Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chitarra pasta

Chitarra means guitar in Italian, and it is also the name for a piece of pasta-making equipment that resembles that stringed instrument (although zither would be a better match). Maccheroni alla chitarra or spaghetti alla chitarra are made by pressing a thin sheet of egg dough onto the metal strings, thus cutting the dough into strands (duh).

The resulting strand pasta is squarish in cross-section and roughish in texture--as opposed to the roundish cross-section and smooth texture you get from pasta strands that have been extruded through a round hole. It is said that the rougher edges of the chitarra-cut strands allow pasta sauce to cling better.

OK, enough food blah-blah. Here's the cool thing: The chitarra shown above is handmade in this country (Pennsylvania, to be exact) by an artisan who has been making them for over 60 years. It has a hardwood frame and steel wires set into cast-aluminum anchors; it costs $42 from Fantes Kitchen Wares Shop.

Now, for you DIY folks: Here's a little instructional from a math professor at Columbia University in NYC on how to build your own chitarra.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Putting party hats to good use

Have you ever been plagued by a fruit-fly infestation? If you said "No"....well, I don't believe you. It's happened to all of us. And to me just recently.

So I did what we all do these days, I went online. When I typed in "fruit fly trap," I found a bunch of sites that describe how to make one, and I promptly did so.

Here's what you do.
1. (This is the most important.) Get rid of whatever it is that the fruit flies were attracted to in the first place: an over-the-hill banana, something delicious in the garbage. Whatever it is.

2. Take a sheet of paper, form it into a cone and tape it together.

3. At the tip of the cone, snip off an opening that is just slightly larger than a fruit fly.

4. Put a piece of banana or some vinegar in the bottom of a tall glass. Put the paper cone into the glass and tape it around the glass's edges (to seal off any possible escape route).

The fruit flies, who are attracted to the smell in the glass, go down through the opening in the paper cone and then can't figure out how to get out. They may be prolific, but they're not very bright.

Now for how party hats come into play. 
Most party hats are in the shape of a cone. If you happen to have one, you have a ready-made fruit-fly trap. The bonus is that your fruit-fly trap is both sturdy and decorative.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fun bottle openers

For years I've had one of those old-fashioned bottle openers mounted on the wall of my kitchen. You know the kind: cast-aluminum with Coca-Cola in raised letters on it. When I was a kid it was the type that the downtown grocery store always had next to the giant, red Coca-Cola-branded cooler where they kept all the cold sodas. There's nothing like the convenience of a wall-mounted bottle opener, because you don't have to figure out where the last person who used it decided to put it down.

You can still get the old-fashioned cast-aluminum openers—with the logo of any beer, soda, or sports team you happen to favor. But here's a collection of out-of-the-ordinary openers.

1 This cast-iron gentleman is Mr. Top Hat. $13 from farmhouse wares.

2 The Roaring Lion opener is made of cold-cast resin (a very strong polymer) with a metallic finish. It's $30 from Things 2 Die 4

3 A cast-iron moose opener would look very cool on the wall; I might be tempted to get it even though at least one customer found that the moose's chin wasn't long enough to actually open a bottle. It's $19 from Orvis.

4 Yeah, this cast-iron guy is obviously determined to open your bottle. The Bulldog opener is $12.95 from Rejuvenation.

5 OK, this is my favorite. This hardened stainless steel Bottle Bunny is from a British company called Slam Designs. It's $14.50 from amazon.

6 And then there's really nothing wrong with the classic shape. This model is stainless steel and proclaims no particular allegiance, except to helping you open a bottle of Moxie. It's $10 from Homebrewers Outpost.

Eggs Dillingham

My father didn't really know how to cook, but he was responsible for two of my fondest childhood food memories. One was for a "recipe" he made for us on Sunday mornings called Tomato Surprise. We weren't allowed in the kitchen while he made it, not that it was all that hard to figure out. It was condensed cream of tomato soup made with heavy cream (may the saints preserve us!) and garnished with homemade, butter-fried croutons (may the saints preserve us again). Mmmmmmm.

The second dish was a breakfast concoction called Eggs Dillingham. To make Eggs Dillingham (named for a college buddy of my father's), you fried up two pieces of bacon, cut a hole in a slice of bread and centered the hole over the bacon in the pan. Then you cracked an egg into the hole and let the thing cook up into a wonderful egg-bacon sandwich glued together by the egg. In the meantime, the piece of bread that was cut out was also frying in the bacon fat. (Wait, where are those saints? I need them.)

We had this dish at home, but we also cooked it over many a campfire. The concept of Eggs Dillingham came in particularly handy when my family used to make an annual canoe pilgrimage to a small island in the middle of a Wisconsin lake. There we built a campfire and put a flat rock in the fire to heat up and serve as our "skillet." Once the rock was hot, we used the bacon to grease the rock, and then the bread with the hole torn out of it served to keep the egg from running off the rock.

I don't think I've ever had food that tasted as good as Eggs Dillingham on Scattering Rice Island.

The map above represents our canoe journey from Otter Lake to the island in Scattering Rice Lake.