Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Food TV Worth Watching

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

I’m normally not one for cooking shows.

I don’t particularly like to watch someone get yelled at for not having food ready on time or for it not being up to par.  If I wanted to experience that, I’d still be working at {redacted}.  And, when I watch main courses, I usually wind up heckling my TV screen, telling it that whoever is on screen cooking is doing it wrong.

So, I was somewhat skeptical when my friend Sara suggested I check out the Great British Bake Off.  ”It’s really fun,” she said.  ”They make this amazing stuff, and it’s still high pressure, but because it’s British, everyone is very polite about everything.”

She’s right.

I mean, I don’t know what I would think if I were a pastry chef (I still might wind up heckling the screen).  But since I am largely inexperienced when it comes to the realm of baking, I wind up taking notes about what I see on screen.  Homemade phyllo?! Tips for making puff pastry! Wait, are they making English muffins from scratch?

And, the judges, while tough, are very even-tempered and level headed.  There might be a few tears at the end of each challenge; but no one can ever say that they’ve been mistreated.  It’s charming, really.

And, I’ve been inspired to bake different things than I might otherwise.  Last night, for instance, I did a braided yeast bread with dried cherries in one of the braids, raisins in the second, and dried cranberries in the third.  I never would’ve conceived of that 3 weeks ago.

Apparently, the BBC favorite was picked up by PBS in 2014 and has become incredibly popular in the meantime.  For those of us who are slow on the uptake, though, you can binge watch on Netflix.

On your marks, get set, BAKE!

The media are the friend of the people

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Not that this has anything to do with cooking, but for whatever it is worth, I find the rhetoric coming from our president incredibly frightening.  The news media has always played an important role in keeping the public informed about the goings on of the world.  I am glad that they continue to do their jobs and to bring facts to light.  It is complete insanity to block reporters from respected an legitimate news organizations from a briefing.  It is up to every one of us to stand up for the truth and for the reporting thereof in any way we can.

I could never bring the point home as well as John Oliver does in this clip, Trump vs. The Truth: https://youtu.be/xecEV4dSAXE.

Please watch, please share, please buy newspapers, please speak out in any way you can against the dangerous rhetoric spouted by the liar in chief.

Radiatori Angstromi

Monday, November 21st, 2016

(Radiator Pasta in Angstrom Sauce)

One of the first things I learned when I worked at Lidia’s was that pasta sauce can encompass a whole range of possibilities beyond tomato, alfredo, or cheese.  So long as there’s some liquid component to tie everything together, pasta can serve as a vehicle for all kinds of flavors.

This recipe was a huge hit with the whole family, especially Angstrom.  It was when he ladled his third helping onto his plate that I realized it was a real winner and probably deserved to be written down.  Because his enthusiasm prompted me to write it down, I’ve named it in his honor.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • about 2 cups finely chopped mushrooms (I used a mix of maitake and crimini)
  • 1 leftover baked sweet potato
  • about 2 cups leftover pot roast, with its liquid
  • 1/4 leftover roasted cabbage
  • chicken stock as needed to adjust consistency
  • Salt and pepper
  • butter

Instructions

  1. Make a pot roast dinner, with baked sweet potatoes and roasted cabbage as the side dishes.  Save the leftovers at the end of the meal
  2. Dice an onion and cook it in butter in a #10 cast iron skillet with salt, pepper, and aleppo pepper, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until it has started to take on some golden brown.
  3. Push the onion to the outside of the pan and add a bit more butter to the well in the center.  Add diced mushrooms with a pinch more salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally (after initial browning period, they can be stirred in with the onions), for 10-15 minutes or until they have taken on some golden brown.
  4. Deglaze the pan with some bourbon.
  5. Add diced or mashed sweet potato, sliced cabbage, pot roast, and chicken stock (about 1 cup) to the pan.  Stir together and let simmer while the pasta cooks.  Adjust the consistency as needed with more chicken stock and/or some of the salted cooking water from the pasta.  (This is a trick I learned from Lidia’s—the starch that cooks out of the pasta helps to thicken the sauce and the water helps to thin it out.  I know it sounds weird to go after both ends of the spectrum at once, but it really does work)
  6. I used radiatori pasta because the grooves in the pasta help to pick up the sauce and the flavor.  It would also go well with fusilli or a wide ribbon like papparadelle.

I Catch Up with the Mainstream

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Nine years ago, back before either of my kids had even been imagines, and I had all the time in the world; in a post most notable for its grammatically-correct use of five punctuation marks in a row, I had indicated that I saw very rare use for a garlic press.

