Cooking and Gadgets
It feels like Week 19 of the heat wave. Seriously, ridiculous. It’s too hot to stay in and cook. Baking seems ludicrous. Even making a pot of chili in the afternoon (to serve later with grilled hot dogs or hamburgers) feels like too much – which reminded me of the Cuisinart. It sits on the counter every day and we rarely use it. Why did I forget about the Cuisinart?
I love the Cuisinart. I particularly love the slicer. And having remembered it, I’m now on a cooking and no-cooking cooking binge, if you know what I mean. Last night I threw little red potatoes into the Cuisinart (using the slicer blade), poured them into a porcelain casserole dish, drizzled them (understatement) with grape seed oil, salt, pepper, and a little bit of fresh rosemary.
Catastrophe struck the other day. My kitchen drain backed up into the bathtub. Unfortunately the last thing I had cooked and washed down the sink was beets. Do you know what a white bathtub filled with red beet juice and bits of floating beet looks like? Let’s just say what follows will NOT be a recipe involving beets.
I’m truly dangerous with power tools (even the Cuisinart is off limits for me), so I called the plumber. The guy who showed up looked like your typical plumber—clean cut, with a baseball hat and sturdy boots. He began snaking the kitchen pipe, and I went into the next room. Minutes later, I could hear emanating from under the kitchen sink: “Nothing you can do cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy, my guy.”Is he singing “My Guy”? “No handsome face could ever take the place of my guy, my gu-y-y-y.” Yup. He sure is. The rendition continued replete with the backup chorus.
Now, I’ve heard of The Singing Detective but not the singing plumber. I got to talking to him, and it turns out he’s more than a singing plumber. I learned that he really wants to write science fiction novels and that plumbing just pays the bills. That’s the thing about L.A. -- so many people here aren’t what they seem. You think the plumber is just the plumber, but he’s an aspiring writer. Or take my cable guy who told me that his real vocation is poker and that he had even appeared on ESPN in a championship poker series. Then there was the shuttle bus driver who animatedly described attending a Donald Trump seminar. He said driving allowed him to pursue his real career goal: real estate.
I'm sure somebody has done this already, but there should be a book solely filled with lentil recipes. A lentil bible. And every kitchen should have one. The lentil is an edible pulse and part of the human diet since Neolithic times.
I inherited a bias towards lentils. Growing up in a conservative (Tory) household, the unspoken idea was that people who ate lentils didn't shave their armpits, wore hemp and hung out in muddy trenches at Greenham Common. I was so, so wrong. (I am also now a bleeding heart liberal who favors Birkenstocks, mu-mus, progressive education and sheep's milk yogurt).
I would argue for the elegance of the lentil - a simple, beautiful, shiny little bead packed full of nutrition and deliciousness. They are cheap, adaptable, adept at picking up flavors. Lentils are gloriously comforting and most cheering. For so long lentils have been the back-up singers. I'd like to make a case for them as the star of the show.
Amanda Hesser's single girl's salmon with lentils from the lovely "Cooking for Mr. Latte" is one of my favorites, a recipe I go back to again and again, with or without the salmon. My friend Marta's lentil soup gets a ringing endorsement - warm, homely, soothing perfection.
If your idea of a good time is to peruse a calendar of naked men (and definitely of a certain age) then join the Gentlemen of the Garden at their next outdoor bash in Palm Beach. No? Do it anyway – the party is a hoot!
It’s not every night that one can whoop it up with 100 caring but crazy gentlemen dedicated to maintaining the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in West Palm Beach. Count on near naked dress codes among some of them, but also count on a dinner menu not usually found in the best books on Entertaining Lavishly – I rather favor their homemade tamales… but that is another story.
This story revolves around a pair of GoGs that love life, putti, fruit trees, and home cooking! It can’t get better than that!
David Miller and Ray Wakefield have been growing exotic fruit bearing trees for decades, and the line waiting for Ray’s Calamondin Marmalade features some of Palm Beach’s most famous Swans!
So what trees do they have you ask? Over the years – Calamondin, carambola, mango (OMG the Florida mangos are drop dead wonderful this time of year) avocado, kumquat, loquat, Meyer lemon, sapote, guava (which apparently makes divine jam if it weren’t for the thin skin and tedious process) grapefruit, sour orange and perhaps the most exotic of all - monstera deliciosa! (Not sure about you, but I insist all my monstera be deliciosa! No?)
Now, I generally steer clear of plastic cooking tools that look like the crap sold on tv at 3:00 am. It dices! It slices! Hey, guess what? I do too! But a client of mine had ripped a page from her Williams Sonoma catalog with a picture of a vegetable extruder and I was intrigued. I did some investigating and found one a little cheaper on Amazon made by Bitoni with the magic words… lifetime replacement warranty. Now we’re talkin’.
It’s important to say that I was, at that time, thinking only of my clients. I had no intention of actually enjoying this product myself. I like my pasta, dammit. You’re not going to convince me this is an acceptable substitute.
It’s also important to say that I don’t work for Bitoni. I’m not a Bitoni stockholder. I’m not trying to get you to buy one.
When it arrived, I had three challenges for the machine:
Every Grillmaster has a few tricks up their sleeves for ultimate grilling success, giving moist, juicy, flavorful results every time they light up the grill. Here are the Top 10 Secrets for Grilling Success that will make even a novice griller look like a pro.
1) Invest in a Meat Thermometer: Using a meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of grilling. By knowing exact internal temps, you can remove meat at just the right time for moist, juicy results. I recommend the Thermapen — it’s an instant-read digital thermometer that shows temps in less than five seconds, so you’re not spilling valuable heat from the grill.
2) Know Minimum Internal Temperatures for Meat: These are the minimal internal temperatures for meat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Keep in mind that when you take your meat off the grill, it continues to cook, so it is OK to pull it off when it’s a few degrees under the listed temperature.
I was recently invited to join a Master Class in bread making at the L’Atelier des Chefs school in London. It is really a wonderful concept – a wide variety of classes are guided by expert chefs who have top restaurant experience and a great desire for teaching and sharing their knowledge. They have two locations in London - Oxford Circus and St Paul’s - and more in France and Belgium. Offering diverse cuisines and skill levels six days a week, it’s easy to find one that’s right for you. Prices range from just £15 (for their signature Cook, Eat & Run class which promises to teach you to cook a delicious main course in just 30 minutes) to £144 for their four hour Master Class.
My class was held on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the St Paul’s location, and I was joined by six other eager-to-learn students. It was an eclectic bunch, all ages with mostly beginner to intermediate cooking skills. There was a mother and her teenage son, who seemed less than thrilled to be there; a handsome bearded fellow from the northeastern part of France; two baby boomer types, one woman eager, the other somewhat timid; and a hip twenty-something guy, there on his third visit who shared rave reviews about his previous experiences. We were greeted warmly by the receptionist who presented us with new aprons (to keep as a souvenir) and led us to our classroom. The courses are conducted in a bright state-of-the-art kitchen with a large stainless steel work station which we gathered around to meet our instructor, Chef Daniel Stevens. Initially I had visions of Hell's Kitchen with some fire breathing Gordon Ramsey type instructor who would bark orders and humiliate us for any culinary mistakes
As in a good movie with scenes of tears, laughs, and tasteful delights, your venture with onions will boast the same sentiments. Vidalia, Spanish, yellow, white and red - onions can and should be your flavor backbones in the kitchen.
Thinly sliced in a salad, fried in rings, sweated and sweetened, or adding zing to a burger or hotdog, these powerhouse bulbs have flavored meals and dishes for centuries. No other vegetable brings tears to my eyes as these subterranean roots do…I digress.
Synonymous with onion across the Deep South and country is the Vidalia – a sweet, crisp member of the genus Allium. Soil conditions in that part of South Georgia create an anomaly for these surprisingly sweet onions to grow and flourish. Yet, even if you and your garden are not in the legislatively approved section of Georgia to produce quote Vidalias unquote, growing onions and other members of their family in your home garden is easy and quite rewarding.
Sometimes the best gifts are ones that are home-made. I was especially charmed by this cookbook Paul Mones made for his son. Now, if he'd only teach my kids to cook! -- Amy Ephron
ALL THE BASICS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BE ON THE ROAD TO BE A GREAT COOK
BASIC SPICES AND COOKING ITEMS YOU SHOULD HAVE
KOSHER SALT OR SEA SALT
GARLIC POWDER (NOT GARLIC SALT)
RED CHILI FLAKES
BOX OF CORNSTARCH
MAPLE SYRUP (THE REAL STUFF NOT CORN SYRUP SHIT) OR HONEY
HOT SAUCE OF YOUR CHOICE
POLENTA (INSTANT KIND)
BROWN OR WHITE RICE OR QUINOA
1 BAG OF FLOUR
*BOX OF ARM & HAMMER BAKING SODA THAT YOU OPEN UP AND PUT IN BACK CORNER OF REFRIGERATOR ON FIRST SHELF – GREAT FOR ABSORBING ODORS - CHANGE EVERY MONTH IF POSSIBLE – ONLY COSTS LESS THAN A BUCK AND WHEN FIINSHED PUT DOWN GARBAGE DISPOSAL – CLEANS IT WELL – ALSO PUT USED LEMONS DOWN DISPOSAL AS WELL.
Sure, you could buy that grilling fanatic on your holiday gift list a new smoker or cutting-edge grill accessory. (For some suggestions, check out our barbecuers’ gift guide.) But sometimes, the most meaningful gifts are the ones you make yourself. Homemade gifts help you stretch your holiday shopping dollars, and in inclement weather, they’re a great way to channel your inner pit master without having to don your parka or fight for a parking spot.
Which brings us to one of my favorite homemade holiday gifts: made-from-scratch barbecue rubs. Simply defined, a rub is a mixture of salt, spices, and herbs used to flavor grilled or smoked meats, seafood, and even vegetables and tofu.
There are two ways to use a barbecue rub. The first is to apply it right before grilling or smoking, in which case it acts as a sort of seasoned salt. The second is to rub it into the meat a few hours or even a day before you plan to cook it, in which case the seasonings partially cure the meat, resulting in a richer, more complex flavor.