Archive for September, 2006

Pepper-Corny Jokes!

Friday, September 29th, 2006

True Story:
My parents have salt & pepper shakers shaped like outhouses. One says “I’m full of S” and the other says “I’m full of P!”

Q: Why couldn’t the puppy sit still?
A: She was pepper trained (yeouch!)

Q: Who’s the hottest skunk in France?
A: Pepper Le Peu!

Planning ahead:
Next time I’m in a Mardi Gras parade, I’m gonna pepper the crowd with jalapenos.

Read about the best way to cook with pepper

Spinach Update

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

26 states, 183 people. They’re telling us it’s OK to eat most spinach again, just not the stuff from Salinas Valley in California.

Funny that such a widespread outbreak comes from spinach grown in three counties in California. The states hardest hit by the outbreak are Utah, Wisconsin, and Ohio—fairly far away from the source of the bacteria.

No need to repeat myself on my opinion of the implications of this thing, but I do recommend that you take a look at this map of where the illnesses have occurred and see for yourself how ridiculous it is that in a nation where there’s farmland from coast to coast, we’re shipping truckloads of spinach across the country.

Casing the Joint

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

Mr. Orange –

What is the “artificial casing” used to contain modern sausage REALLY made of? My personal theory is that it’s plastic, but I’d like to think that the food industry isn’t so obviously damaging my digestive system.


Larry! Larry! Take me to the hospital, Larry! I’m dying! I ate a plastic sausage and if I don’t get to the hospital, I’m gonna die! Just drop me off by the emergency room, Larry! I won’t tell ‘em who you are, I promise!

Wait, no, wrong guy.

Truth is, some casings are made of plastic, but if you eat them, you don’t know how to peel your pepperoni. Plastic casings are those “papers” on certain deli sausages that everyone knows you’re supposed to take off before you eat your meat. Or is that taking it too far?


Building Your Pie on a Firm Foundation

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

How to make a tasty crust

Dedicated readers might recognize this recipe: I included it as a part of my peach and blueberry struesel pie. Upon further reflection, though, I’ve decided that it’s deserving of its own heading. There are so many other different kinds of pies that can benefit from this recipe because a homemade crust improves any pie. I’d even go so far as to say I’d rather eat a pie featuring a poorly-made crust than a high quality store crust because when you make it yourself you show how much you care.

Lots of people get scared off by the prospect of making their own crust because it has an aura of difficulty about it: whether it’s the impossibility of predicting exactly how much water you’ll need to add or the task of rolling the crust out by hand, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a bit of both. It shouldn’t be, though. The process is surprisingly easy to learn, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Not only that, but the essential ingredients are all things you’re almost guaranteed to have on hand: flour, salt, butter and/or shortening, and water. That’s it. So, take on the challenge of crafting your own crust. You can even pretend it’s as difficult as people seem to think if it increases the adulations your guests shower upon your efforts.


In (further) Praise of Tomatoes

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Everybody should love a good tomato fresh-picked from a backyard garden, sweetly tangy and full of juice. Eaten from the hand like an apple, its skin resists just briefly before it bursts and yields its flavor to your tongue. Sliced and sprinkled with a touch of sea salt and some cracked black pepper, they are one of the simplest delicacies known to cuisine, a gourmet accomplishment within the abilities of any cook.

sliced tomato goodness

In the foreground is a sliced pink accordian tomato, which grows with a ruffled, dimpled surface. In the background is a purple cherokee, which ripens to a rich, plum color. In the middle are two varieties which, sadly, I cannot identify because my version of gardening tends to have a greater resemblance to gathering, but both came from feral plants in my backyard.


What the Spinach Outbreak Shows Us About Our Food

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

I’m sure at this point, everyone is already well aware of the E. coli outbreak associated with bagged spinach. To recap, though, over 100 people in at least 19 states have been sickened; one person has died. As a result, the FDA has advised us not to eat spinach lest we become infected.

Nineteen states—almost half the nation. That’s the problem with our nationalized, mono-cropped system of producing food. Instead of thinking about food as nutrition, food as sustenance, food as a part of the natural environment; we tend to think of food as a commodity. Thus, massive quantities of a single crop are planted over vast swaths of land, prompted to grow in such an arrangement through the addition of synthetic sources of nutrients that have been stripped from the soil through misuse. Cows, pigs, and chickens are raised in factory-like environments, packed so closely together and/or fed such an unnatural diet that they must be fed a constant stream of antibiotics to maintain their health; plus, their growth is also fueled by the addition of synthetic growth hormones.

These situations aren’t natural. What’s called “conventionally grown” is a perversion of agriculture that has more to do with chemistry than “a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.” My friend Cortney was kind enough to lend me her copy of The Nation from a couple of weeks ago: an issue that was all about food and where it comes from. The date on the cover is September 11; it’s probably the only magazine dated as such that doesn’t deal with the prospect of large explosions caused by the actions of angry men who view our nation as the great satan. It’s probably also the only magazine dated as such that deals with the most likely threat to our nation’s security: our overtaxed and potentially increasingly unreliable food supply.

Sweet Caramelized Red Onion Marmalade!

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

No, Really, It’s Good!

When I told my sister that we’d be eating it, she turned up her nose at me; but once it was on the table, she was asking for seconds. It’s surprising the first time you taste this dish that its main ingredient is onions. The finished result is sweet and tasty, and there are many uses for it: it’s scrumptious on a zucchini muffin, delicious on roasted winter squash (as pictured), and tasty paired with lean fish. Rolled into a crepe, I call it Crepes Julia, after my sister-in-law, for whom I was supposed to have made it but still have not yet (Maybe in March, Julia!)

red onion marmalade on butternut squash


Zucchini Muffins that’ll make you go, “Zounds!”

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

Zucchini is a great vegetable on which to practice cutting brunoise and fine brunoise—you know, the little, tiny dice cuts. But then what to do with all that zucchini? Personally, I make muffins. They’re quick, they’re easy, and they’re tasty. You can’t ask for much more.


The Best Way to Peel Garlic

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Too many people spend way too long extending and protracting the process of peeling a clove of garlic. There’s no need to roll it in a rubber sheath nor strip at it with a paring knife. Life’s too short to waste time on such unnecessary inefficiency. Three steps, five to ten seconds, your garlic is peeled.

1) Place your knife flat upon the garlic.

place your knife upon the clove

2) Press down firmly, but do not strike the blade.

press down but do not strike

3) Grasp the peel at the sprot end in one hand and the garlic at the root end with the other.

take one in one hand and the other in the other

They come apart effortlessly. If you have to peel a lot of garlic, perform each step on all cloves before proceeding to the next step. Only press down on one clove (or clove group, if a couple or three cloves are stuck together as one) at a time. If you’re trying to mash multiple groupings, none of them come apart as well or as quickly as if you were to do each separately in succession.

Also, if you need a great deal of garlic for any particular purpose (~1 bulb or more), place the bulb on your cutting board root side up and press down on it as you would to peel a single clove of garlic.  The cloves will come apart from the bulb much more quickly than if you were to try to pull them all off individually.

Making Perfect Knife Cuts

Monday, September 18th, 2006

For most vegetables (carrots and onions being two of the few exceptions), the most efficient way to dice them also yields perfect results. If you are able to keep the pieces of your veggies organized into neat stacks, you will be able to slice through them several layers at a time, swiftly producing beautiful cuts.

batonnet batonnet: 1/4″ x 1/4″ x 2-2.5″

julienne julienne: 1/8″ x 1/8″ x 2-2.5″

fine julienne fine julienne: 1/16″ x 1/16″ x 2-2.5″

small dice small dice: 1/4″ cubed

brunoise brunoise: 1/8″ cubed

fine brunoise fine brunoise: 1/16″ cubed