GeezerGourmet.com seeks to foster a renewed
interest in home culinary arts among experienced home cooks
The Geezer Gourmet(go here for brief
biography) caters to clientele who have life-long experiences
in home cooking and now, as empty nesters
and retirees, have the time to renew their love of good food
and its preparation. The Geezer Gourmet assumes that
you routinely cook for one
or two people; eat out quite often; still like to entertain
and are experienced at it; have adequately equipped kitchens;
and enjoy life and good health.
If you have some of the above attributes but are not a
geezer nor even approaching pre-geezerhood, thank your parents
for that, press on regardless, and welcome.
This is not a Web site for food phobic's or wellness hypochondriacs
Sorry bout that
- Been side tracked for two months but I'm back ...
In the interval:
Ordered a fine new santoku knife from Chubo in Japan only
to receive the wrong knife due to a barcode switch at
It got worse: the knife I ordered is out of stock. So,
I'm now waiting weeks for my knife and a return label
for their knife. Sigh . . .
Got a new washer and dryer, despite having the old ones
for only 33 years. Not too surprised that washer and dryer
design has come a ways over the years. These units (Maytag)
have more settings than my car. Even a steam cycle. Performance
is remarkably better. Four chef's jackets came out super
white and wrinkle free. That would have been nice back
in the day when I washed and ironed three a week.
The real news is that after much research I've ordered
a Musui Kamado by Vermicular. Vermicular is a Japanese
family forgery that has been in business for generations.
For the last five years or so, they have been making cast
iron cooking pots for the local market: high quality,
precisely machined Dutch ovens. Most recently, they paired
their Dutch oven with an induction cradle and added sophisticated
timing and heating options. It's a crock pot-slow cooker
on steroids, as it were, a bit higher end than even the
All-Clad since it's cast iron and employs an induction
heating element. Vermicular is now marketing in the US.
Reviews are mixed with the most critical (by Wired) the
least knowledgeable. I'm not sure it's worth the price
but I love cast iron, use my Dutch ovens frequently and
I want to experience induction heating. We'll see when
it gets here. . .
Industrial Art Tools for
I've had a thing about common objects that are designed
and executed at such a high creative level and with such
skill that they rise to the level of industrial art. An
excellent example are these forged titanium chopsticks by
Jon Christensen. They are hand hammered, twisted and textured--no
two are alike. They are very comfortable in the hand and
quite light since they're made of titanium. The tips are
matte finished to hold food better. There is nothing common
about these common objects. They are the very definition
of beauty and function; I had to have them. I use chopsticks
often for cooking, food placement and for eating hearty
shrimp noodle soups and other Asian dishes.
They can be found at eatingtools.com, when in stock.
An Ancient Product
The Netflix documentary "Salt Fat Acid Heat"
with Samin Nosrat follows the theme of her outstanding cookbook,
reviewed below. In the first episode, Nosrat visits a site
on the tiny island of Kami-Kamagari located near Hiroshima,
Japan. There in 1984 archeologists discovered a salt making
pot dating back to the 3rd century. Intrigued, some islanders
set about to re-produce the earliest known
sea salt using methods from centuries past. A company, Kamagari
Bussan, was established 1998. Even using more modern methods
of production, only 440 pounds of Amabito-No-Moshio
is produced each year. The process involves evaporating
sea water, drying seaweed on the beach, infusing the water
with the seaweed and then cooking the salt mass in large
pots over an open fire.
Salt is salt; it's just sodium chloride. But the saltiness
of the crystals varies greatly, so too their size, touch
and feel (read the book). This salt has a beige color and
a bright saltiness with notes of minerals, which are said
to include calcium, potassium and magnesium. What is truly
unique about Moshio is its fine grain--almost ash-like.
Indeed Moshio is sometimes referred to as salt-ash. I really
I've been into salt and its various shapes and intensities
for decades. Of the four salts I use, Maldon and smoked
have large flake crystals that are less intense--both great
for salads and for garnishing. Morton Sea Salt in fine grain
and quite intense for everyday seasoning. Mushio is very
fine grain and very intense--for fish, shellfish and meat,
Not for salads. Where Mushio is really brilliant is on popcorn,
best salt ever Period! (BTW, popcorn too goes back a few
Morton, Maldon and smoked salts are readily available.
Mushio can be found on the Internet at www.chefshop.com
and other sites abroad.
A James Beard Award Cookbook
and a Netflix Docuseries
Just watched the Netflix four part documentary series featuring
the author and her book. Both educational as well as entertaining.
Samin Nosrat comes off as a great personality, insightful
culinary analyst and a good cook. Thus armed with the delightful
TV series, I looked forward reading the book. I was not
disappointed. . .
This is the best primer cookbook since The
Food Lab by J. Kenjiopez-Alt, published in
2015 and reviewed here. Both books won James Beard Award
recognition. Nosrat's magnum opus is less comprehensive
but more approachable. Her thesis is captured in the title
and her genius in the sub title "Mastering the Elements
of Good Cooking." A not so subtle take on Julia Child's
"Mastering The Art of French Cooking." If you
can master the use of salt, fat and acid and how to heat
them--you can cook. Simple as that, says Nosrat, and not
too far off, says I. My mantra for decades has been that
cooking is all about hard work and salt. This book endorsed
The opening chapter on salt is the best analysis of that
subject I"ve ever read. Indeed, read it twice! The
other chapters on fat, acid and heat are thorough and well
thought out. Strengthening the text and making the whole
tome pop are the numerous, colorful and whimsical tables,
graphs, illustrations and fold-outs. The recipes, while
not great in number, are well chosen and supportive of her
views on salt, fat and acid.
Reading this thing cover to cover left me with the view
that Samin Nostrat has created a significant contribution
to the culinary literature and a cookbook that will endure.
Forty years ago, I was blown away by James Beard's Theory
and Practice of Good Cooking. I still refer
to it and it is still in print. I think this book will enjoy
long years of readership. And Samin Nostrat may well earn
a place in the pantheon of great teaching chefs.
It's that good a book and she's that good an analyst/chef.
What to do With a Double
Thick Pork Chop--Two Ideas
Intuitively you know it has to be done 'low and slow.'
But on the grill or in a pan, it's going to char up and
dry out before it ever gets done inside.
So, moist heat is the way to go and that's called braising.
And that calls for a Dutch oven or the slow cooker, which
it so popular today.
1. Trim off any excess fat. Season the chop with salt and
pepper or a favorite spice that compliments pork
(I used a Spice House spice called Milwaukee Iron, which
is a Southwest flavored concoction.)
2. Brown the chop aggressively in a small pan.
3. Place the chop in a Dutch oven and pour in chicken broth
to a level about half way up the chop (no higher)..
4. Bring the chop and broth to boil on the stove top and
then cover and braise in a 325F oven for two hours, or set
the slow cooker to 325F and two hours.
5. Meanwhile, prep and season with S/P a few whole shallots
and a potato-skin on.
6. At the one hour mark, place the shallots and potato chunks
into the pot.
7. At the two hour mark, fork test for doneness and tenderness
(If the chop you bought is high quality, it should be tender
8. Remove the chop and veggies to a warm place.
9. In the Dutch oven or in a heavy sauce pan, bring the
braising liquid to boil and reduce to sauce thickness.
10. Serve all on a heated plate with the sauce over the
veggies and a little on top of the chop.
Here's another idea:
Using the same procedures as above, we have:
1. Trim off any excess fat. Season the chop liberally with
salt and pepper
2. Brown the chop aggressively in a small pan.
3. Place the chop in a Dutch oven and pour in chicken broth
to a level about half way up the chop (no higher).
4. Add two star anise--don't crush, just drop them in
5. Bring the chop and broth to boil on the stove top and
then cover and braise in a 325F oven for two hours, or set
the slow cooker to 325F and two hours.
6. Meanwhile, dice up a fresh pineapple
7. At the one hour mark, remove the star anise and place
pineapple chunks into the pot.
8. At the two hour mark, fork test for doneness and tenderness
(If the chop you bought is high quality, it should be tender
9. Remove the chop and pineapple to a warm place.
10. In the Dutch oven or in a heavy sauce pan, bring the
braising liquid to boil and reduce to sauce thickness.
11. Serve all on a heated plate with the sauce over the
pineapple and a little on top of the chop.
A New Thermapen
My old gray Thermapen, by Thermoworks.com, is getting unreliable
after about twenty years so I got a new one. They still
cost $99 and remain the best thermometer on the market.
Included in their user's guide is a very good table of temperatures.
Good because it acknowledges that USDA temps are high and
not followed in most professional kitchens, especially when
cooking beef, veal and lamb. However, USDA's target temperature
of 160-165F is followed in the preparation of ground meat,
poultry and egg products.
An Ergonomically Correct
Ice Cream Scoop For Geezers
Called The Midnight Scoop, it is designed to be held at
the end of the curved handle, enabling the palm of the hand,
with the wrist straight, to scoop ice cream by pushing it
It takes a little practice but the palm/elbow push motion
is stronger, if not more efficient, than the wrist twist
motion especially against hard ice cream. The inventor boasts
that he spent countless midnights fiddling with countless
redesigns and prototypes--hence the name.
It's a very good tool, beautifully made, indestructible,
but pricey at $35 at Amazon. It fits right in with all the
gelato I'm making and writing about here these days.
Crab Cakes over Spinach Fettuccini
With Your Best EVOO
Crab meat is always in stock here for crab cakes, which
I prepare about once a month using my
tried and true recipe.
This time, instead of going the same old veggie base and
remoulade route, I boiled up fresh store-bought spinach
fettuccini, drained it, tossed it in some EVOO, plated it
and set it aside in the warming oven.
Then two crab cakes were sauteed. When done, the crab cakes
were placed onto the fettuccini, a little salt and pepper
were added and then the cakes and fettuccini were drizzled
with my best quality EVOO (not cooking EVOO).
This is a simple presentation that works very well since,
as I just now discovered, pasta, crab cakes and high quality
EVOO are flavor pals. (Note how the pasta shines with the
just drizzled EVOO.)
One could substitute clarified butter but I much prefer
I Finally Got A Self-Cooling
Ice Cream/Gelato Machine
Over the years, I've had a couple ice cream makers. They
both required freezing the make bowl in the freezer prior
to making ice cream.
They worked but never seemed to get the base cold enough
and they were good for only one batch.
Then along comes Breville with a new self cooling "Smart
Scoop" ice cream maker that renewed my interest in
making the stuff at home again.
After much research, I opted for the Lello Lussino 4080
Dessert Maker. The reviews are good for both machines, but
more favorable for the Lello as more rugged, with a steel
dasher (paddle), a bigger motor to turn it and more cooling
power. It makes 3/4 quart (700ml) of firm gelato in 18 minutes.
Wipe the bowl and it's ready to make another batch. It weighs
39 lbs and takes up a lot of space--and what a performer!
(I like gelato not ice cream. The difference is subtle--gelato
supposedly has less fat, less air, a lighter feel and a
less creamy taste.) So, next up was a quest for gelato recipes
and instructions on how best to make the stuff. First off
I found a British chef who has posted on the Net a number
of hugely informative "Ice Cream Science" articles
at icecreamscience.com Then onto two books, that in combination
provide all the theory and info needed to start making a
base gelato recipe to my liking. Four batches later, I have
it, at least for now.
So after eleven years, it's time to make Raineer Cherry
Gelato again. Stay tuned .
The literature does not clearly differentiate between base
ice cream and base gelato recipe ingredients. Sources checked
including the two books shown above use two parts whole
milk to one part heavy cream for gelato--but so do most
ice cream recipes! What is consistently different is that
ice cream calls for six egg yolks and gelato recipes call
Here are the gelato recipes I've done, so far.
They should work in any ice cream maker that can hold a
quart of base.
PLAIN BASE GELATO Rev II
Yield: about 800 ml (.85 quart)
2C 2% milk (see note)
1 C heavy cream
33 grams light corn syrup
1/4t double strength pure vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
2/3 C sugar
20 grams tapioca starch
1. In two heavy sauce pans:
a. Combine milk, cream, syrup and vanilla extract, heat
and stir over medium heat to 170F
as tiny bubbles start to form near the edges
b. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks sugar and starch to pale
2. Temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly pouring in the
hot milk while
3. Place the tempered base over medium heat, stir and heat
(not more) as the base now makes a nice spoon trace
4 . Cool thoroughly for at least 8 hours until container's
exterior reads as cool as others in the fridge (about 37F)
For the gelato:
5 . Start the Lillo and pre-cool it for 20 minutes (dasher
6. Remove the base custard from the fridge and pulse it
with a stick blender to break up eggy clusters and to smooth
it all out
7 . Start dasher rotation and pour in 700 to 800 ml of the
base (about 3/4 quart)
8 . Churn for 17 minutes (on average). Temp should reach
9. At the 15 minute point, add chocolate, nuts, fruit, etc.
10. When clearly frozen and pulling away from the bowl,
stop machine and scoop out gelato into a cooled container
1. Books call for whole milk. My tests favor 2% as having
less fat with no
difference in feel or taste.
2. Morano favors adding starch and syrup as thickeners and
as an anti-ice
crystallization. I concur.
3. Ciao Bella favors straining the base before cooling.
I prefer using the stick blander, which smoothes it out
without losing custard to the strainer
4. The Lillo works best with 800 to 900 ml of custard--leaving
nuts and such (BTW, 946.35 ml = 1 quart).
Plain Base Gelato
40 grams pistachio paste. See note.
1/2 C pistachios, roughly chopped
1. Work the pistachio paste into the egg yolk mixture at
Step 2b of the Plain
Base Gelato recipe.
2. Home made pistachio base is grainy, so stop and carefully
use a stick blender (or whisk) in the pot to puree the base
while it's heating to 185F.
2. Do not strain this base
3. Add the chopped pistachios at the 15 minute churning
Note: Make pistachio paste in the Vitamix
by processing 1C of whole pistachios with 2 teaspoons of
peanut oil. Process, pulse, stop and stir at slow speed.
You can also buy the stuff on the Net.
MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP
Plain Base Gelato
3 drops peppermint oil. See note
100 grams Trader Joe's 73% Dark Chocolate (one bar), chopped
1. Work the peppermint oil into the egg yolk mixture at
Step 2b of
the Plain Base Gelato recipe 2. Add the chopped chocolate
at the 15 minute churning mark
Note: Oils are four times stronger than extracts and are
VINEGAR BASED BARBEQUE SAUCES
I've come to the conclusion that there's not much difference
in the taste and utility of smoky barbeque sauce, save for
varying viscosity, spiciness, heat and price. The smoke
is always dominant.
Folks in North Carolina figured this out and came up with
vinegar based sauces without the smoke that masks the flavors.
One of the best, my new favorite, is Lillie's 'Carolina'
Western North Carolina Tomato Barbeque Sauce.
This stuff has dominant notes of vinegar, lime and tomato
in that order with complexities from turmeric, sugar, Worcestershire
Sauce, some mustard and spices. The result is a complex
tasty sauce: a teaspoon of this is really yummy. They make
another vinegar based sauce with mustard, with notes of
lime, turmeric and hot paprika. It's outrageous on wild
salmon! About $7.00 a bottle and worth it. They are outragiously
A Cup of This and a Cup of
I like outmeal in my cookies and most of the recipes on
this site call for it. The rest of the stuff that goes in
is largely determined
by what's in the pantry, one cup at a time
This time, the results are worth bragging about. So here's
. . .
Oatmeal, Pistachio, Coconut Cookies with a Touch
(Yield: 2 dozen cookies)
See Abbreviations, if needed
· ½ lb (2 sticks) butter, ambient
· 1 C light brown sugar
· 1 C sugar
· 1/2 t pure lemon oil or the zest of
· 2 eggs, ambient temperature
· 2 C AP flour, sifted
· Pinch of salt
· 1 t baking powder
· 1 C rolled oats
· 1 C pistachios, salted, lightly chopped
· 1 C unsweetened coconut flakes, lightly chopped
(unsweetened coconut is hard to find, try Whole Foods)
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder and
3. Cream together butter and sugars in KA
4. Add eggs
5. Add flour
6. Stir in oatmeal briefly, stir in the coconut briefly,
stir in the pastachios briefly
7. Remove KAB and finish dough by hand with large spatula
8. Place in fridge for about 30 minutes to stiffen the dough
9. Scoop cooled dough with 2T scoop (#36) and place
well apart on SP
with super parchment
10. Insert two pistachio nuts atop of each mound of cookie
11. Bake for about 10 minutes (convection) or until
edges just begin to brown
9. Rack to cool
Note: Lately I've found that cooling the dough in the fridge
for a short period reduces dreaded cookie spread when baked.
Then And Now
First thing I did when receiving this book was dive into
the bibliography to look for David Embury's The
Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.
Embury's book was the first treatise on mixing good booze
into good drinks along with articulate commentary and theories
behind it all.
It has been the thoughtful mixologist's bible since it was
first published in 1948. It's been a reference for me since
my brother gave me a copy in 1958.
And there is was in the bibliography. What's more, opposite
the very first page was a photo of fourteen "Historic
Cocktail Books." Embury was second in the stack!
Described by Meehan as "the first theoretical book
"Hallelujah. With a proper start, this book promises
to be good."
Meehan's Bartender Manual is up for both James
Beard and IACP awards this year. And for good reasons.
First of all, the printers put together a thirteen pound
manual on heavy paper with a sturdy binding that should
survive being tossed about in backbar drawers across the
Meehan best describes his manual as ". . .layered :
bartending itself . . . the history of the american cocktail
. . . chapters on bar design, tools and techniques, service
All good stuff of broad interest. While bar design, service
and hospitality chapters are of primary interest to aspiring
professional bartenders. Indeed, they are Meehan's target
Namely, the rising (he hopes) cohort of career professional
bartenders. This perspective gives Meehan's work here unique
relevance and gravitas.
For them and the rest of us, the book includes about one
hundred recipes each with insightful information on the
origin of the drink, the 'logic'
behind why it works, and 'hacks' for the "curious bartender."
The result is that each recipe stands alone with highly
substantive commentary that
reflects the author's research, his years of experience
and, above all, his deep understanding, appreciation and
respect for good booze.
This manual is a major contribution to the trade and its
literature. A must-have reference for aspiring professionals
tending bar and amateurs too.
Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks
has been in print for most of seventy years. So too will
Meehan's Bartender Manual be around
for a long long time.
This is Really Good Salsa
I always have a salsa in the fridge for chips and, when
it gets a little old, for red sauce starter for a pasta
dish. The local source for fresh salsa is unreliable.
It's sometimes available, sometimes too hot and sometimes
too watery and too hot. So onto the bottled stuff. Chip
makers offer salsas and then there is always Pace's.
They're OK but not remarkable. So, in desperation, I Googled
"best salsas." There I found a site that taste
tested a dozen salsas, including the aforementioned.
They settled on "Salsa Divino" by Desert Pepper
as best in class. Desert Pepper is an outfit out of El Paso
that offers a full menu of salsas. A local store carries
their line but not the
Salsa Divino. So I ordered six bottles on the Net. It took
over three weeks and two vendors to finally get them.
Worth the wait! Salsa Divino is a medium thick chunky tomato
and green pepper salsa with more than mild heat. It has
a pronounced sharp tomato bouquet with strong hints of pepper
The only thing close to it, that I've tried, was a salsa
made by Blue Mountain, which is no longer available. About
$4.50 for a 16 oz bottle. Try it you'll like it!----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sunday Morning Service
For decades, every Sunday morning here starts out with
two pieces of Nueske's Pepper Coated Bacon and pancakes
with maple syrup or scramble eggs or sunny side eggs
or an omelet with toast and jelly--washed down with fresh
brewed coffee and the Washington Post. (Don't do waffles
much anymore as I like berries in the batter and
my All-Clad Waffle Maker doesn't.) Also for decades, I've
used a double-burner Le Creuset Calphalon smooth surface
griddle to do the bacon and then the pancakes, having
done a quick wipe to clear off the excess bacon fat while
leaving the griddle surface nicely oiled for the pancakes.
Nobody makes a smooth surface griddle anymore. They all
have grill ribs making them unsuitable for bacon, pancakes
or eggs. Weird, given all the trashing red meat gets today.
How do you make bacon, eggs or pancakes for a crowd without
a large smooth surface griddle?
AN INTERESTING INFUSED RICE
A recent article in the Washington Post lamenting the closing,
after some 40 years, of a local fine kitchen supply store,
made mention of one of the "exotic" items only
found there. It was an infused rice vinegar from Hong Kong
called Sakurauchi Sa. Never heard of the stuff. So of course
I had to try it out and of course I found it on Amazon and
ordered three bottles, which showed up two days later. (Maybe
that's the sad reason why small shops like this one can
no longer make a go of it.)
Sakurauchi Sa is a roasted rice vinegar infused with Mandarin
orange peel and extracts of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, peppercorn
and licorice. Caramel is added for color and thickness.
Wow, that's a lot of infusing! What's the result? Complexity.
The liquid is dark and thick like a good balsamic vinegar.
It's sweet but not cloying, The predominant tastes are cinnamon,
cloves and orange.
The after taste is with a slight astringency of vinegar.
Right off, I substituted it for rice vinegar in a classic
vinaigrette, which worked
great. Then, since someone left a quart of 'Saigon Cinnamon'
gelato herelast week, I drizzled some Sakurauchi Sa over
a couple scoops of the gelato. That was so good it suggests
that it would work on other ice creams. That's it so far,
but clearly Sakurauchi Sa
will work well wherever you use seasoned rice vinegar or
balsamic vinegar in salad dressings and as a drizzle over
salad leaves and pasta and as a dipping sauce. It's thick
enough to serve well as a glaze
and as a marinade over grilled or baked meat and poultry.
Soon, I will surely pour some in a pan and reduce it to
create a sauce for steak, burgers or pork chop.
More than a curiosity, Sakurauchi Sa is a versatile addition
to the pantry and may well become a staple. About $20 for
a big bottle.
AND QUITE SIMPLE
Veal Saltimbucca is a popular Italian dish done well
in high end restaurants, where menu prices can cover the
high cost of ingredients.
This is an easy dish to assemble and saute.
See abbreviations if needed
2 veal scaloppini slices per person
4-5 sprigs of fresh sage leaves
1 large slice of Prosciutto de Parma per veal slice
For the sauce: 1/3C white wine, 2-4T butter, 2T capers and
1/4C chopped prosciutto and 1T lemon juice ------------------------------------------------
1. Place the scaloppini slices onto a sheet of plastic wrap
and place another sheet on top
2. Pound the slices, with a tenderizing hammer, to significantly
3. Remove the top plastic wrap and dress each slice with
fresh sage leaves--since fresh sage is very strong, leave
some space between
4. Layer prosciutto slice over the sage
5. Cover again with plastic wrap and pound to seal the veal,
sage and proscuitto
6. Hold point
7. OO, heat skillet(s) to medium high and add EVOO
8. Add the veal, PROSCIUTTO SIDE DOWN, then quickly add
ground pepper to the veal top side
9. Cook no more than 45 seconds 10. Turn the veal over and
cook for about 2 minutes--that's all
11. Transfer the veal to a warm plate and keep warm
12. For the sauce: Deglaze one of the skillets with white
wine, reduce, then melt the butter, add the drained capers,
add the chopped prosciutto and lemon juice
13. Serve ham side down with the sauce
Roasted Game Hens Asian
I like Cornish Game Hens and
have one recipe here and another
related, here. I try to find
small ones but without much success even at the town's speciality
butcher. These were smaller than the supermarket variety,
but still too large for just one person. So, they're split
to serve 6
See abbreviations if needed
Yield: 6 servings
- 1/4 C WWV
- 2 T soy sauce
- 2 T honey
- 2 T peanut oil
- 9 cloves garlic (that's right!)
- 2 C chicken broth--low salt
- 2 t red chili pepper flakes
- 3 Cornish game hens, split with backbone removed
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. In a blender bowl, add the first six ingredients, blend
and set aside
3. Split the hens and then brown them well in oil in a
in series as space permits--this takes time to do right
4 . Arrange the browned hens in the Dutch oven and add
the sauce from the blender
5. Dust on the red chili pepper flakes
6. Roast uncovered in the oven for about 90 minutes until
the hens are very well done
7. When done, transfer the hens to a serving platter--see
photos--and keep warm
8. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce, leaving enough
sauce to serve 6
9. Pour the finished sauce into a gravy boat and keep
10. On order, serve the hens on heated plates over a bed
of rice pilaf and dress with
Next Dinner Party I'm Serving
Pasta Garnished With Fresh Pressed EVOO
Awhile back, the Wall Street Journal featured an article
about Mr. T.J. Robinson and his Fresh Pressed Olive Oil
Club. Robinson, an American, knows EVOO and EVOO producers--worldwide--know
Four times a year, club members receive three bottles (mild,
medium and bold) of the finest EVOO Robinson can find and
buy. The bottles come packaged with an effusive brochure
describing each selection,
how he found it, how it was processed and by whom. The brochure
is a fun read since the oil lives up to the hype.
According to Tom Mueller in his book ExtraVirginity
the "olive oil industry has been corrupt for a millennia
and still is . . .doctoring good oil with cheap oil to the
point that bad oil has driven out the good.
Mueller says that most consumers, even in the Med, "don't
know the real stuff when they taste it." Well, Robinson
is passionate about the real stuff. At $90 for three 8.5
oz. bottles every quarter, club members--including me--pay
willingly and eagerly wait for more. (The club's at freshpressedoliveoil.com.)
So here we have Fettuccini with piquant peppers, fresh parsley
and shrimp--garnished with the real stuff
1. Chop up a half cup of fresh parsley and set aside
2. Drain and dice about 6 piquant peppers ("Peppadew's")
and set aside
3. Peel and clean 16 large shrimp (11-15 count) and set
4. Grate about 1/3 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and set aside
5.. Bring 3 cups of chicken stock, beer or water to boil.
Place the shrimp in the boiling liquid,
cut the heat and steep, covered, for 2 minutes. Remove the
shrimp and set aside
6.Boil enough fettuccini for four, drain and set aside.
7.When ready, saute the parsley and peppers in EVOO briefly
over medium heat
8.Up the heat to high, add the pasta, shrimp, cheese and
some fresh ground pepper and toss well
9. Place portions into heated pasta bowls
10. Drizzle your best EVOO generously over the pasta and
A Wok of Many Uses
In Trader Joe's freezer section is a veggie package labeled
Fire Roasted Bell Pepper and Onions. They tout it as a "quick
fix for fajitas or sausage and peppers."
Indeed. it's pretty good. The veggies come through better
than most frozen veggies.
I most often thaw veggies like this and then stir fry them
in a little EVOO in a wok instead of a frying pan.
Reason? The wok heats up more quickly to very hot (+450F)
and the EVOO spreads more thinly on its bottom and up its
The result is a very quick and even heating of an already
Nothing new here, save that when the veggies were done,
I transferred them to a heated serving bowl and then stir
fried the wild salmon in a little more EVOO.
Today's consensus is that fish should be cooked over medium
heat while sitting in a pan or on the grill. I agree with
But "nothing sits in a wok." The whole idea of
the wok is to cook in motion at high heat.
To that end, the wok's design makes tossing, flipping and
stirring easier to learn and do than in a frying pan.
The salmon was done in about four minutes, in motion.
Here again is the 'operational sequence' for the wok:
The operational sequence for wok stir frying is as follows:
1) Preheat the wok dry to very hot.
2) Add some oil and swirl it about (carefully).
3) Add and roast the dry aromatics: spices, herbs and the
4) Push the aromatics up the side of the wok, add the protein(s)
and stir fry to about three-quarters done. Then transfer
the aromatics and proteins to a warm plate.
5) Add and heat more oil, add the veggies and stir fry to
about three-quarters done.
6) Return the aromatics and protein to the wok and then
drizzle in the liquid ingredients and remaining seasoning,
deglaze, BTB and stir fry until the protein is done and
the veggies are crisp.
7) Serve immediately on heated plates or in heated bowls.
c.f. Grace Young's Stir Frying To The Sky's Edge
SECOND THOUGHTS ON TARTER
SAUCE AND REMOULADE--THIN 'EM OUT
Rémoulade Sauce is a classic mayonnaise-based
sauce. It's great with crab cakes, soft shell crabs and
shrimp. But it is heavy, loaded with calories and fat and
sorta cloying. So I started cutting it with sour
cream, which has 1/3 the calories of mayo and is lighter
on the palette--about 4 parts mayo and 3 parts sour cream
will do it. The recipe is reprinted below.
Now I still find it too heavy and overbearing. So, of late,
I've been adding rice wine vinegar. Do the recipe, taste
and decide how you want to go. Then whisk in enough rice
wine vinegar to really thin out the sauce. All the flavors
that make the sauce great will still be there. In fact,
I find the capers and cornichons come through better without
being so mayo-clad.
Try it, you'll like it!
See abbreviations if needed
Yield: 8 servings
1. Mix all together, cover and refrigerate
- 1/2C mayonnaise
capers, drained and chopped
cornichon (or small gherkin) pickles, very finely diced
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh tarragon and anchovy paste
- pepper TT
- No salt (anchovy paste is loaded
- juice of
1/2 small lemon, not too much, taste and add
2. Serve at room temperature as a side for crab cakes
or other fish
A nicer and smoother sauce can be made more quickly using
a stick blender.
Hold the cornichons , blend the rest of the ingredients and
then add them.
TWICE BAKED POTATOES (revised
Sorta like mashed potatoes in their skins, but more texture
and flavor with bacon and cheese.
The extra effort make these potatoes a substantive side
dish that's fun to take apart and eat.
TWICE BAKED POTATOES
• 4 russet baking potatoes
• 5 oz shredded sharp cheddar
• 2/3 C sour cream
• 1/2 C milk (2% OK) or buttermilk, if you have it
• 4 T butter (ambient)
• 4 T spring onions or shallots, diced
• 1 clove (cube) garlic
• 2 t salt
• 1 t ground pepper
• 3 strips bacon lardons
1. Oil, dock and bake potatoes in the microwave with about
five 3minute bursts
or in the oven at 400F for one hour to fork tender. (If
microwaved, preheat oven to 275F)
2. Cut the bacon into 3/4" squares (lardons) and fry
to crisp and set aside
3 . When potatoes are cool, neatly cut off top quarter skin,
with serrated knife, scoop outo an SSB leaving ¼”
liner with shel4 . Return shells to oven to dry for 10 minutes,
and then set aside
5 . Add ingredients (except bacon and some reserved cheese
for topping) to
the SSB and mix well, then add potatoes and mix with large
spatula to chunky or smooth
6 . Taste for salt and pepper
7 . Restuff the shells, punch in the bacon, and top with
cheese (hold point)
8. On order, reheat the stuffed potatoes in the microwave
(better and quicker than the oven)
9. Optional: After Step 8, place all under the broiler to
the melt cheese and brown the potatoes a bit
Chinese Five Spice Chicken
Chinese Five Spice Powder, by Penseys Spices, is comprised
of cassia, cinnamon, star anise, ginger and cloves. It make
meat marinade with 2T of the spice, 2T honey, 1t of soy
sauce (only a splash), a generous cup of limeaide or orange
juice and S/P.
Here, chicken thighs were marinated in the fridge for about
four hours, then browned in EVOO in a Foster Cast Iron Skillet
with some funky fingerling potatoes and shallot halves and
then finished in a 375F oven until tender, about 45 minutes.
The marinade should be discarded but enough will cling to
the chicken to lend lots of flavor.
Sometimes Less Tastes
Better (revised to include White Balsamic Vinegar)
I've liked A1 sauce since I was a kid, but of late it tastes
overwhelming. Or maybe the steaks I'm eating now are better.
So too with Dat'l Do-It,
another favorite sauce that is flavorful but quite strong.
Barbecue sauce is another example of a potion too thick
and strong sometimes. Of course, too much
Wasabi Sauce packs too big a punch in the nose. So, rather
than delete these tried and true sauces, why not delute
them? Water works but not nearly
as well as Rice Vinegar or White Balsamic Vinegar. Pour
a serving of sauce into a ramakin and then add about a fourth
as much of either vinegar, or to purpose and taste. Stir
to mix and emulsify and you have a new sauce that compliments
I much prefer to serve sauces like these as a side rather
than pouring them on the plate or, good grief, over the
meat or fish entre.
Try it, this is really a good idea. You'll like the results.
Coq Au Vin
The long simmer is done. Chicken parts are now ready to
be removed from the Dutch oven and hand-pulled from the
Ready to serve with pearl onions, chanterelles and bacon
lardons, added just before serving
Coq au Vin is the first dish I prepared from Julia Child's
Mastering The Art of French Cooking, back in about 1971.
made it now and then (twice for 30 people), but not recently.
Its preparation, while not at all difficult--it's only a
stew--requires techniques and sequences that embody much
of what French
cooking in all about. Hence, I've added a lot of steps.
Dark meat is traditional, but some white meat is OK, see
Allow for two pieces of chicken per person plus two for
COQ AU VIN
• 18 Pieces of chicken legs (skin on) and thighs (skin
off), a breast too, OK
• mirepoix (by volume = 3 parts onion, 2 parts carrot,
1 part celery) start with 2 large onions, roughly cut (It's
all going to be discarded)
• BG, a satchel of parsely stems, bay leaf, pepper
corns and fresh thyme)
• 3 garlic cloves
• 2T flour
• 6T tomato paste
• 3C chicken stock or low sodium broth
• 1 bottle of red wine
• 4 strips of bacon, cut into lardons (3/4 inch bite
sized pieces) and fried to crisp
• 30 pearl onions, boiled in water for about 7 minutes
• 20 mushrooms, sauteed in EVOO for about 5 minutes
1. Season chicken parts with S/P
2. In a large Dutch oven (hereafter "pot"), saute
chicken parts in EVOO to brown and set aside
3. Pour out the excess chicken fat and then add more EVOO
4. Add the mirepoix, saute to brown over medium high heat,
5. About half way through, add the BG and garlic
6. When mirepoix is done, return chicken to the pot, add
the tomato paste, add the red wine and stir in
7. Then dust the whole mess with AP flour and stir in
8. With a flat edge plastic spatula, dig down to the bottom
of the pot and scrape it to loosen the good brown stuff
9. Give all a final stir, add stock to barely cover the
meat, BTB and then reduce heat to simmer
10. Cover the pot and simmer for about 100 minutes
11. Meanwhile, prepare the garnish:
• Fry bacon lardons to crisp and set aside in a secure
place as they tend to disappear if there's traffic in the
• Blanch the onions, peel, season and saute until
tender, and set aside
• Half the cleaned mushrooms and saute in EVOO until
tender, and set aside
12. When the chicken parts are very done, turn off the heat,
transfer the chicken parts to a working surface and let
cool a bit
13. By hand, pull the chicken meat from the bones and break
into large bite sized pieces (don't use a knife), and set
14. As the sauce is now cooled a bit, skim off any fat clinging
to the edges of the pot
15. First Taste: add some salt and pepper if the whole mess
16. Now strain the sauce to remove the veggies:
• With help, place a colander or China cap over a
bowl and pour all the contents of the pot into it
• With a large spoon or spatula, aggressively push
the pulp against the porous sides of the strainer to get
all the liquid through
• Discard the pulp and return the sauce to the pot
over medium heat
• If you doubt there is enough sauce, add some water
(NEVER add stock or wine to a near-finished sauce)
• Final Taste, adjust for S/P
17. When about ready to serve, add the meat and garnishes,
stir in, BTB, then reduce heat to medium
18. Serve over white rice (not pilaf). Good dinner rolls
Note: If you want a veggie, serve parsley potatoes or buttered
Last NIght's Repast
Crab cakes on salad.
Instead of the usual seasonings, I used two proprietory
spice combinations that together worked quite well.
The Spice House, in Milwaukee, has a Southwestern chili/peppers
spice called Milwaukee Iron. It's great for corn on the
cob and worked
well here in combination with Penseys' onion/shallot/garlic
combination called Fox Point, One half teaspoon of each
plus a generous pinch of
cayenne and I had a winner.
Made paella on Saturday after Thanksgiving as a tutorial
for a nephew in law who received a paella pan for his birthday.
The dish turned out tasting better than all earlier editions,
hence this revs ion of the old
See abbreviations, if necessary
• 8 cups chicken stock or low salt broth
• 3 cups water (reserved for Steps 10 and 12)
• 2 lbs monkfish or grouper, cut to serving size
• 24 raw medium shrimp, shelled
• 3/4 lb squid, cut crosswise for rings
• 14 chicken legs, grilled
• 4 links chorizo, hot Italian and/or marquez sausage,
• 2 onions, diced
• 5 garlic cloves, pureed
• 3 cups Bamba short grain Spanish rice (Arborio will
do, but . . .)
• big pinch saffron, hand rubbed
• 1 T sweet paprika
• 1 t smoked paprika
• 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
• 3 dozen mussels
• 2 oz white wine (for the mussels)
• 3/4 cup peas (frozen OK)
• 1.5 cup artichoke hearts (canned OK), drained, halved
• 2 red peppers, roasted, bite size, square cut, or
10 piquante peppers, diced
• 5 pickled lemons, deseeded, cut in eighths (if you
• ½ cup fresh parsley leaves (garnish)
1. Prepare separately fish, shrimp and squid, set aside,
• Sauté lightly S/P'd fish in EVOO
• Flash sauté squid rings over high heat, no
oil needed (I seasoned the squid with Chinese
Five Spice Powder)
• Boil the shrimp in beer or broth (don't over cook)
2. In another pan or on the grill, season and sauté
or grill chicken legs and
sausage, set aside
3. In paella pan, add 3T of EVOO and sweat onion and garlic
4. Add the rice and coat the grains
5. Add a cup of stock, then saffron, paprika and diced tomato
6 Add more stock to total about 8 cups
7. BTB, then reduce heat to medium and cook rice for about
12 minutes until rice tastes soft to the bite
and a spoon leaves a trace on the pan bottom (Don't proceed
until . . .)
8. Hold point (pre-heat oven to 400F)
9. OO, in another pot, cook mussels in 2 ozs white wine
and 2 ozs stock, covered until they open--a few minutes
10. On low heat on the stove top: (allow 10 minutes for
• stir in artichokes, peas, peppers, squid and sliced
• nicely arrange and push in shrimp, fish, chicken
• add those platter juices that taste good
• taste again for seasoning
• check dryness and add water as needed (not stock
at this point)
11. Bake uncovered at 400F for about 15 minutes
12. Remove from oven, check again for dryness
13. Add parsley garnish
14. Serve from the pan onto heated bowls
Hear Me now?
My old three event timer died, so I got a new one from
Oxo only to discover that the beeper was so weak I couldn't
hear it over the roar of the kitchen vent system--with or
without hearing aids. (I somehow missed the review complaints
regarding the weak volume beeper.) So, an Amazon search
came up with this single event timer from ThermoWorks, the
same people that make the ThermoPen.
It features four volume settings. Volume Three (as shown)
can be heard outside the kitchen and Volume Four will disrupt
a conversation anywhere in the house. It's made for commercial
kitchens and is suitably rugged. It also features a fold
out stand and magnetic mounts. I taped over the logo to
number it, as I need two for two events. About forty five
dollars. A very good tool.
Last Night's Repast
Sauteed fillet of Salmon on a bed of
Basmati Rice Pilaf and Spicy Brussels Sprouts.
I just noticed that my Basmati Rice Pilaf recipe was posted
in 2002. Basmati was hard to find then.
I've been doing Brussels Sprouts
with bacon for years and have grown tired of it. Still,
I like sprouts. So what's new here is Spicy Brussels Sprouts.
I am at a lose as to where I found the recipe that inspired
this recipe since there are a lot of them out there. I've
prepared them twice now to good
reviews and therefore plan on doing them for Thanksgiving.
Spicy Brussels Sprouts
See Abbreviations, if needed
For four, as a side
1. Select 12-15 small sprouts and pull off their outer
• refresh root stem
• cut a cross pattern on the root stem with a paring
knife (to help steam get in)
2. Steam for 11 minutes or pressure cook for 4 minutes,
3. Remove and shock in cold water
4. Drain, cut sprouts in half and hold
5. Combine 3T red wine vinegar, 2T maple syrup, 2 cloves
crushed and 1/2t red pepper flakes, crushed
4. Heat 2T EVOO in skillet, add combined mixture and cook
5. Add the halved sprouts to the mixture cut side down,
cook and stir until mixture glazes
6. S/P to taste, toss, then serve topped with sliced scallions
I've put off writing about sous vide for years becasue
the cost of the equipment needed was so high that the majority
of home cooks would pass it by. Now a sous vide "circulator"
can be had for $200 (down from $800 five years ago). There
are now even ways to get started in sous vide without a
circulator and without a vacuum sealer (the other gadget
needed and that has also come down to $100 from $300). J.
Kenji Lopez-Alt's The Food Lab,
reviewed below, has a whole section on sous vide without
a circulator or vacuum sealer. (I'm not convinced, but there
Sous vide is just another way of cooking--it doesn't replace
frying, broiling, braising or grilling. Sous vide ("under
vacuum") was invented in France by chefs in institutional
kitchens. It is a method of cooking whereby a product to
be cooked is 1) vacuum sealed in a pouch, 2) immersed into
a container of water heated and maintained precisely to
a set temperature, 3) cooked slowly in the water for a set
period of time, 4. removed from the pouch and browned, sauteed
or tossed briefly to improve its appearance before serving.
Why bother? Well, sous vide has some remarkable advantages.
1. Once you've established the desired temperature and time
for a sous vide dish, you or anyone else in the kitchen
can repeat it exactly every time with exactly the same results
every time. (For example, 10 seasoned-in-the-pouch filet
mignons or lamb chops can be cooked perfectly every time
without anxiety and without monitoring while cooking.) Some
folks have complained that this takes the art out of coooking.
2. Cooking sous vide produces textual qualities that cannot
be achieved with other cooking methods. (It is not possible,
for example, to grill or saute a lamb chop or T-bone to
medium rare and have it medium rare from edge to center
to bone. If the center is medium rare, the meat attached
to the bone will still be rare or near raw). At a restaurant,
I can cut into a steak or chop and tell if it was done sous
vide because it will have the same degree of doneness throughout.
3. Because food is vacuum sealed in a pouch, nutrients,
seasoning, fat and flavor do not escape as with other cooking
methods. Shrinkage is also significantly reduced when cooking
meats, fish and poultry, especially fish.
4. Set it and forget it. Put the food in the cooking
bath, set the alarm, leave it and tend to your guests. But
wait--there's more. When the alarm does go off you have
up to 20 minutes to retrieve the pouches without overcooking
Pictured here is a stock pot with the PolyScience Pro Circulator,
the only one on the market in 2011. Powerful and accurate
to 1/10 degree F, it works great. PolyScience and others
now offer circulators from $200 to $300.
I admire and appreciate the ease, convenience, consistency
and precision of sous vide. I've been doing sous vide since
Modernist Cuisine came out in
2011. There are now quite a few sous vide cookbooks available.
One coming out in November looks especially promising. Of
course, if you have Modernist Cuisine,
go there first, since they started it.
I'm comfortable with the method and through trial and error
have acquired some practical numbers. The list suggests,
as well, the kind of products I've been doing sous vide.
SOME SOUS VIDE NUMBERS
Eggs Pasteurized 134.5F for 2 hours (for Caesar salads)
Halibut, thick 132/27 min
Filet Mignon 135/45 min
Lamb Chops 140/45 min
Leeks, Carrots 185/50 min
New York Steak 138/45 min
Pork Chops 132/60 min
Pork Tenderloin 138/45 min
Rib Eye Steak 134/45 min
Veal Chops 140/50 min
Veal Shanks 185/4 hours
What's not to like? Well, Since you have suitable pots
or containers for a circulator, the minimum price for a
sous vide setup (circulator and vacuum sealer) comes to
about $300, down from $1100. Or try The Food
Lab sous vide method. Just think about it:
you could cook steaks or burgers sous vide for a crowd and
go near the stove top, but twice!
I Really Like my
New Vacuum Sealer
Way back in 2001, I sang the praises of the FoodSaver
vacuum sealer. I've been using it all these years, first
to vacuum seal food for storage, keep perishables like lettuce
fresh longer and more recently to vacuum seal meats and
veggies for sous vide. They are quite popular now. Costco
carries the FoodSaver. Yesterday, while processing half
steaks and lamb chops (from Costco) the unit failed to complete
its cycle, failed to unlock the lid and just sat there unblinking.
All attempts to revive it failed.
After a little thought, I concluded that I really do not
want to be without a vacuum sealer. Trying to load lamb
chops into a Zip Lock bag and then trying to get enough
air out of it to make it sink when dunked in
the sous vide tank doesn't work very well. Also, without
a vacuum seal, brown sugar is rock hard in a month, while
rice, orzo, spices and other dry stuff go stale quickly.
So, I want a new one.
FoodSaver and others of its type are known as suction or
external vacuum sealers. They feature a small vacuum chamber
that holds only the open lip of a proprietary plastic pouch,
which rests external to the machine. The machine then evacuates
air out of the external pouch into the machine's chamber
and then seals the pouch. This works fine. The external
vacuum sealers are small and portable. Some are even battery
powered for hunters and fishermen, while in the field. But
they have two shortcomings: the pouches are expensive and
the machine cannot process liquids or wet products very
well. Not that vacuum sealing soups is all important, but
rather that it takes experience and care to prevent blood
from raw meats and juices from raw fish from being sucked
into the chamber and from there to the pump.
There is another vacuum sealer technology. Along came the
idea to greatly enlarge the chamber inside the machine so
it can hold a whole pouch and its contents inside the machine.
Then, close the lid, draw a vacuum, seal the pouch to hold
its vacuum and then release the vacuum in the chamber. These
are called chamber vacuum sealers. Advantages over the external
suction vacuum sealers: pouches are cheap, it draws a better
vacuum, it can process soups and such, and if the chamber
and lid are deep enough, whole roasts and even canning jars.
The chamber vacuum seal technique is used throughout industry
to vacuum pack everything from clothing to spare parts to
smoked salmon and soy sauce packs. Shortcomings of the chamber
machine for home use are its large size and initial cost.
Reviews of FoodSaver machines, now owned by a different
company and manufactured elsewhere, are OK but less favorable
than years back. Others of its type have better reviews
but share the same shortcomings and have prices approaching
chamber vacuum sealers that now are designed and priced
for home and delicatessen use.
So, here we have the VacMaster VP 112s Chamber
It's too big (24" deep x 14 wide x 9 high) for the
kitchen pantry, where the FoodSaver resided, but fits comfortably
in the utility room next to the second fridge. The VacMaster
VP112s is a beautifully designed and constructed machine.
Its performance is flat out impressive. If you are new to
this and interested, first look hard at the external suction
machines. If you've worn one of them out, or you want something
better, you'll be far happier if you upgrade to a chamber
ETERNIITY HAM SPREAD
An advanced thinker described eternity as a
couple with a ham.
Even buying a quarter ham leaves one dining alone with thoughts
of how to use it up. Fortunately, I like sandwich spreads
and often prepare chicken, egg or tuna to pile on good bread
with lettuce. Not so much with ham spread. But I got an
urging, bought a quarter ham, only to discover that I could
not find a recipe that came close to what I had in mind.
So here we have Eternity Ham Spread:
Eternity Ham Spread
9 oz. (1.5C) smoked ham, roughly dice with knife and then
pulse in an FP (Cuisinart) to a medium cut (not fine or
3 T mayo, maybe more
2 T Dijon mustard
6 squirts Tennessee Sunshine or other medium hot pepper
1.5 clove garlic, pureed
2 cloves, broken up and crushed with a heavy knife
1/2 t paprika
1/4 C shallot, finely diced
5 cornichon or gherkin pickles (about 2.5 T), finely diced
2 T red or green bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 light shakes of cayenne, TT
1. Process the diced ham and set aside
2. In a bowl, mix together all the other ingredients
3. Add the ham and mix thoroughly
4. Add more mayo if too dry
5. Taste, then hold in fridge
An Enhanced Flavoring
Chilled Corn and Crab Soup
See Abbreviations, if needed
7 ears of fresh corn
4 T butter
2 shallots, sliced
2 C whole milk
2 t salt
5 grinds of pepper corn
1 T lemon juice
1 T EVOO
8 oz. crabmeat
5 sprigs of fresh chives for garnish, sliced into 1/2"
1. Husk the corn and cut off the kernels from each cob with
a sharp paring knife
2. In a large pot, melt the butter and sweat the shallots
3. Add the corn kernels to the pot, add the milk, warer
and S/P, then add the corn cobs (as many as can fit)
4. BTB and then simmer the whole mess until the corn is
tender, about 12 minutes (see photo)
5. With sturdy tongs, lift out each cob, rake it down with
the back side of your paring knife
and then discard each
6. With a slotted spoon, scoop out 1/3 C of the corn and
shallots and set aside for the garnish
7. Puree the hot soup in a food processor or blender and
strain if the kernels in the soup are
not completely broken up
8. Place finished soup in a container and fridge until cold
For the garnish:
1. In a small pot, add 1 T of EVOO
2. Add the reserved corn and shallots
3. Heat briefly
4. Off heat, add 1T of lemon juice and S/P to taste
5. Mix, let cool to ambient, then add the crab meat, mix
1. Remove the soup from the fridge and check seasoning for
2 . Serve even portions of soup with even shares of the
3 . Dress with the chives
James Beard Foundations's Book of the Year Award Winner
Chef/Owner/Author Michael Solomonov avers that " Israeli
food is not a collection of static traditional recipe. It
is an idea. Israel is only sixty years old and barely melted
pot of cultures from all over the world. There aren"t
really Israeli restaurants in Israel . . . there are Bulgarian,
Arabic, Georgian restaurants and many more . . .what connects
them, what makes them Israeli, is an approach to dining
and hospitality that is shaped by a shared experience."
