Cooking and Gadgets

plumber 2Catastrophe 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.

Read more ...

ImageAlthough accustomed to a table full of eaters, eating alone at home is no problem for me. Cooking for one, however, is. My usual repertoire for solitary meals includes either heating up leftovers or making sunny-side up eggs and toast. The meals with leftovers vary, of course, but the eggs and toast is a bit of a never-boring treasure. Now there are people I know who cook fairly extensively for themselves, but I am not one of them.

My own mother was known to sit down to a fully set table and enjoy a first course of homemade soup followed by a meat, potato and vegetable main course, all topped off with a cup of brewed coffee and possibly a cookie or piece of cake, once again homemade. Not me. That much effort without the pleasure of watching someone else relish what I made, or at the least, having them eat it with no complaints is just not worth the trouble.

On one recent solo evening though, the meal I made both cracked me up and delighted me. On a lark, I spent a couple of hours baking Ina Garten’s Honey White Bread. (Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten, Honey White Bread, p. 57). As the contessa claimed, it was an easy recipe to follow, and the bread was delicious.

Read more ...

grilledveg2I love grilled veggies, but sometimes prepping veggies for the grill, and then standing vigil over them patiently, is just a little more time than even I’m willing to give. So this week I grabbed my grill basket to make life easier. And I wound up improvising a number of different veggie dishes, using both my Morning Glory haul and the contents of my refrigerator veggie bin. (Just two samples–in the basket above, and finished, below.)

Grill baskets are inherently destructible. They won’t last forever, so don’t bother spending a lot of money on one. Just buy one—you won’t be sorry. (Mine is a particularly cheap, lightweight one that I picked up at a housewares store. But this new stainless steel one from Weber looks like a good bet.)

Basically, using a grill basket is like stir-frying on the grill. But better. Because you don’t have to pay close attention. Stirring every three or four minutes, as opposed to every 30 seconds, is just fine. As long as you follow a few guidelines, you can cook practically any combination of your favorite veggies in about 10 minutes of mostly hands-off time.

Read more ...

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.

Read more ...

thermometer-illustration1.jpgAll my knowledge of cooking comes from a lifetime in the kitchen with family. My grandmother, my mother, my father, my chef friends, my farmer friends, you name it – if I can glean something from them I will.

Many lessons have been learned through trial and error which I suppose is a good way to learn. I’ve made many mistakes and continue to make many mistakes (you should have seen my Korean song pyeon I tried to make the other day, I don’t even wanna talk about it). I thought I’d begin a series of things I’ve learned along the way and subject you to some bad illustrations I painted. Sometimes you just have to step away from the camera and change things up a bit. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Matt's Kitchen Wisdom Volume 1.

Kitchen Thermometers Are Your Friends.

There was a time when I tried to wing everything. The result? Soggy fried foods, destroyed melted sugar gloop, burnt butter (which isn’t a bad thing exactly but you know what I’m saying). And since deep frying plays a big part of On a Stick!, it’s important to know your temperatures and know when you’re where you want to be.

Read more ...