Sunday, December 30, 2007
Problems with Nalgene?
Citing multiple studies in the United States, Europe and Japan, the chemicals industry maintains that polycarbonate bottles contain little BPA and leach traces considered too low to harm humans.I certainly don't know one way or the other whether the products could cause problems, but my general approach to such things is not to take unnecessary chances.
But critics point to an influx of animal studies linking low doses to a wide variety of ailments — from breast and prostate cancer, obesity and hyperactivity, to miscarriages and other reproductive failures.
An expert panel of 38 academic and government researchers who attended a National Institutes of Health-sponsored conference said in a study in August that "the potential for BPA to impact human health is a concern, and more research is clearly needed."
Fred vom Saal, a professor of biology at the University of Missouri and one of the study's chief authors said the panel reviewed 700 published articles on BPA, practically all published in the last 10 years. Yet U.S. health and environmental regulators "are pretending they're still in the dark," he said.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Review: Honeybaked Ham
There is some fat on the ham: not so much as to cause complaint, but not so little as to leave the meat tasting like shoe leather. The smoking also hits a great balance, enough so you know it's there, but still palatable to those who don't like heavily smoked foods. Great sweet glaze. The spiral cutting lets you easily remove slices for serving.
You do pay for all this. The half ham by mail goes for $85, although that does include both tax and shipping, which takes about a week. I just called one of their stores in Massachusetts, and the price there is $6.29 a pound, with a half ham, depending on size, running between $50 and $60. If you've got company coming and need a low fuss entree, particularly if there is an outlet near you, this is something to consider
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Fun Facts From French Foods
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Recipe: Breton Buckwheat Galettes
I'm giving the recipe as it appeared, but indicating a couple of small changes I made. For example, I used less salt and it was still enough of that taste so that an egg folded inside needed no more. Also, we were out of buckwheat flour, so I substituted whole wheat. The kids loved them without filling, grabbing a couple to go with regular scrambled eggs. Notice that there are both advoirdopois and metric; I used the latter and would suggest that cooking by weight as often as possible gives greater control and a higher chance for the recipes to come out.
- 1 3/4 cups/225 g buckwheat flour (I used wholewheat, and suspect you could substitute almost any type, as gluten content isn't a big issue)
- 1/3/4 cups/225 g unbleached white flour (I used all purposed)
- 2 tsps salt (I used 1 1/2)
- 2 cups/500 ml milk, more if needed
- 2 cups/500 ml water
- 1/2 cup/110 g butter, clarified
Equipment12-inch/30-cm flat, round griddle pan or 7-inch/18-cm crêpe pan.
Yield12 12-inch/30-cm or 24 7-inch/18-cm galettes to serve 6
- Sift both flours into a bowl and add salt. (NB: I didn't bother to sift, and it seemed to come out well enough.)
- Make a well in the center and pour 1 cup/250 ml of milk into the well. Whisk, forming a smooth paste. Whisk well for 1 minute, then add remaining milk in 2 batches, stirring well after each edition. (The paste was more like cement when I did it, so I added the remaining milk and whisked everything together.) Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. (I've seen a Jacques Pépin recipe that did not require a resting period, but I think it's necessary here. As in baking, the whole grains can absorb water over some minutes. By letting it sit, you can eventually adjust the thickness without a problem.)
- Stir water into batter and then beat again for 1 minute. If necessary, beat in more milk until better is consistency of light cream. Stir in half of the clarified butter
- Warm pan over medium heat at least 5 minutes, or until very hot. (If you are using an electric range, as I did, you might have to start on high and then shift between that and medium high throughout the gallette-making process.)
- Dip a was of paper towel into the remaining butter and rub it over the pan. (I tried a technique that worked far better - pour some of the clarified butter into the pan, swirl it so that it evenly coats the pan, and pour the remaining back in with the rest of the clarified butter - best to put the butter into a glass measuring cup with a spout to facilitate the pouring. This will keep the paper towel from absorbing butter and possibly leaving you to clarify more.)
- Heat the pan 2 minutes longer and test with a few drops of batter; they should set at once. Wipe pan clean with the paper towel wad and then rub it again with butter.
