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tardigrade's Profile

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What's your best yard sale or thrift store cookware find?

Many, many years ago at the old San Jose flea market I paid a dollar for a 12" cast iron Dutch Oven - complete with lid and trivet. Best buck I ever spent.

Sep 18, 2014
tardigrade in Cookware

Padron peppers to flavor pumpkin seeds?

That's a hard one. Padrons are usually sold green (although one of the vendors at my local farmers' market had some ripe ones last week) and the taste varies (last batch I bought had no hot ones, the ones I grew were all hot). Is it cheating to use a ground pepper like cayenne in the flan or caramel topping and just use a candied padron as a garnish? The only way I can think of to cut the raw green pepper taste would be to fry them, salt them, and then use them as a roughly-chopped topping.

ETA: even if you did dry them, that wouldn't make them ripe: they'd still have that green grassy taste.

Sep 15, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

The great noodle soups of the world roundup

One of my quick lunch favorites is tortellini in brodo: fresh store-bought tortellini cooked in my homemade chicken stock. Pasta fazool probably has too many other ingredients to quality as a noodle soup.

You can't beat a good bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup, especially if it's a cold day. And dumplings aren't that far removed from noodles....

I like Thai noodle soups: I know some places that do good tom yum noodle soups, duck noodle soups, etc.

Nothing can beat a good pho or ramen. The key word, though, is good: I've had some pretty mediocre ones, and this in an area with a huge Asian population.

Sep 12, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

Signs of a NOT Authentic Chinese Restaurant

Here in Silicon Valley a lot of the people of Chinese ancestry (both American born and immigrants) are highly educated and many work in technical fields. A number of places hire non-Chinese waiters and cooks because that's who they can get for restaurant wages. One cheap noodle house (they're actually Chinese Vietnamese) has Spanish-speaking waiters because they attract a large Spanish-speaking clientele. I've seen more than one local Chinese restaurant displaying signs in Spanish advertising for kitchen help.

Sep 12, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

I'm swearing off all-you-can eat sushi places

AYCE sushi places are popular in Southern California: they're usually not run by people of Japanese ancestry. They also serve a lot more than sushi (which tends to be mediocre, but still better than Trader Joe's) and not bad Chinese and Korean dishes. The trick is to find out what the owner's background is, and stick to those dishes.

Quality fish for sushi isn't cheap, but IMHO it's better value to eat a few pieces of good sushi rather than a plateful of so-so stuff.

ETA: for some reason, the SoCal places always have green jello.

Carrot greens

If you can find it, the first issue of the now defunct Kitchen Gardening magazine has a recipe for carrot top soup.

I use the tops as a parsley substitute.

Sep 09, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

PUMPKIN MANIA creep

I like chunks of winter squash in risottos and stews, including one of my favorites, Zuni stew (beans, corn and squash cooked together). Canned pumpkin puree doesn't work with those. And there's always just plain roasted whole squash, with a bit of butter and sage.

Sep 07, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

Spanish Food

Just remember that Spanish tortillas are nothing at all like Mexican tortillas! The former is more like a potato omelet.

I'll second the assorted tapas suggestion. If you can find them in your area, fried pimentos de padron are a great tapas dish. And don't forget a good manchego cheese(and if your brave some quince (membrillo) paste to go with it).

Sep 05, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Mashed potato recipes

I mostly use my potato masher for making refried beans these days. You don't have to limit yourself to mashing potatoes: mashed cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and turnips are also good. I add curry powder and a squirt of tomato paste to mashed cauliflower for a quick Indian-ish side dish. I also like potatoes and turnips mashed together with a little butter and a grate of nutmeg.

IMHO, good traditional mashed potatoes require a large amount of butter, cream or milk, so I don't make them often. However, I once had mashed potatoes at a pub in Scotland that substituted whole-grain mustard for the dairy: different, but good.

Sep 05, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Salon.com:'12 absolutely delicious apples you’ve probably never tasted'

I'm in the San Francisco area: there are still apple orchards in Sonoma County that haven't been torn up for yet more vineyards, and the guys who come to the local farmers' market have a nice selection of old varieties. One has been planting Corlands recently, but so far they're not as good as the ones in western New York.

Sep 04, 2014
tardigrade in Food Media & News

French Main Dish for Stand Up Gathering

I'm not sure I'd call beef bourguignon or cassoulet stand-up foods, since they don't really lend themselves to eating sans utensils, but...

