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  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

Spring at Last!

An Amuse-bouche of Pineapple and Prosciutto

The custom of greeting diners with a few bites of food before dinner is as rewarding today as when a French chef came up with the idea years ago. It's a personal give-away, a tease, a display, a show off created by the chef de cuisine for you--meant to be at once a delight and a harbinger of a great dinner to come.

An amuse should capture the eye, peak the imagination and startle the pallet. It should be bold. After all, it's just a few bites.

Here we have stripes of prosciutto di Parma lining a small dessert glass, which is then filled with fresh pineapple cubes. That's nice, but where's the excitement?

We need a bold sauce: Pineapple and pepper are well known flavor pals. And sugar goes well too and serves as a thickener. To make this work takes a lot of pepper. I used about a tablespoon of freshly ground white pepper corns. (I get them from the Spice House in Milwaukee and they are much hotter than the supermarket varieties)

So, here's how:
About 6 servings

1. Cut open a fresh pineapple and create bite sized cubes with about half of it.
2. Roughly cut the remaining half of pineapple and place it in a blender.
3. Add 1/4C of dark brown sugar and 1T of freshly ground pepper (Yep it's going to be very peppery)
4. Spin the mixture at high speed to break up the pineapple and blend all well.
5. Pour the sauce into a small sauce pan and bring to high simmer while stirring constantly as the sugar melts
6. Lower the heat and continue to simmer the sauce as it reduces and thickens slightly
7. Let the sauce cool and then pour it into a squeeze bottle or other small container
8. When ready, line the dessert glasses with strips of prosciutto
9. Fill the glasses with pineapple cubes
10. Add a generous portion of the sauce, but don't drown the pineapple
11. Fold the prosciutto strips over the top of each glass or add a cap of prosciutto.
12. Serve at ambient temperature or slightly chilled (use small forks)
Note: One reason this amuse works is that it has four of the five elements of taste: sweet, sour, salty and umami.

An Important Refinement.

Dinner for six tomorrow evening: TLW's Caesar Salad and Paella a la Mclean. And an amuse-bouche of some sort (stay tuned).

As you know, the recipe for Caesar Salad calls for raw eggs, and has so since chef Caesar Cardini invited the salad in Tijuana in 1924. If you have a sous vide setup, there is no excuse for not taking the time to pasteurize the eggs. Place them in a water bath and circulate at 134.5F for two hours. I've done this three or four times. When cooled, the eggs come out still raw with the white a bit cloudy. Otherwise no worse for the experience, but now safe to eat. Do it.

A Classic

Maybe its a 60's thing, but I still need a shrimp cocktail now and then to stay grounded. The keys to perfection are not to overcook the shrimp and to put some heat into the cocktail sauce.

Here's how:

For the shrimp: Get some big ones (11-15 per pound). Peel. Pour a bottle of beer into a pot and bring to boil (scim off the suds). Place the shrimp in the boiling beer. Boil for a minute or less. Then turn off the heat, cover the pan and steep for another minute, not more. That's all folks! Remove the shrimp, chill and hold.

For the sauce: 4 parts ketchup and 1 part horseradish, a generous squirt of lemon juice, a few grains of salt, 3 or 4 grinds of pepper corn and a dusting of cayenne.

Why pepper and cayenne? Both contain capsaicin but they work differently. Pepper is spicy and hot up front in the mouth while cayenne is warm and hot in the back on the mouth. You taste pepper right away and feel cayenne later.

Maybe the End to the Endless Quest for a Great Commercial Salsa

I go through a lot of Blue Ridge Jams. (See the article below on the many uses of savory pepper jams.) In addition, jars of the stuff go out the door as house presents, which I prefer to bringing wine. On my last order to Blue Ridge, I included a couple jars of their Fiery Peach Salsa--just to try. How fortuitous...this is good salsa!

Chunky with a little crunch, peachy and spicy with tomato and peppers (seeds too)--finished with a lingering aftertaste of heat. I just ordered more at

At Last, a Moist and Textured Meatloaf

A meatloaf has been posted on this blog since 2007. I've been making ever since. But I always wanted it to be less dense (less pâté like) while still holding together. So I finally did some research to find the fault. It turns out that the recipe was OK--though it is much revised here--but the instructions were wrong. Specifically, " . . . add the sirloin and sausage and mix all well." Wrong!

The trick is to put together in a large bowl all the liquid and dried ingredients and whisk them well without the meats. Set the bowl aside. Then with a large sharp knife, slice and chop the sirloin and sausage until chunky. Then add them to the sauce and mix by hand just enough to get it all together to form a loaf. Don't over work it. This technique should produce a moist and tender meatloaf. Over mixing the meat with the sauce just packs the whole mess together.

So here we have:

Pleasant Grove Meatloaf Terrine (revised)
Yield:  about 20 slices, more if cold and cut thin
See abbreviations, if needed

• 1/4 lb (optional) soppressata or pepperoni (about 20 thin slices) to line the terrine
• 1 medium red or yellow onion, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, pureed or 2t of prepared garlic
• 2T diced jalapenos, drained
• 8 piquante sweet peppers “Peppadews” (see article below), drained and chopped
• 1/4C fresh cilantro or parsley, finely chopped
• S/P
• 1T Dijon mustard
• 2t Worchester Sauce
• 4 dashes Tennessee Sunshine
• 2 eggs
• 1/3C diced tomatoes (I really like Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes)
• 2 lbs ground sirloin
• 3/4 lb fresh hot pork sausage, casings removed (Italian or Mexican)
• 3/4C Panko or bread crumbs
• 1/4C barbecue sauce or catsup for topping
1.   Preheat oven to 350F
2.   Line the terrine with hard sausage slices or grease it with EVOO
3.   Sauté onions to transparent in the EVOO
4.   Add the garlic and jalapenos and heat briefly 
5.   Empty the sauté pan into a large bowl
6.   Break the eggs in a prep dish, whisk briefly and then add them to the bowl
7.   Add the sweet peppers and fresh cilantro or parsley
8.   Add the mustard, Worchester, hot sauce and whisk well
9.   Add the Panko and whisk
10. Add the sirloin and sausage and work it into the mixture, by hand, briefly--don't over mix
11.  Turn out the meatloaf and shape to fit the terrine
12.  Place the meatloaf into the terrine and press to fit into the sides and edges
13.  Form a shallow trench with finger tips along the top of the meatloaf and fill it with barbecue sauce or catsup 
14.  Bake, uncovered, to 165F or slightly higher, about 45 minutes (see safety note)
15  Remove from oven and skim off the any unsightly fat that has bubbled to the surface
16. Find a spatula that fits the width of the terrine to slice and neatly remove hot servings, or let cool completely  
      and then remove entire meatloaf for slicing for cold servings
Safety Note  Ground meat and fresh sausage must be cooked to 165F before removing from the oven

A Still Winter's Night . . .

Robotic Hands and Knees Scrubber

Do you remember the Two Second Rule: "If food falls on the kitchen floor and you retrieve it in 2 seconds, it's OK?" Well, it is not. Kitchen floors are dirty. Floors in restaurant kitchens are scrubbed every night, if not every shift. They're designed to be scrubbed--special tiles and multiple drains. But at home? Not so much. Once a week maybe. Swept or maybe dry-mopped in between a wet mopping.

Here at home, the kitchen has 100 square feet of flooring. The cleaning lady comes but once every two weeks while I push a damp Swiffer around in between. Spill something and the paper towel comes up always showing dirt. It bothers me. It's UNSAT.

A company called iRobot makes an array of mobile robots for military, commercial and home applications. They have just come out with a robot that scrubs hard floors. It's called the iRobot Scooba 450. Place it on the floor, punch the start button and it sweeps, pre-soaks, scrubs and squeegees while making multi-passes for 20 or 40 minutes, as set.

It works . . . !

The kitchen floor is noticeably cleaner. I use it there every three days and every week in two other tiled rooms. It's fun to watch and doesn't annoy the dog.

