Thursday, August 23, 2007

Evil Mad Scientist

I think that there is a very fine line to be drawn between people who love to cook and mad scientists. But here is someone who has found the fine line and happily crossed it. The Evil Mad Scientist, who in real life is Windell H. Oskay, describes himself as a "published playwright, award winning cartoonist, and obscenely creative amateur chef."

He has a lot of funny/interesting food projects on his site, but here's one that is actually a recipe. It's a tiramisú made with matzah instead of ladyfingers. He calls it a Tiramatzah.

P.S. Evil Mad Scientist also makes interactive furniture, including a dining table with LED lights (photo above) that interact with movements on the surface of the table. Check it out.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I love lefse

I love lefse, a Norwegian flat bread that looks sort of like a cross between a crêpe, a tortilla and Indian naan. It starts as a dough made with mashed potatoes, flour and cream or butter, and is then rolled as thin as possible (“thin enough to read the newspaper through,” according to one Norwegian cook) and quickly cooked on a hot griddle.

It’s odd that I have actually had lefse because I am not of Norwegian heritage, nor did I grow up in a part of the country with big Norwegian settlements (North Dakota and Minnesota, for example). I believe that I first had lefse when I was working on a book called The International Cook’s Catalogue. I was in charge of a section on Scandinavian baking tools and I ran across a rolling pin that was specifically for making lefse.

This led me to a small shop in Manhattan that sold all things Scandinavian, which is where I got my first taste of lefse. What I had was packaged lefse (Norwegians would probably shudder at the thought) that in order to be edible had to be resoftened: It had to sit layered with damp towels for what always seemed like way too long, because I was anxious to scarf it down.

I have since been tempted to learn how to make fresh lefse, though it seems to be quite an art. In my search to find a good lefse recipe, I found Terry's Lefse Links page, with lots of links to all things lefse (though some of the links are unfortunately out of date). And one of the links is to a site called Lefse Time, where you can order anything you need to make lefse, including the wonderful looking lefse rolling pin.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I just stumbled across ImCooked the other day, but my friends tell me that I'm the last one on the block to discover this YouTube-style site where you can shoot your own cooking video and submit it for others to watch. I found the site because someone told me that Christopher Walken had taken a home video of his roast chicken and pears recipe and I couldn't resist. He calls it "Man Makes Chicken with Pears." You absolutely have to watch it (scroll down).

If you spend some time poking around Im Cooked, you'll see an incredible variety of slicing and dicing styles. For example, in a video called "Cheap and Evil Guacamole," you'll see an unusual way of getting the avocado out of its skin. The directions for the Cheap and Evil guacamole are novel, and very clear, making it possible to actually cook this recipe (not true of all the videos).

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Get your fruit on

In a study conducted by the Fruit Laboratory at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, it was discovered that ethanol (also known as drinking alcohol) helps protect fruit from decay by enhancing antioxidant capacity. Somehow the ethanol increases the fruit's natural ability to neutralize the rogue oxygen molecules (free radicals) that contribute to spoiling.

The study was intended to find a useful tool for the fruit industry, of course, but there would seem to be a potential benefit to anyone consuming the fruit, too. Strawberries and blackberries (the fruits used in the study) naturally contain high levels of antioxidant compounds that are good for your health. So if you were to mix the berries with a little alcohol, you would have a super fruit. So bring on the strawberry daiquiris!

P.S. If you're looking for a cool blender to make your super-healthy daiquiri, check out the Liquid Blu™ blender from Hamilton Beach. It has a blue light that glows through its clear base (psychedelic!) and has a unique Wave~Action design that prevents the dreaded blender airlock. The blender retails for around $65.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Happy accident cheese

The Fiscalini family of Modesto, California, has been in the dairy business--and now in the artisanal cheese business--for four generations. They make cheese (primarily cheddars) by hand from the milk of their Holstein cows who are, according to the Fiscalinis, the happiest cows in California. In fact, Fiscalini Farms was the first dairy farm in the country to be certified by Validus, an independent agency that monitors animal welfare compliance.

So it's happy cows who make happy milk, which by happy accident ended up in a cheese called San Joaquin Gold. Fiscalini's cheesemaker, Mariano Gonzalez, was trying to create a cheddar cheese when by accident he ended up with a rich, buttery, nutty cheese that (to my palate anyway) tastes like a young Parmesan crossed with an Emmenthaler. Because this was an original style of cheese, the Fiscalinis named it after the valley where their cows live.

You can buy San Joaquin Gold directly from the Fiscalini Farms website, or you can check retail availability here.

Here's a recipe from Fiscalini Farms that uses San Joaquin Gold cheese:

San Joaquin "Golden" Baked Onion Dip

1 cup finely chopped Vidalia onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-1/4 cups crumbled San Joaquin Gold cheese
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Paprika, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix all together. Spread in small baking dish or pie plate. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes.