tardigrade's Profile

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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.

about 4 hours ago
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.

about 6 hours ago
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.

about 6 hours ago
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.

1 day ago
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

home canning tomatoes - are they safe?

I've been canning tomatoes for years, and while I go with a pressure can these days, I started out like you did. The extra air space won't make a difference: the heating process drives out the air. Just make sure you check that the jars are well-sealed before storing them (i.e., they don't give when you push down in the center: if they do, use them asap).

It wouldn't hurt to process them a little longer than recommended just to get the excess air out.

Aug 01, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Food related television commercial failures

So did I! I don't know what customer base they were aimed at, but they got my attention.

Jul 31, 2014
tardigrade in Food Media & News

Famous foods from your region you find tasty and delicious.

I've had sugar pie once, so I never have to try it again.

I was on a business trip to Indiana, and it showed up on the menu of the restaurant we were having lunch at. We ordered one slice for the table: everybody took one taste, then passed it on to the next person. Sweet: that was the only taste.

Jul 27, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

Do you like or dislike the new format ?

Strongly dislike: in many cases it's hard to have a yes/no opinion about topics at this site. The Q/A format does not allow for comments on others' posts, making the discussion trite.

Would you stuff "deviled eggs" with a meat/protein blend?

I think of deviled eggs as a party-type food to be shared, so while I think shrimp or anchovy mixed with the yolks (protein-rich in themselves) I know too many people who are vegetarian or who don't eat fish, much less bacon, so I make them plain. If you know the diners well, go for it, but I'd still keep it simple, maybe just a crumble of bacon or a single small shrimp.

Jul 25, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

19 Times Bacon Went Too Far

Bacon was (and probably still is) used to wrap very lean meats like rabbit to give them some fat and moisture while they roasted. (There's also a process called "larding" which consists of inserting small pieces of lard or bacon in lean cuts of meat.) So bacon wrapping has a long and honorable history. But the weaves, and using bacon in place of bread or a tortilla - just how do you eat these things without getting grease all over?

The bacon-wrapped sushi reminded me a little of rumaki, bacon-wrapped chicken livers, which were tres chic back in the 60s: it can't be any worse than spam sushi. Also, nothing wrong with warm avocados: has the author never heard of avocado soups? Or avocados as a filling for quesedillas?

Chocolate with bacon seems like it would be hard to pull off, but if the Aztecs could do a meat-based dish with a cacao sauce, why not? I'd go for savory rather than sweet, though.

Now I want bacon!

Attention Chefs: Can we all agree that bacon is over?

Bacon may be overused - and sometimes used inappropriately - but it's not over. A little goes a long way, though (IMHO) but it adds savory notes and crispness to salads, sandwiches, and, yes, even sweet dishes.

It does not, however, go with biscuits and gravy, which when well-made can hold its own amongst pork products.

Eating flowers

I usually see them as garnishes for green salads, or mixed with batter in muffins. Calendula flowers (sometimes called pot marigolds, not be confused with New World marigolds which I've been told are edible but I don't like the smell) are cheerful, but IMHO don't have any taste at all. I've had borage blossom infusions, and they tasted a little like cucumbers.

Nasturtium flowers are one of the few I've had that have a distinct taste: they're quite peppery and a little go a long way! And, of course, broccoli :)

Jul 23, 2014
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Freezer died, need help rescuing meat.

Been there - not fun.

First, if things are still frozen, keep them that way. Ice chests about halfway filled with frozen meats and topped off with ice will keep them for a few days (you may have to drain the water and refill with ice periodically, just like old-fashioned ice boxes). That might tide you over until you can get the freezer fixed or replaced.

Otherwise, when mine broke I ended up canning everything I could. It doesn't help with the steaks, though: maybe you could trade your friends or neighbors a few steaks for keeping the rest for you while you get back to normal?

Jul 22, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

Is there anyone here from western New York?

Thanks for the suggestions! Shango and some of the north Buffalo/Amherst places sound interesting. My big limitations are that 1) I'll be based in Hamburg and 2) I'll be looking after my 89-year old mother, who loves to go out, but thinks The Grapevine is the height of haute cuisine. But we can always make her dinner at 5 and go out at a reasonable time....

Has anyone been to Merge? Or Miss Hot? Both their menus sound interesting.

The Taste of Buffalo is great: we were able to go two years ago.

I'd like to add some of my own South Towns favorites:
-Curly's, in Lackawanna. I've eaten here every trip for the past 4 years, and haven't had a bad meal.
-Savory's, in Hamburg. What diners aspire to: plain, decent cooking
-Root Five, in Hamburg. I was there earlier this year, when they had just changed their chef, and it was worth a repeat visit.
-Schwabl's, if it's re-opened by then. Ekl's is a poor second, and they don't seem to grasp the fact that a 4" step means they're not wheel-chair accessible, no matter how loudly they insist.

Gateway Foods(dishes) to introduce foreign / ethnic flavours

Also described as "you don't want to know how much cholesterol is in this" -). I forgot about butter chicken: the Indian spices come through without the heat some people object to.

Vegan: "What's weird about vegan? The pasta with mushroom sauce I made for dinner was vegan!"

Jul 21, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics

Gateway Foods(dishes) to introduce foreign / ethnic flavours

There is a restaurant in Lackawanna, NY, the heart of "if it isn't fried it isn't food" country, that wanted to do more adventurous food and still remain in business. (Warning: what follows is just my theory, largely unsupported by facts). They went in for Caribbean-influenced cooking, and started out with a mixture of familiar Italian-ish foods with a few specials, like black bean soup. The soup was just different enough to be exotic, but not too spicy so as to be threatening, and it became a gateway food for people like my culinarily conservative relatives, who, having liked the soup, were willing to venture a little further afield the next time.

What type of cuisine are you trying to introduce to what people? I'd start with something similar to what they're used to. If they're used to standard American food and want to try Indian, for example, I'd start with a pilaf, tandoori chicken, dal - and one spicy (but not necessarily hot) vegetable dish to introduce them to the flavors.

The other way is to stress the similarities: "Gyoza? Those are sort of like ravioli. Korean barbecue? Meat marinated in a bbq sauce, thinly sliced, and grilled."

In the US, many cities sponsor "A Taste of" food festivals, where local restaurants sell samples of their foods: this is a good way to try a little of something before committing to a whole meal.

Jul 21, 2014
tardigrade in General Topics