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  • How To Steam-Roast Beets in Convection

    Beets make a great addition to many different dishes; they are delicious roasted and served as a side dish, added to salads, grain bowls, sandwiches, and even hamburgers, and of course, there is the wonderful beet soup, borscht. The interesting thing about beets is that the texture changes depending on the method you use to cook them. Red beets that are boiled or steamed retain a deep color and have a soft tender texture. Peeled roasted beets also retain good color but have a firmer texture. Beets can be roasted in convection or steam roasted or steamed in a steam oven or you can just simmer them in boiling water. How you cook beets will depend on the result you desire, just remember that disposable gloves and a washable cutting board make handling beets easier. Why Convection is Ideal for Roasting Beets Convection is ideal for roasting vegetables because the circulating convection heat preserves moisture in food while the natural sugars in vegetables caramelize resulting in better flavor and texture. Whenever I served roasted vegetables such as beets at a class there was always someone who marveled at the fact that they were eating and enjoying a vegetable they normally detested all because of the stunning results when that vegetable was cooked in convection. To prepare beets for roasting they should first be peeled and if roasting both red and golden beets be sure to keep them separate to avoid the red beet juice from staining the golden beets. Wearing disposable gloves is recommended to avoid staining your hands and peeling the beets over newspaper or into a bowl or compost bin helps minimize staining and makes for easy disposal. Once the beets are peeled cut them into the desired shape on a washable cutting board. Place the pieces in a bowl and toss with a light coating of olive oil, salt, and a sprinkle of mixed Italian seasoning. Spread the beets onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the Convection Bake or Convection Roast mode at 350°F for approximately 30 minutes. How to Steam Roast Beets (Steam Oven) Beets can also be steam-roasted using a combination of convection and steam. Simply follow the same method outlined above but check the beets for doneness at around 20 minutes. Because steam ovens are smaller than traditional ovens and the combination of heat and steam is so powerful the cooking time tends to be faster in this mode. How to Steam Beets (Steam Oven) When you want velvety soft beets or to prepare beets for pickling, steaming is the best method to choose. Be sure to rinse the beets well to remove any grit and leave about ½ of the stem as well as the root intact. Place the whole beets in the perforated pan with the solid pan underneath to catch any drips and steam for 35 - 50 minutes depending on the size until the point of a sharp knife slips easily into the beet. Set the beets aside to cool before slipping off the skin. Many years ago when roasted vegetable salads became popular, I sometimes roasted a medley of vegetables that included red and golden beets, parsnips, and yellow sweet potatoes. The roasted vegetables glistened like jewels when mixed with the salad greens and made a wonderful accompaniment to roasted meat or poultry. Even though no real recipe was required (apart from the salad dressing) I always had numerous requests for a recipe whenever this salad was served, reinforcing the universal desire for simple well-prepared meals. Vegetable dishes also make a great accompaniment to simple grilled meats and in my next posts, I will be covering great ways to make good use of your convection and steam ovens to prepare delicious summer side dishes. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Speed Oven Baked Country Style Pork Ribs

    Country-style pork ribs are actually strips of well-marbled pork, cut from near the loin that can be cooked in a variety of ways. There is enough marbling to give the ribs great flavor and keep them juicy and tender during cooking. These ribs can be cooked low and slow until fork tender or roasted at a moderate Convection temperature in just under an hour, either way, for best flavor give the ribs a dry rub or marinate them a few hours in advance of cooking. Roasting Meats in the Combination Convection + Microwave Mode I have had great success cooking a variety of meats in the Speed mode such as chicken pieces, meatloaf, and even a whole roast chicken. I have cooked pork chops and pork tenderloin in the microwave mode with great results so I decided that since these ribs are on the leaner side I would experiment with cooking them in convection with a little added speed. Even though I was adding in some low microwave power I kept the convection temperature at 330°F to avoid drying out the pork. Overall, reducing the cooking time by 10 - 12 minutes is a plus when you are in a hurry especially when you can achieve good results. Unfortunately, the only way to determine what works best is by trial and error, so keeping the temperature moderate and the microwave power low is a good place to start. What is the Benefit of Speed Cooking Country Style Ribs for a Short Time Generally, pork that is cut from the shoulder requires long slow cooking to tenderize, but since these ribs are cut from an area closer to the loin they are on the leaner side so they are a good candidate for Speed cooking. When we cook with convection, the heated air circulates around the oven cooking the food from the edge to the center; microwave power cooks from the inside out so even adding ten minutes of microwave power assists in speeding up the cooking. Even though I was using a little speed to get the ribs started, I planned to continue the cooking in convection without the microwave assist so that I could cook some vegetables to complete the meal. I added a tray of small golden potatoes and cooked them for approximately 15 minutes, then I folded some Brussels sprouts in with the potatoes and continued cooking everything for another 15 minutes. At the end of the cooking time, I removed the ribs and brushed them with some BBQ sauce, and increased the oven temperature to 375°F. I placed them back in the oven for another 8 - 10 minutes to finish the cooking. This final high heat helped crisp the Brussels sprouts and potatoes as well as give the ribs a nice sizzling finish. Overall learning to make good use of the tools in the Convection Microwave Speed oven can really benefit your cooking. This is my first serious experience cooking with microwaves and while I do enjoy some of the benefits of microwave heating, cooking, and defrosting I would say Speed cooking is my favorite feature. Summer is just around the corner and it's time to talk about all the great foods we can cook in our Convection ovens rather than standing over a hot stove, so please check back for my next post to learn more. Larissa, Your Convection Speed Oven Enthusiast

