Cooking and Gadgets

Matt on Grilling

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by Matt Armendariz

mattbites_on_grilling.jpgThis weekend all over the country barbecue grills, Webers, hibachis and iron smokers will come alive with heat, delivering offerings of grilled fare that satisfy our most primal urges.

And while I’m no expert I do know my way around a grill. The good old Texas boy in me always surfaces the minute spring and summer roll around and before you know it I’m ignoring the oven and spending every night cooking al fresco.

Over the years I’ve learned some good lessons (blanching ahead saves time) and some bad lessons (keep an extinguisher handy or else) but there’s always room for improvement. Below are a few things I’ve learned over the years:


1. Arm hair, while serving a protective biological purpose 10,000 years ago, isn’t entirely necessary. One can live a relatively healthy life without it. Eyebrows are an entirely different matter.

My First Cookbook

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by Carolan Nathan

ImageI remember so well my Mom making pancakes for us during the rather meagre times after World War 11. She would toss them up and often they would stick on the ceiling and we would find that so funny. There were always lots of eggs around as we would go to a nearby farm and get them and fresh milk and lots of herbs that me and my sisters would pick. We would lean over the side of the pig stys and watch with big eyes, what seemed like gigantic animals snorting in the mud! We ran after the chickens and were allowed into the coops to stick our fingers in and prise big brown eggs from under the nesting hens. Often the cock would frighten us off by screeching as we gathered the eggs!

My first cookbook was called ‘Round-the-Clock’ Cookery and was filled with awesome recipes for every meal, food and drink, and pictures describing how to truss chickens, make galettes and fill pies, baste eggs, the list of plates goes on and on. But as I love pancakes here is my favorite recipe. I often just squeeze lemon juice and a light coating of caster sugar on them.

Cooking Duck

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by David Latt

ImageThe first time I cooked duck, I was completely freaked out. "Duck!" seemed way too exotic, too odd, too French for me to deal with. Duck had too much tradition behind it. Chicken was my safe-zone fowl.

Anyway, I took the plunge and cooked a whole duck. It turned out...ok. There's all that fat to deal with and the fact that the whole bird is dark meat. After dozens of outings, I figured out how to cook duck, and, I have to say, duck is great. Taste-wise it's midway between chicken and beef, but better than either.

To the point: cooking a whole duck is an obligation. Cooking duck legs and thighs is a lot more normal. Think "chicken" and it won't seem so special, but the end result will be.

In a Pickle

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by Matt Armendariz

pickles.jpgWhat is it about vinegar plus ingredients that make me such a happy boy? Is it the complimentary tang of anything that's cured in brine brings? Is it that zippy puckerface that follows after chomping on a pickled cucumber? Or have I just encountered temporary culinary fatigue and needed something loud and strong to shock me out of my lull?

Perhaps it was D, all of the above.

To me, there are just some things that cannot and should not be enjoyed without their pickled counterpart. I refuse to enjoy paté and baguette without cornichon. I frown if a burger doesn't have pickles waiting for me under its bun. A ploughman's lunch isn't a ploughman's lunch without Branston pickle. Pickles, in whatever form, provide that sharp tangy balance that pairs beautifully with the smooth and savory. It's that last crash of a symbol in a symphony, that sparkling sour kick in a bite.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

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by Laraine Newman

ants-on-a-log.jpgI hate 3:00 p.m. on a school day. It means I’m a failure. Once again, I’ve failed to come up with a “healthy snack” for my ravenous Varsity Cheerleader.  Our routine was to just go over to Chipotle which wasn’t really great because those burritos, even though they were pretty clean, would stuff her until around 5:30, at which time, I’ve lost the will to live because I’m tired and I don’t want to come up with any kind of dinner, so she’s left to forage which makes me feel like an even worse failure.

And, for the record, all those parenting books that suggest those ‘healthy snacks’ are full of it. No kid I’ve ever known, except maybe one that grew up on a commune, would ever think that shit is good.  “Oh yummy, celery with peanut butter and raisins! Ants on a log! Thanks mommy!” There’s also Amir. He’s the Fox that led Pinocchio to the world of the Lost Boys, otherwise known as the guy with the snack truck parked outside the gym. I can’t tell you how many times my daughter has come to the car with a piece of cellophane wrapped cake bigger than her face along with a jug of orange Gatorade. Jesus!

It’s a landmine of insulin torment out there. BUT…there are flashes of genius.

Poached Eggs

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by Jeanne Kelley

poachedegg1.jpgSo folks are embracing “Meatless Mondays” – from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (maybe he’s also embracing meatless policies) to celebrity chef Mario Battali (who might consider some meal-less mondays – I know, I know, who am I to talk), but what about “Meatless Mostdays?” That’s what’s getting embraced around my house,

Chalk it up to my trying to “live off our land” or to me being too tired to go to the market, we’ve been eating eggs, not meat, for dinner. To make the eggs-seem-special-for-dinner, I have been serving them poached. Poached eggs are fancier than fried eggs – the delicate cooking results in tender whites and creamy, pudding-like yolks. I’ve served poached eggs with salad, croutons and bacon, poached eggs on root vegetable hash, poached eggs and Serrano jamon on toast with grilled green onion, arugula and Romesco sauce, poached eggs on whole wheat pasta with whole wheat bread crumbs and Swiss chard. (Yes, I know – there is bacon and Spanish ham in these dishes--so maybe Mostly Meatless Mostdays? – Is that better?)


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by Sue Doeden

sweet_cornbread.jpgIf you think dry and crumbly when you hear cornbread, you're not alone. That's exactly what I used to think. I remember the square cake pan of cornbread my mom used to make. It was so dry, I could hardly speak as I tried to swallow the sticky crumbs.

After much experimenting, I came up with a recipe that is moist with a much finer texture than most cornbread. The batter includes 1 cup of oil. Several years ago I used vegetable oil. As I became a bit more health conscious, I began using canola oil. Now I use walnut oil. Clearly one of the most healthful oils, it is a great source of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Its mild, neutral flavor makes it perfect for using as fat in baked goods. It's a bit more expensive than canola oil, but so worth it for the health benefits it delivers. It can sometimes be found near the the other cooking oils in the grocery store. I find it at my local natural food co-op and the natural food section of the local grocery stores.

Another way to kick-up the nutritional benefits of this bread is to use whole white wheat flour. This flour, which has all the nutrition and fiber of standard whole-wheat flour but with a lighter color and milder, sweet flavor, is milled from a hard white winter wheat berry, rather than the hard red spring wheat berry of traditional whole-wheat flours.

Slow-Smoking Ribs in the Great Indoors

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by Noelle Carter

From the L.A. Times

smokingchicken.jpgThe other day, I just couldn't shake the thought of slow-smoking some ribs. I was in the mood for Memphis-style baby backs, the meat fall-off-the-bone tender, a simple dry rub tantalizingly complicated with deep hickory notes, the flavors drawn out with a tart vinegar-Dijon mop.

There's a primal wonder to smoked food — that such depth of flavor can come from so simple a technique. And then, of course, there's the lure of the sunny afternoon spent in a lawn chair with a cold beer while you're waiting, patiently, for the Weber to work its magic.

But then it started raining.

The audacity of winter. Even in Southern California, we have our seasons. I took a good long look at my kettle grill through the kitchen window as it rained, but those ribs wouldn't stop dancing through my head, like a song that just wouldn't let go.

Read article...


Perfect Pasta

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by Evan Kleiman

benedettocavapasta.jpgI come home from work, I’m exhausted from running around shopping and cooking, but wait! It’s not over! I have to shop and cook for dear Mom. But there are those days that the thought of stepping foot in another food store / ethnic grocery / supermarket / even, yes, even a farmers market is more than I can bear. And in a really stupid move I didn’t bring anything home from my restaurant Angeli in a take out box. But wait! Now I remember, I have my secret stash of it’s simple stupid ingredients waiting for me in the pantry.

First I make myself (if it’s over 75 deg) a Gin and Tonic or (if it’s over 90 deg) a Michelada. Aside for drink recipe – Take out a big glass. Fill it with ice.  Add a healthy squeeze of fresh lime or lemon, some squirts of Tapatio or Tabasco, Worchestershire or Soy Sauce and some inexpensive light beer. Gulp and wait till your temperature drops and you feel like someone cracked an egg on your head.

Ahhh, now I feel better. It’s time to make Spaghetti Aglio e Olio garbage style. I always have (or try to) a couple of pounds of Benedetto Caveliere’s Spagattoni around. You can only buy it at Williams-Sonoma and it’s shockingly expensive, but worth it just for moments like this.

My First Cookbook

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by Carolyn Foster Segal

ImageWhen I was very young, one of my favorite books was The Campbell Kids at Home. While it may have lacked the pathos of another favorite on my list, The  Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, I found it equally fascinating. The narrative was slight, no more than a frame story, but I read the recipes over and over again, and I considered it my cookbook.

The Campbell Kids at Home was published in 1954 by Rand McNally; the back cover lists it as one of its “Famous Book-Elf books,” and it was just one of dozens of the Campbell Soup Company’s product tie-ins in the fifties. Part of the post- WW II surge in advertising, the company had already been involved with promotional objects since the start of the 20th century, and you can still send in soup labels in exchange for calendars, bowls, and mugs, although the Kids themselves have slimmed down quite a bit. (The “Kids” always go by this capitalized designation; they have no first names—and they always speak as one.) While I still have the book—my older daughter also went through a period of obsession with it—I destroyed all potential (hefty) re-sale value by inserting my name into the title on the first page. (But isn’t that what we do with books we love? Don’t we want to climb right into them and join in the adventure?)


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