Archive for August, 2006

Corny Jokes II: Peanut Envy

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Q: What happens to a peanut after it’s one year old?

A: It becomes two years old!

Q: What’s one inch tall, brown, and wears a cape?

A: Super Peanut!!!!!!

Q: Where do peanut drivers go to fill their tanks?

A: The Shell station!

Two peanuts were walking down the street. One of them was a salted.

Q: What’s the best way to catch a squirrel?

A: Climb a tree and act like a nut!

Grilled Cheese and Caprese on Focaccia

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

I can’t stand bad tomatoes. You know the ones I’m talking about: available year-round out of California, always the same quality no matter what the season. Available on salads everywhere, used simply to add color because the only favor they can contribute is somewhat rancid in nature. It’s no wonder some people don’t like tomatoes, if those are the only tomatoes they’ve been exposed to. The state of our agriculture would be improved tenfold if people didn’t have it in their fool heads that tomatoes are a right, not a privilege.

But enough of the rant, I’m no muckraker. The solution is obvious: plant a few fun varieties of tomatoes in your backyard and experience the harvest for yourself.
grilled cheese and caprese (more…)

Pittsburgh Knife Skills Class Update

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Hello, Pittsburgh!

I hope everyone has read about how to hold your knife properly. I plan on having a post on using the knife properly up in the next week. Once everyone has read that, we should be ready for some hands-on practice. The first Pittsburgh Knife Skills class will be held at my house (contact me if you don’t know where it is, but I’m not going to post my address on the internet) on Sunday, September 10, 2006 at 2:30 PM. The cost will be $10 per person and will include a demonstration of proper technique, one-on-one tutorial, and a meal created from the vegetables we cut. Recipes that we cook will be posted on the blog.

Please register early, because space is limited. When registering, let me know if you will need to borrow a knife for the class. If you do not have a high-carbon, stainless steel chef’s knife, I recommend that you borrow one. I look forward to seeing you there!

Roasted Tomato and Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

I know for a fact that this sauce goes great with grilled salmon or with a potato and cheese omelette. Chilled, it’s an excellent salad dressing. I’m planning on using it with pasta and roasted zucchini for a light, summery entree; it would likely also be good as something to dunk a grilled cheese sandwich into. Quite frankly, it would probably go well with just about anything you’d eat a tomato with.

as a dressing

I pureed this sauce with my immersion blender, but if you don’t have one, a regular blender would do just fine. In fact, it would probably yield a smoother sauce with fewer visible chunks of basil.

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Peach & Blueberry Streusel Pie

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Here’s something else to do with the streusel topping you made for the pretentious blueberry muffins. It’s delicious for any meal of the day–especially breakfast. If someone tells you that pie’s not a breakfast food, have them consider the main ingredients: fresh fruit and oatmeal. Yeah, all right, there’s a fair amount of sugar in there, too–but I guarantee you that it’s a more wholesome breakfast choice than a toaster pastry and that it’s both tastier and lower in preservatives than a breakfast bar.

peach blueberry struesel pie

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Introduction to Knife Skills: Holding the Knife Properly.

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

The tool that you are using is dangerous. it is designed to cut through flesh. Preferably animal flesh, but given the opportunity, it will cut your flesh just as smoothly. As you embark on your quest to use your knife properly, you will inevitably feel the sting of the blade. At first, you may even cut yourself more often than you are accustomed to being injured. Do not despair. With practice, you will overcome your difficulties and display both speed and grace in the kitchen as you prepare your meals.

The first step on the road to cutlery competence is developing the proper grip. Doing so is a two-handed affair. Somewhat surprisingly to a new student, you do not want your hand to be entirely on the handle. Rather, grip the top of the blade with your thumb and forefinger. Doing so helps you to exercise better control over the knife so that it goes where you want it to when you want it to go there. Be careful not to wrap your fingers all the way around the blade: if you grip the cutting edge, it will cut you.

holding the knife properly

Wrap your other three fingers around the handle. You are now halfway to having the proper knife grip.

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Don’t kill yourself over the avocado!

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

I don’t live in Pittsburgh, but I could use some knife-skills instruction. I cut myself pitting an avocado the other day. I’d like to avoid more incidents of that kind in the future; bloody avocado doesn’t taste very good.

I want to have my first actual knife skills instructional post up within the next two days, so take a look back soon and there should be something to help you. As far as pitting an avocado goes, it can be a tricky thing to do. The culinary school instructional book tells you to hold the half with the pit in your hand and take a whack at the pit with your knife. Sounds like a great way to slash your wrist to me.

I hope your cut wasn’t anywhere near that serious. To avoid lacerations, I put the half with the pit on the cutting board and (with neither hand anywhere near it) take a whack at the pit with my knife. What’s supposed to happen is that the knife sticks into the pit and you can just twist it out, but if the knife happens to glance off the avocado pit, the worst thing you can do is gouge your cutting board, not commit inadvertant suicide.

Have a culinary question? Email me! I will respond in a future post.

Whaddya mean, there’s more than one type of garlic?

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

three types of garlic

Yes, it’s true! Though you might only see one variety of garlic at the supermarket, there are indeed many more than that–perhaps as many as 600 different cultivars. A good description of the many types of garlic and the families that they fall into is available at http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/overview.htm, but a quick (and overly simplified) break down of it is that garlic can be hardnecked or softnecked, which refers to the stalk that grows above the ground from the bulb, and can come in a variety of colors. The garlic that you usually find at the grocery store comes from the artichoke garlic subgroup. According to gourmetgarlicgardens, “Artichoke garlics are the commercial growers’ favorite because they are easier to grow and produce larger bulbs than most other garlics.”

The garlics I tasted fall into two other types: Rocambole and Porcelain. The Spanish and the Italian garlics are both Rocambole. The German Extra Hardy is a Porcelain. All three had more flavor and character to them than the supermarket-garlic I compared them to.

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Spices For Fruits

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

How do you think cardamom would work with grilled fruits?

I think cardamom would work quite well with grilled fruits, though personally I tend to only use cardamom with apples.  I’m not sure why that is, except that I haven’t really experimented with that spice too much, beyond discovering what happens when you use too much of it: a bitter, astringent flavor dominates the dish.  Therefore, if you’re going to use it, I’d recommend that you don’t use very much: about the same amount as you use nutmeg (~1/4 tsp for most purposes).

I mentioned in my grilled peaches post that I tend to use the same spices for most fruits, but I didn’t explain how or why I adjust what spices I use and in what ratios.  Basically, I try to use more of the spices that I think go well with a particular fruit.

For the peach spice mix, I used a teaspoon of ginger.  Sometimes, for peaches, I might even use more than that: I like how peaches and ginger taste together.  For blueberries, I usually ease up on or eliminate the ginger, but emphasize the cinnamon and allspice.  For apples, I’ll add in about as much cardamom as I use nutmeg.  I use about the same spice mixture when I roast winter squashes (such as pumpkin, acorn, butternut, and hubbard), too: about equal on the ginger as I use for peaches, plus I’ll add in some cloves, but not too much because they can dominate a dish.

Have a question about something culinary?  Email me!  I’ll research the matter and post a response.

Improving the peaches

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

Take another look at the grilled peaches post before you try to follow it. I went back and revisited my work and realized that my instructions needed improvement on a couple of points:

  • Putting the peach face down over the coals won’t work if the fire is still vibrant. Within three and a half minutes, the entire face of the peach may be singed.
  • The peel of the peach detracts from the overall texture of the finished product.

Thankfully, fixing these problems is easy. I have ammended the original post to reflect that the peach ought to be placed peel side down over the live coals, but a close eye should be kept on the peach while it is here, and it shouldn’t stay over the live coals for too long. The peach should then be moved to the cool side of the grill and placed cut side down to finish, turning it to install hatch marks. Before removing the peach from the grill, remove the peel. Once the peach is cooked, it should come off quite easily: just grab an edge of it with your tongs and pull away slowly, the entirety of the peel should come off smoothly.

Happy grilling!