New Year’s wishes

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Image may contain: possible text that says '"The best motto to think about is not waste things. Don't waste electricity. don't waste paper. don't waste food. Live the way you want to live but just don't waste. Look after the natural world. and the animals in it. and the plants in it too. This is their planet as well as ours. Don't waste them." Sir DavidAttenborough'

Gifts for your favorite cook

Even though this seems to come at Christmas, it’s really useful for other occasions, too; like birthdays, or just to pamper yourself type occasion.

Some of my favorite comestibles here. Most of the websites mentioned have gifts or starters kits available. Add something new to your kitchen–there are so many things we don’t see in the supermarket are worth adding to your pantry.

  • Salt: . Seriously, yes, salt! Kosher salt is fine for the basics; however, salt is not salt is not salt. Salted: A Manifesto is a treatise that will introduce you to the world of salt outside the Diamond Crystal or Morton box (available hardbound or Kindle editions). Finishing salt as a final touch is awesome. It’s like that final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or that treasured balsamic vinegar to put the final touch on a meal. The Meadow is a great website (or store if you’re in the right areas) for salts.
  • Lentils: Lentils go far beyond the plastic bags that you see in the supermarket. If these pulses haven’t found their way into your kitchen, start here for information on different kinds. There are many colors, sizes, textures and flavors. My personal favorite for my kitchen are the French green from Bob’s Red Mill, but you can also get red and brown lentils there too; even Amazon.com has several varieties. For a visual surprise try some black (aka beluga) lentils for salads.
  • Potatoes: A vegetable that we often take for granted, but there are so many other varieties that don’t appear in the supermarket; they do have different flavors. So try some; yes, there is a potato of the month club. Here are so of the varieties of potatoes that you certainly won’t find in the supermarket.
  • Heirloom beans: Just like potatoes, we’re missing some good ones with the typical supermarket supply. Even the garbanzo (chickpea) has some surprises for us. The bean has made it into the gourmet food list. Rancho Gordo, Elegant Beans, and North Bay Trading Company have a variety of beans that many of us had never heard of. There is a bean club with quarterly shipments if you want to keep your kitchen supplied.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: It’s always good to have variety here and a source that is reliable given how much “fake” or adulterated is on the market. Just a drizzle of a great oil can add a lot of a simple dish. My favorite local (does online orders, too) is Bull City Olive Oil–definitely one that keeps appearing here as a source for infused/fused oils, and vinegars (balsamic, sherry for example). Try a vinaigrette with lavender balsamic vinegar and herbs de Provence infused oil. Or go totally decadent with some truffle oil (black or white to drizzle (lightly) on a baked potato–add a glass of champagne, too.

Other suggestions based on the latest additions and most used things in my kitchen:

  • Instant Pot: It took me a while to get on the bandwagon for this kitchen appliance but it now has permanent place on my kitchen counter–especially for cooking beans without all the planning you’re used to if you don’t have an Instant Pot (or other pressure cooker). Though this recipe lists common supermarket varieties, it works just as well with the heirloom varieties. Not to denigrate canned beans since I do keep some on my pantry shelf, with the Instant Pot there are so many more to experience. However, beans are not the only reason to give this appliance kitchen counter space–it performs other functions as well–yogurt, sterilizing, rice cooking and slow cooking to mention just a few. It’s also wonderful to have those steel-cut oats ready for you when breakfast time arrives–no morning fumbles and long cooking time.
  • Instant Pot accessories: Since I do a lot of cooking for one with my Instant Pot I have found the “pot-in-pot” technique (also here and here) wonderful for small or even single servings or for several things at one time. Some of the “accessories” that I’ve found particularly useful for this can be found at ekovana, life without plastic, and of course, Amazon.com. I also use Pyrex bowls, but not plastic. For covers when cooking this way (to avoid extra water in the bowl) silicone lids (oven-safe) work well.
  • Sous vide circulator: Another fine way to enhance your cooking is to add sous vide or precision cooking to your methods. It’s my most recent addition but I’ll be quick to point out that it’s not displaced my Instant Pot by any means. I finally decided on Joule from ChefSteps but the Anova was a consideration too. This is really a different way of cooking. The results are fantastic, but it’s not going to replace the slow oven braised stew, baked garbanzos, or lamb stew, made in a cast iron dutch oven or a clay cooker (Romertopf) but it’s a method that’s going to stay in my kitchen. The low temperatures make it possible to use infused oils to flavor proteins–e.g. mushroom and sage to flavor chicken, Chilean sea bass with fennel oil, or salmon with fernleaf dill oil. For review of Joule see here.
  • Sous vide accessories: Even cooking for one sous vide is a great addition to the kitchen. Once you start this precision cooking process you’ll find that a craving for accessories develops. While I’ve used my dutch oven, or the inner container of my Instant Pot for containers for sous vide cooks, I think that I’ll have to make room for a different kind of container dedicated to sous vide for several reasons: for long cook times, it’s unhandy to have your dutch oven occupied that way if you want to do some unplanned braising. For long cook times (e.g. short ribs) the bath needs to be covered to prevent evaporation and plastic wrap is really klutzy. Finally, I want a rack to wrangle multiple bags in the same container that wouldn’t fit in my existing pots and pans. I’ve been using Ziploc freezer bags. I’m considering reusable vacuum bags but more research is needed.
  • Already got the sous vide circulator? Add a cookbook to get started with it.

So add some spice to your life and your kitchen! A son gôut!

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Disclaimer:

Brands mentioned here are my personal preferences. I receive no remuneration or consideration for mentioning them. I’m sure there are other equally good sources or brands but these happen to be the ones I use.

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Bring on the fat!