  • Oven Baked Chicken Shawarma and Falafel with Rice Pilaf

    Chicken marinated with a blend of fragrant spices, lemon juice, and olive oil can be baked and served as part of a meal or loaded into freshly baked pita bread for a mouthwatering sandwich. In this recipe the chicken is cut into small pieces before adding the marinade; however, you can bake whole pieces of chicken if you prefer. When I plan to make chicken shawarma, all the other delicious Mediterranean foods I could serve with the chicken come to mind, so instead of one dish I find myself making a Convection meal. In this meal plan, I am also baking a rice pilaf with almonds and parsley as well as some oven Falafel and serving everything with a Greek salad. What is the Benefit of Cooking a Complete Meal in Convection? Looking at my meal plan you might ask why should I bother cooking all these foods in the oven when I have a perfectly good cooktop I can use to cook everything. Well if you prefer you can of course cook the chicken in a large sauté pan over high heat, cook the rice in another pan and fry the falafel in some oil. Everything will be very delicious but you will need to stay at the cooktop while the food is cooking however if you can place three trays of food into the oven and leave them to cook you can set a timer and safely leave the food to cook itself. At the end of the cooking, you will have 2 baking sheets and one casserole pan to clean but no hot oil to dispose of and no cooktop to clean. In short, the benefit of cooking a complete meal is convenience combined with great results. Which Oven Mode Do I Use to Cook a Convection Meal? This is a great question and not easy to answer because of course all ovens are different; that is why it is so essential to understand the tools that your oven has and where to place the food in the oven. In my Gaggenau oven, the Convection mode is used for most cooking and the heat is only coming from the Convection element the food cooks and browns evenly. However, most ovens feature multiple cooking modes such as Convection Bake, Convection Roast, or Convection so you have to choose the appropriate mode. If for example, you chose the Convection Bake mode to cook this meal, you have to think about where to place each pan. Ideally, you would place the chicken on the upper rack so it gets some good browning from the top heating element. The casserole with the rice is cooked covered so will be fine on the middle rack and for best results the falafel should be baked on the lowest rack. The Convection Roast mode could also be used but because the heat is more intense in this mode watch the timing to avoid overcooking the food. How Do I Determine Timing for Cooking Different Foods In this meal all three items cook in approximately the same amount of time; however, if you were roasting a whole chicken or another large cut of meat you would need to factor in the cooking, resting, and carving time. In that case, you would add the side dishes in later so that they would be ready to serve when the meat was carved rather than sitting around and getting cold. Cooking is much easier with a little planning and if you plan your cooking to make good use of your oven tools, you may find cooking less stressful. After all modern appliances are designed to help us achieve better results with our cooking, we just have to learn how to take advantage of the features. I have been exploring cooking and baking in my new Convection Microwave Speed oven and in my next post I will review baking a sweet treat known as slice. In effect, it is a giant cookie that you cut into slices before serving. So if you like keeping a sweet treat on hand to enjoy with your morning or afternoon tea I hope you will check it out. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Baking Flatbreads and Pita Bread in Convection

    Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a great baker, simple recipes such as Flatbreads and Pita bread are a great place to get started. The proofing and cooking time is minimal so with a little planning you can enjoy freshly baked bread in a relatively short time. Of course, one way to achieve good results with baking is to use the tools in your Convection oven. In addition to a variety of cooking modes, many ovens also feature a mode for proofing yeast dough. A barely warm oven is the ideal place for proofing, you won’t need to cover the dough or worry about drafts coming from open doors and windows, and because the environment is so stable the proofing process will be slightly faster. Tips for Creating a Good Dough To achieve success when making dough for pita bread or flatbread pay careful attention to the water temperature used to prove the yeast in the recipe. If the water is too hot or too cool the yeast will not bloom and you will have to start all over again, even proofing it in the Steam oven won’t save it! You will know if your dough is going to be a success because it will feel very pliable, almost alive, if it feels leaden you will have to start again. Which Oven Mode is Best for Baking Flatbreads and Pita Bread? If you are baking in a gas oven, the best mode will be the traditional Bake mode. Gas ovens have a natural Convection and are excellent for baking bread, and the most important thing to pay attention to is rack position. Depending on how hot your oven runs, the bottom rack position might be too hot; however, a pizza stone placed on the bottom rack can yield amazing results. If you are baking in an electric oven you can use either the Bake or Convection Bake mode. I find using Convection Bake works best for these quick-cooking bread recipes that bake at a high temperature. Baking the bread close to the direct heat from the bottom heating element while the convection fan circulates the heated air evenly around the oven ensures great results. Because the heating element in most electric ovens is concealed beneath the oven floor nowadays using the regular Bake mode alone may feel a little underpowered. Having said that, remember every oven is different so it may take some trial and error to work out what works best in your oven. Flatbreads and Pita Bread pair well with the delicious foods from the Mediterranean and in my next post, I will review a recipe for making Chicken Sharwarma in convection. Not only does the chicken cook to perfection, but you can also cook some side dishes at the same time for a mouthwatering feast to serve with freshly baked bread. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Convection Speed Roasted Chili Spice Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

