Archive for September, 2012

Cast Iron Makes a Huge Difference

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

I got some church lady pierogies this week and brought them home to cook.  I always cook lots of vegetables to go with them.  This week, it was onions, garlic, mushrooms, hot pepper, and bell peppers.  My copper-bottomed stainless steel was out and handy, so I used it.

I got about halfway through adding the vegetables into the pan and realized that it was getting a bit crowded, so I grabbed my ceramic-lined cast iron off of the pot rack (the only cast iron that hangs—the rest sit in the cupboard being so heavy that they’ve bowed the cupboard floor.  Whenever we get around to redoing the kitchen, we’re going to have to install a specially reinforced cupboard with custom-built organizational slots to accommodate my collection).  I fired up the heat under that pan and transferred about half of what was in the stainless pan to the new one once it got hot.

Even though my stainless pan was over the so-called ‘power burner’ on my stove, and even though I actually had more gas burning under it than I did my cast iron pan, the vegetables in the stainless pan were cooking but not taking on any color while the ones in the cast iron pan were taking on a beautiful caramel hue.  I wound up doing multiple transfers/ retransfers between the two pans to get all of the veg to caramleize properly.

My Standard Pierogie Vegetable Mix Recipe

Slice onions, garlic, mushrooms and peppers.  Add about a half stick of butter to a hot pan.  Once it has mostly melted, put the onions into the pan along with a pinch of salt and black pepper to taste.  Cook over mediumish heat, stirring about once a minute.  Once the onions have softened and are starting to brown, add the garlic.  Cook for 1-3 minutes until it starts to brown.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have shrunk and taken on some color.  (if your pan is getting too full, divide between two pans).  Add the peppers and cook until they have softened.

One-pan instructions

Remove the cooked vegetables to a plate to hold.  Add the other half stick of butter to the pan.  Brown the pierogies in the butter, flipping just once.  When the pierogies have browned, return the vegetables tot he pan.  optional: Add chicken or vegetable stock and reduce over high heat to a sauce.

Two-pan instructions:

Put all of the vegetables in one of the pans.  Add chicken stock and reduce over medium-high heat to a sauce.  Meanwhile, add the other half stick of butter to the now-empty pan.  Brown the pierogies in here, flipping only once.  When they are browned, transfer them to the vegetable-filled pan, arranging them in an attractive radiating star pattern across the top of the pan for family-style service.

Big, Bad Corn

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Thanks to Hannah Edwards for this informative infographic, originally posted at

Cranberry Sample

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

This morning, Angstrom and I made my cranberry-oatmeal coffee cake for breakfast.

We had finished mixing most of the ingredients and I was pouring the frozen cranberries into the batter when Angstrom told me, “I want a cranberry.”

It wasn’t so much the fact that they were frozen that made me pause.  After all, Angstrom had happily requested—and eaten—frozen blueberries as his snack earlier in the week.  So, I knew he could handle the cold.  I just wasn’t sure how he would react to the flavor—and after trying a raw cranberry, would he still be interested in the coffee cake?  But, if he doesn’t taste the raw one, how will he know the flavor transformation these berries undergo during the cooking process?

“Raw cranberries are very tart,” I told him as I handed him one to try.  “They’ll be sweeter once they’ve cooked.”

He popped it in his mouth, crunched it up, and ate the whole thing.  “Cranberries are very sour,” he told me.  We finished mixing the coffee cake and then read a couple of books while we waited for breakfast to bake.

If you’ve never tried this coffee cake, I recommend making it when cranberries start showing up in the stores in the next few weeks.  Then, buy a half dozen or so extra bags of cranberries and throw them in your freezer so you can make it for the rest of the year.

Who Needs Water More?

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Here’s a great example of why we need to have clear priorities and conserve resources in order to meet the demands placed by a growing population.  In Colorado, where drought has made water even scarcer than usual, there’s not enough to go around.  Farmers need it to irrigate their crops; drillers need it to frack for gas. In an interesting analysis, one farmer says,

“It’s not a level playing field,” said Peter Anderson, who grows corn and alfalfa on eastern Colorado’s parched plains. “I don’t think, in reality, that the farmer can compete with the oil and gas companies for that water. Their return is a hell of a lot better than ours.”

Maybe in a straight financial analysis of return on investment, but that’s still a strange view when comparing natural gas to food.

It will be interesting to see how battles like this play out, especially as gas companies use their resources to buy land with their eye not on mineral rights but on water rights. 

Read The Whole Article

Friday, September 7th, 2012

I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with some sort of food-related connection to make this fit in with the theme of Corduroy Orange.  But I’ve given up and am posting this anyway, because this article by Matt Taibbi from the September 13 issue of Rolling Stone ought to be required reading for all voters in advance of the general election.

The reality is that toward the middle of his career at Bain, Romney made a fateful strategic decision: He moved away from creating companies like Staples through venture capital schemes, and toward a business model that involved borrowing huge sums of money to take over existing firms, then extracting value from them by force. He decided, as he later put it, that “there’s a lot greater risk in a startup than there is in acquiring an existing company.” In the Eighties, when Romney made this move, this form of financial piracy became known as a leveraged buyout, and it achieved iconic status thanks to Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Gekko’s business strategy was essentially identical to the Romney–Bain model, only Gekko called himself a “liberator” of companies instead of a “helper.”

[...]Romney and Bain avoided the hostile approach, preferring to secure the cooperation of their takeover targets by buying off a company’s management with lucrative bonuses. Once management is on board, the rest is just math. So if the target company is worth $500 million, Bain might put down $20 million of its own cash, then borrow $350 million from an investment bank to take over a controlling stake.

But here’s the catch. When Bain borrows all of that money from the bank, it’s the target company that ends up on the hook for all of the debt.

[...]This business model wasn’t really “helping,” of course – and it wasn’t new. Fans of mob movies will recognize what’s known as the “bust-out,” in which a gangster takes over a restaurant or sporting goods store and then monetizes his investment by running up giant debts on the company’s credit line. (Think Paulie buying all those cases of Cutty Sark in Goodfellas.) When the note comes due, the mobster simply torches the restaurant and collects the insurance money. Reduced to their most basic level, the leveraged buyouts engineered by Romney followed exactly the same business model. “It’s the bust-out,” one Wall Street trader says with a laugh. “That’s all it is.”

Read the whole article, and then vote your conscience.