Cooking and Gadgets

wirewhisknewIn my opinion a great gift for the little one is a wire push type egg beater.  No, it’s not too early to get that little one comfortable with kitchen chores.  I say chores because if you strip away all the baggage of cooking “celebrity” and gourmandise what’s left is the truth that knowing your way around the daily work of the kitchen is a big part of a satisfying personal life.  

Learning how to cook at a young age is like learning how to drive. The younger you are when you begin the learning process the more ingrained and effortless the moves will be as you mature.  I use myself as an example.  I don’t even remember being taught by my mother.  A woman, by the way, who wasn’t by any measure a great cook.  However, she did get dinner on the table every single night of my childhood with very few exceptions.  So I learned the moves incrementally, effortlessly and naturally.

It started with pot banging.  Raised in a household where a “toy” was anything that would entertain me, I was encouraged to open the doors to the lower cupboard that held the pots, drag them out and bang on them with a wooden spoon made available to me for this purpose.  I don’t imagine mom understood that she was making a cook.  She was just trying to give me something to do where she could watch me while she made dinner.

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LentilillustrationI'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.

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redcabbage.jpgLast time I was at the supermarket, the cashier picked up my head of radicchio and punched in the code for red cabbage. The price came up as 70 cents.

I said, "Actually, that's radicchio, not red cabbage."

She voided it and punched in the correct code for radicchio. The new price came up as $5.50.

"Wow! That's expensive!" she said. "You should just get the red cabbage instead."

Get the red cabbage instead? Is she serious?

So what's behind this $5 difference between red cabbage and radicchio? Is it cabbage inflation? Is the Mafia getting kickbacks on radicchio sales?

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yellowteapot2My large yellow teapot never moves from my kitchen counter. The inside has never been washed as long as I have had it and the brown build-up inside it is beautifully, perfect from years of steeping Darjeeling. If only Miss Sexton could see it. She would appreciate the years of brown stain from calcification build-up on the inside and be so proud that she is the reason it’s there. The inside of my teapot looks just like Miss Sexton’s teapot and it makes me happy and proud to have known her and I appreciate how she taught me to love tea as much as her.

I didn’t always drink Darjeeling. Miss Sexton and I drank loose Red Rose tea steeped in her English bone china teapot decorated with pale blue flowers and sparkling highlights of gold. It was beautiful and she used it everyday like it reminded her of someone.

Before I met our neighbor, Miss Sexton, I drank tea alone not wanting anyone knowing how much tea I drank when I was three years old. I told my mother so often how much I loved tea she began to worry. She lecture me constantly, “you’ll stunt your growth and be short all your life,” like being short was a bad thing caused by excessive tea drinking and not genetics. I was more willing to be short then to give up drinking tea. I continued to brew my Lipton tea, buying my own boxes with my allowance, drinking it behind my closed bedroom door. I loved the bright orange color. The taste was delicate with a rainbow of flavor like nothing else and all my dolls liked it as much as me. They always asked for seconds.

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bestburgerSummer isn’t summer without grilling all of our favorite things; kabobs, thick rib eyes, pizza, fish, corn, all kinds of veggies and of course – burgers.  Burgers are always just okay when made at home.  Yet, after eating at Umami burger, I had to up my game. I loved my burger at Umami burger.  The burger fit perfectly on the bun, the tomatoes were juicy and the other stuff was just right. 

I had to recreate their great taste at home.  After, finally figuring out the right combination of meat and seasonings my kids and their friends agree that my burgers now taste like a restaurant-style burger.  Finally, got the taste that I have been searching for.  Nothing added to the meat, nothing fancy like cheese or butter shoved inside the meat, just meat, a little salt, pepper, + garlic powder.  That’s it.

Eli likes grilled onions, lettuce and ketchup.  Isaac likes lettuce, ketchup + pickles (after all, a burger isn’t a burger without the pickles), and Levi likes cheese and ketchup.  In my opinion, the grilled onions make this burger taste not like your ordinary burger. Don’t leave these out…they truly change the taste of the burger (also delicious on a hot dog!). Use a potato bun and it makes all the difference in the world.  I am even entertaining the idea of making my own buns!  We will see if I am up for the challenge.

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