There's Now an App For That

I have sung the praises of Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine at length on this blog. In my view, it is a modern classic of lasting significance and import--a major contribution to the literature of culinary science and practice. His research has changed the way I cook something's and introduced me to new techniques, especially sous vide and pressure cooking.

Inkling Systems Inc., an application builder, has teamed up with Modernist Cuisine to create MC@H as an app for iPhone and iPad. The result is a beautiful e-book as spectacular as the book itself. Ah, but the bottom line: Amazon sells MC@H for $105--down from $140 when it first came out and I got it. Inkling is selling the app for $79. ". . .An app for $79!!!???"

How Inkling priced this is anyone's guess, but for starters: they rebuilt the book for the screen--they did a lot of reordering while leaving nothing out; it is a sophisticated interactive app; has a notebook feature, a glossary and index--all more easily navigable than the book. And it's huge: 1.4 GB's! This app is all you need and it's $26 less than the book set. But, it has no coffee table value and it lacks the weight, heft and pleasure of paging through the real thing. Otherwise, it is all there, text and photos (spectacular). "But wait, there's more:" The app has 260 additional recipes, 359 additional photos and 37 videos. (which I assume they got from MC Labs).

It will wow ya.

So for $79, you can now get into Myhrvold's world of culinary art and science. You might wish to make the trip.

Do You Need Another Tea Pot?

At last count there was a British teapot retired to the garage, a very small Chinese teapot in a kitchen cabinet somewhere and on display an elegant cast iron "tetsubin" from some ancient iron works in Japan, featuring a raised relief dragon. So why another?

I always have a carafe of iced tea in the fridge, made in the carafe with boiling water poured over tea leaves in a fitted basket. I sometimes drink it over lunch and often with dinner. But I seldom make hot tea. It's a hassle and too hard to get the tea-to-water ratio right, not to mention the temperature of the water. It always tastes too tannic. The tea industry has settled on the optimum temperatures for each type of tea leaf and how long each should be steeped. There's a lot of folklore too, mostly consistent with industry standards. Assuming that there is something substantive to all of this "how to make a proper pot of tea," a machine that makes it precisely 'by the numbers' should produce a superior product.

Along come my good friends and tea lovers from Williamsburg--raving about a new teapot that Santa brought, after much research (by them not Santa). It's an Australian designed tea maker, made for Breville in China. It is high tech and very well made. It has settings for the type of tea leaf--matched to the proper water temp for each, settings for desired strength, an auto timer and other options. These settings heat the water and control a tea basket inside the pot that rides up and down a magnetic shaft in and out of the hot water to steep.

I keep in stock white, green, black and oolong teas. This tea maker makes better tea of them than I can, and it does so quietly, quickly, precisely and consistently. I'm impressed. And it's fun to watch, too. What's not to like? Price!

Repackaging Helps

Found a big package of "Stir Fry Vegetable Blend" at Costco yesterday. A lot of food at a good price, but what to do with it all? Sure, the package has a re-sealable zipper, but digging into it for a small serving is awkward and imprecise.

Instead, take the time and dump the whole package of veggies into your biggest stainless steel bowl and then scoop-portion them into one quart re-sealable freezer bags. That yields about 8 freezer bags with 11 ounces of veggies, which is a generous serving for one. Then, there is nothing left do but fire up the wok or sauteuse, quick-grab a bag of veggies from the freezer and stir away! So too with packages like Trader Joe's frozen "Mushroom Risotto," which is pretty good.

We Might Not Need This, But Then Again . . .

This is a tool, called a Coravin, that accesses wine from a bottle without removing the foil nor pulling the cork. Neat trick. But why?

Well, the argument goes that the Coravin allows you to have a glass or two of wine and then replace the bottle in the cellar essentially unopened, in that the wine remaining in the bottle has not been exposed to oxygen. Here's how it works: A thin hollow needle is inserted through the cork; the bottle is then pressurized with argon gas and tipped over to pour; the needle is then removed from the cork and the cork reseals itself. The remaining wine can then be enjoyed by the glass, a day, week or months later. Neato.