We’ve had years of vilification of fat all because of some reports of research that was not well done or accurately reported. Low-fat and fat-free have been advertising buzz words leading to processed foods that are supposedly healthy but really are not. If you want more on this saga check out books and blogs by Gary Taubes or Nina Teicholtz (here, here, and here under Nutrition).

I’m a fan of fat (possibly even a fat fan) used judiciously in cooking. I found this article in Bon Appetite by Carla Lalli Music refreshing and full of good information about using fat that you can get for free. (Note that is free fat, not fat free!) Fat and flavor go together.

A son gôut!

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How to Make Cultured Butter (Cultured Butter Recipe) – A Beautiful Plate

As a butter-lover, one of the things I miss (from growing up on a farm)) is “real” butter and butter milk. Since I’m now an urban dweller, I purchase my butter in the market so it’s “sweet cream” butter.

Although this requires some planning and effort, it’s worth it if you want a real taste treat–and you also like real butter milk. So I wanted to share this recipe from A Beautiful Plate.

A son gôut!

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So what’s this sous vide stuff?

Sous vide is a bit of a misnomer. It means “under vacuum”. That was how it originally started but now it would really be more appropriate to call it something like precision cooking now.

Vacuum was first used as a way to remove air from around the food so that there was good contact with the water in the bath since air is a poor conductor. Now while it’s possible to use vacuum a lot of sous vide cooking is done using Ziploc freezer bags and removing air by letting water in the bath press the plastic onto the food. You can also do this kind of cooking in–you guessed it–mason or Ball jars although you’ll need to increase times just a bit since glass is a poorer conductor of heat than with the think plastic.

Note that I specifically used the Ziploc brand name. Those are recommended as being safe and holding up to the cooking temperatures and times used. Most recipes suggest gallon bags, and not ones with the slider. You want the double seal. Since I’m mostly cooking single-serving size amounts I’ve been using quart size, and a smaller water bath than is usually recommended.

Some of you might be cringing at the temperatures and the times you see. They are safe. Even the lower temperatures essentially pasteurize the food according to USDA standards. More on that later, but pasteurization is really a pretty fascinating process.

I’ve already cooked one thing in a mason jar–lentils. Cooking right in the jar makes one of the good things about sous vide even better especially in cooking for one: that jar of lentils (about 3 really hefty servings) could go in the fridge so there was no extra washing up. Awesome. I’m envisioning some other advantages to sous vide for doing single-serving cooking!

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Celery-Walnut-Parmesan Salad

When doing single-serving cooking there is always celery needing to be used. This sounds like a great recipe.

Zest4Food

By Angelika Hanna

A Barefoot Contessa inspired recipe. Celery salad is an Italian classic, which I recently learned from Ina Garten in her TV show on the Food Network.

This salad looks like summer on a plate. I placed my celery salad on a lettuce bed which adds more green shades and flavors to my salad plate.

I followed the Barefoot Contessa’s celery recipe, however, I left the anchovy paste out because of personal taste.

Recipe:

Prep Time: 15 min

Total Time: 1 hr 15 min

Yield: 4-6 servings

Cuisine: Italian

Author: Angelika Hanna /Zest4Food

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups thinly sliced celery hearts, tender leaves included, sliced on an angle (approx. 12 stalks)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp freshly pressed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp shallots, minced
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • Kosher salt…

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I love my Instant Pot…

Warning: it’s a rant on a pet peeve!

Note I’m using the Instant Pot as an example because that’s what I own, no slight or promotion of any other brand is intended–and I get no remuneration or consideration for this. It’s strictly personal opinion.

I did finally succumb to the lore of the Instant Pot; I glad that I did because it is a wonderful tool in the kitchen. I love my Instant Pot (henceforth the IP); however, this rant is not directed to the IP per se, but to out expectations of a kitchen tool promoted by uncritical acceptance of advertising and overzealous adoption with unrealistic expectations. (Okay, perhaps the hot weather has made me a bit grouchy, maybe even bitchy, but then, lots of ads do that to me anyway since so many are insulting to our intelligence.)

I’m tired of seeing ads of the ilk “the IP can do everything” or “anything”. Not true. Then to read complaints that it doesn’t do what was claimed. We need to consider it a tool. Think about it. Screwdrivers and pliers are also tools, but we don’t expect one of them to do everything. They are quite different in the tasks that they perform and no toolbox would be functional without both (and even so more specialized versions of each one.)

Pressure cooking is not new, but we are fortunate to have the IP (and other electric pressure cookers) make pressure cooking much easier and less frightening. I’m not denying that there are many things that can be done in an IP (or the equivalent). It does work even for cooking pasta, steaming veggies and fish, and making hard-cooked eggs. But it does not do everything.

In using a pressure cooker you are cooking in a humid environment (and the same really applies to slow cookers) that requires an adequate amount of liquid and does not allow evaporation, so there are some things that just won’t happen inside the IP or slow cooker as they will in a low oven or even with stove-top cooking. Although hot weather keeps me from doing oven braises, there’s still nothing quite like a long, low-temperature, braise of some beef in red wine or in beer. The evaporation of liquid and browning that takes place during that process just can’t be duplicated in a pressure cooker. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to use a pressure cooker for a faux boeuf bourguignon or carbonnade ; it simply means that my expectations are different–both can be very tasty.

During hot, steamy weather I’m thoroughly enjoying by beef short ribs (from my IP and maybe quickly run under the broiler or grilled to add the browning). So, enjoy your IP or slow cooker for the things that they are really good at doing. (Unless I were to regress to college dormatory I can’t imagine any reason why I would use it for making popcorn but a son gôut!

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