- Ladle batter onto center of pan. Using a palette knife or pastry scraper, spread it with a turn of your wrist so the pan is thinly and completely covered, tipping the pan to discard excess batter into a bowl. (I couldn't get that to work, so used an old-fashioned technique - pour in the batter and then tip, swirl, and jerk the pan about to coat it, which also saves another item to clean.)
- Cook the galette quickly until lightly browned on the bottom, 30 to 60 seconds. (I found it to take at least a minute, and often longer.) Peel the galette off the pan and flip it to color the other side. Note that a galette should not be browned too much, as it will be reheated with the filling. Transfer to a plate.
- If the first galette seems heavy, thin the batter with a little milk. Continue to cook the gtalettes, wiping the pan clean with paper towels and reubbing it with butter as necessary to prevent sticking. Pile the finished galettes on top of one another to keep them warm. They may be tightly wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
FillingsBefore I go inot each, there's a basic pattern here. You heat the pan again at least 5 minutes and coat it with clarified butter. The "dark" (only slightly browned side) of the galette goes down and the filling tops the center of the galette. You let it cook or melt or heat, and then fold the four sides of the galette up, leaving a space that shows the filling. The result is a square package.
Galette à L'Oeuf (egg galette)Break egg into center of galette. For scrambled (brouillé), quickly mix and spread the egg over the galette with a spatula, leaving a border at the edge. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and leave over heat just long enough to cook egg slightly, about 30 seconds. Fold in edges of galette on 4 sides to make square with a gap in the center showing the egg. Slide onto a warmed plate, top with a pat of salted butter, and serve hot. (Good luck with the spatula scrambled egg. I eventually lightly mixed an egg in a mixing cup with a fork and poured it on. Also, you have to keep shoving the egg back into the center so that it doesn't spread everywhere. If someone doesn't like runny eggs, consider cooking them a bit in a separate pan.)
For an unbroken egg (miroir): spread only the egg white on the galette and leave yolk whole. When egg yolk starts to set, fold galette up and around the youlk so it is still visible. Slide onto a warmed plate.
Galette au Fromage (cheese galette)Heat and butter the pan as above. Spread galette on pan, browner side down. Brush lightly with butter and sprinkle with 2 TBS grated Gruyère cheese (or any other type you like). Leave it for a few seconds to heat the galette and melt the cheese, and then fold the galette as with the egg galette, showing the contents. Slide onto a warm plate and serve.
Galette au Jambon (ham galette)Heat and butter pan as above. Spread galette, browner side down, onto the pan. Brush lightly with melted butter (I didn't find that necessary) and spread a thin slice of cooked ham in the center. Leave for a few seconds to heat the galette and the ham, and then fold the galette as above. Top with a pat of butter and then slide onto a warm plate.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Review: The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan
Strange News from the Food Front (12/24/07)
- A Hair Of The Dog After jailing a man, Dutch police fed him, including some cake for dessert. However, they had unknowingly grabbed a hashish-laced cake seized in another case. (AP)
- Pecking Order It's the 50th anniversary of an official French designation of the Bresse chicken as being a protected type of product the way fine wines are. But how do they get the birds into the bottles? (Reuters)
- Wine Owners Win Coverage A British Columbia couple won a law suit forcing their insurance company to pay for the loss of their multi-million dollar wine collection when a sewer backup ruined it. (Canadian Press)
Friday, December 21, 2007
Chocolate Price Fixing?
