1. Alcatra Means “Rump” in Portuguese: While beef rump (or round) is traditionally used in alcatra recipes, we found that long-cut, boneless shanks actually worked best because they allowed us to make a stew with larger chunks of beef, which made for a more tender, juicier stew.
2. The Reason You Cry When You Cut Onions: When you rupture the cells inside an onion, an enzyme called alliinase is released. The alliinase reacts with a compound to form propanethial-s-oxide, also known as PSO (this is what makes your eyes tear up when you slice onions). When you cook the onions for a long time, the PSO slowly converts to a meaty-tasting compound that is water soluble. This adds even more meaty depth to our stew.
3. The Many Problems with Store-Bought Pesto: Some brands leave too many key ingredients out of their pesto (What is pesto without garlic?!); some brands add too many unnecessary ingredients (including citric acid and lactic acid); and some brands replace key ingredients, like pine nuts, with non-traditional ingredients, like cashews. Despite this pesto minefield, we still found one that was head and shoulders above the rest.
4. Be Sure to Rinse Quinoa Before You Cook It: You’ll be able to find pre-washed quinoa at most grocery stores, but if you can’t, you’re going to want to rinse your quinoa under the tap. Quinoa is coated with a chemical compound called saponin—if you don’t rinse it away, you’ll have a bitter bite on your hands.
5. Quick Queso Fresco Substitution: Can’t find queso fresco at the grocery store? Not to worry—you can swap in some feta in its place.
Quote of the Week: “It’s hopelessly weak and puny.” —gadget expert Lisa McManus on the Norpro Salad Dressing Sauce Mixer
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