|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
Last Night's Repast
Last half of a 1.3 lb halibut filet, bought yesterday from
Costco. What to do with it?
Slice a medium shallot and, in a medium evaseé,
saute it in EVOO to translucent. Add three generous shakes
of medium hot chipotle powder (dried and ground chile jalapeno)--for
heat and smoke. Top that with a two shakes of mild ancho
power (dried and ground chile poblano)--for depth. Then
add a 14.5 oz can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
(Muir Glen has been canning great tomatoes for years and
they're widely available). Add a pinch of salt and simmer
Select a medium skillet, drizzle in some EVOO and fire
it to medium low heat. Place the dried, unsalted, unpeppered
halibut filet in the pan and then transfer the tomato sauce
from the evaseé to the skillet. Move contents around
to cover the fish and then simmer the whole mess for about
18 minutes, turning the fish and re-covering it with sauce
midway. Test for flaky doneness with a fork. Serve in a
heated dish and with a slice of good bread to mop up.
The shallots and pepper powders make this a very nice Latin
The Annual Cookbook Awards
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 definitive work, likely to stand the test of time.
My kind of book. Stay tuned . . .
The Old Dogwood
Fifteen years ago, this Dogwood, located hard by the balcony,
started to die from the top. Perforce, I sawed off a foot
or two each year for six years, at least. Then it settled
into its reduced form a little worse for wear, as the saying
goes. It appears now to be comfortable and doing well in
its old age. Maybe there's some hidden meaning in that .
I make a meatloaf about every two months. Each time it's
a variation of the old standard Pleasant
Groove Meatloaf Pate, based on what's in my Amana fridge.
This time, I found a long link of frozen merguez sausage
(very spicy and aromatic lamb) from the local butcher, chopped
Peppadews, chopped hot and sweet jalapenos (both from bottles),
some baked pearl onions from the deli and fresh cilantro.
A meatloaf goes a long way--two dinners, at least three
sandwiches, nibbles and portions for the poodle.
Last Night's Repast
Salmon fillet poached in beer, dressed with sauteed onions
and Peppadews in EVOO, with creamed spinach side (frozen
source). Salmon fillet was too large to finish, so Pepper
the Poodle had a fine lunch of it the next day.
Raspberry Gazpacho is one of the more popular recipes in
Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine
at Home. This version is adopted from the book,
which in turn comes from a fruit gazpacho by Chef David
Kinch of Los Gatos, California. Fresh raspberries are pricey
even in season, so frozen raspberries are OK, but buy sugarless
if you can find them. This is an easy to make spicy raspberry
Yield: about 2 cups or about 8 mini-soup servings
3 C Raspberries (or frozen with juice, buy the sugarless
½ C Cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ C Piquant peppers drained, Peppadews are best (see
below), or other canned
3 medium shallots, diced
2 T EVOO, your best quality, light
2 t White wine vinegar
3 t Balsamic vinegar
1 Garlic clove, pureed
S/P to taste
Lime juice to taste
½ t Cayenne to taste
1. In your blender bowl, combine all the ingredients and
puree well until smooth
2. Taste for salt and pepper. Add a little lime juice if
it is too sweet
3. Gazpachos should have a bite to them. If the piquant
peppers are not mildly hot like Peppadews, blend in a dusting
4. Chill and serve as a mini-soup or soup shot of about
5. Garnish with cilantro and/or a few fresh raspberries
Last Night's Repast III
Beef short ribs without streaks of fat in them will turn
out tough no matter what you do to them, so look before
you buy. This dish is a variant of Pot
Roast Tagine and Glazed Beef
Short Ribs. Dry the beef short ribs (3), season them
with S/P, brown them in EVOO in the tagine bottom, if made
of cast iron. Then open the veggie bin and toss into the
tagine whatever meets the eye. Here we have some old carrots
and bell peppers that had to be prepared or thrown out,
a chunky sliced shallot and an potato from Idaho. On top
of that, a generous sprinkling of herbes de Provence and
chicken broth, poured to half way up the side of the tagine.
Bring to boil, lower the fire to simmer, put on the conical
cover and braise on the stove top until the beef is fork
tender, about two hours.
Last Night's Repast
Foraging at Costco last week, I came upon an 8 rib, bone-in,
center cut, chine bone off, 'frenched' pork loin. This is
the prime cut of bone-in pork--nothin better. (Two of these
tied together make a crown roast.) I took it home, cut off
6 chops and left 2 together. Seasoned variously with salt,
pepper, Jamaican jerky and/or herbes de provence and a pad
of butter, they were each vacuum sealed and frozen--ready
to be thawed and prepared sous vide or sauteed/baked.
I thawed one out last night and browned it over medium
heat in EVOO in an Iwachu cast iron skillet (see below).
Not hurried, maybe ten minutes, or so in the skillet. I
then added a little more EVOO and glazed it with Mrs. H.S.
Ball's Hot Chutney from South Africa. Then into a 350F oven
for a set time of 20 minutes. At the ten minute mark, I
added poached asparagus and took a meat temperature. Surprise-surprise:
the chop was done already! In fact at 155F it was more than
done. That's a mere 20 minutes of cooking time for an inch
thick pork chop. Beautiful, tender and moist.
Happiness is an Orchid Two-fer
Just a humble orchid that bloomed, shed, rested and came
All in its own time.
There's some hidden meaning in that . . .
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.