How about miniature Croques Monsieur? Or mini-crepes?

Sep 03, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Salon.com:'12 absolutely delicious apples you’ve probably never tasted'

Good. They don't have my own favorite, the Arkansas Black, so the hipsters won't jump on it and there will be plenty left for me.

Sep 03, 2014
tardigrade in Food Media & News

PUMPKIN MANIA creep

If you can't find fresh pumpkin, try butternut squash (most canned pumpkin is actually different squashes): it's closely related, can be used interchangeably in pumpkin recipes, and is a darn site easier to prep.

It's still seasonal, but easier to find than eating pumpkins. I agree that these "pumpkin" seasonal items have little to do with actual pumpkins, and are actually some strange mixture of cinnamon, cloves and ginger.

Sep 02, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

Home-made stock. This will sound REALLY strange!

Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) tend to overpower stocks: I'd keep them for specific kraut-based soups.

As for gnawed-on bones, stocks are simmered long enough that any germs should be killed. And when in doubt, bring it to a vigorous boil for a few minutes, then reduce to simmer.

Sep 01, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Home-made stock. This will sound REALLY strange!

Bones are bones, the skin adds spices. You're getting some fat from the skin, and collagen from the bones. Since you're keeping the stock at at least a simmer the fact that they come from KFC doesn't really matter. I've made decent stock from leftover bones from spareribs, as well as store-bought rotisserie chickens.

Sep 01, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

USA Yogurt Recommendations

Where do you live? Here in the SF Bay Area the best yogurts I've found are Straub's and Pavel's plain yogurts. Dannon hasn't been palatable since the 1980s, IMHO.

Aug 31, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

why did my peach lids pop up not out?

They're not sealed. A properly sealed Mason jar is slightly depressed in the center, and does not move when you press on it.

I hate these "should I use them" questions because there are a lot of variables, and I don't know your process, environment, etc. When I have lids that don't seal, I refrigerate the jars and use them as soon as possible - preferably in a recipe that requires additional cooking.

A lot of fruits - tomatoes especially - shrink when canned. That's not a problem: the lids popping is.

Aug 20, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Fascinating cooking tips and advice

Sounds like an update on the old-timey way of pouring the fat into an empty "tin" can to solidify. (And if you start with a clean can, and just use if for bacon fat, you can use it for cooking later on)

Aug 12, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

I just realized I need a pressure cooker for canning tomatoes

There you go again, getting all sciency on us - I love it! And you quoted my favorite law as well!

Food preservation is basic science: you provide an environment in which bacteria/other microbes can't grow, by adjusting the pH, removing water, making the temperature so low or so high that they can't reproduce, etc. Unfortunately, I don't think many people are learning basic science these days, so they think that it's all a some arcane art. Per PV=nRT, when you increase the pressure on a closed system the temperature goes up: always has, always will. The net result is that the environment inside the pressurized vessel is much hotter than boiling water, which you can't do with a plain old open vessel. (I suppose that if you used a pressure cooker has a temperature measuring device you cook calculate what the internal pressure is.)

You can use a pressure canner for cooking, according to the instruction booklet that came with mine, but given the size of the thing it's impractical. Unless you [the OP] plan to do a lot of canning, it may not be worth the investment. But if you do, follow the manufacturer's or the USDA instructions.

(ETA: I use the terms interchangeably because the only pressure cooker I've seen in use was my mother's, back in the 60s, and I'm pretty sure it had a pressure gauge. The only other thing I remember is it did explode.)

Aug 12, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Too much corn on the cob! Help me use it!

Corn chowder, of course, and good old-fashioned creamed corn. Corn fritters (corn kernels mixed into a egg/milk/flour batter and fried).

One of my favorites is Zuni Stew, from the Green's Cookbook: a real American classic, with corn, beans and squash. It's vegan, but you can always add meat (turkey if you want to keep in native) or meat stock.

Or you can substitute corn kernels for peas in tuna casserole!

Aug 11, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Two Buck Chuck? No Thanks

Two Buck Chuck varies all over the place, depending on what was available at the time of bottling (the man behind it, whose name is not Charles Shaw, is an old-time wine country insider who buys up odd lots and leftovers and bottles them). Some batches are actually very good, some can strip varnish off furniture, and most are somewhere in between. The tricks to buying it are 1) don't think of it as anything more than a decent vin ordinaire and 2) try a bottle, and if you like it get a case of the same lot immediately because the next one is going to be different.