    Preparation and cooking time can be an obstacle when it comes to cooking fresh healthy meals unless you learn how to make good use of the tools in your oven. Nowadays we have ovens that have great features like the Convection Speed oven that allow us to combine convection with microwave power to speed up the cooking with spectacular results. How to Use a Speed Oven A Speed oven typically features five modes of cooking. Convection, broil, microwave, as well as convection + microwave and broil + microwave. Speed ovens feature inverter microwave technology that offers a choice of microwave power levels customized to different types of cooking. This customization is a great feature when you want to use microwave energy to speed up the cooking because you can add the exact level of microwave power suited to the food you are cooking. When cooking in microwave mode, remove the wire oven rack and cover foods with a microwave-safe cover. Paper towels are not recommended as they may have synthetic fibers that can combust during cooking. If your oven features a wire rack and an oven tray, food can be cooked on both the rack and the tray at the same time in the Convection mode. Either the rack or the oven tray can be used when broiling or toasting food. When you add microwave power to the convection or broil mode you can safely use the wire rack and also cook in metal pans without any cover So let’s look at how to plan a simple meal making good use of these features. How to Cook Chicken and Sweet Potatoes in the Convection Speed Mode Since chicken thighs cook fairly quickly you might wonder what’s the point of cooking the chicken in speed mode. Well, putting a rub on chicken pieces and placing them in the oven only takes minutes so if you begin cooking the chicken with a combination of convection + microwaves for ten minutes by the time you have peeled and chopped the sweet potatoes the chicken is almost half cooked. If you cut the sweet potatoes into small cubes the entire meal will only need another 15 - 20 minutes to finish cooking. If you are cooking a small quantity of food that will fit on one tray you could cook the entire meal in the speed mode, however, it would be best to cook the chicken for 10 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes. If you are cooking larger quantities of food as I did in the video then cooking the sweet potatoes on a separate tray in Convection is a better option. What is the Best Microwave Power Level to Use in the Speed Mode? When using a new appliance, I always begin by following the recommendations outlined in the User Guide but I have found as with most things, it’s better, to begin with, less power and add more if needed rather than add too much power and end up with bad results. Remember the benefit of speed cooking is that you are still cooking the food in the convection mode which gives better results overall. Adding in some low microwave power is just to help you get dinner on the table faster or to speed up the heating through of items such as casseroles that normally take up to 40 minutes to bake. If you love baking quick-cooking flatbreads and pita bread, then please check out my next post and I will review the benefits of using convection vs regular bake for best results. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Bake Chicken and Rice in Convection

    The flavors of chicken baked with rice make for a delicious one-pot meal and even though the concept of baking everything together seems ideal there are some options worth considering that can make the preparation easier. The Latin version of chicken and rice, Arroz con Pollo, has so many great flavors and is the perfect dish to feed a crowd but therein lies the problem, if the pan gets overcrowded the rice gets mushy, and it's hard to keep the chicken skin crisp. What is the solution? Well, there are several options so let’s take a look at how to achieve great results using either your Steam or Convection oven. What are the Benefits of Baking the Chicken Separately? The easy answer is better control over the results of the cooking without sacrificing any flavor. When bone-in chicken is cooked with rice it creates a really flavorful broth, but if you roast the chicken pieces in your steam or convection oven you will accumulate a lot of juices on the pan that can be scraped off and added to the cooked rice and vegetables. Another benefit is, once the chicken is cooked and slightly cooled it can be sliced off the bone and arranged over the cooked rice which makes it easier to serve and eat, especially when feeding a crowd. What is the Best Way to Cook the Rice? The rice and vegetables can be cooked entirely on the cooktop or started on the cooktop and finished in the oven. One advantage to this method is that the rice can be cooked in a large oven casserole dish perfect for serving, all you would need to do is add the cooked chicken and garnish. When baking rice in a convection oven the dish needs to be covered for the rice to cook properly; however, when baking rice in a steam oven the rice does not need to be covered in order to cook through. If you have cooked rice in a steam oven you will have learned that it’s always better to add less liquid than when cooking rice in a pan. For example, instead of a 2 - 1 ratio a 1 ¾ cup to 1 will yield better results. Can I Cook the Chicken with the Rice in the Oven? When baking the rice a the steam oven, you can brown the chicken pieces and nestle them in the rice and bake the entire dish uncovered. The chicken skin may get a little rubbery but towards the end of the cooking if your oven has a broil option you could change the mode and crisp up the chicken. When baking the rice in a Convection oven the dish does need to be covered for the rice to cook so the best option would be to cook the chicken separately and add it to the rice together with the pan juices at the end of the cooking. In addition to cumin, turmeric, oregano, and smoked paprika rub for the chicken, the recipe I use includes peppers, canned chopped tomatoes and linguica sausage which I find adds a lot of flavor to the dish, and the garnish of Manzanilla olives and chopped cilantro is for me essential. I apologize if it is not authentic but it tastes delicious. If you have other recipes for chicken and rice you may find these options for cooking the chicken and maybe the rice in your oven, you will be surprised how easy it makes meal preparation when you don’t have to stand at the stove. When I began cooking with a steam oven back in 1999 I was blown away by how amazing potatoes tasted when cooked in steam, now whenever I read a recipe that instructs to boil water to cook potatoes, I turn on my steam oven and get amazing results. Check out my next post to learn more. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Convection for Fabulous Fish Tacos

    If you are a fan of quick easy-to-prepare meals, then fish tacos should definitely be in your meal rotation and of course, there are multiple options for preparing fish using your Convection or Steam oven. In addition to fish, you could also consider shrimp or even a little sliced lobster tail for your tacos then the only decision will be, to roast, broil, or steam roast or steam the fish or shellfish. If you have some shredded cabbage slaw, sliced avocado, and a side of black beans on hand as well as some stone-ground corn tortillas you be able to pull a great meal together in no time at all. Best Convection Modes to Cook Fish Many electric ovens feature the option to roast, bake and broil in combination with Convection which is a great benefit because the circulating convection heat helps retain moisture in the food and an added benefit is that you can cook other foods at the same time. When cooking fish for tacos you have several options to choose from. Convection Roast or Bake mode 350 - 375F° When roasting fish at a high temperature in Convection first brush the fish with oil or mayonnaise, the fish will remain succulent with light crisping on the outside. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish 6 - 8 minutes for thinner cuts and 10 - 12 minutes for thick cuts. Low-Temperature Convection Roast or Bake mode 300F° Searing fish in a pan on one side to form a crisp crust and then placing the pan in the oven to finish cooking at a low temperature is one of the best ways to cook fish. In this preparation, you can achieve a really crisp crust and very, tender flaky fish. The time in the oven will depend on the thickness of the fish. Convection Broil mode When broiling fish or shellfish for tacos, be sure to brush the fish with a heat-tolerant oil and arrange the racks so that the fish will be close to the top heating element. In this mode, intense heat is directed at the food which adds great flavor, and the cooking time will be faster. Prior to broiling, the seafood can be cubed and tossed before seasoning and coated with oil ready to go straight into the waiting taco. Remember when broiling a long preheat time is not necessary and always broil with the door closed. When broiling I recommend turning on your overhead ventilation before heating the oven to help direct smoke and vapors out of the kitchen area. How to Cook Fish in the Steam Oven for Fish Tacos If you have a Steam oven and are interested in other options for cooking fish and shellfish for tacos, here are some guidelines. Steam Mode When steaming fish and shellfish in the steam oven, use the solid oven pan with a little water and some lemon slices so in effect the fish or shellfish are being poached. The cooking time will be fairly short depending on the thickness of the fish but usually around 5 minutes. Steam Roasting Roasting in a Steam oven uses a combination of great cooking tools. Convection keeps the food moist while steam inhibits the cellular breakdown of the food, so the results are not only healthy but also full of flavor. There are food trends that come and food trends that go but traditional recipes like Arroz con Pollo remain constant favorites and with good reason. In my next post, I will review some options for cooking this flavor-packed dish using a Convection or Steam oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Convection Speed Oven Cooking Eggs Florentine Breakfast Casserole

    Many years ago when I first started cooking with a Convection oven that had a Microwave option I focused a lot on items such as roasting chicken and baking potatoes in less time. However, cooking styles have changed over the years and I am finding a much broader use for my new Combi Convection Microwave oven and I am getting amazing results. I still prefer to use the Convection mode as much as possible; however, I have found it useful to occasionally use the microwave mode to cook some components of a recipe and at times, to add some microwave power to the Convection to speed up the cooking time. In this post, I will explain how I was able to put the oven to good use to prepare a delicious breakfast casserole. How to Cook a Breakfast Casserole in a Speed Oven Breakfast casseroles are relatively simple to prepare and there are endless combinations of ingredients that one can experiment with. The one drawback is the long cooking time required, which is usually around 40 minutes but looking through some microwave cookbooks from the 80’s I came across some inspiration to try cooking a breakfast casserole using the combination “Speed” mode as well as the microwave mode to cook some components of the casserole. In order to assemble this breakfast casserole, I first had to cook some spinach which took about a minute in microwave mode. Next, I had to cook some sliced mushrooms and also make the mushroom sauce and I was able to do this in one bowl, which made clean-up easier. Let's face it clean-up can be a big obstacle to cooking and when you only have to wash a few bowls that can go in the dishwasher it does make the process easier. Cooking a béchamel sauce in microwave mode is just amazing, no lumps, no scorched milk, and no saucepan to wash. So now that the components for the casserole were ready all I had to do was assemble it. I used some English muffins as the base for my casserole and topped them with some cheese and cooked spinach. Then I poured the mushroom sauce over everything and made indentations in the sauce into which I cracked eggs. Of course, you could also beat the eggs, and combine them with the spinach, mushroom sauce and pour the custard over the English muffins, in which case I would probably add a little more half-and-half or cream to the mixture for a silkier custard. Now the casserole goes back in the oven to cook the eggs and heat through. Since the oven features several cooking modes you have options for finishing the cooking. The casserole can be cooked in the microwave mode for 3 - 4 minutes until the eggs are set, or baked in convection at 350F for 15 minutes or baked in a combination of convection + microwave for 8 - 10 minutes. Is a Speed Oven a Good Choice? The aspect I liked best about preparing this recipe using my Speed oven was the ability to quickly cook the spinach and make the mushroom sauce using the microwave mode. I finished the cooking using the combination mode and was pleased with the results and the faster cooking time was a plus. This oven is still a novelty to me but I am getting great results with the cooking and overall am finding it's a great addition to my collection of Convection ovens. Small ovens cook differently to larger ovens and are great for quick everyday meals. Considering I can use the oven in microwave mode, convection or in the broil/toast mode or combine convection and broil with the microwave mode for speed cooking, I would say this oven is a great addition to any kitchen. Like all appliances there is a bit of a learning curve but the different cooking tools really can aid in meal preparation. Fish Tacos make an amazing meal and with a variety of ovens with different cooking options there are several options for preparing fish or shellfish tacos which I will review in my next Blog Post. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Vegetable Gratins and Casseroles The Perfect Side Dish for Entertaining

    When I began teaching Convection and Steam cooking 23 years ago, I always roasted a tray of seasonal vegetables alongside meat, fish, or poultry to demonstrate how to use Convection and also the benefits of cooking with Convection. Without fail, at every class, someone would comment on the impressive flavor and texture of the vegetables. In fact, I heard from many people how they had given up eating certain vegetables until they tasted them cooked in Convection. While roasted vegetables are a great accompaniment for easy oven meals, vegetable gratins, and casseroles are ideal for special occasion meals or buffets especially since multiple dishes can be baked in Convection at one time. Convection and Steam Oven Tools for Preparing Vegetable Gratins Vegetable gratins do require advance preparation however there are ways you can use your Convection and Steam ovens to simplify preparation. Here are a few suggestions and tips for some of our favorite vegetable gratins. Eggplant Casserole with Peppers, Olives, and Anchovies This recipe from the Mediterranean makes good use of foods that are in abundance during the summer months and is delicious served alongside roast lamb or grilled fish. Roasting the peppers is an essential step that can be easily done in the oven. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with foil, shiny side down, cut the peppers in half length-wise, and remove the seeds. Set the oven in the Broil mode at 475℉ or Hi and cook with the door closed until the skin is blackened, approximately 8 - 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and cover the peppers with a sheet of paper towels, this will help sweat off the skin. As the peppers sit they will soften and pull away from the skin making it very easy for you to remove the charred skin. White Bean Casserole with Grilled Artichokes and Olives If you are looking for ways to incorporate more beans into your diet then this easy recipe is definitely worth trying. The white beans are pretty much a blank canvas that works well with the stronger flavors of the added vegetables and sun-dried tomatoes or roasted peppers could be added in for more color and flavor. When baking a casserole with beans, be sure to add some chicken stock so the beans don’t absorb all the liquid and dry out. Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin Vegetables baked in a creamy cheese sauce are always a hit and this recipe can actually come together very quickly by steaming the broccoli and cauliflower together in the Steam oven. Remember if you have a Steam oven, anytime a recipe says to boil water to cook a vegetable, just turn on your Steam oven to the steam setting. Tips for Baking Casseroles in Convection Even though you can cook multiple foods at one time in Convection it’s important to plan the cooking so that the temperatures are compatible. For example when roasting meats, ideally begin with a high temperature then add the casserole when the temperature has been reduced. Also, take into account the timing, and remember that the meat will need to rest before carving. Some casseroles may require being covered with foil for part of the baking time to ensure the food cooks without drying out however when baking casseroles in a Steam oven, they do not need to be covered. One of the best features of Convection cooking is the ability to cook multiple foods at one time without having to change the rack positions for even cooking but remember when cooking a Convection meal, the first step is to arrange the oven racks to accommodate the food before you heat the oven. Breakfast casseroles are wonderful for entertaining but they do have a long cooking time and in my next post I will review an option for speeding up the cooking using a Convection + Microwave Speed oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Bake Rustic Fruit Tart in Convection

    Pies are a popular way to make good use of a surplus of fruit but they can be long in baking and a little arduous to prepare. A rustic fruit tart on the other hand is one of the easiest desserts to make and can be made year-round with seasonal fruits. The pastry crust requires only 4 ingredients and can be mixed by hand or in a food processor however, like all pastry it will benefit from a good chill prior to rolling out and baking. What is the Best Oven Mode for Baking Rustic Tarts? While the Bake mode is traditionally used for baking both pies and tarts, the circulating heat of the Convection Bake mode results in a lighter flakier crust. As always it’s important to think about how a mode will benefit the item you are cooking. For example, even though fruit-filled pies and fruit tarts both have a pastry crust they are not baked the same way or at the same temperature. Pies with a generous amount of filling are baked in a pie dish at a higher temperature, while rustic tarts with a light topping of fruit are baked on a flat cookie sheet at a slightly lower temperature. Recipes for both pies and tarts always instruct that the baking should be done on a rack placed low in the oven close to the bottom heating element to ensure the pastry bakes through. When baking in a gas oven or an electric oven with an exposed heating element, baking a tart on rack position 2 (counting up from the bottom) is recommended to avoid burning the bottom of the tart. However, when baking in an electric oven with a concealed bottom heating element, rack position 1 where the tart is closer to the bottom heating element will provide the best results. Is the Type of Pan I Bake on Important? The best type of pan for baking a rustic fruit tart is a flat cookie sheet, however, you can also use a shallow-rimmed baking sheet or even a round pizza pan. If you have an oven baking stone, you can assemble the tart on a piece of parchment paper resting on a pizza peel and transfer it carefully to the heated stone for baking. When baking in Convection never use a cushion-air baking pan as those pans were designed to be used in the traditional Bake mode. Another thing to consider is the color of the pan, very dark pans can contribute to a good crust but they also cook faster than lighter-colored baking pans so setting the timer a little in advance of the recipe time is recommended. Most important is of course to always reduce the recipe temperature by 25F when baking in Convection to avoid overcooking the edges. You will find several recipes for fruit tarts on the website, a Strawberry Rhubarb tart, that is perfect for spring, a Rustic Strawberry Tart with a Vegan Crust that is perfect for non-dairy eaters, as well as a wonderful Apricot Pistachio tart made with dried Blenheim apricots. Once you have mastered making the pastry and baking a galette or rustic tart you can bake these year-round varying the fruit for each season. In my next Blog Post, I will cover the always popular method of baking risotto in the Steam oven, and don’t despair if you don’t have one because risotto can also successfully be baked in a Convection oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Cooking Shrimp and Salmon, Sous Vide Style in a Steam Oven

    Most innovations we see in appliances today originated in professional food service as chefs developed different cooking methods to ensure precise consistent results. It didn't take long for cooking in the sous vide style to became popular with home chefs because of the spectacular results that could be achieved when foods were cooked at very low temperatures. The texture and enhanced flavor of foods cooked in the sous vide style highlights the fact that too much heat can destroy the texture and flavor of food. In other words, cooking at low temperatures can make you a star in the kitchen, because the food tastes so much better. Can All Steam Ovens Be Used to Cook Sous Vide? Successful sous vide cooking is dependent on precise temperature control so unless your steam oven has a mode specifically for sous vide, then it is not advisable to use the steam oven for sous vide cooking. Remember the manufacturer is conscious of your health and safety when providing information about cooking with an appliance so following the appliance use guidelines is important. Steam ovens and convection ovens can however be used to cook lean tender cuts of meat, fish, and poultry in a low-temperature range of 140F - 200F without vacuum sealing. If your oven is equipped with a meat probe you will achieve very accurate results similar to sous vide cooking, once the item has reached the desired internal temperature a quick sear over high heat or on the grill will finish the food to perfection. What are the Benefits of Cooking Shrimp and Salmon in Sous Vide? When foods are cooked sous vide you can add a marinade before vacuum sealing the bag to infuse the food with flavor, and it takes only 15 minutes to infuse food with flavor when vacuum sealing. Then of course there is the texture, because the food is not exposed to direct heat when cooked sous vide, there is less moisture loss, and the difference in the flavor is extraordinary. A steam oven is a remarkable oven to cook with, shrimp and salmon can be steamed or poached, roasted or broiled with steam, cooked at a low temperature, or in the sous vide mode so there are plenty of options for experimenting with the different methods. Even though shrimp and salmon are relatively quick cooking having the option to cook them sous vide allows you to create an exceptional meal for a special occasion that definitely compliments these more expensive foods. If you are planning an elaborate meal, items in vacuumed sealed bags or containers can be cooked simultaneously in the steam oven, however, the bags should not cover each other, and each one should lay flat on the oven trays. Safety and hygiene are crucial for successful sous vide cooking so be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations regarding storage and the final cooking step of foods cooked in sous vide. A meal that ends with a rustic fruit tart can almost make you think you are sitting under a grape arbor in Tuscany, and in my next post I will review tips for baking this simple but luscious dessert so you can transport yourself there. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Convection Microwave Speed Cooking With Great Results - Parmesan Crusted Chicken

