|GeezerGourmet.com seeks to foster a renewed
interest in home culinary arts among experienced home cooks
The GeezerGourmet (brief bio)
caters to clientele who have life-long experiences in home
cooking and now, as empty nesters and retirees, have the time
to renew their love of good food and its preparation.
The Geezer Gourmet assumes that you routinely cook for one
or two people; eat out quite often; still like to entertain
and are experienced at it; have adequately equipped kitchens;
and enjoy life and good health.
If you have some of the above attributes but are not a
geezer nor even approaching pre-geezerhood, thank God for
that, press on regardless, and welcome.
This is not a Web site for food phobics or wellness hypochondriacs
Lapin (Rabbit) au Vin
I picked up a three pound brick of frozen rabbit at the
commissary--couldn't resist, since I went through fourteen
rabbits at school for my final demo and I've liked rabbit
ever since. It languished in the freezer for over a month
before I got around to transferring it to the fridge for
a three day defrost. My neighbor also loves rabbit so I
invited him over.
Once thawed, it was a good size rabbit with all four leg
quarters and a split saddle--well butchered with only a
little fat and silver skin. Beautiful. So, what to do with
it. Think coq au vin. Switch out the rooster for the rabbit,
skip the tomato and you have a recipe. You'll need your
Dutch oven for this braising mission.
Rabbit au vin
Yield: 4 servings
See Abbreviations, if needed
1 farm raised rabbit, cut in five or six pieces
½C AP flour
S/P to taste, but it needs salt and lot of ground pepper
6-8 small potatoes, fork pierced
4-6 large shallots peeled and quartered (red onion OK)
¾C red wine
2-3C chicken broth low salt
1 sachet (herb and spice bag) of pepper corns, thyme and
parsley stems and a few juniper berries, if you have them
1C dried prunes
1. Remove fat and silver skin from the rabbit pieces
2. Season them generously with S/P
3. Dredge them in flour
4. In a large Dutch oven (DO), add the EVOO and heat to
5. Brown the meat nicely on all sides, then remove and set
6. With a wooden spoon, scrape loose the residue from browning
7. Bring the DO to high, add the red wine, stir and reduce
for a few minutes
8. Return the browned rabbit pieces to the DO
9. Add the potatoes, shallots, prunes and sachet
10. Add the chicken broth to a level about half way up the
highest piece of rabbit
11. BTB, cover and reduce heat to a low simmer
12 Braise for about 1.5 hours--fork test for tenderness
and braise another half
hour if not already about to fall off the bone
14. Carefully transfer all from the DO to a heated serving
15. Over high heat, reduce the braising liquid to make sauce
16. Pour sauce into a heated gravy boat
17. Serve on heated plates with a good bread to mop up the
Note: Deborah Krasner's Good
Meat -The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable
Meat has a great chapter on rabbit, with lots of
Not Culinary, But . . .
Other than 'eyewash' photos of seasonal flowers and landscapes,
I have rarely, over 12 years, made mention of things non-culinary.
But some folks in San Francisco are making messenger bags,
cases and sleeves--for laptops, tablets and such--that are
so well designed and constructed with fine materials that
they warrant mention. On the left is their smallest cross-over
messenger bag, which serves admirably as a man's 'bursa',
'musette' or as they call it, a Muzetto. On the right is
a sleeve. which they call a Smart Case, for my new iPad
Air. I also had one for my iPad 2, which was passed on to
a deserving nephew--sleeve and all.
The company is WaterField and their Web site is www.sfbags.com.
All their stuff is designed and made in San Francisco. To
my hand and eye, WaterField bags are in the same league
as Bourgeat copper: nonpareil.
Rescue Dish . . . A Very Good Veggie
I had a very large broccoli bunch that was at the toss-or-cook
stage of creeping whiteness. (BTW, it turns white from the
inside out so, if you see any white on broccoli tops at
the market--pass it by.)
So here's how the rescue op went down:
Cut the broccoli bunch into florettes (a kitchen shears
works good for this). Trim out the over-the-hill white.