I keep it around for cooking, deglazing, sangrias and hot mulled wines. I save the good stuff for my friends.

Aug 08, 2014
tardigrade in Wine

Nice crunchy insect?

I've had chapulinas -grasshoppers- at a Mexican restaurant in San Jose, CA. Crunchy, not really all that different from popcorn shrimp. I've had snails (in France, where everything tastes good, and those freeloaders from my garden) and my opinion is, meh, there are better ways of conveying sauces.

Aug 07, 2014
tardigrade in Food Media & News

molding avocados?

First, where do you live? What's you're climate like?

I've been eating avocados since I moved to California 40 years ago, and have never seen fuzzy mold on an avocado, either ones from the store, farmers' market, or my tree. They'll get brown, mushy, and saggy if they're overripe, but no fuzz. Stem fragment or not doesn't make any difference: when I pick them off my tree the stems come away.

I ripen mine by letting them sit on the windowsill for a few days until they give a bit under gentle pressure. They were engineered (thank you, ancient MesoAmericans!) to ripen off the tree.

Aug 07, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

Niagara Falls for Foodies

The Canadian side is well-supplied with chain restaurants and so-so Chinese. I did have a surprisingly good salad at the Falls and Firkin in the Fallsview Casino a few years ago, but it's not exactly a destination place. I've never been very impressed with the lunch selections in Niagara-on-the-Lake: at best, the high-end of mediocre.

On the American side - I can't think of anything in the Falls proper. Lewiston is definitely worth a visit, as it's a pretty little town with a fair amount of history (War of 1812, Underground Railroad), and small but active arts and garden communities. Just avoid Apple Granny on Center Street. Buffalo's a fair piece upriver - 20-30 minutes at least.

BTW, the best view of the falls is IMHO from the Rainbow Bridge linking the two cities. If you remember your passport, you can walk across the border.

MEAT DONENESS -- then and now

Where I grew up, steaks were sold thinly sliced. My mother would put them under the broiler until they were good and leathery. I had no idea steaks could actually taste like anything special until much later when I had one in Omaha.

I like mine on the rarish side of medium-rare. And if I have a good piece of meat I'll sometimes make steak tartare.

Aug 05, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

Famous Regional Food you find embarrassing or disgusting?

But they squeak when you bite them, if they're fresh, so there's that. I visit Wisconsin periodically, and the newest "specialty" that got to me was the tater tots on pizza.

Aug 02, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

Do salmon fillets typically come descaled?

When I buy whole fish at 99 Ranch they have the scales on, and the fishmonger will scale/gut/trim to the customer's specification. I've never seen filleted fish sold unscaled, because it's easier to scale the whole fish.

(I don't like this new format: comment on hamburger_helper's post: you don't want to scale the fish in your kitchen if you can avoid it. It's not hard, but the scales are nearly transparent and fly everywhere.)

Aug 01, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

Avocado on Sandwiches: Mash or Slice?

Sliced, definitely. If it's mashed it tends to squirt all over when you take a bite.

I'm feeling nostalgic about 70s food at the moment: back then when I first moved to California a big thing was vegetarian avocado and cream cheese sandwiches on whole-grain bread. The texture of the sliced avocados contrasted nicely with the other ingredients: mashed wouldn't have been the same.

Aug 01, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

"Veggie" (The Word That Dare Not Speak Its Name) Burritos

Can't speak for the LA area, but Gordo's in San Francisco does a black bean burrito (black beans, rice, salsa, avocado) that's quite good, and the (local?) chain Una Mas had a basic bean and rice burrito the last time I was there.

Aug 01, 2014
tardigrade in Los Angeles Area

Did I hallucinate this eggplant recipe?

Back in the late 1970s I used to make a stuffed eggplant dish called Iman Biyaldi (the spelling varies). The cookbook I originally got it from called for making a stuffing of onions, tomatoes and various spices, then making vertical slits in the eggplant and cramming the stuffing in (which is harder and messier than it sounds). It made a very good cold salad after baking, since when it was sliced the eggplant pieces with the filling made nice rounds on the plate. I still have most of my cookbooks from that time, and while some of them have the recipe not a one calls for the stuffing-filled slits: they all have the eggplant cut in half, partially hollowed, then stuffed.

Has anyone else heard of making slits in a vegetable to stuff it?

Aug 01, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking