Front Burner

The New York Times


February 5, 2013

In a weekly column, Florence Fabricant recommends things to read, taste, covet, order, cook, give and more.
Florence Fabricant

To Consult: A Scale Measures, Then Folds Away

Weighing ingredients, instead of measuring with less accurate cups and spoons, is standard practice in the professional kitchen. American home cooks have yet to make it a habit. This sleek, compact Joseph Joseph TriScale, a mere two by six inches when closed, should help. Open the arms to form a wide base on which you place something to weigh, then set the scale to give the measurement in ounces and pounds or in metric units. It’s $34.95 at Sur La Table stores, and $30 from

To Read: From Cook’s Illustrated, a Side Dish of Science

There are no color photos to drool over in “The Science of Good Cooking,” by Guy Crosby and the editors of Cook’s Illustrated (America’s Test Kitchen, $40). But the 400 recipes and 50 in-depth techniques are enough to grab the interest of even the most experienced cook.

The team at Cook’s Illustrated tests and retests recipes the way a pianist practices scales, and some of its conclusions seem counterintuitive. When you soak beans overnight, do it in brine. Cook steak in a slow oven, then sear it for an appealing finish. Blanch basil before you turn it into pesto. Really? Yes. Having always heard (but not quite believed) that salt was the enemy of dried beans, I was delighted to find that brining kept them from splitting as they cooked. Roasting and then searing a thick steak resulted in a tender grass-fed strip loin. And blanched basil kept the sauce bright. The book also proves that the green shoot, or germ, inside a garlic clove can make a dish bitter. So take the time to pick it out.

To Take Out: From Taste of Ethiopia, Two New Chicken Dishes

Using his mother’s recipes, Hiyaw Gebreyohannes started Taste of Ethiopia about a year ago, making a few vegetarian dishes in a space at La Marqueta in Harlem. Two chicken dishes are next: loze wet, a mellow, boneless stew rich with peanuts; and doro wet, which is ruddy and hotly fueled with berbere, the Ethiopian spice blend. Containers of the chicken cost about $8 for 16 ounces at local Whole Foods stores and will be $7 at Union Market later in the week.

To Consider: Seeking Better Conditions For Restaurant Employees

Shortly after 9/11, an organization called the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United was founded to help restaurant workers who subsequently lost their jobs. It has now become a national group, and its primary mission is improving conditions for restaurant workers. On Monday, the Ford Foundation held a half-day forum about how to persuade the restaurant industry to change the way it treats its workers, which is explained in a new book, “Behind the Kitchen Door,” by Saru Jayaraman, one of the founders of the organization.

One of the panelists at the event was Andy Shallal, a restaurant owner in the Washington area who offers overtime pay, health insurance and paid sick leave for his employees, unlike the vast majority of the nation’s restaurateurs, according to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers. He made an original suggestion: “When I got to New York today, I noticed how restaurants post letter grades from the Health Department. What if they also had to post letter grades indicating the quality of the conditions for their workers?”

To Serve: The Year of the Snake Begins With Churros

The Year of the Snake starts on Sunday, and Anita Lo, the chef and owner of Annisa, is marking the occasion with a six-course tasting menu. The meal will culminate with churros, the long, snakelike Spanish doughnuts, with a black sesame dipping sauce that’s easily done at home. Mix 1/2 cup of black sesame paste (sold in Japanese and Korean markets) with 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and about 1/2 cup water. And if making churros is not for you, places to buy them include the Doughnut Plant shops, in Chelsea and on the Lower East Side, or online at Ms. Lo’s dinner, $105, plus tax, tip and drinks, will be served Sunday and Monday: 13 Barrow Street (Seventh Avenue South), (212) 741-6699.

To Taste: A Surprise From the Bar: Jars of Pickled Vegetables

The name Boulton & Watt pays homage to the developers of the steam engine and the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Yet one of the attractions at this new restaurant, at 5 Avenue A (Houston Street), (646) 490-6004, is decidedly preindustrial. David Rotter, the chef and an owner, makes pickles ($5 a jar) at a small counter at the end of the bar. Okra with garlic and caraway; crunchy brussels sprouts; curried cauliflower; and pineapple chunks with habaneros, mint and basil are among the choices. They also turn up in unexpected places, like a drink that adds the pineapple to bourbon, beer and lemon.

A version of this article appeared in print on 02/06/2013, on page D3 of the New York edition with the headline: Front Burner.

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