American consumers buy about $13 billion worth of chocolate a year, said Susan S. Smith, spokeswoman for the National Confectioners Association.The Wall Street Journal's report suggests that chocolate makers might have been trying to offset higher dairy prices. (Sorry, but I think the link needs a subscription.):
On a conference call with analysts on Oct. 10, Cadbury CEO Todd Stitzer said the company expected ingredients to cost 5% to 6% more in 2008 because of rising commodity prices, particularly for milk. "We are in the process of implementing price increases in most of our markets to offset these increases," he said.The Journal also underscores the potential seriousness of any charge:
It isn't clear precisely what the Justice Department is looking into or whether the preliminary inquiry will become a formal criminal investigation. Price fixing can be a serious offense, leading to heavy fines and, in some cases, jail terms for executives. While antitrust enforcement has eased generally in recent years, the Bush administration has aggressively prosecuted price fixing in many industries and global markets, from airline cargo to semiconductors.In other chocolate news, Campbell is selling Godiva Chocolatier to Yildiz Holding of Turkey for $850 million. Not that I have any fodness for Godiva - given the prices they charge, I think their chocolates are at best second rate. But it does leave me wondering whether Campbell is just disappointed that no one stormed their doors, demanding a chocolate soup. I was surprised to learn that Campbell had owned the chocolate company since the late 1960s.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Review: Maker's Mark Bourbon
In any case, I was happy to use that suggestion when a PR firm representing Maker's Mark asked if I wanted to try some when I was looking for products for the holidays. Twist my arm, I suppose so. I watered it down even further than the suggestion - probably leaving me with something about 45 to 50 proof. It was an interesting experience - you really get some of the complexity of this fine distillation without tears coming to your eyes. Gene Retske, a fellow writer and friend from Kentucky, mentioned that years ago, a standard way to order a drink in his home state was to ask for a B & B - not Benedictine and Brandy, but a bourbon and branch, where the latter was slang for water (a branch being like a small creek). I still found my tongue going a bit number after a glass, but then, unlike professional tasters, I don't spit out the liquid, and only had one to try. All in all, a very pleasant experience.
If the combination of bourbon and water isn't to your taste, you might consider a bourbon and ginger: some bourbon mixed with a strong ginger ale. The sweet flavors compliment each other, and the zing of the ginger works well with the oak flavor. Gene says that he actually sometimes marinates a steak in bourbon before grilling it. That does seem a singularly shocking thing to do with a bottle of good bourbon, but I supposed that's what lesser versions are for.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Review: Route 29 Napa Candy
Review: Bombilla & Gourd Mate Tea
Monday, December 17, 2007
Strange News from the Food Front (12/17/07)
- Auction Action The first liquor auction since Prohibition happened in New York, and one 81-year-old bottle of scotch went for $54,000. (AP)
- Chicago Considers Banning Chicken Racket Nope, it's not about some organized criminal gang committing fowl play. The city considers banning pet chickens. (AP)
- Quiet Dinner Spot An Indian restaurant is built atop a graveyard, and the tables sit among the graves. (AP)
- Dog East Contest Pies A Bichon Frise got into the collection of pies for the World Pie Eating Championship and proved itself a match for any human, eating them all. (UPI)
Friday, December 14, 2007
Review: DaysAgo Digital Day Counter
However, the reactions here to them weren't that positive. My wife had one or two fall off an item, and then just gave up. I think the suction cup really needs to be on a non-metallic lid or jar, so ehere is plenty of flat surface for it to grip. But my son had a better point: "Why not just use a piece of masking tape and a marker?" Indeed, the easiest and most cost effective solution is to slap on a piece of tape and write the date on which you put said food into said refrigerator. Sure, tape sometimes has trouble with dampness, but then, so can these other methods. And writing the date is faster than resetting a gizmo, even if it won some magazine award - sorry, I just don't see why.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Review: John Wm. Macy’s CheeseSticks
Review: Fizz Ed Juice and Sparkling Water from Apple & Eve
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Review: Pretzel Crisps from The Snack Factory
Although a bit unusual, I wouldn't call the shape a conversation piece. As for dips, I supposed you could use them, but we never got that far, because the chips were just too good on their own. We went through a few flavors and haven't been able to try every one, but not a single one was a disappointment. Our niece said that although she didn't like Buffalo wings, she did like the Buffalo wing flavor; I thought it was a standout, and I do like the appetizer. Adults like them, a flock of teenagers liked them, and chances are, you will, too. So, get some dip if you must, but you owe it to the chips to be creative. For example, it would be interesting to try the Buffalo wing variety with blue cheese dressing. This seems like a great addition to a holiday party, and the packages are resealable, which is a bonus.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Review: Puff-Pastry Wrapped Franks from Appetizerstogo.com and Pirates Blend Caribbean Condiment from Half Moon Bay Trading Company
So the variety in this case was lacking, and I'm not the biggest fan of wrapped wieners, but these were superior and actually worth the eating. In fact, a handful can make a good lunch, when you think you have nothing else on hand. Not only did the franks have that all beef taste, but the puff pastry actually puffed. (Though don't expect a buttery flavor, as mixing dairy and meat doesn't pass kosher muster, and these are supposed to be kosher.)
