Sunday, December 31, 2017

Stalks, stems, ribs, and cores . . .

. . . all those "tough" things you usually trim away and discard: fennel stalks (and core), the ends of asparagus, broccoli stems, collard or kale ribs, cauliflower cores (and leaves). I just have two words for you: food processor. All of those things can be rendered edible by whacking them around in a food processor to make veggie "rice." Boom.

1. Dried out things (onion skins) can't be rescued
2. I haven't tried butternut squash skin, but I'm thinking that even if it got turned into rice it would be nasty.
3. Bean pods: I've made broth from them, but I've never tried to rice-ize them. Next on my list.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Two problems + one solution = ginger snow

Problem #1 You bought more ginger than you needed (or the market made it difficult for you to tailor your purchase) and now it's lurking in your vege-lator all dried and shriveled . . . and/or moldy. 

Problem #2 You love ginger tea and a) you just ran out of your favorite teabags or b) you thought you had fresh ginger, but refer to Problem #1.

The solution:
Put the surplus ginger in the freezer while it's still plump and tight-skinned (ah, reminds me of sixth grade). You can peel or not. It's just a matter of aesthetics, not flavor.

When the ginger tea mood strikes, just grate the ginger on a Microplane into a mug. Add just-boiled water (and honey and lemon, perchance). Ginger tea. You can just drink the snowy ginger; no need to strain it out. 

And of course the finely grated ginger works in any recipe where you want ginger (though not if you're looking for the ginger to provide some kind of texture). Give the ginger snow about 2 seconds at room temperature and it melts into an absolutely superb, fiber-free ginger paste.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cake, Kuchen, Koek, Kake, Kola─Ź, Cacen, Keke, Kage, Kuko*, Keyk

When my niece Emily was little, she couldn't manage my name (Kate) and instead called me Cake. In spite of the fact that I don't like actual cake (I wish I had been Aunt Pie or Aunt Lemon Square), I liked the moniker.

So, what's in the name? Where does the word cake come from. It has a connection to the Old Norse word kaka (phew, dodged a bullet with that linguistic evolution...unless you live in modernday Sweden). But I can't help but feel that somewhere, far up in the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) branches there is a connection to the verb cook.**

I'm picturing early man, pre-fire, making a "batter" of ground up roots and water and eating it two-finger style (like poi).

Then, fire. Same mixture + hot stone = a cooked thing. Let's call it a cook....or koek or kaka.

Then, iron. Same mixture + hot pan = cook/koek/cake in a pan. Let's call it a pan cake.

Then, leaveners. Same mixture + leavener + hot pan = pan cake but taller

Now we've got the hang of it. Let's make a small version. Let's call it a cookie.

And now, let's bake that cookie not once but twice (because now we have an oven, yo). Let's call it a biscuit, biscotto, or zweiback.

Actually, near as I can tell (or near as the brains behind the OED can tell), the process went the other way around. The original cake was a hard little twice-cooked hockey puck suitable for nomads and other journeyers. (Oh, P.S., johnnycakes, journeycakes.) But I like my story better.


*Esperanto. As in "Shut your kuko-hole."
**For you linguistic pedants out there, I am aware that the original connection to the Latin verb coquere has been discredited. But that brings me to one of the Latin words for cake, which is placenta.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Mystery of the Exploding Eggs

Young Master Julien Slate-Aussoleil
holds the explode-o egg so Mom
can take an out-of-focus photo.
A couple of whiles ago, I was working on a book called Scratch (written by Maria Rodale, of the Rodales), in which I learned that to get really consistently peelable eggs, you steam them. Genius! And I've been doing that ever since.

But every so often I would get what I call a "crater egg." It appeared that for some reason the air inside the egg couldn't get out (eggshells are porous, n'est-ce pas?) and pushed the egg white up against the shell at the opposite end, leaving an egg-white crater behind. Net result = the most unpeelable egg you'll ever meet, times a million.

Then, even weirder, some eggs would simply explode in the steamer, with loud (relatively speaking) egg bangs. Of course these were beyond peeling: They needed to be scooped out of the shell.

Why, why? My perfect system! What was wrong with it?

Research on the Google Interwebs Machine.


Yes, wax. Some egg producers wax their eggs* to increase the shelf life. The wax prevents the egg from "respiring"—a process that over time introduces more air into the egg and eventually makes it go bad. (This is why you can test the age of an egg by seeing if it floats in water.) When you cook an egg in boiling water, the minute you immerse the egg, the hot water melts the wax off (though this is just my guess). But with steam, apparently, not so much.

Just for the record, Trader Joe's organic eggs don't explode, so I'm going to go ahead and say they are not waxed. Other eggs (Fresh Direct, I'm looking at you) have a fairly high Explosion Rate.

New experiment: Poke a hole in the wide end (the end that typically has an air pocket) and give it an escape route. To be continued.....

*Anyone who has ever stocked a sailboat's pantry in preparation for a long cruise also knows this trick. With limited fridge space on a small boat, eggs are one thing you can keep at room temp, as long as you dip the eggs in paraffin.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Cauliflower crumbs. Am I right?

The 3 most annoying food particles are:

1. Cauliflower crumbs
2. Eggshell shards
3. Honey

They seem to have the following prime directives: Spread. Spread to weird places. Hide. Multiply. Spread again.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The imperfection of the "bunch"

(I'm in the middle of reading The Chronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope, and I feel that he would have titled this post thus.)

I edit a lot of recipes...and it's a little like detective work (I knew my Nancy Drew training would eventually come into play) trying to suss out what a recipe creator means when they* call for "a large handful" or "a generous glug" or [wait for it] "a bunch."

Let's consult the dictionary for a definition of bunch:
"a group of things of the same kind that are held or tied together or that grow together"
There is nothing in the definition that implies a quantity (even for things that "grow together," like grapes or bananas). In fact, the size of a bunch is controlled by custom. And since customs change pretty much constantly, calling for a bunch of something in a recipe is extraordinarily imperfect.

Here, peeps of the jury, is a "bunch of basil" from a farmers' market:

And here's a "bunch" from the supermarket:

I rest my case.

*On a separate note, I've finally given in to the use of "they" to indicate an individual of unknown gender......but I am not happy about it.