    Speed ovens are a popular appliance choice because they have all the functionality of a microwave but they can also be used as a convection oven or a toaster oven. In addition, the microwave power can be combined with convection or broil for speed cooking. Some speed ovens have preset programs for speed cooking while others give you the option to choose from different microwave power levels to customize the combination of convection heat and microwave power. What are the Benefits of Cooking with Convection and Microwaves? Convection is a great heat source to cook with because the heated air circulates around the food cooking it evenly from the edge to the center. Because there is no direct heat coming from a baking element, there is less chance of food drying out when cooked in Convection. Adding a low to moderate level of microwave power simply speeds up the cooking and the results are impressive. Do I Need to Cover Foods Cooked in the Combination Mode? Covering food cooked in the microwave mode is recommended to help evenly distribute the heat and prevent food from drying out. Circulating Convection heat actually helps prevent food from drying out during cooking, and since the microwave power is relatively low covering the food is not required. How to Cook Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Breasts in the Speed Mode The benefits of Convection cooking really shine when it comes to cooking lean meats such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts. In this recipe, mustard mixed with olive oil and seasoning is spread over the chicken and then topped with grated Parmesan cheese, transforming the plain chicken into amazing. My Speed oven has a glass tray that is large enough to cook enough chicken and vegetables to feed four people, so for an easy one dish meal I added some sliced cauliflower and carrots tossed with olive oil to the tray to cook along with the chicken. I cooked the meal in the Convection mode at 375F (190C) with 360 watts of microwave power for 15 minutes. To give the chicken a golden finish and slightly caramelize the vegetables I finished the cooking in the Convection Broil mode at 425F (220C). The Gaggenau Speed oven I cook with does have some special features including the option to set a sequential operation. Setting a sequential operation allows me to program the cooking steps so the oven will automatically change the mode and temperature according to the time I had programed for each step. Be sure to check your user guide so you can take advantage of any special features that your oven has to support your cooking. Even though the cooking time is shorter with a little added microwave power, it’s very important to allow foods cooked in this mode to rest when they come out of the oven. Resting the food, allows the heat to even out and for the juices in meats to redistribute. The amazing ovens available nowadays provide many opportunities for exploring different cooking methods. Take shrimp for example, shrimp can be quickly poached, steamed or broiled in the Steam oven, or it can be vacuum sealed and cooked slowly in the sous vide mode and that's the method I will review in my next blog post. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Olive Oil Cake with Almonds and Orange

    If you are looking for a recipe for a light flavorful cake that works well for afternoon tea or to serve at a dinner party then I encourage you to give this cake a try. This recipe is loaded with great ingredients including, olive oil, and ground almonds, with some orange zest for added flavor. It is delicious served plain or with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche. In addition to the health benefits of baking with olive oil, you will find that using olive oil instead of butter also prevents baked items from going stale as quickly. How to Choose the Best Mode for Baking in a Convection Oven It always pays to be organized when cooking and assembling all the necessary ingredients for baking will prevent you from making mistakes such as forgetting to add an ingredient, I speak from experience. Now, the recipe will tell you to heat the oven to a specific temperature but if you have a Convection oven with multiple cooking modes you need first to select a cooking mode before you can heat the oven. Most recipes for baked items are tested using the Bake mode because the radiant heat in this mode has a drying effect on food. So if you begin with a wet batter the item will bake to a nice dry crumb; however, we have tested this cake using Convection as well as Bake and both turned out really well. What Adjustments Do I Need to Make When Baking in Convection? When you bake with radiant heat the heat is coming from the bottom heating element while the top element (in an electric oven) will cycle on and off to provide gentle top browning. Typically it’s best to place the oven rack in the center of the oven when baking in the Bake mode. Depending on the modes in your oven, when baking in Convection the heat may still be coming from the bottom and top heating elements, but the Convection fan will circulate the heat, cooking the food from the edge to the center for even results. In Convection, foods cook from the edge to the center so the important thing to remember when baking in a Convection mode is to reduce the recipe temperature by 25 degrees, so the food doesn’t overcook on the edge. Confusion about which mode to use can arise because some ovens have a Convection mode as well as a Convection Bake mode. You can learn all about your oven and the convection modes with the help of my videos. When you understand where the heat is coming from in each mode you will be able to choose the mode most suited to the type of food you are cooking. In the event that the results don't meet your expectations, it is easier to troubleshoot and understand what might have happened. In my experience baking issues often come down to choosing the right mode; adjusting the temperature for baking in Convection; adjusting the time if needed and choosing the correct rack position Tips for Baking Olive Oil Cake This recipe uses only a small amount of cake flour mixed with finely ground toasted almonds then the eggs and flavorings are whipped at high speed until tripled in volume. In order to whip the eggs as directed it’s best to use room-temperature eggs so plan accordingly. Mellow olive oil works best for this cake, we love to use California olive oil and for this recipe, we used Arbequina Extra Virgin olive oil and the flavor was perfect. I have recently been testing recipes in a Convection Microwave, Speed oven and in my next post I will share a recipe for an easy-to-prepare meal that worked really well using the different cooking modes in the oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Baked Pork Chops with Garlic Herb Stuffing

    Cooking pork loin chops can be challenging because, on the one hand, you want the chops to get nice and golden brown but at the same time you want the meat to remain tender and juicy. Preventing the chops from drying out while they cook through can be especially difficult but a combination of pan searing and cooking at a low temperature in Convection is one way to achieve great results. How to Cook Pork Chops So They Remain Tender and Juicy We need heat to cook food but too much heat can destroy food by robbing moisture from the food, and this is one of the reasons why methods for cooking foods at very low temperatures have become so popular. The sous vide method, for example, is a long slow process of cooking food at very low temperatures in a vacuum sealed bag. There is no moisture loss and any added seasoning or marinades create exceptional flavor, while the high heat sear at the end of the cooking creates the perfect finish. One method I have found that works well to keep lean tender cuts of pork from drying out is to sear the chops in an oven-proof skillet with some butter and oil. Butter is excellent for adding flavor and for creating a golden sear. Once the chops have been seared on each side, add 2 tablespoons of sherry or white wine to the pan and place the pan into the oven to finish cooking. The ideal mode is Convection or Convection Roast at 300 - 325 degrees, depending on how much of a hurry you are in. Depending on how thick the chops are they only need between 6 - 8 minutes in the oven to cook through. A Little Stuffing Adds Extra Flavor Another way to keep the pork juicy is to cut a pocket in the side and spread a garlic herb stuffing into the pocket. It only takes a few minutes and makes all the difference in terms of flavor. In this recipe I used garlic and fresh herbs, but you could also add in some sauteed mushrooms or leeks. Meats do cook best at room temperature so if the timing permits be sure to get them out of the refrigerator to lose the chill before cooking. Also, remember that once the chops come out of the oven remove them from the hot pan so they don’t continue to cook. Can I Cook Other Foods in the Oven at the Same Time? I am always in favor of making good use of the oven for cooking more than one item. The challenge here is that in order for the chops to remain juicy you need the oven temperature to be on the low side. However, you can begin roasting a medley of seasonal vegetables at 300 - 325F and they will cook through in approximately 20 - 30 minutes. Once the pork comes out of the oven, increase the oven temperature to 400 - 425F and finish cooking the vegetables with a blast of high heat so they caramelize on the edges. If cooking root vegetables, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, or potatoes they are best cut in ¼” thick slices to ensure they cook through. Place the tray of vegetables on the lower oven rack and when you add the pan with the pork chops to the oven place it on the middle rack in the oven. If you are looking to add a delicious easy-to-prepare cake to your dessert repertoire then check out my next post for making a citrus-scented olive oil almond cake, it's irresistible. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Convection Grilled Seafood Pasta with Shrimp, Salmon, and Linguica Sausage

    Grilled seafood pasta is a great “fast” pasta meal, there is very little prep involved, and the seafood cooks in less time than it takes to boil the pasta and heat the sauce. This recipe includes oven-broiled shrimp, mixed with cubed salmon, scallops, and chopped linguica sausage. If you don’t care to add sausage then mushrooms or broccoli florets would make a nice addition. Why Does My Oven Have a Broil and a Convection Broil Mode? If your oven has a Convection Broil and Broil mode you may wonder which mode will be best to use for this recipe. Broiling with Convection is ideal for broiling thicker cuts of meat, poultry, or fish as the circulating heat will evenly cook the food and help offset the drying effect of the powerful direct heat from the Broil element. The Broil mode is ideal for cooking small quick-cooking cuts of meat, seafood, and vegetables as the drier heat is perfect for foods that have a higher water content, especially when broiling a combination of seafood as in this recipe. Tips for Safe Oven Broiling When it comes to broiling, be sure to arrange the oven racks before you turn on the oven so that you have a rack placed close to the top of the oven. Because broiling is done at high temperatures for a short period of time, heating in this mode is usually fairly accelerated, so a long preheat time is not necessary. After all, you are not heating the whole oven you are just bringing the heating element to temperature, so it can sear the food you place in the oven. If you have a gas oven with a gas infra-red broiler you can place the seafood in the oven as soon as the broil element has ignited because it will be cranking out heat immediately. Remember the oven door must stay closed when you are broiling, so the heat doesn’t damage the oven electronics. Even if you have a gas oven with no electronics, keeping the door closed is recommended. If you are concerned about smoke or vapors escaping into the room when you open the oven door then turn on your overhead ventilation before you turn on the oven to keep the kitchen air clean. For safety when you are broiling, be sure to designate a landing space for the hot pan when it comes out of the oven. Easy Grilled Seafood Pasta This entire recipe can be prepared in less than 15 minutes. All you have to do is boil the water for the pasta and cook it as directed, heat the oven, and broil the seafood. The pasta can be tossed with a sauce or with some olive oil and topped with broiled seafood. If you are lining the pan with foil for easy clean-up it’s recommended to put the foil shiny side down. Some freshly grated Parmesan and a garnish of chopped parsley will add the final flourish. If you love the idea of slowly cooking corned beef to enjoy with steamed potatoes, carrots, and cabbage or slice for hot sandwiches, or to make a great corned beef hash then check out my next post and learn how to cook corned beef to perfection in your Steam oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

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