I stuck by my guns for quite some time, and have gotten quite adept at peeling and mincing garlic, but I am coming around to where the mainstream has been for quite some time: it really does make things quicker and easier to crush garlic with a press than it does to peel and slice by hand.

One thing I have discovered, though, is that rather than crush the garlic directly into the frying pan, it makes a lot more sense to crush into a prep bowl.  That way, you have all the time you need to crush (in my case, at least) a dozen or two cloves of garlic for whatever you’re cooking, without the first garlic into the pan burning before the last clove is crushed.

When it comes to garlic presses, though, I am on the quest for the best press.  Mine is fine, it does the job; but I feel like there might be a better option out there.  The brief research I have done so far shows a huge range of prices, from less than $5 to just about $45.  I checked Cooks Illustrated, hoping for a budget-friendly option, but they recommend a $40 model.  This seems like a steep investment, and so I hold out hope that there is a less-expensive but highly-functioning option out there somewhere.

Lacking the budget to buy and test all of them, please leave a comment to let me know if you have any recommendations (for or against) a particular brand, source, or style.  I’ll aim to identify a few different options and give them a whirl to see how my current model stacks up against others’ favorites.

Mainstream Media Catches Up with Me

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

I got an email from my sister yesterday, letting me know that one of my earliest culinary creations had been picked up by the NY Times.

photo credit: Tony Cenicola/NY Times

photo credit: Tony Cenicola/NY Times

It was the peanut butter & pickle sandwich that my friend Brian and I invented when we were in, probably, first or second grade–with one big difference: whereas the NY Times recipe calls for bread & butter pickles, I would absolutely never use anything but a dill pickle on my PB&P.

Then, in this morning’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there was a recipe for chili with kale.  The first time I put kale in my chili I was still in culinary school, overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of kale that we were getting from our CSA.  I figured, if kale is a braising green, why not braise it in chili?  The result was so good that the first question Aurora asked me the last time I told her I was planning on making a pot of chili was, “do we have kale?”  I’d say, follow the recipe from the P-G if you like, but better yet, just add kale into the pot for the last 30 minutes of cooking time on your favorite chili recipe and see how much you enjoy the results!

Greens with Mushrooms and Cranberries

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

My friend Janice asked me if I could post the recipe for this.  It is a tasty, autumnal dish.  The tartness of the cranberries plays the role that vinegar would usually take in a dish of greens, and the mushrooms add a layer of umami that helps bring the dish together. (check out these mushroom cooking tips)

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Mushrooms & Ginger

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

I was talking to my mom about making sausage the other day and I mentioned how I like to add ginger into my pork sausage.  “Is there anything you don’t put ginger in?” she asked.

Well, yes, but the reason I put it into so many things is that it is really a versatile spice.  Matching equally well with the sweet and the spicy, it just works well in lots of settings.  One of my favorite places for using ginger is definitely sauteed mushrooms.

Pictured here with a slice of Southwestern Sweet Potato Bake, a recipe I developed for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, mushrooms sauteed with ginger are a quick and easy side for just about any meal of the day.

I always start with crimini mushrooms.  In Pittsburgh, at least, these mushrooms are available in bulk from just about every grocery store at a lower cost and with more flavor than your typical white button mushroom, which makes them the better choice from both budgetary and culinary perspectives.  Today, I also had some beautiful maitake mushrooms from Wild Purveyors and the mushroom share that they offer via Kretschmann Farms CSA.

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Thanksgiving Classic

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Susan Stamberg always redoes her cranberry sauce recipe every year before Thanksgiving. I can do the same. I mean, why not… it’s my space and the chances of me annoying a reader by posting something old are quite low, seeing as I’ve posted so rarely over the last couple of years that the chance of me having any readers to irk is virtually nil.

Which also means that 100% of the people who read this are likely to use this recipe, because I’m about to go into the kitchen and make a batch of orange-infused cranberry sauce myself. If I’m wrong about no one reading this, feel free to follow this link to make some for your house as well. It will be a tradition you want to pick up every year, too:
http://corduroyorange.com/?p=1078

FSMA and the Small Farmer

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

I haven’t written much lately.  So I hope a few people swing by this page and see this before November 15.  I thought you might be interested in a couple of views on proposed farming rules and how they will affect small farms in our region.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was drafted to update food safety rules that have been on the books virtually unchanged since the aftermath of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  In many cases, there is good cause for an update of the rules: especially in light of the mechanization of many aspects of the mainstream food system.  The difficulty comes when small, local farmers are lumped in with megagricultural behemoths and when the proposed rules push small farms toward disposability and less sustainable processes.

