questions: What can I do to make it better next time, and how else can I use it?

May 23, 2012

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