Slice up two nice shallots and find a generous tablespoon
of drained capors. Dump all this into the bottom of the
pressure cooker (PC). Then add 3/4 cup of chicken broth,
some ground pepper, a teaspoon of fines herbes and two small
pads of butter.
Braise all that at the high pressure setting for two minutes.
Wait till the PC gets to the mark (note in the photo, the
second of two red rings on the center valve of the PC) and
only then set the timer. Believe it or not, it's all done
by then. Vent the PC and, with a strainer, remove the product
to a heated side dish and then pour the braising liquid
into a skillet.
Fire up the skillet to high heat and reduce the braising
liquid by 2/3's (takes time--be patient). Add the braising
liquid--now a sauce--to the broccoli and you're ready to
serve it as a side with, in this instance, medallions of
Easy and very nice.
1. No fines herbes? Season with another spice combination
Mexican or Italian, or whatever you think might compliment
2. No PC? Just braise the broccoli medley in a pot (covered)
on the stove top for 10 minutes or so (fork test for doneness).
Fall in Virginia
I've been doing Pantry Cookies too often because most other
cookies take longer to make or are tricky to get right.
Coconut Clouds fall in the later category. They're made
with Italian meringue. So, don't get the egg whites whipped
up to stiff, or don't get the sugar syrup to 220F or higher
or don't do both at the same time and disaster will surely
strike in the oven. The tops will burn before the bottom
interior is baked through and they won't set.
Thus was my fate last week. Either the whites or the syrup
were not right. The cookies looked OK but-but-but. So, I
took the old cooking school maxim "Do them over"
to heart and trashed 'em. Then I went to Whole Foods to
get some more unsweetened coconut (as they alone carry it).
Then I did them over and did them right: they're baked
through and yummy. I found, this time at least, that Supper
Parchment Paper did a better job of baking the bottom
of the cookies than did the heavier silicone pad.
Here's the recipe from the Food
Section of the blog:
Coconut Clouds (rev 4)
Yield: about 30 cookies
See Abbreviations, if needed
1.25 C sugar
3/4 C water
3 egg whites (ambient)
7 oz unsweetened coconut flakes (chopped into smaller flakes
but not powderized in a processor)
1 oz unsweetened coconut flakes (for garnish)
1. Preheat oven to 325°F and prep sheet pans with super
parchment paper or silicone pads
2. Place sugar and water in sauce pan, heat slowly and stir
gently until sugar is dissolved
3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites in a stand mixer until
stiff peaks form
4. Once the eggs whites are ready (and not before), quickly
turn up the heat on the sugar water to high and bring it
as high as it will get, about 225°F.
5. Set the mixer to high rotation and then carefully pour
in the hot sugar mix (don't burn yourself and don't splash
it onto the rotating whisk)
6. Continue to whisk at high speed until the meringue has
cooled to near-ambient (load a kitchen towel with ice cubes
and massage the bottom of the mixer bowl with the ice to
promote more rapid cooling)
7. Slow the mixer and pour in the coconut and mix briefly
8. Use a smallish table spoon and tap-drop batter onto the
sheet pan about 1.5 inches apart. Insert a few flakes of
coconut into the top of each cookie for texture and color
9. Bake about 16 minutes (convection) (rotate once) until
the cookies brown slightly and appear firm enough to be
lifted off the pan without breaking up
10. Let cookies cool for at least 8 minutes, then transfer
them to a rack using a wetted steel spatula
Note: Thanks to Ruth Reichl and The Gourmet Cookbook for
Yup, It's a Three Pepper Kitchen
The tall grinder is filled with Tellicherry--from India,
the most common black peppercorn. The one on the left grinds
Muntok white peppercorns from Malaysia. The grinder on the
right has Ecuadorian black peppercorns. All from The Spice
House in Milwaukee. White peppercorns are really black ones
with the outer skin removed by soaking in water. They're
appropriate for peppering where black specks are not appreciated
in white sauces and most soups. The pepper from Ecuador
is twice as hot as Tellicherry, but it is no longer available
from the sources that I use. I intend to send an email or
call the Ecuadorian Embassy's trade rep and see if they
know where some is--it's that good. I love it atop salads,
salsa, pasta sauce and soft cheeses such as Saint Agur.
The grinders are from Unicorn. They're very good, save that
the round filler door works itself open at the worst times
if not pinned with a removable screw.
A Rite of Autumn
Plant basil in the spring, take a few leaves off now and
then all summer and, come autumn, harvest what's left and
• 2-3 C loose, fresh basil (about 80 leaves), thoroughly
• 1.5 oz pine nuts, roasted in a dry hot pan (don't
burn 'em but if you do--start over)
• 1C shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
• ¾ C of your best EVOO
• 2-4 garlic cloves
• TT S/P, but be careful as the parmesan is quite
1. Puree ingredients in a food processor starting with
a third of the EVOO, then drizzle in the rest. If using
a powerful blender, just toss in the ingredients and spin
at high speed. If the result is too thick, add a little
2. Holds well chilled. Add a little EVOO each time you use
some. Also freezes well
I like to look over the spread of offerings at the Balducci
Deli counter--not to buy necessarily but more often to get
an idea for dinner. I was having a crab
cake and needed something to bed it on. Balducci had
sauteed spinach with sauteed spring onions. Just right and
nothing to buy, as I had spinach in the fridge that was
too far gone for salad but OK if cooked and some fresh spring
onions. So here we have a nice combination. I used lemon
pepper infused EVOO in the pan for both the crab cakes and
the spinach/onion medley.
Last Night's Repast
While the Chinese invented the wok, what you stir fry in
it is up to you. Here we have asparagus tips, scallion tips,
snow peas, thinly sliced Portobello's, roughly chopped ground
beef, Herbes de Provence and chicken broth. The beef was
seasoned with Pickapeppa Sauce and some cornstarch (always
use some cornstarch on the meat for stir frying). Following
the operational sequence for wok
stir fry, a tablespoon of Herbes de Provence, fresh
ground pepper and salt was added to hot EVOO. Then the veggies,
then the mushrooms on medium heat to give all time to cook
without burning. (Or you can maintain high heat and stir
and toss for three minutes if you need the exercise.) Remove
all this to a side bowl, fire the wok back up to high, add
some more EVOO and then the meat. Toss briefly and then
return the veggies to the wok, add a generous splash of
broth and toss the whole mess to get it very hot. Serve
in a heated bowl. Believe it not, I had a side of Wild Swedish
Lingonberry jam as a condiment. It is a very versatile jam--sweet
and tart--for pastry and savory.
Finally Figured it Out
The Little Woman did not care for tuna, so I didn't prepare
it. But time passes and tuna has been on the menu for awhile.
Pouring over the requisite number of fish books, I've prepared
it the conventional way, i.e., well seasoned and oiled,
sauteed or grilled over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes
a side and then off the fire. The result: a beautifully
browned filet of tuna with a warm bleu center (bleu = raw
in foodie speak). Well, OK, but never quite right for me.
I don't like the cool core temperature nor the texture of
So last night I had the second of three beautiful tuna
filets from Costco. Over an inch thick--aggressively salted,
peppered and doused with EVOO, I grilled marked it nicely
on both sides and then, conventions be damned, turned the
heat to medium and watched the center temperature. Took
it off heat at about 100F. The result: a very warm pink
center of moist tuna that flaked nicely to the fork. Much
to my liking. And ever thus . . .
A Scientist's Thoughts on Food and Health
Mike Gibney, the director of the Institute of Food and
Health at University College Dublin, has written a brief
book on the broad subject of the wholesomeness of the modern
food chain and its effects on and inside the consumer. He
sees food as a deeply important part of all cultures with
heavy personal and political trimmings. His view of it all
is from science, with prejudice.
Setting the stage, he writes: "Our relationship with
our food is directly related to wealth. Those who struggle
to find enough food to eat care little about any attribute
other than its ability to sustain survival. At the opposite
end of the spectrum where wealth abounds, we can get fussy
about food." And we do, to the extremes where mistrust
of agri-food science leads to a widespread fear of the modern
food supply. He has little time for the anti-science and
eco-fundamentalist foodies and agricultural romanticists.
