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Bacon is so cheap, even veggie burgers get two strips

Here! Here! A strip or two of bacon complement a good bean-based veggie burger.

All-beef burgers tend to be too heavy for me, and I've found that places that make their own veggie burgers generally do a good job. I prefer meat in smaller quantities these days.

Tell me about Caribbean cuisine, please.

What I know is that there isn't nearly enough of it around here :-)

It's like asking "what's American food?". There are a lot of influences - Native Caribbean, African, Spanish, British, Indian - that come together in different ways and proportions. Cuba and Jamaica are large enough to have national cuisines of their own, Surinamese takeout is very popular in the Netherlands, the smaller countries have their own claims to fame.

If you can find the old Travel Channel shows, both Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern did several programs about various Caribbean dishes.

7 Myths (and Truths) About Olive Oil

They're not that easy to find, though, in much of the country. There's one small producer who hits some of the Bay Area farmers' markets with their oils (they have distinctly different ones at different times of the year), and there are some small producers up in Sonoma county. I've had some decent oils from the Orland/Corning area, but they mostly grow olives for canning, I think. But it's a start.

BTW, I use my "good" olive oils for salads and finishing a dish. For day to day cooking I use the stuff sold in the big cans that claims to be from Italy but is more likely Spanish: central Spain has so many trees that the place smells like olive oil!

May 19, 2015
tardigrade in General Topics

Sriracha: Is it a Hype?

It's the same old story: interesting ingredient or condiment gets popular in one area, slowly spreads, and then writers who need to fill up a magazine or blog by a deadline pounce on it and hype it like they've discovered the Fountain of Youth, non-fattening chocolate, and non-addictive heroin all in one. And then you see the ingredient everywhere (I'm sure someone's producing sriracha cupcakes somewhere). When fast food chains or big packaged food companies start touting it you know the fad is on its downward cycle.

I first encountered sriracha way back when: a place I worked at in the late 90s had it on the condiments table in the company cafeteria. I have a bottle in the kitchen, along with a few other hot sauces. It's good enough to perk up some of Trader Joe's frozen foods, or a bowl of soup.

May 19, 2015
tardigrade in General Topics
1

A good way to evaluate restaurants?

I was at a Korean place in Seattle recently that disproves that theory: full house, many people of Asian origin, but the food was mediocre at best (cheap, though).

But that standard, Applebee's must be good because it has a lot of Americans eating there.

May 19, 2015
tardigrade in General Topics

Eating sunflowers? Do they taste like artichokes? How to prepare?

Jerusalem artichokes (fun fact: the only major food plant from North America!) are the roots of a plant in the genus Helianthus, the same as the common sunflower. Italian artichokes are the immature flower buds of Cynara cardunculus, a plant in the same family as the Jerusalem artichoke but as closely related as tomatoes are to potatoes.

If you plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, they will grow and produce daisy-like flowers on very tall stalks. What we think of as sunflowers have been bred for flower and seed (and oil) production. Artichoke plants, if left to their own wishes. will eventually produce purple blossoms, like a thistle on steroids.

May 18, 2015
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Have you ordered spicy hot food and then complained about it being too hot?

"this is my first time here, so let's start out with medium and we can go up from there next time" works for me, usually. It's hard to describe "well, maybe about 2/3 of the way from medium to hot" when peppers can vary so much, even within the same batch. A Thai place I used to frequent in Berkeley would tell customers if that days chiles were exceptionally hot or mild, but that's unusual.

Fresh or canned tomatoes for this dish?

Can you even get decent fresh tomatoes this time of the year in the northern hemisphere? Unless the tomatoes age going into a salad or a BLT, canned are perfectly acceptable if you're going to be cooking them anyway.

Fresh tomatoes are going to throw off a lot of liquid, so your yield is going to be smaller than you would get with canned.

May 17, 2015
tardigrade in Home Cooking
1

Have you ordered spicy hot food and then complained about it being too hot?

The problem is, there's no objective measure of "hot". It depends on the cook, the spices, the quality of the peppers that day. If it's the first time at a place I'll start with what they think of as medium - it's always possible to add heat later. If it's a place I go to regularly, then I should know what they think is "hot".

What Oil for Mayo?

I use the olive oil I get in the big can at the grocery store - the kind that may or may not actually be 100% pure olive oil according to some reports - and it mostly works. I once had a batch that didn't work out right, but made up a second batch (in the food processor), added in the first, and had more mayonnaise than I needed.

I have some local (Northern California) olive oils that have very grassy notes: fine for salads, but overpowering in mayo.

Are you using mustard to help the emulsion? How are you adding the oil?

