Archive for July, 2010

28
Jul

Knives

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Review

Confession time: I use terrible knives, and I love them.

I have one proper chef’s knife, which was a gift from a friend. And I will confess that there are some things where that knife will work and nothing else will – peeling winter squash. And… No, that’s the only thing I’ve found so far.

In moderate knives, I also have three different lengths of the standard CutCo serrated knife. I use these on big things. And occasionally to cut fresh meat.

For all other purposes, I use crappy steak knives from K-Mart. They’re awesome. They stay sharp enough for about three years, they don’t lose quality when chucked in a drawer, and it’s like $5 for four of them (note: my memory is not good enough to confirm that the brand linked was the same brand I bought).

And I’ve been putting off this post because it requires talking smack about Target, but since they’ve pissed me off this week, you’re in luck. After I had several years’ worth of joy out of the first set, I tried going to replace them at Target. But their crappy steak knives rust.

So how well do they work?

Great. You know what they’re really good at? Smooth, thin slices of tomato. I know. But the micro-serrations are just the thing for biting into the skin without putting any pressure on the flesh. My mother even raised me to peel tomatoes with a knife, instead of by blanching, and that works just fine with these crappy knives. They fit in the hand well and made quick work of pitting cherries, halving peaches, quartering apples, dicing onions, mincing garlic or ginger, removing the pith from the zest of an orange, and they’re even pretty good at cutting steak. Yes, I’ve used them to cut through slightly frozen meat for slivered stir fry meat and it cuts a great hollow for embedding garlic in a roast.

What it doesn’t do well is speed – it’s going to take more passes and it doesn’t have any weight behind it. It’s also not showy at all.

So aren’t you more likely to cut yourself badly with a crappy knife?

Well, I’ve certainly cut myself, but it’s most often like a nasty papercut – see the part where there’s no weight behind it and your pace is slower. Also, there’s less temptation to do stupid, showy cutting-esque moves when you’re holding a simple knife.

So there.

But feel free to try to convince me otherwise.

16
Jul

Bagels in Philadelphia

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in experiments, Food, invitation

For years, Philadelphia has been a bizarrely unsatisfying city for bagels. I mean, New York is right over there! I could get good bagels in the suburbs – why so hard here?

I used to swing by my parents’ bagel place every time I’d visit for a dozen day old bagels to freeze. Then that place had a fire and closed that location.

I tried the authentic New York bagel place on the edge of the city in an awkward shopping center… and, yes, they were authentic and tasty, but in that way where the crust is so hard it hurts. Those are not my favorite kinds of New York bagels.

Then – a fancipants market opened up near my yoga studio. It’s not the kind of market where you can just go for random groceries, but it’s pretty good as a place to bring all the small, expensive, artisan foodstuffs from around the city to within easy walking distance. The sourced some pretty darn good bagels from South Street, and I considered all my problems solved.

And then – Capogiro, the local gelato chain, started importing H&H bagels from New York. Whee! They’re pretty tasty, too. And only $2 for half a dozen after 5pm.

And now my suburban bagel place has reopened!

And! And! There’s news that in the future there will be a Montreal-style bagelry.

So I think I want to have a Bagel Showdown Brunch in early October or early November. Only savory bagels will be offered, as a matter of principle. Who’d be interested? Let’s talk schedules

Menu Planning

Bagels
1 each

  • plain
  • everything
  • sesame
  • onion
  • poppy
  • egg
  • and salt (for the boss fight)

cut into eights or twelfths
from

Spreads
butter

cream cheese

  • scallion cheese
  • roasted red pepper cream cheese
  • parsley and roasted garlic
  • olive and almond

Toppings
onion
tomatoes
hot sauce
possibly lox

Other brunch dishes
eggs to order
bacon
collard greens & tomatoes
fresh fruit
feel free to bring something (small)

Beverages
Coffee only if you ask ahead of time
Tea in abundance
Orange Juice (Fairly fresh if I get to either my new tea place or to Earth Cup – otherwise from a carton)
whole milk
water
feel free to bring/request cocktails

Note: this meal would be neither vegan nor celiac friendly. It could accommodate vegetarians with advanced warning.

13
Jul

Beet Cabbage Shred

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in friendly, gluten free, Recipe, vegan, vegetable (side) dish, vegetarian

Looking back, it seems that I only ever posted the rough draft of my beet cabbage shred (based on Orangette’s Red Seasonal Salad). It’s something I make pretty frequently, now, so it has a more regular form. I guess I should write it up properly.

Beet Cabbage Shred

Peel your beets. Cut them in half, and then slice them thinly into half rounds. This is fast and small enough, but feel free to juillienne if that appeals to you more.

Cut off a chunk from a purple cabbage head and slice it thinly so that it shreds. You should have anywhere from equal amounts beet and cabbage to twice as much cabbage.

Peel a purple onion, slice it in half, and then cut paper thin slices off of that.

Alternate handfulls from these three piles into a large container so that you start the mixing process.

Depending on your tastes and the spiciness of your peppers, take one or two jalapeno peppers. Cut the flesh off the pepper and slice them into thin strips. Add to the mixture.

Add a tiny pinch of salt, about a teaspoon of sugar, a generous grinding of pepper, and then start mixing properly.

Squeeze 2 limes into the countainer. And add about 1/8 of a cup each of rice vinegar and red wine vinegar. Mix thoroughly. Taste. See if it needs more sugar, acid, or pepper.

If you have fresh, add cilantro and/or parsley.

This lasts at least a week in the refrigerator. And we aware that eating large quantities of this will make you excrete purple – that’s not a health problem.

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So there were pretty beets at the market. Well, about a week and a half ago… but they’re still in my fridge. And I’d meant to make my usual beet and purple cabbage shred, but there haven’t been any purple cabbage these days. So I’d been pondering what to do with them.

I didn’t want to substitute a different variety of cabbage because the color bleed would be unfortunate. So I’ve just been sitting around with beets and not using them.

I also have in my pantry a package of black rice noodles. I had a plan to use them in some showy way for company… possibly as a cold soba type salad variation.

And then I just sort of played from there.

Cold Black Rice Noodle and Beet Salad

Julienne 4 raw beets (but it could easily have been a few more).

Boil some water

Julienne carrots until you have about a third the quantity of beets. You could also throw in some red bell pepper or cucumber or whatnot.

Cooking the noodles – do not believe the package! The package says to put the noodles into the cold water, bring it to a boil, and then cook for a few minutes. This will lead to mush and tears. Instead, boil the water, turn the heat OFF, then add the noodles (I did two of the little wrapped packages, so that’s about 5 ounces), and within a minute or so they will be plenty soft. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking even though you will lose starch. Actually, for these purposes, there wasn’t much harm in losing the released starch.

Dump the noodles in with the vegetables.

Squeeze 2 limes, add 2 Tablespoons of black vinegar and about an eight of a cup of plain rice vinegar, sprinkle in about 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, and a healthy glug of toasted sesame oil. Mix that all together and see whether it feels like the proper amount of sauciness and whether the tastes are balanced.

Toast some unsweetened shredded coconut, and add it (this really improved the dish!).

And then feel free to go through your cupboards looking for other fun things. The only thing else I added were some toasted almond slivers, but sesame seeds or tofu or more vegetables all would have been good. Cabbage would be a good addition, too.

The end result was charmingly vegan and gluten free, but I was tempted to try adding a splash of fish sauce, and it’s with noting to people with dietary concerns that the noodles contain corn starch.

And now I know what I’ll be taking to the next food blogger pot luck.

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