Most popular media food issues are shot down when placed
under the microscope of food science. He states, for example,
that the only difference between synthetic and natural chemicals
in food is that synthetic chemicals are subject to intensive
testing while natural plant chemicals are not. In today's
highly regulated world of food, there is zero risk to consumers
from permitted food chemicals. He comes down hard against
the organic food industry and the international anti-GM
lobby as largely devoid of science and where "the villain
is the food industry, always." On obesity, he states
that genes certainly play a role as do "every food
category." He laments the lack of political support
by the suits in Washington and Europe for scientific agricultural
investments in countries where malnutrition is wide spread.
He says that in Africa, for example, the percentage of land
irrigated is one-tenth that of Asia, at 4%. He concludes
with the lamentation that food and health will always remain
hot topics that attract an undue share of writers and opinion
formers who have narrow agendas or a somewhat unscientific
approach to the issues.
The Foodies' Bible
This is the fifth edition of this indispensable reference
for food writers, menu writers and other foodies that want
concise definitions and need the correct spelling and pronunciation
of all things culinary. 916 pages. A bargain at $17US.
Rémoulade Sauce: Hold the Mayo
Rémoulade is a classic French mayonnaise-based
sauce that goes great with soft shell crabs and crab cakes.
I always serve it as a side in 2 ounce individual sauce
boats. However, sauces based on mayo are heavy, almost cloying
and loaded with calories (1 ounce of mayo equals 200 calories,
all of it fat). My standing recipe
calls for 4 parts mayo and 3 parts sour cream in an effort
to lighten it up. But I have never been all that happy
with the sour cream.
Last week it came to me at about 0400 one morning, that
crème fraîche (a thick cultured cream) might
make a lighter, cleaner tasting base for rémoulade
than even the mayo/sour cream combo. Crème fraîche
has 110 calories an ounce with 90% fat -- high but lower
than mayo. So I made it last night for a soft shell crab
dinner for three. In the making, I found that the crème
fraîche holds up a well as mayo and far better than
sour cream when fussed with.
My guests and I really liked it. Nice texture, lighter
taste, not at all cloying--almost bright. Half the calories.
So here we have rémoulade with crème fraîche!
Crème Fraîche Rémoulade Sauce
See abbreviations if needed
Yield: 4 servings
- 1C crème fraîche
- 2T Dijon mustard
- 2T capers, drained
cornichon (or small gherkins) pickles, very finely diced
- 2T fresh parsley,
- 1T fresh tarragon,
- 1.5t anchovy paste
- pepper TT
- No salt (anchovy paste and capers
are loaded with it)
- juice of
1/2 small lemon, not too much, taste then add
1. Mix all together, cover and refrigerate
2. Serve at room temperature as a side for crab cakes,
soft shell crabs or shrimp
This is a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or appetizer before
dinner. It's traditional to let the acids cook the shrimp
but since these were large I decided to poach them briefly.
Start with 6-8 large raw shrimp (20 count or lower) and
a pot filled with a bottle of beer. Bring the beer to boil
(skim off the suds before they spill over), put in the shrimp,
turn off the heat, cover and steep for 2 minutes. (Don't
over cook the shrimp.) Remove the shrimp and set aside in
the fridge. Fine dice a shallot or half a red onion and
place in a glass bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of drained capors.
Squeeze two large lemons and add the juice to the bowl along
with an ounce of orange juice and an ounce of sweetened
rice wine vinegar and a pinch of cayenne. Cut each shrimp
in half if you think they are too big. Stir and place all
in a nice bowl, cover and fridge for an hour or so. If you
want to use the shrimp raw, let them steep in the acid for
a few hours until they have lost all their transparency.
Salt to taste but note that the capers are salty. (Speaking
of capers: see Flavor Enhancement Tricks, lower down on
The Annual Cookbook Awards
Are Out (Update and Profile)
Modernist Cuisine at Home won the Pro Kitchen
and Design awards at the International Association of Culinary
Professionals (IACP). This gives recognition two years in
a row for these remarkable cookbooks, which have been praised
here effusively. A biggest winner this year was Maricel
Presilla's Gran Cocina Latina, which was awarded
Cookbook of the Year by the James Beard Foundation and the
General Award by the IACP. So, with those credentials, I
thought I should have a look. It arrived this afternoon
and is going to take some time to profile it, but any Latin
cookbook with 22 cebiche and 18 cilantro entries and four
flan recipes holds real promise. At 900 pages and 500 recipes,
this is a serious effort to capture Latin cuisine. My kind
of book. Stay tuned . . .
OK, I've gone through it page by page. The key to why Presilla's
Gran Cocina Latina will be a success as a cookbook
and as a major contribution to the literature is to be found
in her acknowledgements way back on page 859 where she writes:
"The book is about crossovers, the taking of recipes
from their home turf to a different environment to give
them new life." Back in 1972, Diana Kennedy wrote the
Cuisines of Mexico. It endures as a classic authoritative
source. But as a cookbook it's user-hostile. Our copy has
been gathering dust in the library for forty years.
Presilla's narratives are informative, hugely readable
and entertaining. She has a nice touch between history,
regional color and introspection. This book promises to
be user-friendly. There are only a few recipes that appear
too daunting for the home cook without a Latin pantry. For
sure, I am going to get into the chapters on Little Latin
Dishes and Cebiches. But not before her chapter in Hot Pepper
Pots. Gathering stews and braised dishes from the entire
Latin world and placing them in their own chapter is so
inventive that it suggests genius.
Gran Cocina Latina is the new canon of Latin American
food. A triumph of research and application. Try it, you'll
If You Were Brung up On Winter
Veggies, Cabbage, Meat and Game Stews While Living Closer
to Canada then Cuba . . .
Or If You're Polish . . .
You Might Like This Cookbook
Two local Washington DC political writers and home cooks,
with ties to Poland and Eastern Europe, put together ninety
recipes of classic Polish cuisine for the modern kitchen.
All the usual suspects have been rounded up here: lots of
cabbage, beets, veggie soups and salads; a nice collection
of braised and potted chicken, pork, wild boar and venison
dishes; an enticing chapter on Pierogi (Polish dumplings)
and fillers; and desserts including five infused vodka recipes.
All well edited with great photos on fine paper.
It's pretty good! It might even make the James Beard Foundation
contender list for regional cookbook award.
I am looking for something in a pot to cook for Super
Bowl Sunday. Since this has been an annual affair for years,
another go at Roasted Game Hens,
Spare Ribs, Paella, Coq
au Vin, or Chili is not getting me excited for the 2013
classic. So here we have Hunter's Stew with kraut, venison,
beef, veal, kielbasa sausage, more cabbage, prunes and red
wine. Kind of a Spanish paella with cabbage instead of bamba
rice. I'll do it soon for a small test group and then for
the big day--maybe.
A Beautiful Non-stick Iron
Skillet From Japan
I've hesitated to write about this skillet since getting
one is a bit of a hassle. While the pan costs $75US, shipping
adds another $50US. That puts it in the price range of All
Clad and Le Crueset, which is fine since it's as good if
not better than what they offer. The skillet is made by
Iwachu, a company in Japan well known, worldwide, for their
cast iron tea pots and kettles. Iwachu has been casting
iron for centuries. I read about their "omelet pan"
about a year ago, lost the reference, then saw it again
and decided to get it. There is an Amazon like (huge) company
in Japan called Rakuten Global Market that has a vendor
that carries the skillet. They can be found at https://global.rakuten.co.jp.
About the skillet: At 9.6 inches across, it is of medium
heavy cast iron with fine design lines--beautifully shaped
with a long graceful handle and sloping cavity walls about
2 inches deep at the far edge and little more shallow at
the near. It is so designed to promote the flipping of an
omelet, which it does nicely. The surface is treated in
a manner like Le Crueset cast iron, but better, with the
result that nothing sticks to it. I have two Griswold iron
skillets, a half century old, that love high heat and are
therefore used most often to brown steaks and chops when
done sous vide. Also have a large Le Crueset iron skillet
used mostly for soft shell crabs, that is very heavy but
has a too short handle.
Ah, but the Iwachu is, by far, the most attractive and
versatile cast iron skillet I have ever used. I plan to
retire a couple of well worn seven inch restaurant skillets
and use these for everything everyday. (Yeah, I have two
now.) The shipping cost is steep, but the vendor must ship
them First Class on JAL since they both got here about four
days after order confirmation. This is an unusually attractive
and good skillet that should perform well forever.
Woks, Tagines, Dutch Ovens
To heat a product--to cook it--you must braise, fry, roast,
grill, poach or bake it. To do that, you need heat and a
vessel to hold the product. Many of these vessels have regional
origins with attendant cultural recipes, most ancient. Still,
they either braise, fry, roast, grill, poach or bake. So,
in the eyes of a Westerner, it would seem that a tagine,
for example, would do a great job as a small Dutch oven,
which it is. And a wok will shine as a hot frying pan, which
it is. Conversely, for the cook in the Meghreb, who wants
to braise lamb for a state dinner, big Dutch ovens or covered
sheet pans trump tagines. And for the
line cook in Hong Kong, an order for one might just as
well be fired in a skillet as a huge wok. The point being
that these cooking vessels work great outside their regional
origins and with or without regionally favored soy sauce,
cardamom, ras el hanout, herbes de provence and/or peanut
oil, EVOO or ghee.
I have eight tagine recipes on the food
page of this Web site, only two of them are traditional
to the Maghreb--chicken and lamb shanks. The others: turkey
legs, beef brisket, beef stroganoff, bison, meatloaf and
osso bucco--and their spices--are Western. So too with the
wok. Now that I have figured out and posted the
proper sequence of how to use a wok, I cook in it quite
a lot, since it's the stir fry champ in any kitchen that
has a stovetop with a big gas burner. But here too, my seasoning
choices are often Western even when the ingredients are
more Asian. (While I use a hand made soy
sauce that actually tastes quite good (but I can't find
anymore), I don't really care for it all that often.)
So here we have a boneless sliced chicken thigh dredged
in cornstarch and curry powder, with sliced bok choy, onions,
red peppers and green machined
carrots--all stir fried in a wok with EVOO, garam masala,
salt and pepper. The whole mess in the hot wok is then finished
with 3/4 cups of chicken broth thickened a bit with a gram
of xanthan gum. Good food, diverse origins.
A Versatile Condiment
From South Africa comes a new pepper that is really good:
quite spicy with some sweetness--a cross between a red pepper
and a cherry tomato. This is a specialty item at a price
of about $6US a bottle, if you can find them. I've gone
through about four bottles--enough to decide that I want
them in my pantry, so I bought a case on line at their Web
site peppadewusa.com at a much better price. Also, their
Web site has all kinds of ideas of how to use them. So far,
I have always drained and diced them for pasta, salads,
coleslaw, potato salad, deviled eggs, meatloaf, hamburgers
and sauces (as shown with butter and capers over beer poached
salmon). Next, I'd like to try them whole as an hors d'oeuvre
filled with shrimp or crab mouse. They're all about taste
Try 'em, you'll like 'em.
Another Useful KItchen
Kitchen tweezers have been around for a long time, most
of them small and flimsy. Not these! Swiss made and machined
well from heavy stainless steel stock, they are large, sturdy
and lend a firm grip. Handy for bottom fishing in near empty
jars of cocktail onions or cornichons; for moving shrimp
around a hot skillet; for turning lardons of bacon that
won't flip, or grabbing a single strand of fettuccini from
the pot to check for doneness. With a rag in its grip, cleaning
the iced tea container or the humming bird feeder is a breeze.
A.G. Russell, a fine knife Web retailer, has them for about
$18US at www.agrussell.com.
The Smoking Gun
As a useful kitchen gadget this device does not rise to
the practical level of the ball whisks, described below.
Not even close. But if you like smoked food, here's a tool
that infuses meats, poultry, veggies, cocktails and ice
cream with smoky flavors without using a Camerons
Stove Top smoker, a Weber
Smoky Mountain Cooker or your outdoor
grill. Two or three minutes is all it takes.
Simply fill the pipe hole on top with finely chopped wood
chips from PolyScience or Camerons (apple, cherry, mesquite,
etc.), light it with a match, pull the trigger and stuff
the hose into a pot or pan and cover it. A small battery
powered fan in the tool draws the smoke from the bottom
of the pipe into the hose and out the end to the pot. The
tool is made by the same people that make the
sous vide circulator. It first gained popularity in
fancy restaurants, where chefs used it to enhance the presentation
of a finished dish with a hint of smoke under a domed plate
cover to amaze the diner as the waiter popped the dome at
I've smoked a couple of burgers and some sauteed asparagus
with it, so far. It works! Quite well, in fact. About $100US
at Williams-Sonoma and other shops.
A Tomato Amuse-Bouche
After reading and reviewing Extra Virginity
(see below), I ordered two bottles of Agrumato--the
lemon pressed EVOO (again see below). Great stuff! Now what
to do with it? Here's a suggestion:
1. Find some good tasting cherry tomatoes--no easy task
but essential for this dish. 2. Have them at ambient temperature
and slice each in half and arrange all on a work surface
cut side up. 3. Take a pinch of sea salt and carefully,
by hand, drop three or four grains on each tomato half.
4. Repeat with a few bits of freshly ground black pepper.
5. Then a few flakes of finely chopped fresh basil. 6. Then
a few white bits of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. 7. With
all that done, drizzle three or four drops of the Agrumato
Lemon EVOO. (All in moderation: not too much of any one
ingredient.) 8. Gather up portions and place in nice small
bowls, as shown above. Serve with a small fork. Before seating
your guests at table.
Now, quite obviously, one could add the above ingredients
to a big bowl, toss in the tomato halves and be done with
it. You would then have a tomato salad. Done my way you
have consistent, perfectly seasoned, dressed tomato halves,
specially prepared and contrived to amuse your guests and
invigorate their palates. The very definition of an amuse-bouche.
This is Not an Infused
or Flavored EVOO
My pantry is never without a variety of infused
olive oils--made mostly for the restaurant trade by
Boyajian and sold at a good price of about 75 cents/ounce.
They include black pepper, lemon pepper, rosemary, garlic,
dried tomato and others. I use them a lot in the saute pan,
in salad dressings and as brush ons for raw fish and meats.
I buy them by the mixed case on the Net.
While reading Extra Virginity (see article below),
I was taken up by a few pages concerning lemon pressed EVOO.
The story goes, that at the end of the season a few olive
growers crush hand selected olives and lemons together in
a stone mill, then press the paste and centrifuge the juice
to make a lemon EVOO with pronounced in depth lemon notes
unrivaled by infused or flavored olive oil. Good enough
to sip by the spoon, this oil is not for cooking. It is
a garnish to be drizzled or brushed, a
la minute, on chicken, fish, hot or cold
pasta, veggies, bread, focaccia and pizza. At $3.85 an ounce
(at Zingermans.com), this is a high end fine dinning product.
It is a commitment to buy and use this stuff. It is perhaps
best stored under lock and key . . .
Soon, I will post a tomato amuse-bouche that features this
A Very Good Kitchen Gadget
WMF, a German food service equipment manufacturer of all
things from cutlery, glassware and kitchen gadgets to coffee
brewers and pressure cookers, has been in business since
1853. I don't know if they invented the "ball whisk,"
but they sure make a good one. Two sizes: eight and twelve
inches at Sur la Table for $20 and $25, respectively--pricey
but worth it if you use a whisk now and then. These whisks
will do what the basket wire whisks have been doing since
Julia Childs rode a tricycle, except they don't get clogged
up and are easy to clean. Try these on waffle batter, risotto,
egg mixtures and vinaigrettes. Since the handles are smooth,
they should roll nicely between the palms to make whipped
cream (though I now use a stick
blender for that). Wire whisks are such a hassle to
unclog and to clean that you will seek opportunities to
use a ball whisk.