May 16, 2015
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Pro Vegetarian and Vegan scholarly peer reviewed articles

There are a lot of peasant cuisines that are vegetarian or even vegan because historically meat was too expensive for most people to eat regularly. The OP may already have some favorite foods that are already vegetarian - mac and cheese, pasta primavera, bean and chile burritos, stuffed peppers, tostadas, peanut butter sandwiches.

Why is convincing others important? My own reason for eating vegetables is simply, I like vegetables. A bit of meat or fish is ok for flavoring, but there's more variety in the plant kingdom.

I've found Molly Katzen's books good sources for vegetarian and vegan recipes.

May 16, 2015
tardigrade in Vegetarian & Vegan

Holy and Hungry - a new Cooking Channel series

Lots of cable channels, lots of slots to fill up, so yes, every dumb idea gets a show in the new race to the bottom.

And since all the cable channels are trying to maximize their number of viewers, they're all essentially competing for the same ones, so real innovation gets weeded out.

May 13, 2015
tardigrade in Food Media & News

Holy and Hungry - a new Cooking Channel series

What a pity! I once ate at a small restaurant in Tempe, AZ which was connected to a mosque. The guy in charge was very friendly, explaining the items I wasn't familiar with and making recommendations. The little complex also had a store that sold religious items and ingredients for Middle Eastern foods (I bought some spices). Now that could make for an interesting show.

Or a Sikh temple, where the congregation prepares meals for all comers as part of their worship. Or some kosher places that explain how they separate dairy vs non-dairy based cuisines. Or explain how a seder ties in to the New Testament. Or - well, you get the idea.

Otherwise, the theme seems kind of limited. Of course, it could be a way to get someone else to pay for one's trips. Hmmm - how about a Napa Valley based show exploring which wines Jesus would have changed water into?

May 13, 2015
tardigrade in Food Media & News
1

Taco Bell vegetarian and vegan options

The only fast food I ever get a craving for is Taco Bell's bean burritos! Nothing fancy, but a couple of times a year they hit the spot. I don't remember any sort of cheese on the last batch I got, though, and that was just a few months ago: just the basic beans and tortilla. If there was supposed to be cheese they definitely skimped on it.

May 12, 2015
tardigrade in Chains

What's new and chow-worthy in the Buffalo area?

It's time for my semi-annual trip to the area. Has anything opened since last fall that's worth a visit? I'll be in the Hamburg area mostly, and looking for places my elderly mother will also be comfortable at (she is boycotting Mulberry's for reasons I don't understand, so that's out). I will have access to a car, so other areas are accessible.

There must be some Hounds in WNY: where do you eat?

Dried versus fresh herbs and spices: when do you favor the former or the latter?

Oregano and rosemary grow like weeds in my yard (I whack the latter back when it gets to head height). I use the rosemary fresh, but often dry the oregano for later use, partially because it's easier to use dried than going out on a rainy evening to find some fresh sprigs. The mint dies back in the winter, so I dry some for later use. Cilantro, basil and chives I prefer fresh.

Freshly grated nutmeg, IMHO, is a totally different thing than pre-ground.

May 11, 2015
tardigrade in Home Cooking

Can I just cut the slimy parts off my rhubarb?

That's what I'd do.

A trick for perking up limp produce: after trimming off any bad parts, let the rest soak for about an hour in cold water and vinegar - about a tablespoon of vinegar to a gallon of water. Drain and use as normal.

Why do no national burger chains have veggie burgers?

My brother worked at Wendy's way back when: he claimed one of his jobs, before he became the manager, was to turn the previous day's leftover burgers into chili. The vegetarian chili may have been a regional or temporary thing.

Back to the original topic: McDonald's is capable of having vegetarian and non-vegetarian patties co-exist at their outlets in India, so there's no reason other than demand why they can't do it in the US or elsewhere.

May 08, 2015
tardigrade in Vegetarian & Vegan

Yay!! New Sandra Lee TV show coming to ABC

It just won't be the same without the now-defunct Television without Pity site to snark on afterwards!

She actually produced many much worse concoctions than the infamous Kwanzaa cake, but my brain mercifully refuses to remember them!

Botulism outbreak linked to Ohio Church potluck

Somebody obviously thought canning potatoes was a good idea: the Ball Blue Book has instructions on how to do it. And some people think making one's own stock is pointless since you can buy decent packaged stocks these days.

I've never noticed "vibrancy" in my stocks: I just want them as a basis for other things. I'm currently working on ones I put up last September, but occasionally I'll stumble upon one that's a year or two old that got shoved to the back of the cabinet and those show no discernible problems. A nice side effect that probably doesn't affect many home preservers - when we had the house fumigated for termites a while back, all the food had to be removed - including the contents of the refrigerator - except for canned goods - both commercially and home canned ones were deemed to be sealed well enough to remain inside.

Further discussion really should go to a canning thread...

Botulism outbreak linked to Ohio Church potluck

I started canning chicken and beef stocks when we woke up one morning to find that the fridge had broken during the night and everything in the freezer had defrosted. Rather than throw out all the bones and carcasses I had accumulated I bought a pressure canner. The replacement fridge broke about ten years later, when we were out of town for a week.

Even if I had more confidence in freezers, my house is too small for anything other that a standard kitchen refrigerator freezer - and a smallish refrigerator at that. Since I do have a lot of shelf space, I can rather than freeze.

Anything new in Paso Robles ...?

I was there yesterday. The menu is different from then last time we were there, over a year ago, but we had a fine dinner from their selection of small plates: three would be an adequate dinner for two people, as the ones we had - especially the mushroom toast - were very filing.

They have a good beer selection.

May 05, 2015
tardigrade in California

Can this dough be salvaged?

Bread dough is, IMHO, one of those things that you have to learn by practice. Flours behave differently depending on temperature and humidity - and probably a lot of other things as well - and the best way to learn about what works is by feel: if you haven't learned at your parent's side what a properly kneaded dough should feel like, you'll have to experiment. The upside is that it's hard to make a really bad homemade bread - it may be on the chewy side, but it will probably be usable. I go by hand feel: Mr. Tardigrade is a fan of the food processor and goes by the "it looks about right" measure. Both our breads turn out edible if not identicle.

May 03, 2015
tardigrade in Home Cooking

What items do you wish Trader Joe's would make/stock?

The frozen duck breasts they had 10+ years ago!

The lemon grass chicken rice bowls they used to carry!

May 01, 2015
tardigrade in Chains

Documentary: "Urban Fruit"

There's a persimmon tree in a park near me that has three tiers of fruit. Humans get the bottom tier, squirrels get the middle, and birds get the fruit that hangs on the topmost branches.

Apr 28, 2015
tardigrade in Food Media & News

Chiles Rellenos - Meh?

Good Mexican cuisine is very labor intensive: we joke that Diana Kennedy's recipes should start, "first, have your maid....".

I had a version of chiles rellenos at an upscale Mexican restaurant recently - small, yellow chiles stuffed with a rice/cheese mixture then baked - where half of them were tasty but on the mild side while the other half were blisteringly hot.

Apr 24, 2015
tardigrade in Home Cooking
1

Chiles Rellenos - Meh?

I stand in awe: chiles rellenos are not easy - especially the Tex-Mex battered, and even many restaurants produce mediocre ones.

If you're doing cheese-filled ones what flavor there is comes mostly from the peppers. IMHO, the ones called Anaheims in my neck of the woods - long, narrow, palish green - have the most flavor but can be hot. I get my peppers at the local Mexican grocery, and I've found they can vary considerably in flavor depending on growing conditions (the last batch of jalapenos were almost mild!) so maybe you just got a weird batch.

Apr 24, 2015
tardigrade in Home Cooking

bologna..?

I don't care for it, my mother's favorite sandwich is fried bologna with onions. Mr. Retro likes mortadella, bologna's ancestor - I can take it or leave it.

Apr 23, 2015
tardigrade in General Topics
1

The Evolution of Pizza

Thank you: that's the sort of answer I was looking for. I kept hearing the word "pizza" but all they were doing was frying bread.

(The pizza vendor in the movie had a sign reading "Eat now, pay in eight days", not exactly my idea of a good business plan. That must have been why he was working out of a hole in the wall :-)

Apr 23, 2015
tardigrade in General Topics

is salt really heated to 1200 degrees F?

Websites like that make me wonder if they still teach basic science in school these days.

Salt, good old NaCl, is a very simple mineral, one highly soluble in water but a mineral nonetheless. There are a number of ways to obtain and refine it, some of which leave trace impurities behind: minerals are rarely found in a pure state in nature. Somewhere along the line the "white is bad" thinking that applied to wheat flour and rice got transferred over to salt; combine that with marketing and a lot of people have become convinced that somehow salts that retain their natural impurities are better.

All salt is sea salt, ultimately. Most of the salt used in food is mined - that is, extracted from ancient sea deposits laid down millennia ago, then refined. There are still some operations in the SF Bay Area that harvest salt by evaporating shallow ponds filled with salt water, scrapping up the crust and then refining it. If you think pink Himalayan salt is worth the hype, it's your money.

Back to the chemistry: heating sodium chloride to 1200F does little or nothing to it except maybe burn off some organic impurities. Sodium chloride melts above 1400F. Salt actually has good heat retention properties, which is why it's used in preparing dishes like salt-baked prawns and as a bed for Oysters Rockefeller.