Heretofore at home, I've used a vacuum sealer pump to better preserve wine after opening by reducing the oxygen within the bottle. It works well enough for another day--maybe two--not more. I've since used the Coravin on a flight of three wines and let them stand for a week--no worse for being accessed. So, this tool allows an imbiber to access any number of wines, new or old, again and again, until the bottles are empty--first drop as good as the last. I have a modest number of wines in the cellar that are 15+ years old, along with some mags. They are not getting any better but I hesitate to open them for myself, since I never finish a whole bottle. A mag may not be finished even with a few guests.

Hail to the Coravin!

P. S. It should be noted that the operating cost of the Coravin is high. The proprietary argon gas cartridges cost $11 and are good for about 15 bottle charges, which comes to 77 cents every time you push the trigger. (Other wine dispensing systems use argon as well with their cartridges costing $4 to $7.) So, if you're intent on sampling that bottle of Two Buck Chuck you cellared ten years ago--it's going to cost you more than the original price of the bottle!

Pepper Jellies (fruit jellies, jams and preserves-mixed with jalapeno or habanero peppers) Have Lots of Uses

I've been of fan of pepper jellies for years. I've tried different brands but Blue Ridge Jams offers a wide selection, all very good, with the added bonus that they are stable and need not be refrigerated after opening.

Here's what to do with them: (First, think of them as savory condiments more than pastry spreads)

As a side to omelets and scrambled eggs
As a dip with breakfast sausages
Mixed into cream cheese for bagels
On toast (peanut butter and jelly)

Spread thin on sandwich meat roll-ups (skip the sandwich bread)
On hot dog and hamburger buns
Dips with chips

Nibbles and Cheese Plates:
Mixed in with cream cheese on celery
In ham rolls
Spread on top of soft cheese
Between crackers and hard cheese bites
As a side with smoked salmon

As a side with chicken, pork and ham (always on the table)
As a final glaze on grilled meats
As a prep-glaze on baked ham (apricot is the classic glaze)
As a prep-glaze on Dutch oven'd beef short ribs

And if all else fails:
Substitute a jar of pepper jelly for a bottle of wine as a house present.

How to Sharpen Serrated Knives

I baked a red onion last night to go with a small pork tenderloin. Looking at the recipe for the baked whole onion I took note of Step 5, which reads in part " When ready, slice each onion in half across the root stem (a sharp serrated knife works best) . . " I pondered to myself: how many sharp serrated knives have I used in other kitchens? Few if any. And cutting a hot, soft onion with a dull knife gets messy.

However, serrated knives can be sharpened with the right tool. Namely a round tapered diamond stone, as made specific to the task by DMT (Diamond Machining Technology). Since one of these sharpeners cost about $26, you will have to decide if your knives are worth it. The other thing to consider is that the type of metal in cheap knives does not take well to sharpening. But if you have some good ones worth the sharpener, here's how to restore them to sharp-as-new.

The DMT sharpener is a round taper. Somewhere along its length you will find a match in the width of the taper and the width of the knife's scallops. Marry the two and then line up the angle of the taper to match the angle within the scallop so that the diamond dust on the sharpener brushes the edge of knife to be sharpened. Then gently move the sharpener in and out. This takes time and dedication as you must sharpen the scallops one by one. When the scallops are done, turn the blade over and sweep the sharpener lightly against the smooth surface side to finish the edge.

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 bay leaves,
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 moderate high
5. Brown the meat nicely on all sides, then remove and set aside
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 dish
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 sauce
Note: Deborah Krasner's Good Meat -The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat has a great chapter on rabbit, with lots of recipes.

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 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

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 old Griswold iron skillets, that love high heat and are therefore used to brown steaks and chops when done sous vide. Also have a large and heavy short handled Le Crueset iron skillet used mostly for soft shell crabs.

Ah but the Iwachu is, by far, the most attractive and versatile cast iron skillet I have ever used.

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 about $3.85 an ounce (at Zingermans and Amazon), 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 . . .

Simple Flavor Enhancement Tricks

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!

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 un bagged with a nice core temp of 125°F after 27 minutes at a water temp of 132°.
  • 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.



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