Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Review: Cuisinart Supreme Ice Cream Maker (ICE-50BC)
Operation is simple. You set the unit on a counter and plug it in. A small bucket slips into the machine. Pour in the ice cream mix, place the paddle into the bucket, place the drive arm on top, and set the timer. (Soft ice cream/sorbet/yogurt takes 30 to 45 minutes; hard requires 45 minutes to an hour.) The unit will turn off when the timer ends or will also shut itself down if it's done freezing the contents. You will have to slip a plastic cover for the pail into place on the mixing arm. It's easy to set it slightly off, but if you do, the arm raises up and stops working. Once you see how it fits into place, it will become clear.
Chief among benefits is the ability to make a treat any time you want. There is still preparation, as you must put together the stuff to be churned and then chill it for a good four to six hours. But you can do that in the morning and not depend on having remembered to clear out enough room in a freezer to fit in a bulky container. Or you can make enough of a basic sweetened cream mix to last a few days in the fridge and make something as whim takes you, adding in fruit puree, a bit of melted chocolate, vanilla, or other flavoring to get some variety.
I mentioned caveats. One is that there is a warning not to tip the base on its side or turn it upside down. If you do, you are suppose to put it back upright and then leave it alone for 24 hours before using it again. I'm not sure why you'd turn it upside down, and the sucker is pretty heavy and it would seem to be harder to store sideways. Anyway, give it time to get over the shock of the rude handling, or perhaps the world will meet some unspecified doom.
More annoying is the claim of 1.5 quart volume. That actually is the room you have, but when I did a test run of mango ginger sorbet (recipe here), we got a thick outside shell of sorbet frozen hard with a core of cold slush. I had to take a spoon and get the hardened sorbet out and then finish freezing the slush. When the unit was only partly filled, though, everything came to a good consistency. So if you have a full 1.5 quarts, I'd try freezing it in two batches. But otherwise, it's marvelously convenient and one of those single-use appliances worth getting.
There's one other caveat. A few years ago, a number of consumers were complaining about the plastic paddle being flimsy in an earlier version. It's still plastic, but I haven't gotten the impression that it is overly flimsy. I'm guessing that there's been enough time for Cuisinart to correct any problems. If after a few batches I find otherwise, I'll report back.
Street price seems to run around $250 to $300. Given the cost of high quality ice cream, et. al., figure that buying 1.5 quarts of really good quality ice cream, not the normal store-bought, would run at least $9. (Think three pints of Ben & Jerry's.) You can make it for half of that, so that would be a savings of $4.50 a batch. That would be about 66 batches to recoup the machine cost, or maybe a few summers' worth. No, this isn't a big money saver, but the quality of what you can create will easily exceed most of what you can buy.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Strange News from the Food Front (6/29/2009)
- Orange Violence - A Tennessee couple has been accused of a fight that escalated into assault by Cheetos. (AP)
- When Chips Are Down - A former FDA head, whose book argues that people are addicted to sweets, apparently once found himself in thrall to a pair of chocolate chip cookies. Clearly he was outnumbered. (Crispy On The Outside)
- Strawberry Brat Spat - There will be three different purveyors of strawberry-flavored bratwurst at the Cedarburg Strawberry Festival in Wisconsin. (UPI)
- Can 'O 'Possum - A baby opossum managed to get itself stuck in a soda machine at a gym in upstate New York. Police were stymied until a worker came with a key to the front panel. Did anyone try some change? (AP)
- Must Have Been Thirsty - A couple of would-be New Zealand liquor store robbers changed their mind mid-stick up and settled for a beer from a customer's six-pack instead. (UPI)
- New Kind Of Ice - Scientists have created the final fifteenth predicted form of ice. Maybe they didn't have a fridge nearby? (Technology Review)
- Chili Grenade - Security forces in India are developing a grenade powered by the searing "ghost chili" to incapacitate people. (Reuters)
- Shops Find Eel Supplies Slippery - Shops in the U.K. that sell a traditional meal called eel, pie, and mash are finding that a fishing ban is making the requisite jellied eel tough to find. (Daily Telegraph)
- Does It Include Tip? - A Chinese investment fund manager paid $2.1 million in a charity auction to have lunch with Warren Buffet. (AP)
- Look For The Ketchup - Canadian police are looking for a man who ran naked past a fast food restuarant and snagged a woman's fries in the process. (Reuters)
- Grocery Sale Or Else - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin dropped by a grocery store in Moscow without warning and started telling managers to lower their prices. (AFP)
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Recipe: Mango Ginger Sorbet
- 1 lemon
- 1-inch piece of ginger root, peeled
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 very ripe mangoes (soft to the touch)
- Roughly chop ginger and place into medium saucepan.
- Peel zest from lemon and place into saucepan.
- Juice lemon and reserve juice.
- Put 2 cups water into medium saucepan. Bring to boil and boil for five minutes.
- Add sugar and continue boiling until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool as you perform the next steps.
- Peel mangoes and cut flesh from pit. Place pieces of mango into a blender with 1/4 cup water. Blend until pureed.
- Pour puree into saucepan and mix. Pour half of mixture back into blender and blend again until smooth. Pour blended mix into a 1 1/2 quart container. Repeat with other half of mixture in saucepan.
- Cover container and place in refrigerator for at least four hours.
- Freeze in ice cream freezer according to directions until the resulting sorbet is soft.
Makes about 1.5 quarts.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Product Review: Traeger Junior (BBQ055) Pellet Grill – Part II, Smoking
We fired up the grill on the smoke setting and put in a couple of racks of pork ribs that had been sitting with a rub of salt, pepper, allspice, and ground coriander seed for a few hours. The smoke setting got the kettle thermometer just over 100°F, so closer to cold smoking than to hot. In mid process, I contacted Traeger and mentioned the first part of the review and that we were going to smoke the ribs. They suggested starting on high, getting the meat's internal temperature to about 100°, and then shifting to smoke for the best results. A bit too late for us, but no matter.
I've used conventional smokers before. One advantage of the Traeger is that it can go for long stretches largely unattended, as it continues to funnel pellets at a pre-determined rate into the fire box. That certainly beat continuingly going out to check on the fire and fuel supply. (We didn't have the opportunity to test the pellets "flavored" with different types of wood, like apple or hickory, so made do with what we had on hand.) I'd estimate that it takes only a small part of a bag to run the unit for hours, so it is relatively economical in fuel use. (One 20-lb. bag runs only about $15 to $18.)
After a few hours, I noticed that the kettle temperature was still only about 100°, so I shifted the feeder to medium. I remembered that the high setting had resulted in a kettle temperature of about 300 to 400, so thought that medium would get us smack in the hot smoking range, which is what happened. Although I haven't tried it yet, I suspect that the "smoke" setting would be good for fish or for smoking meat where you planned to cook it some other way after. Medium gets you a bit less smoke, but more heat.
Ultimately, I shifted the unit to high. That eventually caused a bit of a hiccough, though late enough that it didn't matter. Although I had filled the pellet bin, the pellets fed into the system from the middle and left a hole, with additional pellets not feeding in, so the fire eventually went out. But, things were done enough after a total of seven hours. The results were fabulous without barbeque sauce. (We still have some two days later.) Because the two rib racks had to overlap a bit to fit in the unit, part way through cooking I had to shift them. Still, it was an easy way to smoke a lot of food. So although I wouldn't recommend the Traeger Junior for grilling, at under $500, it's a convenient, effective, and well-constructed smoker if you have an outlet you can reach with the power cord. The budget constrained will have to go a different route, but if you like smoked food, this could quickly pay for itself over the cost of heading to a barbeque restaurant, assuming there's a good one in your area.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Review: Banana Seals
The one thing I find strange is the pricing. One costs $0.99. But a four-pack is $4.99 and an 18-pack is $19.99. But buy four separate singles and you pay $3.96; 18 singles would be $17.82. Who came up with the idea of charging a premium for buying more than one at the same time? Until the company gets its act together and tries some reasonable4 volume pricing, purchase singles.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Review: Kyocera FK-075 Ceramic Paring Knife
Strange News from the Food Front (6/22/2009)
- Criminal, Drawn and Buttered - A man accused of breaking into a Maine restaurant, eating 11 lobsters, and washing them down with a white wine, after which he left the fridge open, cause $1,000 in damage, was found on a bench in a presumably post-prandial nap. (AP)
- Drinks for Insults - A Spanish bar offers a free drink to patrons who can insult the staff in particularly clever ways. (UPI)
- Prosecutor Looking for Fast Food Toy Ban - A prosecutor in Brazil is asking a court to ban toys included with kids fast food meals because they help children develop bad eating habits. (Reuters)
- Step Away From the Bologna - An Oklahoma man claims that he was assaulted over his bologna and cheese sandwich. Maybe the person was incensed when he saw the victim adding mayonnaise to the snack. (AP)
- Banning the "Devil's Vegetable" - A British navy captain has banned Brussels sprouts from his ship because he hates what he calls the devil's vegetable. He claims that avoiding mass flatulence has nothing to do with his decision. (AFP)
- Man Finds Jesus In Coffee - Some people seem to worship their coffee. A New York man found the image of Jesus, less than an inch across, on the inside of his mug.(UPI)
- Will Steal For Prison Food - A homeless man in Taiwan had stolen a pair of shoes and was kept in jail overnight. The police station apparently is prepared to give a meal to someone down and out. (Reuters)
- Who Needs an Opener? - A martial artists poked his way into the Malaysian Book of Records by piercing four coconuts with his index finger in just under 31 seconds. (AFP)
- Food for Dad from Church - The Church of England, concerned about fathers not attending mass, celebrated Fathers' Day by serving beer, bacon rolls, and chocolate. (Daily Telegraph)
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Review: ZenSoy Organic Pudding
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Review: Traeger Junior (BBQ055) Pellet Grill – Part I
The approach is interesting. Instead of using gas, which to my taste often ends up with too neutral a flavor, or charcoal, which can be messy whether you go with real hardware charcoal or briquettes, the grill uses a pellet design. Small wood pellets, which look for all the world like rabbit food, go into a hopper. (Note that they're a special type developed for cooking food and not the same ones used in furnaces to heat a building and come with different "flavors," so you can get apple or maple or some others.) A slowly-turning electric auger (yes, it has to be plugged in somewhere) feeds pellets at a controlled rate into a firebox. In the firebox is a heated rod that burns the pellets. Depending on the setting, you can go for high heat grilling, medium, or smoking. In the latter setting, the ignition rod keeps turning on and off, letting the pellets smolder and turn into a smoke source.
Even this, the smallest unit, is hefty, with a shipping weight of 76 pounds. Part of that is because of the augur motor and other electrical paraphernalia, but a good chunk is due to heavy construction and thick steel shell. This isn't the type of unit that is going to easily blow away in a wind. Assembling it is a bit fussy, and I found that the instructions were not necessarily all that helpful. But I can see that trying to find a way that will work easily could be a hassle. You have to clamp the heavy burning unit to the grill's body, so you want it low to the ground. But then you have to get the whole thing elevated to attach the legs, which is inconvenient. I had help in assembling, and you might find that useful. Not the most fun solo project.
The design is pretty clever. A large drip tray sits under the grill and conveys fat out to a spout that juts out through one end of the unit. Hanging under the spout is supposed to be a small bucket, which will catch the grease, only the bracket for the handle broke off during shipping when inside the box. So that's now on the list of things to fix. You then follow instructions to fire up the grill for the first time and then season it by letting it run on high for 45 minutes.
All that was fine, and I noticed that by the end, the thermometer read about 400 degrees. We let it cool down and then started it again, using high to grill some salmon that I had coated in a cilantro-parsley pesto. (It was variation on an idea that I had seen on Steve Raichlen's Primal Grill program, which used tuna and a more traditional pesto.) I had covered the drip tray as instructed with aluminum foil, heated the unit, used an oil-dampened wadded paper towel held by tongs to grease the grill bars, and put on the fish. And waited. And waited. Although the instructions say that the grill (which sports a supposed 19,500 BTUs) should heat in ten minutes, I had left it on longer. The grill didn't seem to get hot enough to do a good job. For example, the bars weren't leaving marks on the fish. Overall, the salmon probably took about 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time, and was maybe medium by the end of this. This was, as they suggest and as I'd have done anyway, with the cover closed.
Ultimately, it was tasty, but I was disappointed by the amount of heat. It was in the lower 70s with a bit of a breeze where we are, and the instructions note that cooking in cooler weather can take longer. So it might be that on a somewhat warmer day the grilling action would have been more responsive. Also, given the drip tray and firebox arrangement and the inability to change the height of the grate, the heat is going to be indirect, which is why I'm thinking that I'll be doing at least an additional test with smoking a brisket or turkey, and perhaps a third test with a roast at the medium setting. They sell through dealers with a list of $499, but some web research suggested a street price of $50 to $100 less. I'll hold off on a full opinion until after the smoking, but as a grill alone, I'd pass at that price.
Note - here's part II of the review. It's pretty cool as a smoker.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Strange News from the Food Front (6/15/2009)
A weekly round-up of food and drink oddities:
- Worse Than Burger Breath Burger King has released a new men's cologne called Flame. The front of this affront to taste (in more ways than one) is a host of the show Britain's Got Talent. Can we vote this off of store shelves? (Daily Mail Online)
- Coupon Madness Few things are more dangerous than too much success. A San Francisco coop market learned that after placing into local phone books a coupon for 20 percent off on Wednesdays and Thursdays, which have become days that patrons wait to get a parking spot and then face very long lines. (UPI
- John Belushi Would Have Been Proud So far in June there have been at least two food fights in U.S. schools that have resulted in police interventions and arrests -- one in New York City and another in Portage, Wis. (UPI, AP)
- Yellow Lobster From the equal-time-for-other-primary-colors we have what may be a rare yellow lobster having been caught off Prince Edward Island and now on display in the tank of a seafood restaurant on Cape Cod. But her claws aren't bound (much to the dismay of the other lobsters in the tank) and she's fed sushi-grade tuna. (Boston Globe)
- No Coke For You Venezuela has banned Coke Zero as a danger to health. Regular Coke apparently remains healthy. (Reuters)
- And No Free Beer, Either Molson has suddenly changed its policy of giving its retired workers free beer. The roughly US$900,000 was apparently too much of a sudsidy for the company to pay. (Reuters)
- It's OK, It's After Memorial Day A crowd of 5,000 appeared dressed in white and invaded a square at the bottom of the Champs Elysees in Paris, set up tables and chairs, and had a sit-down meal. Where are the parking valets when you need them? (AFP)
- Meating Fashion A teenager made a dress out of real salami and bacon for an Aqua Teen Hunger Force birthday party. Well, there's one course taken care of. (Crispy on the Outside)
- A Really Hot Dish A traveler from Mumbai en route to Frankfurt had to return because a package of curry powder in his checked in luggage set off smoke and fire alarms when some of the spice mix escaped its packaging. (AFP)