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Santé Et Nutrition

What Does Caramelized Mean, Anyway?

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We drop the word caramelized a lot over here at Basically, usually when we’re talking about grilling meats and roasting vegetables. Or, well, caramelizing onions. But what is the process of caramelization? And does it have anything to do with Werther’s Originals, the greatest Grandpa candy there ever was? What are we really talking about here?

No. We’re not talking about hard candies. Caramelization happens when sugar is introduced to heat. Compounds are released that alter the flavor and the color of the sugar. The most immediately noticeable effect is the darkening of the sugar’s color.

You can caramelize sugar straight-up. That’s how we get caramel sauce for ice cream or that beautiful, crunchy top of a crème brûlée. But most caramelization happens with sugars that are naturally found within other ingredients. Fruits and vegetables caramelize in the same way that pure sugar does. It just happens at a slower rate, since there’s less sugar. The browning on zucchini (like you’ll see on this flatbread recipe) or peaches is the result of natural sugars being caramelized.

Caramelized food develops a flavor that goes beyond the one-noted sweetness of sugar. When sugars caramelize, they develop nuttiness, bitterness, toastiness, and even a little bit of buttery creaminess.

caramelized-onions-trio

Alex Lau

You can lightly caramelize or darkly caramelize. Or meet somewhere in the middle.

While caramelization does happen with natural sugars, adding another sugary substance to whatever you’re cooking can help jump-start things a bit for foods that have either a low sugar content or no sugar at all. (Side note: Browning, which looks similar to caramelization, can still happen in foods that don’t caramelize, like meats, eggs, bread, and dairy. This is a result of protein breakdown, not sugars browning, and it’s called the Maillard Reaction.) When we make marinades for meats, what we’re really doing is coating them in a mixture that will start to caramelize as soon as it’s exposed to high heat. Glazes work the same way, thickening and developing deep, sweet flavor when brushed onto the outside of browned meats. This is why there should always be a sweet component, like honey, brown sugar, molasses, or regular sugar, in a marinade or glaze.

There are two things you need to keep in mind when you want to caramelize something. Caramelization can only happen in dry heat, which means you can’t caramelize while steaming, blanching, boiling, or cooking with a sous vide machine. And caramelization also needs high heat to happen quickly. If you try to caramelize a vegetable in a 300° oven or over a medium-low flame, you’ll end up with caramelization eventually, but it will take a long time to get there. (Think caramelized onions.) High, dry heat is the quickest ticket to perfect caramelization and a crispy exterior.

So yes, caramelization is a little science-y. But you can handle it. You don’t need a degree to caramelize. You just need a yearning for extremely satisfying flavor. That shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Oh, look at that! Caramelized zucchini flatbread!

basically-zucchini-flatbread-2.jpg



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Santé Et Nutrition

The Only Pasta I Make For My Best Friend Has 8 Cloves of Garlic

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Most friends give friends who just moved into a new home a nice bottle of wine, maybe some paper towels if they’re practical. Me? For my best friend? I brought her a whole head of garlic, a bag of wide-leg pappardelle, a tub of olive oil, and fist-size portions of basil and parsley. Then I made lunch.

Specifically, Andy Baraghani’s extremely simple but extremely satisfying pasta riddled with bronzed flecks of garlic, bracing Castelvetrano olives, and all those leafy herbs. It was an elegant and complex meal—“bright, herby, and a little briny,” as Andy described it over Slack—and it couldn’t be easier to pull off.

Even while totally distracted by our conversation about the very dark but very fascinating Dr. Death podcast, I could still absentmindedly boil the pasta water and smash eight—yes, eight—garlic cloves in olive oil until they look like little golden nuggets. While my friend and I batted around theories about how this neurosurgeon could have kept going after committing 33 botched surgeries (insane hubris? Actual ignorance?), I tossed those nuggets with red pepper flakes, pitted Castelvetranos, and chopped parsley. “It’s a way to mellow out the grassy parsley flavor,” Andy Slacked me. (We only communicate via Slack, like true millennial coworkers.)

Once the pasta was just under al dente, I should have paused the conversation to gently move the noodles from the hot water to the garlic-parsley-olive sauce. But hindsight is 20/20, and instead I burned my forearms with hot splashes. However, I was undeterred because here came the best part: butter. I threw in a few tablespoons of butter and a splash of pasta water to give the sauce the kind of dewy gloss promised by Korean face masks. We finished the dish with sweet, fat basil leaves, a little lemon zest, and a couple teaspoons of lemon juice, and rushed the pot to the table. Then, silence. All conversation ceased as we slurped each butter-drenched strand straight from the Dutch oven. No Dr. Death theory could pry us away from Andy’s pitch-perfect pasta.

This is a pasta that celebrates the glory of garlic: how it makes everything taste better, stinks a little, and always seems to linger on. It’s a little bit like a friendship that’s weathered years in an AC-less bedroom, break-ups, maid of honor speeches, new jobs, and very adult accomplishments. And that’s why it’s the perfect thing to make your best friend.

Get the recipe:

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Cranberry-Fig Sauce Recipe | Bon Appetit

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Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook shallot and rosemary, stirring often, until shallot is starting to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add cranberries, figs, brown sugar, vinegar, ½ tsp. salt, and red pepper flakes and increase heat to medium-high.

cranberry fig sauce process 4

Photo by Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott, food styling by Rebecca Jurkevich, prop styling by Kalen Kaminski



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Santé Et Nutrition

This Lemon-Ginger Brew Will Save You from the Clutches of Cold Season

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Welcome to Never Fail, a weekly column where we wax poetic about the recipes that never, ever let us down.

Flu season hit the BA office this week in a tidal wave of tissues, Emergen-C packets, and out-of-office messages. Which is why, after scheduling my annual flu shot and dousing everything on my desk with hand sanitizer, I headed home to make a double batch of lemon-ginger brew.

Forget green juice. Forget echinacea tea. When it comes to restorative liquids, this lemon-ginger brew is the real MVP. It’s a high-octane concoction from food director Carla Lalli Music, who has two kids and knows a thing or two about soothing sore throats.

How to Make Soothing Lemon Ginger Brew

The three-ingredient recipe is minimal, which is good, because no sick person wants to do a lot of chopping and stirring anyway. All you need to do to get things going is toss some peeled ginger knobs (about a half pound) in a food processor and pulse them into a coarse paste. (If you don’t have a food processor, use the larger holes of a box grater or give those knobs a fine chop. It’s a bit more work, but the chopped up ginger will do just fine.)

Add the ginger to a medium saucepan with 6 cups of water, bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 30–40 minutes. Use this time for a steamy shower, or even a power nap. (Just don’t forget to set an alarm!) Strain the ginger chunks out with a fine mesh sieve, then squeeze two or three lemons worth of juice into the pot and add agave syrup (or honey, or pure maple syrup) to taste. Just like that, the brew is done.

Once made, this brew can hang out in the fridge for up to two weeks—plenty of time to soothe a sore throat while your white blood cells do their healing work. I prefer to heat it up before serving, so the fiery ginger is extra pungent. It’s the kind of burn that makes you really feel like something is working, and I need that. Plus: It’s delicious.

This is the time where I should probably acknowledge that, no, this drink isn’t magical. It won’t cure you of whatever ails you, and you should definitely still get a flu shot. Still, there’s something about the holy trinity of honey, ginger, and lemon that soothes your body and your soul. And it pairs excellently with non-sick days too, making rainy mornings and quiet nights at home feel infinitely cozier with minimal effort. So make ginger, lemons, and honey part of your pantry (and fridge) staples, and you’ll never be far from a mug of this cozy and restorative brew. Think of it as insurance against the next time flu season hits .

It’s time to brew:

lemon-ginger-brew



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