Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm just sayin'.....

The Japanese have cornered the market on weird and cute. Not always at the same time. Sometimes just weird, sometimes just cute. But I will say that the idea of cat cafes definitely falls into the weird-cute intersect.

A cat cafe is a cafe where for about $8 an hour you can go and pat the feline staff. The cats are there for the sole purpose of being patted and played with. Of course, given the general arrogance of cats, this probably only happens at the cats' convenience. The reason that the place is called a cafe is because you can order tea or coffee while you pat the cats, because otherwise the places look more like kindergarten classrooms than cafes.

Anyway, I find this completely hilarious and I just had to share.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Gingered Turkey Zuk

The weather in New York has made me crabby. Ten minutes of sun and then endless rainstorms. Waaaah. Wet, cold. Garden is molding instead of growing. Slugs. Waaah.

Time to make comfort food. This is why I made myself a nice bowl of zuk. Also known as congee, zuk is a Chinese rice dish made by cooking rice until it falls apart and turns into a thick, comforting bowl of porridge.

This porridge deviates from Western porridge by being savory, and almost never sweet. It's served to infants, or sick people to help them mend, or to people who are really crabby about the weather. Some version of zuk exists in almost any country where rice is the staple starch (as opposed to wheat, for example). In parts of India it's called kanji, in Korea juk, in Thailand jok.

It's supposed to be made with white rice, but I was e-chatting with a friend (hey, Ben!) who said he only ate brown rice these days and then, in a separate thought, mentioned that he loved congee. When challenged he admitted that he made congee the traditional way, with white rice. This made me wonder what would happen if....

Gingered Turkey Zuk
Zuk is usually made with white rice, but this version gets a little fiber boost by using brown rice. A zuk made with brown rice will take about 3 hours to cook, so if you don't have the patience, use white rice instead (though you're still on the hook for about 2 hours). Also, add about 1 more cup broth or water to the soup (a total of 9 cups) because the white rice tends to absorb more.

1 medium onion, quartered
1 small carrot, sliced
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 pounds skin-on, bone-in turkey drumstick or thighs
14 cups water
3/4 cup brown rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, finely sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
Minced cilantro, for garnish

1. In a medium soup pot, combine the onion, carrot, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, turkey, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a high simmer, partially cover and cook until the turkey is cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Remove the turkey from the broth. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and set aside. Discard the skin. If you want a richer broth and don't mind taking the extra time, return the bone(s) to the soup pot and continue simmering, covered, for 30 minutes or so.
3. Strain the broth. Take off most of the fat that rises to the surface. You'll need 8 cups for the zook, so if you don't have enough, add water.
4. Place the broth and rice in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a low simmer, partially cover and cook until the soup has thickened and the rice has "flowered" (the ends of the grains will actually blossom outward), 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours.
5. Meanwhile, cut the turkey into bite-size pieces. When the zook is done, remove from the heat, stir in the turkey and let sit covered for 10 minutes.
6. In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and salt, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the scallions and stir-fry until they're just limp, about 1 minute.
7. Ladle the zuk into soup bowls. Top with the ginger-scallion mixture. Sprinkle with the cilantro. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chicken roaster

What's the point of having a Dutch oven if it can't make you smile? Wouldn't you feel much jollier if you got to cook your stew or roast or chicken in this cast-iron pot? The Dutch oven (chicken roaster) holds 4-1/2 quarts, is 14-1/2 inches long (beak to tail), 7-1/2 inches wide and 9 inches high. It's made by Staub (who also make a pig-topped cocotte and a cow-topped cocotte) and is $180 from Chef's Resource.

The pumpkin tree project: day 30

For the record, Wee-Be-Little pumpkins (top) are looking a little more robust than the Sweet Lightning, but the poor dears have suffered through a month of almost solid rain, and the future isn't holding out a lot of promise for sun either. Luckily [knock wood] slugs don't seem to like pumpkin plants.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I'm working on a deadline for a giant cookbook, in case anyone wonders where I've been.

But I've set my Little Cook timer ($6.95 from Sassafras) so I know when to get back to blogifying.
Love, Kate

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

K.A.T.E.S. Rice Pudding with Tangerines

Kiwi Arborio rice Tangerine Evaporated milk Sugar

The third recipe from the Alphabet Challenge:
Come up with recipes using only ingredients that start with the letters that spell out my name K + A + T + E + S (the first initial of my last name to give me a total of 5). Oil, salt and pepper do not count.

Arborio Rice Pudding with Kiwis & Tangerines
I used kitchen scissors to cut the tangerine segments. It worked a treat and I didn't lose any juice to a cutting board.
P.S. Don't be tempted to put the kiwi on the pudding too far ahead of time, because the fruit has an enzyme called actinidin that will "eat" the protein in the milk (sort of like bromelain in pineapple or papain in papaya).

3 tangerines
2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup arborio rice
2-1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons canned evaporated milk (a 12-ounce can and a 5-ounce can)
2 kiwifruits, peeled and diced

1. Grate the zest from one of the tangerines into a bowl. Peel the tangerines and cut the segments into thirds or fourths and add to the bowl (discard any seeds). Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the sugar, toss well and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, combine the rice, 1-1/4 cups of the water and the salt. Bring to a low boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
3. Stir in the evaporated milk, remaining 1-1/4 cups water and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently (especially toward the end), until it turns into a thick porridge, 35 to 40 minutes.
4. Let cool to warm. Stir in the tangerine mixture and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
5. Top each serving of rice pudding with the kiwifruit.

Makes 4 servings

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

So how could I end a week filled with pig artifacts without a recipe using bacon? I couldn't.

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

2 cans (8 ounces each) whole water chestnuts, drained
16 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, halved crosswise

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Wrap each water chestnut with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick (push the toothpick all the way through the water chestnut to the other side).
3. Place the water chestnuts on a baking sheet so the water chestnut is touching the sheet rather than the bacon. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until the bacon is cooked and crisp.
4. Drain briefly on paper towels and serve hot or warm.

Makes 32 pieces

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pig mug

From Japan, a country where Hello Kitty is a National Treasure, comes this porcelain pig. Now you can drink a giant mug of tea brewed in your piggy teapot.

You can get the pig (or one of its friends, a panda or a black cat) for $20 from fredflare.com, a website whose mantra is "Stay cute!"

P.S. Of course you know this mug is upside down, right?

P.P.S. The Japanese word for cute is kyuuto.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sweetest cupcake actor ever

It's rare that I read someone else's blog with a link that I want to pass along, because I find the P.C. (as in politically correct) acknowledgment process frustrating:
"Say, here's a great story, I got it from here [link]"
Click. Load page.

"Interesting story, I got it from there [link].
Click. Load page.
Multiple polite links later you finally end up at the story itself. I often give up before I get there.

So, that said, I read a blog entry on Al Dente, which is a blog written by the editors at Amazon.com, who thanked a blogger (Key Notes with Becca) for making them aware of a stop-action animator named Kirsten Lepore, who has a collection of videos on Vimeo.com. [phew]

You need to watch her cupcake hero in a video called Sweet Dreams.

YiXing teapot

Zisha is a purple-red clay from China that is used to make teapots. The area most famous for this clay, and teapots, is YiXing (ee-shing), which is 120 miles northwest of Shanghai.

YiXing teapots are unglazed, which is what apparently makes them ideal for tea. The clay absorbs the flavor of the tea that's brewed in it, eventually "seasoning" the pot perfectly. This is why purist tea drinkers never brew different teas in the same YiXing pot.

A YiXing teapot is generally small, intended to brew just enough tea for 1 or 2 cups, which brings me to this piggy teapot. It's only 4 inches high and about 6 inches wide from snout to tail. It's $34 from the Dapper Frog.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Salt pigs

There is an old-fashioned kitchen item called a salt pig, which is a ceramic container that holds salt at the ready for the cook to take out a pinch. Presumably it's called a pig because its opening resembles a pig's snout (although there is a Scottish word, pyg, that means earthenware crock, so perhaps that feeds into this, too).

I've always wanted to have a salt pig, but I just can't figure out what the point is. It seems clear that the designer of the original salt pig (they've been around for centuries) must have had some important functionality in mind. I read a lively discussion on Chowhound about salt pigs and everyone's best guess is that it was originally intended to:

• keep soot from the wood or coal stove out of the salt
• keep dust out (??)
• keep moisture out

I keep my salt in a little ceramic bowl near the stove and it works just fine, but I will confess that, in the comings and goings of spoons and dripping things, every once in awhile I manage to cause little clumps in my salt bowl. Perhaps that little protective hood would prevent this.

In any case, the aesthetics of the salt pig are perhaps enough. Here's a round-up:

1 Porcelain pig from Williams-Sonoma. $17
2 Danesco porcelain pig from Target. $14
3 African-inspired pig from Bunny Safari on etsy.com. $30
4 Pink pig from chef tools.com $8
5 Stoneware pigs from Sur la Table. $10
6 Jamie Oliver Terracotta pig from Centralchef.com. $26.50

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cherry chomper

OK, I have no idea if this works or not, but I really, really want it to work, because...well, because.

If you have to sit and pit cherries, as I did recently (check in tomorrow), you might as well be amused at the same time. To work the Cherry Chomper, you stick a cherry in his mouth and press down on his head. A plunger pushes the pit out of the cherry and into the chomper's belly. Apparently it works for pitting olives, too.

My great-aunt Nan used to pit cherries with a hairpin. She dug the U end of the hairpin down into the cherry until she got to the bottom of the pit, then she pulled the hairpin back up on the other side of the pit. She worked like lightening with her gnarled arthritic hands. It was really something. She probably would have been disdainful of the Cherry Chomper.