Simple Flavor Enhancement
It's hard to pass up the olive bar at your favorite super
market. The selection is too hard to resist with olives
green and black, pitted, stuffed or unstuffed along with
mini onions, mushrooms and maybe an artichoke heart or two.
All swimming in oil. We learn from Tom Mueller, in the book
profiled below, that the oil used in the olive bar selections
is probably refined olive oil or, at best, low grade EVOO.
So here's what to do:
Having spooned your selections at the olive bar into a
deli container, bring them home and dump them all in a colander.
Spray wash them thoroughly with luke warm water and put
them in a fresh container. Then add a tablespoon or so of
your best EVOO. Toss and enjoy. You will taste a big difference.
So too, I found about a year ago with capers. I get the
big jar from Costco, dump them into the colander, wash off
the vinegar, place them into a cleaned jar and then add
little water and some rice vinegar. Result: The capors are
remarkably less salty. You can actually taste them!
So You Think You Have
Been Using Quality EVOO?
Olive oil is as essential as salt. (There is a good book
on salt in the biography.)
This is a very good book about olive oil. And especially
extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which until reading this
book, I thought was a tried and true product where difference
in price equaled difference in quality. How naive.
It turns out that the olive oil industry that has been
corrupt for a millennia. And still is. Doctoring good oil
with cheap oil and labeling as EVOO is common practice world
wide. Worse still, olive oil just north of lamp oil (lampante)
is deodorized, degummed, bleached and then sold wholesale
as "refined" olive oil where some of it is retailed
as EVOO. So, what you see on the labels in the super market
ain't what you get!
Bad oil has all but driven out good EVOO to the remarkable
degree, says Mueller, that many consumers, even along the
Mediterranean littoral, don't know the real stuff when they
taste it, or worse, find its remarkable flavors off putting.
Still, Mueller, assures us that high quality EVOO is out
there and widely available. Fine EVOO is produced today
not only along the littoral of the Med but in Australia,
California, South Africa and Argentina by producers who
are passionate about honest EVOO. Mueller takes the reader
through history and describes the centrality of olive oil
in the lives and commerce of human kind for two millennia.
How the stuff is grown, harvested, processed and how those
activities have changed through time also makes good reading.
It's a good book and will surely be up for a culinary award
Some Sous Vide Numbers
Over the last few months, I have put my sous vide to some
use. Making good food. In all events, I have placed a product
in a vacuum bag, added seasonings and butter, sealed them
with the Food Saver vacuum
machine and then placed them in the fridge until ready.
I have kept a record of the temperatures and times, since
sous vide books are fine but real cooking yields real numbers.
Here is what I have so far:
- I've done a lot of lamb chops--usually two in a bag
but as many as six. I am now confident that a water temp
of 144°F and an immersion time of 55 minutes yields
chops at a perfect pink 137°F. Every time!
- One guest wanted lamb chops well done, so 165°F
for 60 minutes produced two nice moist chops well done
without a trace of redness.
- A two inch thick choice sirloin at 135°F for 46
minutes yields a rare steak at 129°F.
- A 3 ounce filet mignon at 135°F for 45 minutes came
out rare, about the same as the sirloin.
- Boneless veal shank (two pieces glued together) took
four hours at 185°F to become tender and flaky.
- A one inch thick prime veal chop at 140°F for 50
minutes comes out rare at 126°F (Christmas day dinner).
- A 7 ounce filet of halibut was unbagged with a nice
core temp of 125°F after 27 minutes at a water temp
- Four cleaned and halved leeks, seasoned with herbes
de Provence and butter, came out tender but not falling
apart after 50 minutes in 185°F water.
In general, premium cuts of meat, done sous vide, need
a water temp about 5% higher than the desired core temperature
of the meat, when cooked for 50 minutes. Tough meats like
veal or lamb shanks take a long time. Hearty veggies need
a temperature of about 185°F for 50 minutes. All the
meat products, when removed from their bag,were browned
in a hot iron skillet with their sauces added at the last
minute or heated aside.