Posts Tagged ‘kitchen equipment


Ferry Building shenanigans

On the way to and from Sausalito by ferry today, J-P and his mom and I spent some time in the Ferry Building. The first delight was that J-P surprised me with a meat cone from Boccalone:

Boccalone salumi cones

On our way home, we visited Sur le Table. Our haul consisted of our first-ever place mats (on clearance), replacements for our nine-year-old flexible silicone spatulas (thank you Austinites who gave me that going-away present) that have clearly seen better days, and a covered pie plate, to solve our perennial problem of how to transport a pie on a bicycle. We also discussed dish towels (how is it that the larger ones are less expensive than the smaller ones?), serving dishes, and Ann Taintor flasks, but we decided to get out while we still had a chance.

At no time did we consider the quesadilla grill basket:
Quesadilla grill pan
Nor the meatball grill basket, the corn grill basket, the stuffed-burger grill basket, or the slider grill basket.


3-D printing with masa

Thanks to Jon Camfield for this one: The French Culinary Institute prints and fries a 3-D masa flower.


When Kitchen Express and Cooks Illustrated collide

Turns out there was nothing wrong with the seal on my pressure cooker, but the pressure indicator inexplicably won’t stay up. This doesn’t affect the function (all of the beans still cooked quickly and nothing exploded), but it does make deciding when it’s safe to open the thing rather exciting.

I celebrated the lack of explosions and steam burns by using some of the white beans I cooked up to make white bean toasts, a fall recipe from Kitchen Express that works just as well in winter:

white bean toasts and cucumber soup

Mark Bittman’s recipe uses lemon juice and olive oil in place of the cream in the Joy of Cooking’s white bean paste. I left off the dried tomatoes that he suggests, since I only have smoke-dried ones, and I didn’t think that would coordinate too well with the rest of the flavors. I couldn’t be bothered to get out the food processor, so my potato-masher puree is more rustic than his, but my bread is more urbane. Why would I use a “peasant bread” when I love Noe Valley Bakery’s sour baguettes so?

But wait. What is that in the background? A totally unseasonal and unsuited to the weather chilled cucumber soup! Knowing my dedication to the joys of seasonal eating, you may well ask where that came from. I’ll tell you.

Yesterday I tested an unpublished Cooks Illustrated recipe for the first time. Even though I get their emails regularly, I’ve resisted until now because their editorial calendar keeps their test recipes so out of step with the seasons. I fell for this one because I figured the dressing on their cucumber salad would give me a good basis for trying to recreate this wonderful cabbage, cucumber, mint, jalapeño, and lime salad that Burma Superstar serves. I was right about the dressing, and I’m eager to try it with a cabbage I’ll pick up at the farmers’ market tomorrow. Meanwhile, the cucumber salad was just fine, though I was worried because the cucumbers I picked up at Whole Foods were big, seedy, and bitter.

The recipe served four, so I couldn’t finish it. Into the fridge with the leftovers! And tonight, out comes—cucumber salad in a lot of liquid:

That used to be a salad.

Immersion blender to the rescue!

Now it's a soup!

It was possibly better as a soup than as a salad. I can also see potential for it as a smoothie, or a granita, or a mixer. Come summer and small, sweet cucumbers, that is.


serendipitous cooking methods

My grandmother likes her Mexican rice dry (she’s a fan of raspas, the scrapings from the bottom of the pan), while my grandfather likes his with a little juice. Her rules for rice-making are: brown the onions and garlic, then the rice, then add liquid and let it be. Don’t stir it, don’t give it the ojo. The more times I’ve tried this method, the more I’ve come to think that it is meant to give uneven results–just to make everyone happy. In Boston, I blamed the crispy edges and juicy middle (plus the stray hard grains) on our dented, slanted stove. Here in San Francisco, our electric cooktop is perfectly flat–and still no luck. Maybe next time I’ll stir it. Not much, I promise. It’s not risotto. But just enough to get rid of the undercooked bits. Nobody likes those.

Austin Clarke has even worse suspicions about the traditional Barbadian method of preparing rice and beans in one pot. In Pig Tails n Breadfruit, he writes:

The woman cooking this food probably had only one utensil to her name in which to cook her food. But cooking any kind of peas or beans in the same pot as you cook rice is a very tricky thing to do. Sometimes, the peas or the beans does be cooked, and when you hear the shout, the damn rice does be hard. At other times, the rice does be cooked soft, and oh Lord, the peas or the beans does be hard as bullets.

He advises preparing them separately, unless you are an expert.


a very San Francisco summer dinner


Hot, nourishing celery soup to ward off the chilly blue fog, next to a BLT with amazingly sweet-tart, in-season tomato (not to mention free range bacon).

The celery soup recipe comes from PJ, who requested my calabacitas* recipe. For a celery soup that “tastes small and beautiful,” you will need:

  • cooking fat
  • a head of celery
  • a large yellow onion
  • salt
  • herbs that you enjoy (to borrow Gwen’s phrase; tonight they were thyme and garlic chives)
  • two medium starchy potatoes
  • pepper
  • zest of 1-2 lemons
  • six cups water

Heat the fat and get the onion and celery softening in it with some salt. Let that cook, stirring occasionally, while you prep the other ingredients. Add the potatoes, herbs, pepper, lemon zest, and water, along with some more salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and keep it there, covered, until the potatoes are done (another 20 minutes or so). Puree, adjust salt and pepper, and serve.

To puree, we use the immersion blender that Kelli, whom we will love forever, gave us. It replaced our 2-cup food processor for the purpose, and even a couple of years on, it still surprises us how easy the immersion blender is.

* PJ reports that her father’s family, who called summer squash cymlings, made something similar to calabacitas. The American Heritage Dictionary says that cymling is an alteration of simnel, which is a type of marzipan-covered cake served in Britain at Easter. I assume the association is through the shape of the patty pan squash, which kind of looks like a little cake.

simnel cake



we’re going camping

So I am preparing chickpeas and hard-cooked eggs. (It’s less tragic if the eggs crack once they’re cooked.) We’re also taking pre-packaged lemon-spinach couscous (if there ever were a time for flavored convenience foods, this seems to be it), instant black bean soup, Spanish chorizo, saltines, granola, dried fruit, nuts, food bars, chocolate-covered coconut, blueberries, foil packets of nut butters, grape juice concentrate, some apples, a lemon, some salt, and ground coffee. I insisted that corn tortillas and nopales would be great additions to our stash, but saltines won out over the tortillas for some reason, and J-P inexplicably naysaid the nopales. (They’re flat, lightweight…) We’re only out for two nights, and we’ll be near Sausalito, but we’re still being very careful to cater to my tendency toward metabolic collapse.

This will be the first time we’ve camped since Labor Day weekend 2003, when we went to a star party in the Berkshires, where a bunch of astronomers had gathered to view Mars at perigee. It’s Labor Day weekend, we thought. How cold can it get? The answer was 34 degrees Farenheit. We had a tent but no sleeping bags, just blankets. By nightfall we were wearing every scrap of clothing we’d taken with us, and the Boy Scouts made a lot of money selling us hot chocolate and coffee all night long. When we finally decided to try sleeping, we kept each other half awake with our attempts to burrow under the other for warmth. At daylight, we emerged from the tent to run up and down the hill we were on in the sunshine.

We swore never to do that again until we were properly prepared for it, and now is the time. A little over a week ago, we went to REI for sleeping bags, a bigger tent, headlamps, and a camp stove (Jet Boil, a technological marvel with a French press attachment). This weekend, we explored Rainbow Grocery’s selection of dehydrated and instant foods. This afternoon, we bike to Bicentennial Campground in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area.


kitchen myths busted

Thanks to Jeremy for this link. Some of these are pretty subjective (electric and gas stoves may each have benefits, but I still believe the benefits of gas win out), but some others make for interesting reading. Who even knew some people think heating metal seals cracks in it or that cold water boils faster than warm?

Jeremy says he thought at least one of these myths was for real. Me, too: mine was about baking soda’s ability to absorb smells. (None of my family’s cooks ever had any ideologies about cooking beans. They take as long as they take, and not salt nor acid nor anything else really makes a difference.) Anything on this list that you believed?



The best thing the pressure cooker has given us so far: chickpeas. Though I like hummus and falafel, I’ve never been a fan of whole chickpeas. From the can, they’re kind of grey, mushy on the outside, somehow both mealy and hard on the inside, and a little tinny. Dried chickpeas were too intimidating to try; they look like they’ll cook forever and never get soft. But with the pressure cooker, I tried them yesterday.

So good! The taste is a little grassy (in a good way), they’re still a little mealy but not hard, and they’re yellow, not grey. I made way too many, but I don’t mind at all. Last night a cup of them made their way into Mark Bittman’s chicken and chickpea tagine*. I scaled the recipe down for two, omitted the vanilla bean, and pressure cooked it for 10 minutes rather than simmering for 45. At the end, I browned the chicken pieces in butter (they were pale and unappealing straight out of the pot), reduced the sauce (I’d added a cup extra liquid so that it would steam properly), and garnished with parsley. Served over bulgur, with a salad of mixed greens with feta, nectarine, cherry tomatoes, mint, and honey. Delicious.

This morning’s protein was chickpeas with red onion, mint, lemon juice, and salt. Tonight, we’ll be having chickpeas with spinach and chorizo again. If they’re still not gone after all that, I may try to reinvigorate three-bean salad. I mentioned I made a lot, didn’t I?

*Bittman’s tagine is a Moroccan-style dish. A Tunisian tagine is like a fritatta rather than a stew. The word “tagine” refers not to the preparation but to the cooking vessel.

So I suppose I should call mine a “pressure-cooker,” and Bittman should call his a “skillet.” But “tagine” sounds better.



mother of salsa

John Kraemer tells me that he has created a new elemental condiment–on the level of mustard or curry paste–that he’s calling “mother of salsa.” His instructions:

“Juice some limes, and add enough salt that the solution tastes about equally salty and sour (whatever that means). Mince together a few ripe hot peppers (thai, habanero, scotch bonnet), some chives and/or chive flowers, and lots of cilantro — enough that when they’re added to the lime the mixture behaves kind of like a viscous liquid, with no layer of clear juice floating on top. Then give it a bit to let the flavors come together. … adding it to chopped/diced/minced tomatoes it produces a plausible salsa cruda (likewise avocado/guacamole), but it also serves as a good finishing touch for many tex mex or thai dishes, and makes a good table condiment.”

The only problem is that the citric acid from the lime juice is not doing the trick of keeping the colors bright for longer than a few hours in the fridge, he says. I suggested storing at room temperature, but he that’s worse, if anything. I suggested tearing, rather than cutting, the herbs, and seeing how long it keeps without refrigeration. He said he’s mincing them pretty fine, so that would be tedious. I asked if a plastic lettuce knife would be any better. I also sent him to look in the Cooks Illustrated archives for relatively benign color-maintaining additives: anyone else have any bright (heh, heh) ideas?

Off to London…


the pressure cooker’s maiden voyage

That’s the pressure cooker, building up pressure to make passable black beans in about 20 minutes. They weren’t as falling-apart tender as I would have liked, but that can be fixed with more time under pressure. Fifteen minutes, instead of 12, next time. Maybe 20 if I didn’t think to soak them, like I did today. This device cut my bean cooking time down to an eighth of what it normally is. I am in love.

The beans went into a chili that involved half a pound of ground turkey, an onion, an anaheim, one chipotle in adobo, two tomatoes, three zucchinis, as well as the usual garlic, red chili powder, cumin, and salt. If I do it again, I’ll cook the beans longer, use more salt and a couple more chilis, and add a little Maseca to thicken it. Minor adjustments. It was very good, and very fast.

Tex-Mix's Photostream