Monthly Archives: October 2013

Deconstructed Dishes

Trendy chefs like to “deconstruct” classic dishes and reconstruct them in interesting new configurations as a way to demonstrate their creativity and delight diners. They might use molecular gastronomy techniques to turn familiar ingredients into gels, foams or powders that taste the same but with a twist in texture and appearance. They might separate components and reassemble them: Pie becomes a pastry disk with a fruit sauce.

But Rachael Ray often turns to deconstruction for another reason: To speed the cooking process and make delicious favorites feasible when time is short. It’s a technique to consider for family or company meals. Check out the Food Network Web site( for some of Rachael’s deconstructed ideas, especially those from her “Week in a Day” program.

Deconstructed lasagna (my own idea) might not be up to an Italian nona’s standards, but it would make a satisfying weeknight dinner for family or friends. Instead of bothering with the traditional but time-consuming layering and baking method, you can  create a thick and hearty meat sauce in a sauté pan, combine it later-that day or week- with wide boiled pasta noodles, and top after plating with a scoop of creamy ricotta cheese that you’ve mixed with grated mozzarella and parmesan.

Don’t Waste the Whipped Cream

Instead of discarding leftover whipped cream (or gobbling it down with a spoon, as I’m likely to do), supposedly you can freeze it in mounds to be used later as toppers for desserts or hot drinks

I haven’t tried this technique yet, but according to Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook (1980, General Mills, Inc.), you just space small mounds of whipped cream on a baking sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper, put it into the freezer until the mounds are solid and transfer them to a storage container.

I haven’t tried this technique yet ,but I have read about it in several places, although lots of controversy seems to surround the idea and no one says if you should defrost the cream before using it. Do any of you know the answers?

Just Dessert

When inviting guests for dinner is unthinkable, you might opt for the more manageable option I tried with great success on a recent Sunday evening.

We wanted to hear all about the big trip some friends had just taken, but were preparing for a trip ourselves and were squeezed for time. Inviting them (along with some other interested friends) for dessert seemed a perfect compromise.

I took some of my own advice and purchased the food, an assortment of pastries that I displayed prettily, and accompanied by a big bunch of green grapes with a slab of good blue cheese. I’ll admit that there were some bad moments when I second-guessed my first decision (wondering, among other thoughts, if I should bake something myself instead), but, fortunately, I didn’t waver.

Before we sat down at the table for the pastries, we had drinks while watching slides from the trip that the couple displayed on a laptop. I’m proud to say that I didn’t succumb to serving anything fancy with the cocktails, just nuts and dried cranberries.

I think I can say with some certainty that a sweet time was had by all.