Archive for the 'Food' Category

Tomato Porky Thing

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

I tossed this together tonight and, though simple and fairly obvious, was just too good to not share.

Heirloom tomato season is upon us and I’ve been grabbing some beauties from my community garden plot.

A simple use that makes for a good all in one meal:

  • Slice the tomato into 1/4″ thick rounds
  • Place on lightly oiled (olive oil works best) cookie sheet or pizza pan
  • Place a couple of fresh basil leaves on each
  • Add a bit of meat. I used pulled pork (as I had made some earlier), but I’m betting ham or bacon would work exceptionally well, too. Chicken works quite nicely, as well.
  • Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Good thick layer. Maybe grate a touch of parmesan in there, too
  • Lightly pepper and add a touch of salt. I used porcini mushroom salt.
  • Toss into a warmed pre-warmed oven at about 300 degrees.
  • Wait a minute or so, then turn the oven over to Broil on high
  • Wait until all the cheese is melted and starting to bubble/brown


Fatblogging: I’m below 230! (Assist by The Scale That Tweets)

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

For the first time in umpteen years, I’m solidly below 230 lbs (I briefly dipped below 230 in 2007 or so, the last time).

I’m using the rather innovative and revolutionary diet of Eat Right and Exercise. Otherwise known as Consume Fewer Calories Than You Burn.

Namely, I’m biking to work every day it isn’t raining, cut out junk food, cut down on portions, and have focused on eating lots of veggies and fruits.

At right is my means of tracking weight, the Withings Wifi Body Scale.

The Withings scale is WiFi enabled. Thus, if you stand on the scale for about 5 seconds after your reading stabilizes, the scale will submit your weight to a central web site where a (rather bloated and slow) Flash app can be used to monitor your weight.

However, there is also a fairly nice iPhone app. The scale can also be configured to tweet your weight (my 174 lbs target is actually below what I’d consider success @ about 190), as well.

I also briefly used the Lose It! application. It is actually a very well designed, easy to use, application for tracking your caloric intake.

Beyond all the techno-goop, the Withings scale is simply very well engineered. It has a striking, minimal, design and feels quite solid. Setup was a breeze and use is quite intuitive. It can track multiple people’s weight and automatically identifies each user by their weight (though I have no idea how it would deal with two people who have similar weights).

Bread Revisited!

Monday, March 29th, 2010
Dutch Oven Bread

A while ago, I took up bread making. The goal being to master turning out a consistently awesome loaf of your basic bread using a simple mix – knead – rise – knead – rise – bake recipe; standard fare directly from the first chapter in Rulhman’s Ratio.

From the first loaf, I was able to turn out a generally yummy hunk of bread, but the texture was just a bit dense.

At the moment, I bake all of my bread in a cast iron dutch oven; 30 minutes lid on, 40 or so minutes without the lid. This leads to a wonderful crisp crust and soft interior.

As it turns out, my bread was too dense simply because I wasn’t letting the dough rise long enough on the second rise! Extending the second rise not only fixed the density issue, but I’ve also now cut my ingredients by a third because my existing quantities would actually cause the bread to lift the lid on the cast iron dutch oven!

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Make: Kegerator!

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
Completed Kegerator

I have always wanted to brew beer and have a number of friends that do. The results are almost always delicious and always interesting.

Having helped with the bottling process, I decided long ago that if I were to ever brew beer, I would not use bottles. Instead, I would rack into a keg and dispense from there.

Obviously, I needed a kegerator!

To force the issue, I brewed my first batch of beer a few months ago knowing that i would have to figure out a means of serving said beer from a corny keg before I could enjoy the fruits of my brewing labors. A 5 gallon “corny keg” is the standard vessel used in soda fountains and it has two “ball locks” on the top, one for the gas line and one for the liquid out line.

I actually looked into simply purchasing a kegerator outright, but they were expensive, generally inefficient, and often designed very poorly.

Thus, I decided to build my own.
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Simple Stupid Gas Range Upgrade

Monday, March 15th, 2010

If you are lucky enough to have a gas range, you already know the joys of a dead even heat source that can range from medium-low to blowtorch. None of that cyclic all-on/all-off nonsense of the typical electric range, for example.

However, “low heat” is not something in the typical gas range’s vocabulary. On our Viking, the lowest setting on the smallest burner will keep a small pot of water at a rolling boil and will consistently cause a cup of rice to boil over. And it is a really low flame!

Enter the heat diffuser. A heat diffuser sits between burner and your pan or pot. It effectively acts as a heat buffer and, as the name implies, diffuser.

On a gas range like mine, it allows one to achieve the lowest simmer/heat you might want. On an electric range, a cast iron heat diffuser — you want thermal mass — will nicely even on the all-on/all-off behavior of most ranges.

At ~$20, it is a worthy tool to add to your cooking arsenal!

Review: Breville Toaster Oven (of awesomeness)

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

I have long wanted a really good toaster oven. One that had decent capacity, was versatile, and insulated such that it doesn’t lose a ton of heat when sticking food into it. As well, I can’t deal with poorly designed products and will often choose dead simple over a full featured item simply because simple is harder to screw up.

After 8 months of research and comparisons, I finally settled on the Breville BOV800XL Smart Oven. It isn’t simple and it certainly isn’t cheap, but the Breville is really quite an excellent piece of technology.

The Breville’s controls are straightforward. You select the mode first, then there are two additional dials that configure, effectively, temperature and time. For toasting, the two additional buttons select slices and darkness; seemingly silly, but it actually works quite well!

As well, the toaster oven has a convection setting and a “frozen” setting that automatically adjusts the cooking times to account for cooking frozen foods. The “frozen” button is the one feature that borders on frivolous gadgetry. Then again, cooking random frozen foods really isn’t a part of our diet. If it was, the adjustment it makes actually does make sense.

The interior capacity is large enough to bake a 13″ pizza or roast a whole chicken (though you might have to cut it into two halves). Combining decent insulation with high wattage, the Breville both heats relatively quickly, holds heat well, and the outside does get warm, but not terribly hot.

When the internal rack is in toasting position, opening the door magnetically slides the rack out a few inches. Very convenient.

All in all, the Breville is a well engineered kitchen tool. It can easily replace your toaster and can often fill in for your full sized oven while both pre-heating more quickly and using less electricity overall. And, of course, the Breville can act as a secondary oven for those times when you need two ovens.

Since the addition of the Breville to our cooking toolset, it sees daily use.

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Feast of the Seven Fishes 2009

Friday, December 25th, 2009
Christmas Table

For Christmas Eve, our tradition is to serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

This year, my parents and one of my sisters are in town. We were joined by our neighbor Ron.

Christmas Table Detail

As the name implies, the meal is composed of at least seven seafood dishes. Thus, a great excuse to pull out the full china settings and go for fancy table supreme!

Since my father is allergic to soft shelled seafood, this year’s feast included oysters, squid salad, clams, mussels, scallops, sole, and freshwater bass.

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Excellent Coffee Thermos

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

One of the problems with the Chemex coffee maker is that it is utterly useless for making more coffee than you plan on consuming in one sitting simply because it does nothing to keep the coffee warm! We have guests coming in over the holiday break and I want to be able to make a pot of chemex, pour it into a thermos, pour some more hot water over the grounds (if you use enough grounds, this works great!!) and then our that into the thermos, too.

On the recommendation of one with a clear caffeine addiction, I picked up the Thermos Nissan 51 Ounce Stainless Steel Carafe pictured at left.

It does a brilliant job! I made coffee at about 10AM this morning and it was still hot — not burning hot, but hot enough — after 5pm in the afternoon! Better yet, the coffee maintained its flavor just about as well as one could expect! The caffeine addict that recommended the carafe indicated that pretty much all of Thermos’s Nissan line are top notch, too.

I tried putting the Chemex on a Bunn Warmer — was enticed by the name, obviously — but the combination of a hot bottom plus sides that shed heat rapidly meant that the coffee quickly turned ultra-nasty flavored. Yuck. The Bunn will prove useful; it turns out it heats water to pretty much the perfect temperature for brewing certain kinds of green tea that don’t tolerate boiling water without yielding bitter flavors!

California Rice Oil Company

Thursday, November 19th, 2009
California Rice Oil & Turkey Burner in Shallow Fry Mode

One reason I started this weblog was as a means of taking notes such that I could use google to index my brain. Another reason, though, was that others would comment on my various postings with ideas, refinements, suggestions, and criticisms. This posting is in response to just such a contribution.