Now for the downside: "your price" is almost $80, or close to 80 cents each. Add another $14 for shipping (express with dry ice), according to their order form, and you're at 94 cents a piece. There does seem to be a special, where you can order three or more boxes and the shipping is free. I can't vouch for the other appetizers (hey, I'm willing to test them - honest), but if the quality is close at all, then this site becomes a great resource for your next large party.\
And if you'd like a good dipping sauce, we found that Pirates Blend Caribbean Condiment from Half Moon Bay Trading Company was a great match, even though that company suggests it for seafood, poultry, pork, and a few other things, but doesn't mention beef. Made with ginger, cumin, mustard, garlic, celery, and cayenne, it's spicy but not really hot.
Monday, December 10, 2007
A Response from Gourmet Garden PR Firm
I just got a response from the PR firm. It didn't address this mysterious Jennifer, but I think some account manager wanted to ensure that I still had all my marbles:
I wanted to follow up on your review of the Gourmet Garden samples that my colleague Kaitlin Kenny sent you last week and say that we appreciate your taking the time to try the product.Oh, I'm sure you do.
However, I wanted to let you know that Gourmet Garden squeezable herbs and spices are meant as an ingredient and not to be used for eating as a concentrate straight from the tube. Many herbs and spices, whether fresh or dried, are not meant to be eaten on their own or straight from the jar or package, and Gourmet Garden follows suit with this industry wide understanding.No. Really? People put spices and herbs in food they're cooking? Well, damn, all these decades I've been taking a shot of thyme or oregano after each bite. That'll certainly make things easier.
However, to cook well, you have to know what the ingredients are like. There are plenty of spices and herbs that I've smelled and tasted to get a sense of them. I've tried many types of basil and know what the varieties are supposed to taste like. No, I wouldn't normally eat basil for fun - but I would take a taste of a new variety before using it.
Furthermore, the only way to know if an individual ingredient is good is to know what it tastes like by itself. If I had dumped some of this material into something I was cooking, the overall flavors might have masked the problem - not that you or the manufacturer would ever want that to happen, I'm sure.
With that being said, Gourmet Garden is a highly popular product for health-conscious consumers who want a good-tasting, convenient yet inexpensive alternative in their meal preparation.And lacking that, they use this product?
Since the use of fresh herbs and spices can be time consuming and sometimes inconvenient,...It's such a burden to chop some parsley or cilantro. Or to shake some from a jar. I can't count the number of minutes I've wasted trying to add a teaspoon of oregano. Oh, and I remember a note on the tubes that in the freezer they only last three months. So just how long would they last in the fridge? Would the consumer have to buy them almost as frequently as fresh?
...Gourmet Garden offers a solution.And that's the problem.
Incorporating herbs & spices into a meal and reaping the extra flavor as well as health benefits can be simpler for those with a busy lifestyle.
Health benefits? What health benefits? Benefits to the health of the company's bank account? Next thing will be that Gourmet Garden is important for the sake of the children.
The products have received high marks from many consumers and media.What, the owner's parents and the many magazines and newspapers that run new product sections without ever having tried what they tout?
In fact, we have received an incredible amount of positive feedback from customers, dietitians and nutritionists, and fellow media correspondents from all over the world commenting on the products' authentic fresh taste, flavor, and ease of use.Do you think their reaction to the "authentic fresh taste" was to the herb, the dextrose, the whey, or the glycerin?
Conversely, we do understand that there is room for different opinions in the marketplace and that not everyone will have the same likes and tastes.Oh, I am so glad to hear that. I was worried that you were trying to use the rhetorical tricks knows as generalization and band wagon to convince me that when it tasted bad to me, it was my fault because I didn't mix it with so many other ingredients that the odd flavors didn't hit me quite so squarely in the face.
Strange News from the Food Front (12/10/07)
- Please, Sir, May I Have Some More? Two part-time cooks at a Japanese restaurant chain were suspended when company officials figured out that they were the ones that posted on YouTube a video showing them ladling a mini-mountain of beef onto a bowl of rice. (AP)
- Speecy Spicy Meatball A counter-terrorism cop, fired for failing a drug test, says it was becasue his wife spiked some meatballs with marijuana. Pot luck supper, anyone? (AP)
- Hock-Kosher? A store decided to advertise ham as a perfect meal for Hanukkah. (AP)
- The Unreal Thing A man was arrested for selling generic cola syrup as Coca-Cola branded product. (AP)
- Pillsbury Dour Boy General Mills has decided to come down hard on Potsdam, NY residents that held an annual "bake-off" for the past decade to help a local food pantry. The company says that it owns the word and is the only one that can use it. Undoubtedly somewhere a head of corporate PR is beating his or her head against a wall. (NPR)
Friday, December 07, 2007
Response to Gourmet Garden Panning
I'm surprised you had such a strong reaction to the GG products.So was I; it's rare to find something that bad.
Have you tried cooking with them?I didn't have the heart to do that to an otherwise perfectly good dish. That seems tantamount to advocating a turned bottle of wine as an additives to a sauce. Umm .... no.
I think they are a good way to get close to fresh,...The way Billings, Montana is close to Melbourne, Australia.
... and they are super convenient for those, like me, who love fresh herbs, but have trouble using them all up before they wilt or die.The ingredients of the "Basil Herb Blend" are "basil, dextrose, whey (milk), sodium lactate, canola oil, fructose, glycerine, salt, sodium ascorbate to help protect flavor, ascorbic acid to promote color retention, xanthan gum, citric acid to promote color retention." Nope, it's not going to go bad, though I think I'm retaining something after trying it.
In any case, I think they are a good thing to have on hand, like reserves of soup or pasta in the pantry.Or wasp spray in the gardening shed.
As a side note, there is fascinating research into the genetically determined ways different people taste things. Maybe you're tasting something some of us aren't?I am genetically equipped with senses of smell and taste. Could you, perhaps, be missing them?
Review: Gourmet Garden Herbs & Spices
I received a number of variations and tried the basil - which was mixed with milk whey, dextrose, and a bunch of other stuff. I know basil. I've tasted basil. Gourmet Gardens: this didn't taste like plain basil. There was an unpleasant sweet aftertaste as well as other things that I can't quite dexcribe and don't know that I'd like to. But, hey, diligence is why I make the non-existent bucks for this blog, so I tried the lemon grass. Again - opened the tube, squeezed some out onto my finger, put it into my mouth, made a face, and chucked the tube into the trash can.
Any cook would be better off wtih dry herbs than this, and fresh aren't that hard to come by or prepare. Steer clear of this product. As the PR contact wrote me, "There is no equivalent product on the market – cooked or dried – that can compete with Gourmet Garden. " Thank heavens for small favors.
PR mocking aside, I took a look and this is a really interesting site with hundreds of bread recipes, many that you won't find in most bread books. For exmaple, there was a George Washington Birthday bread shaped like a tree and made with cherry preserves. I saw pizza and calzone recipes (I prefer my own dough recipes for these, but what they have will certainly work), some for "healthy and hearty" breads, including one made with all whole wheat flour, sweet dough recipes - enough to keep you busy.
I'd probably make changes here and there. For example, although I often use Fleischmann yeast, I try to avoid the RapidRise, because they put "stuff" into the yeast to get the greater action, and it's not necessary. Instead of milk, I tend to use the powdered skim milk mixed in with the dry ingredients and then additional water, so that, if put together, they'd create the specified amount of milk.
But that's what I'd likely do with many recipes, including varying amounts by feel. In addition to recipes, there are also baking tips and troubleshooting tips when things go wrong. It's worth a visit.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Review: The Wedge
There are a couple of major limitations that might make you decide on some other storage mechanism. One is that the use of space is pretty inefficient. With the pair of wedges, you must build a pyramid, as you don't have the side vertical supports to keep additional items from rolling down the sides. That means you're wasting the space above the bottles, and in many homes that would be a problem. You can do a bit better using a wedge and a well (whether the wall of a pantry, cabinet, or inside wall of a fridge). In this case, the bottles or cans can actually stack up the wall some, because you're effectively tipping the triangle over and being able to stack upwards a bit more. Still, it is a limitation.
The other problem is if you have a variety of different wines or cans of whatever. When everything is the same, you take items off from the top. But when they are different, eventually you'll either have to unbury what you'd really like, or drink through everything above it first.
Personally, while I might use this for a display that I wanted to make part of a theme at some gathering, I'd probably opt for traditional storage that uses space more effectively.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Review: Haas Avocado Web Site
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Review: Black & Decker Infrawave Countertop Oven
Basically it uses infrared light to do the cooking, which means that it cooks with radiation (no need for the lead suits), and not the convection of heat via the air. One positive there is that there is no preheat time; you put the food in, turn the oven on, and you've started, as lights at the top and bottom go on and off periodically as the food cooks. That alone saves you significant time, and it also can cook very quickly. For example, I put in some appetizers that were supposed to take 14 minutes, and they were done in 7. The speed success, I gather from my experimenting, depends on how flat the food is. For example, I tried baking five small potatoes. The system recommended 30-some-odd minutes, but to get them really done (with a nicely crisped skin) took closer to an hour. A traditional oven would have taken at least a half hour longer. But toast that might have been five minutes in a regular toaster was often done in two to three here. You can get a good browned surface in a way a microwave would never achieve. (Except for the late, lamented Sharp combination microwave and conventional convection oven, which was a drea but eventually died and I've yet to find an adequate replacement).
But you do have to get used to this oven. For example, you don't think in terms of temperatures, because the oven cycles differently for different types of food. Instead, you try to find the food that is closest in nature, which can be an interesting experience itself. Also, you can't try to outguess how the cooking happens. I had originally put two pieces of bread in to toast and took them out prematurely. One side was done, but the other wasn't. When I did leave it in, though, it worked right. So there's an element of trust involved until you get used to it.
I haven't baked anything in it yet, partly because of the oven's major fault: it's a bit small. Four pieces of bread fit in - barely. I was going to bake a cut-up chicken until I found that I couldn't quite fit all the pieces into the small baking pan, though a slightly larger oven probably would have worked fine. In short, it's an oven worth adding to your tool arsenal, although you'll need some training time.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Strange News from the Food Front (12/3/07)
- Parents Kidnap Daughter To Prevent Wedding Two parents in Utah kidnapped their 20-year-old daughter to prevent her marrying someone they thought was "evil and wicked." To say nothing of the cost of paying for the ceremony. But they did have to pay $2000 for a meal that had to get called off. (AP)
- Expensive Pizzeria Toilet The missing part of a 17th century cabinet worth £1m has been found outside the toilets of a pizza restaurant in Yorkshire. I want to know when they will start serving the gold leaf pie. (The Statesman)
- Now That's Service ... Service ... Service ... A robot with soft hands was able to help someone out of bed and to prepare breakfast. Time to add another fundamental law of robotics: don't break the yolks. (Reuters)
- Big Like Moose People interested in trying to try eating moose will be able to dine in one - a planned giant wooden moose, about 540 miles north of Stockholm, that will have a restaurant and concert hall in its stomach. Where is an ancient walled Greek city when you need one? (AP)
- Step Away From The Pizza Police used a battering ram to force their way into an apartment and arrest a woman who allegedly took food from a pizza delivery person without paying. Hey, if they wanted a slice, why didn't they just ask? (AP)
- The Eggrolls Were How Much? Relatives of an elderly woman who left $21 million to the owners of a Chinese restaurant are challenging the will in court. That must have been really good garlic chicken. (International Herald Tribune)
- Big Truffle Brings Big Price A 3.3 pound truffle sold for $330,000 at auction. Hardly a frugal fungus. (Reuters)