Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

How To Make Hot Dogs

print recipe card posted in Appetizers and Snacks, Lunch by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Hot dogs  cooked in the microwave oven are a quick and easy snack, lunch or dinner.  (Fenway Franks are my favorite but turkey dogs are also pretty great as well!)

Let me begin by stressing that all microwaves have different strengths. They range in power from 500 watts to over 1500 watts. Just inside the frame of your microwave door there should be a label indicating the strength of your microwave.

Knowing the strength of your microwave is very important. Otherwise you may be following cooking directions exactly and still end up with burnt popcorn or an under cooked baked potato! I have an 850 watt microwave oven. All of my directions are based on that wattage.  (Here is a great microwave wattage conversion chart.)

Hot dogs are already cooked when you buy them. All you need to do is heat them up. Place 1 to 4 hot dogs on a paper plate or a microwave-safe dish with a paper towel. (If you are cooking more than 4 hot dogs, do it in stages.)

With the tip of a sharp knife, pierce the hot dog three times; on one end, in the middle, and on the other end. You only need to break the skin. This allows the steam to escape so they don’t explode!

Cover the hot dogs with another paper towel.

Cook on high for 35 seconds. That should be enough to heat them through, but you may have to add another 10-15 seconds.

Remove the hot dogs from the microwave.

Wrap the bun in a paper towel and zap it for about 15 seconds.

You only want to warm the bun. If you over cook the bun in the microwave it will get very hard and chewy as it cools.

I don’t recommend putting the hot dog in the bun and heating everything at once. The steam from hot dog makes the bun very soggy.

For a real treat try toasting the hot dog bun under the broiler. It will make the bun a bit firmer and able to hold all the extras you’re going to pile on!

I like my hot dogs with ketchup, mustard and relish…hold the onions please!

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How to Cook Asparagus

posted in Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister

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Asparagus with Guy Kawasaki’s Teriyaki Chicken

For dinner at home, with or without company, I like to serve asparagus because fresh asparagus can get cleaned, trimmed and steamed in the microwave in less than 10 minutes. I steam the “spears” just to the point where they are tender but still have a bite to them. Then I just add a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and sometimes a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and the asparagus is ready to serve.

Buy asparagus that has nice bright green stalks and doesn’t look dry or shriveled. Depending on the season, you can buy asparagus that is pencil thin or stalks that are three times thicker than a pencil! I prefer slightly thicker stalks which I then peel. Many years ago my old friend Roger Bennet (from London, Montreal and St Remy) taught me the peeling trick. (See below.)

Asparagus is sold by the bunch. There are approximately 14-18 spears of asparagus per bunch. Count on about 3 to 5 spears per serving.

Make only what you are going to eat for dinner. Asparagus cooks really fast in the microwave so there is no point in making enough for leftovers.

If you are not going to use it immediately, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. It should keep about 3-4 days.

Preparation:

Wash one bunch of asparagus under cool running water.

Trim away the bottom 1/3 of the stalk. The tip of the asparagus is very tender, but the farther down you go on the stalk, the tougher it gets.

If you bend the asparagus it will naturally snap at the point where it goes from tender to tough (which is usually about 1/3 of the stalk).

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Leslie demonstrates this method in startcooking.com’s post on Roasted Asparagus with Garlic Sauce.

You can now use the new shorter “broken” asparagus as a guide to cut the rest of the bunch.

Peel the stalks so that they are the same width as the tip. This ensures even cooking. Really thin stalks of asparagus do not need peeling.

Lay the asparagus two to three deep in a rectangular dish.

Add one Tablespoon of water.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap. Leave a small vent in the corner for steam to escape. (This also helps the plastic wrap from almost shrink wrapping itself over the asparagus. When that happens it’s a lot harder to remover the plastic wrap. (Be careful not to get burnt from the hot steam!)

Set the microwave on high heat and cook the asparagus about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. If you want your asparagus to be more tender, cook it for another 30 seconds or so.

Be sure not to overcook asparagus. Overcooked asparagus not only turns to mush, but it develops into a very unappealing shade of green.

Asparagus is great served either hot or cold. If you are going to be serving it cold you need to get the cooked spears cooled off quickly or they will loose their bright green color. You can either put the hot spears in a bowl of ice water…

…or in a colander and run cold water over the spears.

For more startcooking.com tips on blanching vegetables check out Keep it Fresh: Learn How to Blanch.

Cheers!

Ingredients:

(Makes 3-4 servings)

  • One bunch of asparagus
  • 1 Tablespoon of water
  • Salt and Pepper

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Pasta: Dry, Fresh or Frozen?

posted in Pasta, Rice and Grains by Lisa Freeman

cooking pasta

Before you choose the shape and size of pasta you want to cook, you will need to decide if you are going to buy either dry, fresh or frozen pasta.

Dry Pasta

Dry pasta is the most readily available type and can be found in boxes or bags on the grocery store shelf. It can be stored for up to a year. Some folks think dry pasta is a supermarket invention, but it has actually been preserved and sold this way in Italy for centuries. It takes longer to cook dry pasta (usually 10-12 minutes) than it does to cook fresh pasta. There are many different brands of dry pasta on supermarket shelves, as well as plenty of gourmet dry pastas, in all kinds of shapes and colors.

Fresh Pasta

Fresh pasta is found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. It can also be found in many specialty shops, nestled in a protective layer of semolina flour. Fresh pasta is in a semi-dry state, but still considered fresh. In many supermarkets, it is common to see fresh pasta in a clear plastic container. Fresh pasta cooks quickly — it usually takes 4-6 minutes to get it al dente. If unopened, a package of fresh pasta can typically be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or in the freezer for a month. (Be sure to check the “sell by” date before buying fresh pasta.) Keep in mind that if frozen, it will require a few extra minutes of cooking.

Frozen Pasta

Frozen pasta has been flash-frozen to lock in the flavor. Gourmet shops usually sell it in small cartons offering exotic flavors like lobster ravioli. But these days you can also find frozen pasta at the supermarket. Bagged frozen pasta meals require about 10 minutes of cooking. Some include chicken or meat, veggies and a sauce, which can make a full-fledged meal in minutes.

No matter which pasta you end up going with, the golden rule is not to overcook it. Fresh pasta turns into a mushy mess when overdone; dry pasta gets gummy if it is undercooked — so be sure to watch your pasta as it boils and follow the directions on the package. Before draining the boiling water, taste your pasta to make sure it is tender and properly cooked.

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Be sure to check out startcooking.com’s pasta roundup for some great tips and recipes!

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