The first link comes from Don Kretschmann, who operates a small farm in Rochester, PA.  I personally get my CSA share from his farm; have visited his operation; and know the care and attention he puts into all aspects of his operation–and the emphasis that he puts on finding sustainable, reusable solutions for everyday problems.  He and I share a belief that the disposable solution, while perhaps the easiest to implement, is perhaps the worst in the long haul as it creates a great deal of waste and requires a great deal of energy to implement.  Here’s the link to his thoroughly researched views on what some of the proposed rules could mean for his farm: http://www.kretschmannfarm.com/all-hands-on-deck-your-fresh-food-supply-our-farm-is-in-danger.

The second link comes from Brian Snyder, who is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture.  I do not know him personally, but PASA is a fantastic organization that has done a lot to promote local food for local people.  It was through their resources that, shortly after I moved to Pittsburgh, I discovered both regional farms and restaurants procuring and preparing local produce.  Brian is also immersed in the world of small farming and has a great deal of insight about the potential for drastic and detrimental effects on small farms should the proposed rules go through as written.  Here is a link to his essay on the topic: http://writetofarm.com/2013/10/14/fdas-culture-of-fear-threatens-food-safety/.

I plan on submitting public comments on the proposed rules: not just because I am well educated in issues related to food safety and because I believe strongly in the value of locally raised produce for my family: but because I know the benefit of locally raised produce for all of the families served by Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  GPCFB receives locally raised produce from many regional farms.  We glean their fields and receive donations of food that they harvest themselves.  They are our most important partners because they grow food.  As the bumper sticker goes, “Know Farmers, Know Food; No Farmers, No Food.”

Please consider the opinions presented by these two well-educated individuals; and then consider submitting comments on the proposed FSMA rules to help protect locally grown food for everyone.  Click here to visit PASA’s FSMA Action Center for more info on the proposed rules and how to submit your comments.

Advice for the Newly Lactose Intolerant

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Dear Jesse,

I’m a cheese lover - in fact my entire food budget is arguably structured around how much money I can legitimately spend on new and interesting cheeses. Unfortunately I seem to be suddenly developing symptoms of lactose intolerence- and this at age twenty! While a medical diagnosis is still in the pipeline I was wondering if you’d ever heard of this happening before? Also, if the worst should happen, do you have any tips? I’m happy to switch to soy for my three-cups-of-tea-a-day lifestyle but I’m not exactly how to restructure my cooking if I have to knock out butter, cream, milk and my beloved cheese.

That’s pretty lousy. I know I would be devastated if I lost cheese from my diet.

As an initial disclaimer, it is worth noting that I hold degrees in neither nutrition nor medicine.

That having been said, I am pleased to tell you that if your problems do indeed stem from a lactose intolerance, there is, to my knowledge, a very good chance that you will still be able to enjoy sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and hard aged cheeses without issue.

The form of lactose in cow’s milk is apparently not the same as is found in other species’ milk; and the aging process winds up transforming lactose chemically.

Unfortunately, that will not help you, for instance, to comfortably enjoy the sharp tang of a 5-year-old vermont white cheddar, but you can be consoled by the likelihood that a French sheep’s milk roquefort still may fit into your digestive capabilities.

With regards to cooking:

♦ I noticed that my fairly run of the mill grocery store stocks canned condensed goat’s milk and also powdered dry goat’s milk. The East End Food Coop (if you live in Pittsburgh) stocks fresh goat’s milk. You may be able to switch to this as an alternative for baking and creamy soups, etc.
♦ Sheep’s milk or goat’s milk yogurt can help substitute for sour cream or, potentially, even cream for baked goods (this may require some experimentation).
♦ I would suggest a switch to lard and coconut oil for a replacement to butter when you need a harder fat (like in a pie crust or for high temp cooking). Coconut oil, for instance, would likely work well for making a streusel topping or making a muffin or biscuit with luxurious mouthfeel. Lard (and other animal fats) are fantastic for sauteeing or roasting vegetables (mushrooms cooked in pig fat are delicious!)
♦ For other purposes, try stocking a wide range of oils and experimenting with their use. A nice olive oil (especially when seasoned by sauteeing some garlic in it) makes a nice dip for a hunk of good bread; grapeseed and walnut oil are both good for many cooking purposes.
♦ These substitutions will definitely impact your bottom line when it comes to grocery shopping. They all tend to be more expensive than butter. Check TJMaxx for cheap, high quality specialty oils; or your local Italian specialty shop for bulk olive oil (Penn Mac is a great choice in Pittsburgh, you can refill your jug each time you go back from their bulk section).

Best of luck!

Jesse