There are more ideas in this cookbook than anything I
've read since Food Lab.
Right off, I got stuck in the first section where Solomonov
carries on for forty six pages about tahini, tahini sauce
and humas. So convincing was all this that I got on Amazon
and ordered a half dozen jars of Zome Tahini, which he raves
about, and then went to the store and got a big bag of chickpeas.
I've made it twice. It's good beyond anything store bought--not
only because it's fresh but also that it contains none of
the commercial additives needed to preserve the stuff while
on a market shelf. The book offers many variations of basic
humas. The humas in the photo is simply dressed with paprika
and Agrumoto Lemon EVOO, which pair wonderfully with the
humas. The recipe makes a lot of humas so, my favorate neighbors
were delighted with presento plates of the stuff along with
some pita bread to wipe it up.
Solomonov's chapters on salads, small dishes, rice and meats
are especially inventive, inviting and uncomplicated for
the experienced home cook.
Award winning ZAHAV and
Food Lab, both reviewed on this
page, are cookbooks that make significant contributions
to the culinary literature. Awards happen every year, but
cookbooks like these don't. Both will make fine additions
to the libraries of your ambitious grand nieces and nephews.
Never Say Best, But
This is Close
Twenty years ago you could not find an artisanal loaf of
bread. Now good bakeries abound and folks wait in line to
pay for a great loaf. So too with coffee, tea and EVOO.
Not so with high quality kitchenware , which has been available
a lot longer. Cooks have been lugging copper pans home from
Dehillerin's in Paris for fifty years and are still using
them or have since passed them on to their kids--who are
still using hem. For as long as I have been at it, quality
kitchen knives started and ended with Wosthuf and Henckel
until maybe ten years ago. Then, along came sushi and sushi
chefs. Japanese knives came into favor among american chefs
and home cooks. Their popularity has spread to the significant
degree that forged and beautifully crafted knives by Shun
and others are widely available at Sur la Table and Williams
Now, most recently, limited production, hand made knives
from Japan are sought after. Most desirable are knives made
one at a time by named craftsmen in their own shops. Here
we have a chef's knife ("gyutou") made by Itsuo
Doi that to my experienced eye reaches the highest level
of industrial art. Doi-san forges this knife from blue steel,
then adds carbon cladding, finishes the blade wonderfully,
sharpens it on both sides, adds an ebony handle with a sterling
silver band and then etches it with his signature. It weighs
in at 9 ounces, a bit lighter than the Wosthuf chef's knife
also shown for comparison but a bit heavier than most other
Japanese knives of its type. (Of note: the top angled, beveled
edge appears sharpened but is not.) Cost? I invite you to
visit Chuboknives.com where you will enjoy looking for it.)
I can't stop using this knife; I'm even slicing cherry
tomatoes with it. I won't argue the merits of these hand
made forged knives over production forged knives, save that
they are perfectly balanced in the hand, a pleasure to cut
with, do a better job (cut an onion and not tear up) and
are visually striking in every detail. All of this and more.
There is something unique, apart and ethereal about the
"Ain't nothin like it."
(BTW, The same hand forged knife tradition thrives in
the USA, where high quality knives are popular and collectable.
For example, W. D. Randal and sons have made fine knives
for 70 years. I bought my first Randal knife in 1948--waited
nine months to get it and paid $95 for it (a lot of money
then and for a kid in the 8th grade). They're still making
them for about $600 and delivery still takes nine months!)
Roasted Game Hens Mediterranean
Supper market game hens are large enough to split--one
bird serves two. If you have a source for "well husbanded"
poultry--where slow growth is the rule--birds will be smaller,
more tender and tastier. (See photo.)
So, make this recipe with five split or five whole birds.
Plenty of sauce to add a bird or two.
ROASTED GAME HENS MEDITERRANEAN
(Serves 10 (split) or 5 (whole)
See Abbreviations, if needed
• 5 game hens split w/ backbone removed, or five
whole smaller birds
• 4oz EVOO
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 4T oregano
• 1C prunes, pitted
• 1C dried apricots
• 1/3C pitted and sliced green or black olives
• 1/3C capers
• 1/3C pickled lemons, seeded (if you can find them
at a Middle East store)
• 8 bay leaves
• 1/3C brown sugar
• 4T chopped Italian parsley
• 1C RWV
• 1C WW
1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, except hens
and white wine, and mix well
2. Cover and refrigerate overnight
3. Next day, split hens (if large), rub them w/ S/P
4. Grill or sauté the hens to brown the skin and
then set aside
5. Preheat oven to 350F
6. Add the white wine to the roasting sauce
7. Arrange hens in roaster, spoon over marinade
8. Roast for 60 minutes and check temp for doneness
9. Roast another 30 minutes until birds are above 165F,
AND the meat is tender (don't undercook the birds)
10. When ready, remove roaster from oven and skim off any
fat appearing at the edges of the roaster
11. Place each bird on a heated plate and add a generous
portion of fruited sauce. Top w/ parsley
12. Serve remaining sauce in a heated gravy boat
A Good Vinegar-based
Slaw With Heat
The Washington Post, in their food section today, had a
slaw recipe to go with a pulled pork article. They took
it from a Jim Shahin, a culinary columnist. It looked good
so I made it with three modifications: I never use distilled
vinegar in food except to crowd poached egg whites, otherwise
it's always rice vinegar, white or red wine vinegar. I don't
stock Tabasco but buy Tennessee Sunshine by the case. I
added radicchio for color and sharpness.
You will need a shredder or better yet your Cuisinart with
a thin slice blade for the cabbage and medium shredder blade
for the other veggies.
So here's how:
Alabama Style Slaw
Serves 8 to 10
1/2 medium green cabbage, cored and slicer processed
1 small radicchio, cored and slicer processed
2 medium carrots, shredder processed
1 small red onion or large shallot, shredder processed
1 green pepper, shredder processed
1/2 C French's yellow mustard
1/4 C dark brown sugar, or light if it's all you got
1 t salt
10 grinds of fresh ground pepper
2 t Tennessee Sunshine or 1 t Tabasco
1. Toss the first five ingredients and the mustard thoroughly
in a large bowl
2. Place the sugar, salt, pepper and hot sauce into a small
3. Stir and heat the dressing until hot but not boiling
4. Taste and adjust
5. Pour the heated dressing over the slaw and toss thoroughly
6. Serve ambient or slightly chilled
7. Store in the fridge
Here's The Idea . .
Cocktails and The Big Game for eight. As excitement rises,
someone surely picks up the wrong glass. Annoying to all,
really annoying to some.
The solution: set out eight different wine glasses. Looks
great, draws comments and puts potential miscreants (usually
me) on guard.
Anyhow, wine glasses break and it was time to restock.
Sur la Table had five nice ones at low cost. Williams Sonoma
had the glass front left for a bit more and the others are
Standup Potato Gratin
Kenji Lopez-Alt, author of The Food Lab, profiled
below, has this great idea for presenting potatoes
gratin. It's different, attractive and promotes better
baked slices. So, here is my standup potato gratin:
Stand Up Potatoes Gratin
Yield: 2 servings
• 1 pad butter
• 6 oz half and half or 2% milk
with creme fraiche added (4 parts milk to :2 parts creme
• 1/3 C grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano or cheddar
• 1 garlic
cloves chopped or pureed
• 6 medium to
small red potatoes, skin on
1. Butter a straight sided ramekin or pan (a 5.5"
copper ramekin, is shown above)
2. In a bowl or container suitable for a whisk or stick
blender, add garlic, salt (quite a lot), pepper, cheese
3. Whisk all thoroughly or use a stick blender, then transfer
mixture to a large bowl
4 . Slice the potatoes thinly with a mandoline or knife
and place them in the large bowl
5. With your hands, toss the potato slices until every slice
is well coated
6. Holding the ramekin at an angle, layer in the potato
slices vertically, packing them tightly
7. Drizzle in the re-stirred cream mixture to fill the ramekin
almost to the top
8. Reserve the rest of the cream mixture
9. Cover the ramekin with foil and bake at 400F for about
45 minutes (Use tray since tamekin will bubble over a bit)
10. Remove the ramekin from the oven and remove the foil
11. Drizzle in some more of the re-stirred cream mixture
(if there is room)
12. Return the ramekin to the oven and bake, uncovered for
another 20 minutes until potato slices
are fork tender (be sure about this--nothing worse than
an underdone potato)
13. Optional, when potatoes are done, turn on the broiler
and brown the tops nicely, as shown
Note: Leftovers? Fry 'em up for breakfast with eggs
Do You Need An Infrared
An infrared thermometer (IRT) measures the amount of infrared
energy radiated by the surface of the target it's pointed
at. If you fry a lot, an IRT is quite useful. The usual
way to determine if a skillet is hot enough to brown a steak,
for example, is to wave a hand over it and guess, or dash
a few drops of water on the dry surface to see if they dance
on their own steam. If that is not accurate enough, or you're
worried about non stick coatings, or you're living in the
California draught where spare drops of water are hard to
come by, an IRT will tell you in an instant the precise
temperature of the skillet surface or the surface temperature
of anything in the kitchen or beyond (your cooking oil or
baby's bath water, for example).
Sous vide is the only way I do thick steaks and lamb chops.
However, when done, they come out of the vacuum bag gray
in color, un-browned. Standing by for the task is a cast
iron skillet. Heat the skillet until the IRT reads 450F
and slide the meat into it for quick browning. In time,
as I keep score, I will determine with the IRT, the optimum
browning temperature for steaks and chops, whereby they
brown quick and deep without re-cooking the meat within.
(I think that temperature is well north of 450F.) Now, regarding
non stick skillets: it is accepted that non stick coatings,
Teflon and the like, are stable at temperatures below 600F,
some say 500F. Rather than throw out your non stick pans,
buy and use an IRT and get over the anxiety.
This model is manufactured by Fluke, a very respected company.
It cost about $90. They can be had for a little as $20 or
much much more.
A Japanese Hybrid Vegetable
Pictured above are two fine Japanese kitchen knives. On
top is a "santoku" a Japanese chef's knife. At
the bottom is a "nakiri" a Japanese vegetable
knife. The santoku has gained wide popularity in the West
over the past twenty years. I bought this one in Yokosuka,
Japan in 1977 solely on the advise of the knife store owner
(I didn't know what it was). At about the same
time at the same store, I bought a "nakiri" (again
not knowing much about it). While the santoku has been
in constant use over the years, the nakiri sat in the drawer
(I finally gave it to a starving nephew). While
I liked its broad blade, I didn't like the flat cutting
edge, which is, or at least was at the time, the traditional
shape of nakiris. Perforce, it was only good for chopping.
Now comes along a hybrid nakiri with the same broad blade
for chopping but with a slightly curved cutting edge, which
enables it to be rocked a little like a santoku. The
blades on both of these knives are 7" long and both
begin to curve up 6" from the tip. However, the santoku
curves up 3/4 of an inch, raising the tip to enable rocking/slicing
motion used to cut. This nakiri curves up only 3/8 of an
inch raising the tip slightly but enough that the knife
can be used for more than chopping veggies.
I'm all in for this new knife. I got it from Chubo knives
(chuboknives.com). Chubo offers an impressive selection
of fine Japanese knives most all in stock, which is unusual
for knife vendors. This nakiri is hand forged and finished
by a third generation blacksmith, Shosui Takeda. It is made
from hard carbon steel, clad with stainless steel, I have
another of his knives as shown far down on this page. The
strengths of this type of knife are light weight, fine balance
and sharpness. Their weakness is high price and higher maintenance.
Like a Lamborgini, which needs shop care more often than
By The Way . . . Cherry
tomatoes are in, whole ones are out
I've grown to prefer cherry tomatoes over the big ones,
which I rarely buy anymore. Here's why: They always taste
good, even in winter. They keep well. They're all red with
no white veins, but a little less juicy. They're versatile--with
a little knife work they look great in salads, fit nicely
on hamburger patties, pop into the Vitamix blender and they
dice neatly. They make a great amuse-bouche (see way down
on this page). Oh, and there is less waste (no Saran wrapped
half cut tomatoes lost in the fridge for a week.
Try 'em--you'll like 'em.
Cast Iron Skillets:
Try Them Again for the First Time
First from Japan and now from the USA, come re-thought
cast iron skillets of the highest quality and design. A
new (2012) company called Finex in Portland, Oregon has
come out with hand crafted heavy cast iron
skillets in 8",10" and 12" sizes. Pricey
at $125 to $195, with covers at additional cost (don't
buy covers for skillets). The octagon shape is eye
catching and allows for easy and accurate pouring. The cooking
surface is computer machined to a very smooth surface and
then pre-seasoned. Pictured is the 12" skillet, new
out of the box. The smaller sized skillets are available
at Williams Sonoma and the whole line at finexusa.com.
I like using cast iron skillets. Non-stick pans and copper
have their place but, as the years go by, I favor cast iron
more and more. The two unique things about them are that
they conduct and retain heat like no others and that they
can be placed dry on a burner, fired low and left on the
burner until ready to use. That can't be done with any other
dry pan, even enameled cast iron. The practice saves time
in a professional's kitchen ensuring a hot skillet when
wanted. So too at home.
There are other cast iron pans in the house by Lodge, Griswold
and Le Crueset, but the Iwachu and now the Finex are, by
far, the most attractive high quality cast iron skillets
I have ever come across. Much to like here--the polished
stainless steel "speed cool" handle, the heft,
the finished cooking surface, the shape and balance. These
hand crafted skillets remind me of the advertisement for
the Patek Phillipe watch wherein they tout that you never
actually own one, but merely look after it for the next
generation. The Finex is indeed an heirloom skillet.
A BLT tonight, with four stripes of bacon, should be the
perfect inaugural fry.
Postscript: The new skillet did the bacon
proper. However, the "speed cool" handle, while
"cool" style-wise, is still attached to cast iron,
which is super conductive (that's why we use them).
Therefore, like all other fired cast iron skillets, the
Finex should always be handled with a towel between it and
Iron Skillets From Japan
This skillet is made by Iwachu, a company in Japan well
known worldwide for their cast iron tea pots and kettles.
Iwachu has been casting iron for centuries. I read about
their "omelet pan" earlier, lost the reference,
then saw it again and decided to get it from an Amazon like
company in Japan called Rakuten Global Market. Amazon now
carries the Iwachu skillet in two sizes" 9.5 inch and
8.5 inch for $101US and $78US. That puts it in the price
range of All Clad and Le Crueset, which is fine since it's
functionally as good if not better than what they offer
and far more attractive.
About the pan: At 9.5 inches across, it is of medium heavy
cast iron (lighter than the Finex) with fine design lines--beautifully
shaped with a long graceful handle and sloping cavity walls
about 2 inches deep at the far edge and little more shallow
at the near. It is so designed to promote the flipping of
an omelet, which it does nicely. The surface is treated
in a manner like Le Crueset cast iron, with the result that
not much sticks to it. The 8.5 inch pan is identical--just
smaller. The larger pan is best to brown steaks and chops
when done sous vide; for three-egg omelets or scrambled
eggs and for grilled cheese sandwiches. The smaller one
is handy to fry two eggs or a hamburger or to warm up a
leftover of any sort. And, since cast iron pans enjoy an
oven visit now and then, both sized pans work great for
an oven-finished frittata or baked corn bread.
It just doesn't get any better than cooking for three beautiful
women: my big sister (house guest) and two grand nieces
(in town grad-schooling). I was going to prepare Game
Hens Mediterranean, but my sister had heard of osso
buco, never had it and so asked me to prepare it. Osso Buco
("pierced bone") is veal shanks braised in EVOO,
white wine, veggies and Italian seasonings as done before
in Osso Buco Tagine.
We went over to the local Organic Butcher and got four
veal shanks--at great expense. (I have stated many times
in this blog that I won't spend an extra dime for organic
produce but will pop for meat and poultry from well husbanded
farms and ranches, where value is clearly added and higher
quality is evident. These veal shanks did not disappoint.)
So, with the veal shanks in hand, I had to do something
different with them. This time, I ditched Italian and went
with seasonings favored along the northwest coastline of
Africa in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Thus we have:
Osso Buco Maghreb.
See Abbreviations, if needed
4 veal shanks, each tied around their circumference with
butcher string to hold their shape
2T of baharat or ras-el-hanout powdered spice mixtures (Moroccan),
or S/P is you don't have, but . . .
1/2t of turmeric and cumin, each
A pinch of saffron
1t of ginger and sweet paprika, each
12 grinds of pepper corn
A sachet of parsley and cilantro, with stems
2 large red onions, diced
4 pickled lemons, quartered and deseeded
3-4C chicken stock or broth
1C red wine
1C green and black olives, pitted
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Dry rub the shanks with baharat, ras-el-hanout or S/P
3. In a large Dutch oven, brown the shanks well in a little
of the EVOO,
then remove and set aside
4. Add the rest of the EVOO and sweat the onions to translucent
5. Add the spices, heat them for awhile and then add two
cups stock and the wine
6. BTB, reduce heat and then return the shanks to the pot
7. Add the sachet and the lemon quarters
8. Add more stock to a level about 3/4 up the sides of the
9. BTB, then turn off the heat
10. Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the preheated oven
11. Set the timer for 2 hours
12. Remove the Dutch oven to the stove top's large burner
13. Check the shanks for doneness, they should be falling
off the bone
14. With a spatula (not tongs), very carefully remove the
shanks to a shallow pan
and place it in the now turned off oven
15. Skim the braising liquid of the fat hugging the sides
of the Dutch oven
16. Bring the braising liquid to boil and reduce to make
sauce (if there is not enough
liquid to reduce by half, add water not stock and then BTB
17. A la minute, add the olives
18. Place osso buco shanks on heated plates and dress with
19. Serve with roasted or sauteed veggies and/or with couscous
BRAISED PORK RIBS
We had these rather uniquely
textured and seasoned rack of pork ribs in Milwaukee over
Thanksgiving two years ago. My niece prepared them
expertly. For New Years dinner, I got out her recipe
(which came from Bon Appetit) and did them.
Braising the ribs (Bon Appetit wrongly called it
roasting) lends a soft tenderness to the rack that cannot
be done on the grill. The original recipe called for
grilling the racks of ribs fter two hours of braising to
reheat them and to impart a glaze to the barbecue sauce.
Try it if you like, but the braised ribs are already falling
off the bone and moving the racks to the grill without breaking
them will prove very difficult. It's not worth it. Instead,
finish racks uncovered for the last half hour to dry them
out a bit and make them table sauce receptive.
Here is my version and
complete rewrite of the recipe:
Braised Racks of Pork
See Abbreviations, if needed
Rule: Allow five ribs per person)
racks of baby back pork ribs
ginger, fresh grated or dry ground
cinnamon, fresh grated or dry ground
Pan Roasting Mixture:
cinnamon stick, broken
ginger, freshly grated 2C+
apple cider (not apple cider vinegar)
rice wine or white wine vinegar
1. Remove silver skin
from back of ribs, trim off excess fat and set aside
2. Prepare dry rub by
mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl
3. Hand rub the ribs
with the dry rub, cover and chill for a couple hours
4. Spray or rub sheet
pan or roasting pan surface with EVOO
5. Place roasting pan
mixture (less apple cider) in pan
6. Lay ribs in pan meat
side down, then add apple cider to cover pan bottom
by a quarter inch
7. Cover pan with foil
and place in preheated 325F oven (FYI: covered is
braising--uncovered is roasting)
8. Place sauce ingredients in a pan and heat gently to simmer
and set aside
9. Braise until ribs
are very tender and meat is pulling away from the ribs (about
2 to 2.5 hours). Remove cover for the last half hour
Remove pan from oven, uncover and let stand until grill
is hot (1 hour max)
remove rack of ribs from roasting pan onto serving platter
12. Cut racks with a
sharp serrated knife into one or two bone servings
13. Reheat barbecue sauce
and serve as a side.
This is Such a Good Idea, I'll
Post it Again
I opened another big (32 oz) jar of capers this evening
and again dumped them all into a colander, cold sprayed
them, washed out the jar, filled it with one part of rice
vinegar, scooped the capers back into the jar and then topped
the jar off with 3 parts of tap water. Try it next time
and taste the capers and not the salt!
It's hard to pass up the olive bar at your favorite super
market. The selection is too hard to resist with olives
green and black, pitted, stuffed or unstuffed along with
mini onions, mushrooms and maybe an artichoke heart or two.
All swimming in oil. We learn from Tom Mueller, in the book
profiled below, that the oil used in the olive bar selections
is probably refined olive oil or, at best, low grade EVOO.
So here's what to do:
Having spooned your selections at the olive bar into a
deli container, bring them home and dump them all in a colander.
Spray wash them thoroughly with luke warm water and put
them in a fresh container. Then add a tablespoon or so of
your best EVOO. Toss and enjoy. You will taste a big difference.
So too, I found about a year ago with capers. I get the
big jar from Costco, dump them into the colander, wash off
the inegar, place them into a cleaned jar and then add little
water and some rice vinegar. Result: The capers are remarkably
less salty. You can actually taste them!
UPDATE: Beautiful Non-stick
Iron Skillets From Japan
Last year, I hesitated to write about this pan since getting
one was a bit of a hassle. While the pan cost $75US, shipping
added another $50US. That put it in the price range of All
Clad and Le Crueset, which is fine since it's functionally
as good if not better than what they offer and far more
attractive. The pans are made by Iwachu, a company in Japan
well known, worldwide, for their cast iron tea pots and
kettles. Iwachu has been casting iron for centuries. I read
about their "omelet pan" earlier, lost the reference,
then saw it again and decided to get it from an Amazon like
company in Japan called Rakuten Global Market that has a
vendor that carries it. They can be found at https://global.rakuten.co.jp.
Ah, but now Amazon carries Iwachu. And
the pan is available in two sizes" 9.5 inch and 8.5
inch for $101US and $78US (about 20% less than if ordered
About the pan: At 9.5 inches across, it is of medium heavy
cast iron with fine design lines--beautifully shaped with
a long graceful handle and sloping cavity walls about 2
inches deep at the far edge and little more shallow at the
near. It is so designed to promote the flipping of an omelet,
which it does nicely. The surface is treated in a manner
like Le Crueset cast iron, with the result that not much
sticks to it. The 8.5 inch pan is identical--just smaller.
The larger pan is best to brown steaks and chops when done
sous vide; for three-egg omelets or scrambled eggs and for
grilled cheese sandwiches. The smaller one is handy to fry
two eggs or a hamburger or to warm up a leftover of any
sort. And, since cast iron pans enjoy an oven visit now
and then, both sized pans work great for an oven-finished
frittata or baked corn bread.
There are other cast iron pans in the house by Lodge, Griswold
and Le Crueset, but the Iwachus are, by far, the most attractive
and versatile cast iron pans I have ever used.
Good Cooking Refinements (Revisited)
Over the holidays, we were invited to a spaghetti dinner
prepared by one of the guests who loves to cook and is good
at it. I stayed clear of the kitchen until called in at
the last minute to make an emergency salad dressing. Our
cook for the evening was just finishing making his tomato
sauce with Italian sausage that he constructed lovingly
and simmered long and slow. A side glance at the pot and
a distant sniff suggested a promising deep red sauce. “Skim
off the fat and it'll be great,” I said to myself.
But the cook gave it all a good stir and poured the sauce
over the steaming pasta. It was good, a fine dish.
It would have been cleaner on the palette, better tasting
(more complex) and more healthful if he had skimmed off
the fat, which mostly came from the Italian sausage.
Stocks, soups, sauces, chilies con carne, meat loaves—just
about every product that's cooked long and slow (simmered,
roasted or braised) should be skimmed of discolor and fats.
It doesn't take all that long. Your seasonings will then
come through. The food will look better and be better for
Awhile back, I put together a pork tenderloin roast at
my sister's house as dinner for eight. Her husband was in
and out of the kitchen watching the proceedings. He loves
veggies and commented that the carrots, onions and celery
I sautéed in the roasting pan were sure going to
taste good. An hour later, the roast was on the table along
with a salad, baked potatoes and sautéed green beans.
"Hey this is great, especially the gravy," raved
my brother in law, ". . . but what happened to the
carrots and onions? My sister preempted my reply with "they're
is the sauce, dear," She knew that because, earlier,
I opened every drawer and cupboard in her kitchen looking
for a strainer.
The strainers in the photo take up a lot of storage space
but they're needed. Straining cooked liquids serves two
purposes. The first is to remove ingredients added to impart
flavors and never intended to be on the table. Veggies,
herbs, bones, tough meats that get cooked to death and fall
apart in the process. Having served honorably in the pot
and given their all for an hour or two they have got to
go. That's how stocks and sauces are made. Also, it is best
to strain cooked liquids before reducing them over high
heat to a desired consistency, if that is what you have
in mind. When you know that you are going to strain what
is in the pot, you can save time in the preparation. No
need to pluck leaves off of fresh thyme or parsley branches.
Toss them in whole (yes, they are a little stronger) and
stain them out later. Chop veggies rough and quick and toss
Straining serves a second purpose. Namely, to refine the
texture and thickness of soups. our 'country soup' or French
'soupe' is served with chunks of food, unstrained. At the
other extreme, is a consommé, so finely skimmed and
strained that you can read the date of a coin at the bottom
of the pot. Other soups are strained more or less to relieve
the pallet of too much coarseness, fiber or calories. Vichyssoise,
Cream of Cucumber, Butternut Squash and Roasted Tomatillo
soups are better if some of the bulk is strained out. If
you plan on straining a soup, be sure to make enough of
it. You will lose volume. That is why consommé is
the most expensive soup on the menu and why rich smooth
bisques cost more than their country cousins.
Puréeing is about smoothness, thickness and texture.
So too is straining. Are they the same? No. Are they related?
Yes. Where's the distinction? Pour a product through a strainer
and some goes through and some doesn't. So, to strain is
to remove unwanted ingredients. Subject a product to the
whirling blade of a food processor or a stick blender and
it is broken up violently but nothing is removed.
Often, straining is all that is needed to achieve a nice
texture of, say, the braising liquids for lamb shanks done
in a Dutch oven or tagine. While, puréeing alone
will do the trick in many soups where you want everything
in the pot to stay but it's all a bit too heavy on the spoon.
(The beauty of the 'stick blender' shown in the photo, is
that it allows you to plunge it in and out of a hot pot
on the stove without transferring the liquid it to a food
processor or standing blender.) Gazpacho for example, smoothed
out with a stick blender, should have a nice consistency
without staining. But most heavier soups need to be puréed
and strained. I find that my Vichyssoise usually needs to
have some of the bulk strained out before its puréed.
Soups with high fiber content, such as Butternut Squash,
Roasted Tomatillo or Asparagus (I'm working on it) must
be puréed to break up the fiber and then strained
to get some of it out. For soups: purée first and
then strain or strain and then purée? Your call,
no fast rule that I know of.
On the first day of school, I was surprised to find a huge
ice maker in the kitchen. “Must be for the pastry
class,” I surmised. "Cooking is all about heat,
Just as a takes time to heat a product hot enough to cook
it, it takes time to remove heat and stop the cooking process.
For example, Shrimp need to be cooked just right. The difference
between underdone and overdone shrimp is less than 30 seconds.
Worse still, they will continue to cook when removed from
heat and let to rest on the cutting board. Whatever the
degree of desired doneness, it will be long gone if the
shrimp aren't served immediately or cooled quickly when
taken off heat. So, if shrimp are to be prepared ahead of
time they must be chilled in an ice bath for a few minutes
and then drained and held for cold service or for reheating
So too with veggies. Pigmentations in veggies are altered
during the cooking process. While carrots and tomatoes lose
little color, spinach, asparagus and broccoli lose a lot
of their chlorophyll pigmentation. When preparing veggies
ahead of time, whether blanched, boiled or steamed, they
will retain their color and degree of doneness if placed
in an ice bath for a few minutes and then drained and held.
This is not a “nice-to-do-if- I-have-time” thing.
When I prep green veggies, an ice bath is always prepared
as soon as the water boils.
Another essential use of ice baths is to retard discoloration
of raw fruits and veggies that are cut and exposed to air.
The phenolic compounds in raw potatoes, apples, eggplants,
bananas and avocados will uickly oxidize and turn brown
or gray unless the product is held in cool water—sometimes
with a little lemon juice added for fruits.
So, if you have chomped through a tough shrimp in a cold
salad, tried to pick up a limp spear of asparagus, spied
brown apple slices in the pie, cringed at the sight of gray-brown
guacamole or off white potato slices in the German potato
salad, you know the problem and now know the solution.
Can't cook without ice? Who'd thunk . . .
A Tomato Amuse-Bouche
After reading and reviewing Extra Virginity
(see below), I ordered two bottles of Agrumato--the
lemon pressed EVOO (again see below). Great stuff! Now what
to do with it? Here's a suggestion:
1. Find good tasting cherry tomatoes--no easy task but
essential for this dish. 2. Have them at ambient temperature
and slice each in half and arrange all on a work surface
cut side up. 3. Take a pinch of sea salt and carefully,
by hand, drop three or four grains on each tomato half.
4. Repeat with a few bits of freshly ground black pepper.
5. Then a few flakes of finely chopped fresh basil. 6. Then
a few white bits of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. 7. With
all that done, drizzle three or four drops of the Agrumato
Lemon EVOO. (All in moderation: not too much of any one
ingredient.) 8. Gather up portions and place in nice small
bowls, as shown above. Serve with a small fork. Before seating
your guests at table.
Now, quite obviously, one could add the above ingredients
to a big bowl, toss in the tomato halves and be done with
it. You would then have a tomato salad. Done my way you
have consistent, perfectly seasoned, dressed tomato halves,
specially prepared and contrived to amuse your guests and
invigorate their palates. The very definition of an amuse-bouche.