Shortly after writing the turkey fryer article, a comment hit the moderation queue suggesting that I give rice oil a try for frying a turkey. Specifically, the comment pointed to the California Rice Oil Company.

I emailed the contact on the post to ensure that it wasn’t spam and, in so doing, the company offered to send me a gallon of rice oil for review.

I’m not entirely certain how I have entirely missed rice oil in my cooking explorations, but I have. And now that said company introduced me to the oil, I’m never going back.

It is a fantastic product. Better yet, it also appears to be one of the healthiest oils around (see the references).

I love to fry foods and, with the turkey burner or deep fryer, I can fry outside without stinking up the house. A common misconception is that fried foods are greasy & unhealthy. Starting with a good quality & healthy oil, neither is actually true if the fry is executed properly.

In general, the key to frying is to get the grease or oil hot enough that the waters on the surface of the food boil quickly and either seal the food or cook whatever batter or coating is on the food rapidly. Too low of a temperature and it will be greasy.

California Rice Oil at About 450 Degrees!

And that is what I find most amazing about rice oil.

Olive oil has a ridiculously low smoke point of 360℉. At or near that temperature, olive oil will start to smoke and, more importantly, it will start to break down, both changing flavor and greatly impacting the nutritional elements in the oil.

Canola, Peanut and Soy all have smoke points around 450℉, much more reasonable for frying. But all have nutritional deficits or somewhat questionable manufacturing practices (for example, Canola oil is largely produced from genetically modified crops).

Grape seed oil has a very high smoke point of 485℉, but is not balanced across the fats and is very expensive.

Rice oil has a ridiculously high smoke point of 490℉. The pan in the picture was at somewhere north of 450℉. I have never cooked with an oil that wouldn’t be smoking or changing flavor at that temperature!

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Indispensable Cooking Tool; The Turkey Fryer

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Just found yet another use for my turkey burner. Roasting chile peppers! Worked flawlessly and was a heck of a lot easier than a plumber’s torch.

This kind of gas burner is just incredibly useful for anyone who enjoys cooking. It is designed to be able to heat a pot of grease up to the 350°F necessary to deep fry a turkey (which I have never tried). Thus, the burners put out a truly awesome amount of heat!

Note: The Underwriter’s Laboratory will not certify turkey fryers at all. Why? Because people are stupid and need to be protected from themselves when using powerful tools. When frying, it is terribly easy to cause a grease fire. So, fry away from your house and use the nifty good-eats style turkey crane. And have a grease friendly fire extinguisher on hand.

Or just do what I do and don’t actually fry turkeys on it!

You can find the burners at any decent hardware store. If you do, make sure it has a few features (all of which the burner at left has — except the pot):

Flat Top Surface
The top of the burner should be flat. This is critical if you want to put something on it that is burgerbigger than the burner (like a grill). Yes, I was hungry when I wrote this.
Cast Two-Piece Burner
The burner, itself, should be two pieces of cast iron held together by a bolt through the middle. The burner will get stuff spilled on it and it will rust or corrode. The two piece design makes it trivial to take it apart for cleaning. A wire brush on an electric drill makes cleaning trivial.
Adjustable Air Vents
This is needed to be able to tune the flame. Not just for maximum heat output, but sometimes also for maximum flame height.
Long hose with valve on or after regulator
The gas coming out of the tank is relatively high pressure. The burner’s secondary regulator will take care of regulating down to something more reasonable. The valve after or integrated into the regulator is critical because the pressure off the tank, while high, will change considerably as the tank empties. That and it is nearly impossible to make fine adjustments on the high pressure side of the line.
Stainless Steel Pot
If you get a kit, try to find one with a stainless steel pot. It will last longer and corrode less than aluminum.
Stable Design
Some burners have legs that go straight down or are relatively tall. Stupid. Ideally, you want a three or four legged burner with relatively wide set legs. If three legs, they should spread quite wide for stability (like the one to the left).

OK — so you have the beast of a burner. What can you do with it? I’m sure there is more — comments welcome — but these are just some of the things I have done with mine:

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