Entries tagged with “Pantry and Equipment”.
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Fri 18 Dec 2009
Spend the better part of 27 years following an academic calendar and you’ll suffer a few years of being taken unaware by the holidays. That’s my excuse, anyway. It has been over two years since I graduated from law school, and I’m still a bit lost when it comes to taking note of the advent of Advent. Throw in the fact that I live in a land of two seasons (very nice and nice) and I’m perpetually surprised by the emails and phone calls from my family asking what I want for birthday/Chanukah/Christmas. Even though I loudly lamented the lack of time to shop, the end of fall semester was an easy way to mark the coming holidays. If you are one of those lucky folks with an internal calendar, I suspect you already have your shopping done and can totally disregard the rest of this post.
For those of you who suffer like me, here are a few gift ideas to round out your holiday shopping. Scrambling for night 8? Nothing says “I did NOT forget!” like presenting someone with an envelope containing a screen shot of the things you ordered. Looking more along the lines of kitchen equipment and gadgetry? See my Kitchen Equipment page for ideas. Full disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates program, and receive a small percentage of the purchase price for Amazon purchases made through this site. Wondering what the picture of creme-filled vols-au-vent has to do with gifts? Nothing. I just didn’t want it to go to waste. Now, on to the gifts!
Ratio - for everyone with an iPhone and a kitchen
As I have previously mentioned, Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio is an essential addition to any home cook’s library. By breaking recipes into 32 fundamental ratios, Ruhlman arms you with the tools to go beyond recipes and launch into your own universe of tinkering and experimenting with your cooking. As if the book were not enough, he has recently released an iPhone app by the same name that includes the 32 critical ratios, each complemented by a calculator that adjusts the ratio according to your inputs. It has a save feature, and allows you to add notes to your recipes for later recall. Out of all the recent attempts to marry classic concepts with new technology, this might be the very best union yet. At $4.99, it’s also a fantastic buy. I’ve included a link below for the book; consider giving them as a pair.
Zingerman’s - for everyone with a mouth
This isn’t so much a specific gift recommendation as it is an introduction to my very favorite gift source. For the uninitiated, Zingerman’s is a magical deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan that boasts a robust mail order business. If you find yourself in Ann Arbor, do not leave until you have stopped by the deli on Kingston. If you have more time and feel like serious restaurant indulgence, the Zingerman’s Roadhouse takes comfort food to another level. Let me put it this way: the Roadhouse introduced me to the donut sundae concept, and I have never looked back.
Gift-wise, zingermans.com is the end-all, be-all resource for the foodies on your list, or anyone who falls into that difficult has-everything-they-need category. They carry everything from cheeses to baked goods to cured meats to rare and wonderful vinegars. The customer service folks are kind and knowledgeable - if you find yourself unable to make a decision, give them a call and they’ll be glad to help. Here are a few of my favorites, but this is just the tip of the tasty Zingerman’s iceberg.
Peppered Bacon Farm Bread
Chocolate Sourdough Bread
10-year Aged Balsamic
Agrodolce White Balsamic Vinegar
French Roast Coffee
Scones and Tea for Two
Arkansas Peppered Bacon
Ice Milk Aprons - for the woman who loves simple, classic things
In a world of disposable everything, it is refreshing to find people who design products with future generations in mind. The lovely folks at Ice Milk Aprons are enchantingly enamored with the concept of heirlooms and have fashioned their beautiful aprons as such. Available in full or half lengths (mine is pictured below), these gorgeous aprons are meant to be loved in your kitchen, then passed along for new lives in generations to come. Each apron comes in an heirloom kit, complete with a tag to hold its owners’ embroidered initials and recipe cards for your most treasured creations (which come in handy even if you, ahem, happen to store your recipes in a decidedly unromantic, electronic form, like someone I know). One of these days, I’ll post a picture of myself actually wearing my beautiful apron. Such an occurrence will require a combination of foresight and daylight that has yet to manifest in the Salty Spoon kitchen. In the meantime, enjoy the way it looks on a vintage Madame Bust:
Photo courtesy of Ice Milk Aprons
OXO Mini Measuring Cup - for the usefulness quota inherent in every stocking
Some of the most profound workhorses in my kitchen happen to be the smallest. This 4 tablespoon liquid measuring cup by OXO is one of those little workers - I use it almost every time I cook, especially when I halve or quarter a recipe and need an eighth of a cup of liquid. Yes, you can always remind yourself that 4 tablespoons equals a quarter cup, but it’s nice to have the same measurement spelled out in several, easy-to-read units. This isn’t one of those gifts that will knock the recipient’s socks off right away; soon, though, they’ll find themselves stunned and barefoot.
If I were to write out a list of every good cookbook with which I’m acquainted, the post would be unmanageable. Instead, here are a few favorites and a few recent finds that I think are particularly delightful.
Sunday Suppers at Lucques - for anyone seeking a bit of simple elegance
The Craft of Baking - for your favorite baker
The Grand Central Baking Book - for your other favorite baker
Betty Crocker: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today - for the novice who doesn’t know where to begin
The Flavor Bible - for anyone looking to learn more about flavor profiles
Ratio - for the anyone looking to reach beyond mere recipes
Tue 7 Apr 2009
Even in this modern world of non-stick everything (hell, I have non-stick pants, which is a story for another time), it is often helpful to have some sort of oil in a sprayable form to keep everything slipping and sliding in all the right ways. Yeah, I’m essentially talking about food lube, but let’s keep our eyes on the ball.
I am a former Pam devotee. It’s readily available at any grocery store, it’s inexpensive, and it requires exactly zero futzing in order to make it work. Pam is fine for many things, and if that’s what you happen to have on hand, it will totally suffice for much of your lubing needs when it comes to my recipes.
The problem with Pam and its ilk is a function of the delivery method. In order to make that nifty aerosol action work properly, the cooking oil we want is accompanied by propellants we don’t. Please understand, this is not a fussy I Don’t Eat That stance; my objection to propellants is purely from an equipment maintenance position. The propellants in cooking sprays aren’t separable from the spray output. While this does nothing to the taste and texture of your food, they get all the hell over whatever cookware you are trying to lubricate. Do you have a cookie sheet that has become increasingly coated with golden brown crud? Do your silicone baking pieces have inexplicable sticky, gunky bits all over the edges? That’s baked propellant, amigo, and there’s nothing you can do about it. That shit just loves to land on your bakeware and singe itself into molten, messy poop, and any amount of scrubbing that would remove it will also remove half of the host. Propellant crud is, for practical purposes, forever.
So what to do? I use a Misto*. Actually, I use two. It charms me to no end that John and I both came to this marriage with a Misto in hand. We use one for olive oil and one for vegetable oil. I believe they come with labels upon purchase, but those are long gone, so I tell them apart by smell; John tells them apart by lucky guessing, as his sense of smell is, um, retarded.
One benefit of Pam and the like is the absolutely even, whisper light spray of oil that it reliably delivers. Conversely, while you can learn to control the output of the Misto to be as light or heavy as you like, the uninitiated can also end up with a sloppy squirt of oil where you intended a light mist. I can live with the tradeoff, but I am also fastidious about my silicone bakeware and love olive oil, so the occasional unintended heavy squirt doesn’t bother me.
And I must now go quietly die in a corner, as the temptation to run amok with all the squirty imagery in this post is just about killing me.
*I swear up and down, six ways to Tuesday that this product used to be called Mr. Misto. However, upon a foiled attempt to find anything productive or useful when Googling “Mr. Misto”, I discovered that the official product’s name is, in fact, Misto. But the website also includes the prominent tagline “DISCOVER THE MAGIC!” so I think anything is possible here.
Sun 5 Apr 2009
Posted by Bria under Main Dishes
Pasta is one of my absolute favorite foods. It can support an incredible variety of supporting actors, from the simple (butter and cheese) to the elegant (vodka sauce) to the bizarre (tomato juice – really, my step-sisters love it this way). It’s easy to store and is generally pretty cheap.
But why fresh pasta? If you don’t already know, I think any explanation I could give you would be woefully inadequate. Imagine trying to explain to someone why cold water is refreshing or that the tops of babies’ heads smell good. If you love fresh pasta and have shied away from making your own because you think you can’t, give it a go. It’s not an especially quick process, although I have successfully pulled this off on a weeknight when I came home on the daylight side of 7pm.
Like so many things in life, there are two ways to do this: the easy way, and the hard way. The hard way is not impossible by any means (and I have successfully tackled it many times), it’s just a little messier and requires more elbow grease than the easy way. However, in terms of tools, the easy way requires a food processor and the hard way requires a flat working surface you don’t mind covering with flour.
I should point out that you also need attire you don’t mind covering with flour. Don’t try to roll fresh pasta in front of your dinner guests if you don’t want them to see you turn into a freshly flocked version of yourself. There are some menus you can easily throw together in dressy duds; this ain’t it.
I use a pasta roller to get the sheets nice and flat, but I typically cut them into tagliatelle by hand with a pizza cutter rather than use the cutting attachment. One of these days, I’ll give fettuccine another shot. For now, the wide, flat ribbons of tagliatelle are perfect. Wider pasta can stand up to a very hefty sauce. That is not to say that there is anything remotely weak sauce about cappellini, spaghetti, or the like, but something wide like tagliatelle is really your ticket if you make, say, a hearty ragout.
You will note that I let the dough rest for 2 hours. You can speed it up, if you wish, but some rest is critical – at least 20 minutes. This lets the flour form gluten, which will make your dough elastic and lovely instead of sticky and crappy. If you make your pasta on the weekend, as I typically do, give it your best love and kisses and let it have its full nap. If you want to speed the play for weeknight carbtasticness, go with a 20 minute rest (during which time you can make a nice, quick sauce!).
A note on ingredients: I use all-purpose flour for my pasta. Specifically, I use King Arthur All-Purpose – comes in a red and white bag. After years of playing hit and miss with many flour brands, I have come to love King Arthur. I use their bread flour, wheat flour, and all-purpose flour (often referred to here as “AP flour”). Yes, you can do lovely things with fancier flours, particularly semolina. I just haven’t gotten around to trying. When I do, I will keep you updated. In the meantime, I like this recipe as I always have the components on hand. AP flour? Check. Eggs? Check. You can have a spectacularly bare fridge and still knock your own socks off with the simplest of ingredients. Try it.