Chef, author and cooking show host Ina Garten is stopping by the TODAY kitchen to share expert tips, pro techniques and delicious recipes from her new book "Cook Like a Pro: Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks." She shows us how to make spicy scallop ceviche, roasted acorn squash, cheesy cauliflower toasts, citrusy tri-color salad and roasted chicken with olives and prunes.
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Ina's Top Cooking Tips:
1. For flavor without overwhelming heat, just use the flesh of the jalapeño. Cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and ribs before mincing. The oils will get on your hands; be sure to wash them afterward!
When making ceviche, the quality of the scallops makes all the difference, so be sure to buy fresh (not frozen) scallops. There is no cooking involved; the raw scallops will "cook" in the lime juice in just one hour (less time and the scallops will be too raw; more time and they'll get mushy). When scallops are in season, the combination of the briny scallops, citrusy lime juice and all those fresh vegetables make this a great appetizer.
2. To peel a lot of garlic quickly, separate the cloves and blanch them in boiling water for 15-30 seconds, depending on the size of the cloves — the peel slips right off.
Nora Ephron once commented that in the 1980s whenever you went to a dinner party in New York City, everyone served Chicken Marbella, from The Silver Palate Cookbook. This chicken is marinated with prunes, olives, capers and a stunning amount of garlic. There’s a reason it was so popular; it’s full of big flavors and is so easy to make. I revisited the old recipe, tweaking the flavors a little, and it’s better than ever!
3. For a more professional peeled citrus fruit, slice off the top and bottom, stand it upright on the board, and remove the peel by cutting along the contour of the fruit, making sure to remove all the white pith.
This is a simple Italian salad with really interesting ingredients: radicchio, endive, arugula, oranges, olives and a lemon vinaigrette. It’s a great winter salad to serve with a roast chicken.
4. Always cut cauliflower from the step end, not the top. You'll keep the florets intact and avoid getting cauliflower crumbles all over your counter.
Cauliflower is, in my opinion, a highly underappreciated vegetable. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of its flavor. Lots of Gruyère and prosciutto add taste and texture.
5. Acorn squash is hard to cut. To halve a whole squash, plunge the blade of a large chef's knife into the side of the squash as far as it will go. Holding the handle of the knife, bang the squash (with the knife in it) on the board until the blade cuts all the way through.
When I was growing up, my mother served a lot of canned vegetables, but the one thing she always made from scratch was acorn squash, which she roasted with butter and maple syrup. The sweet squash filled with a big puddle of melted butter and sweet syrup is so irresistible!