lamb_da_calculus's Profile

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Help me build my kitchen.

In my case I'm never working with such large quantities of vegetables that I feel a food processor is necessary. Plus I enjoy using a knife to cut vegetables precisely.

I think another common objection is that food processors sort of just beat the hell out of whatever they're processing, but this is less important to me. I mostly just like knifework.

2 days ago
lamb_da_calculus in Cookware

Help me build my kitchen.

Eh, I'll chime in as someone who likes knifework and doesn't own a food processor. A mandoline makes thin, and most importantly uniform, slices quickly. It's possible to do this with a knife, which is why I've never actually gotten around to buying a mandoline, but a mandoline is easier and faster. I don't get how pooh-poohing food processors and using a mandoline is somehow hypocritical. There are objections to food processors beyond luddite snobbery.

2 days ago
lamb_da_calculus in Cookware

Help me build my kitchen.

+1 on digital scale, can't believe I forgot that. The fish spatula, probe thermometer, and slicing and boning knives aren't totally necessary for my style of cooking, but it does remind me that a big serrated bread knife is both pretty cheap and pretty hard to substitute for and therefore worth getting.

2 days ago
lamb_da_calculus in Cookware

Help me build my kitchen.

A heavy-bottom stockpot, immersion blender, set of stainless steel mixing bowls, spice grinder, set of plastic squeeze bottles, couple sizes of nonstick frying pan, cheap-good 8" Fibrox chef's knife, cast iron frying pan, roasting pan, cookie sheets, and silpat in addition to what you already have, will take you pretty far for a lot less than $2000. A lot less than $500, even.

Spending a lot on cookware is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it's best done when you've been cooking for a while and *know* you'd appreciate and use something nicer. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you're asking how to build out a kitchen collection I'm assuming you haven't been cooking all that long?)

Not to be patronizing or anything. I just remember buying a lot of unnecessary stuff after leaving home. If you're sort of starting out it's really easy to buy something expensive and high-quality that you rarely/never actually use or don't really need. I think it's a good compromise to buy good-enough stuff, figure out the sort of things you really use, and upgrade those things down the line. If you get really into braising splurging on Le Creuset might be really satisfying, if you're a stickler for velvety smooth sauces a Vitamix might be a good bet, if mise en place gives you the vapors then buy those weird little bowls you see chefs use on TV, etc.

May 25, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Cookware

Groceries in the neighborhoods around UPenn

I'm moving to the UPenn area this summer. I haven't found a place yet but am looking to live in the Grad Hospital/Fitler Square area, or possibly a bit south of the university. Are there any grocery stores worth knowing about in the area? Or other venues for produce worth mentioning?

In college I found a nice independent grocery store that sold produce that might not look quite as great as the stuff at Whole Foods or last quite as long but was a really good value if you chose stuff with a little care. It would be great to find a similar place after moving.

Sources for good meat and seafood in the area, if available, would also be useful. I'm willing to hike a bit more for these, since they're more of an occasional fun thing.

Thanks!

May 23, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Philadelphia

The Future of Food

Good point. Drones might be better suited to replacing Farmers Market-type purchases rather than supermarkets. I don't imagine those growers have thousands or even hundreds of customers, although I'm not sure about that.

The Future of Food

This is a bit fanciful, but I think drones could really improve food supply chains. The existing model of "pick food -> ship to a central location -> ship to supermarkets -> wait for someone to buy it" isn't terribly efficient (although, given the constraints, it's still quite impressive).

A good way to evaluate restaurants?

On the other hand, some people rarely go out to eat and have many restaurants to choose from, in which case trying all of them in person isn't really practical.

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

I imagine there's some reason for this, but why don't places just explain where the heat comes from? A dish that gets its heat from poblanos is different than one with jalapenos is different than one stuffed with birds-eye chilis.

Freezing bread and reusing the bags

No, I just break off slices and toast them. The bag itself only goes above freezing when the loaf is done and I shake it out and leave it out (usually for less than a day).

May 15, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Cookware

Freezing bread and reusing the bags

I freeze my bread in your standard generic-brand gallon freezer bags. Since I don't really feel like the bags are getting "dirty" just storing bread, whenever I finish a loaf I usually just shake the bag out and reuse it.

So my question is, at what point (if any) does this become a bad idea? Assuming there aren't any obvious rips or tears do plastic freezer bags degrade in other ways? The little letters and design printed on the bag have started wearing away, but I don't know what the significance of that would be.

Thanks!

May 15, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Cookware

Anywhere to find/pick/buy wild strawberries?

If there's some mythical little farm with wild berries the likes of which I've never tasted, I'm willing to go pretty far up. Although as I mentioned above I'm really looking for berry strains that aren't typically available.

May 07, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Great Lakes

Anywhere to find/pick/buy wild strawberries?

Yup, I'd been wondering if strawberries might be a bad bet that late.

Maybe I should ask a slightly different question: what about wild blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries?

And just to clarify, I'm not just looking for "pick-your-own" places, I want to try strains/cultivars that I wouldn't be able to find otherwise. Not sure how possible that is, but I thought I'd ask.

May 06, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Great Lakes

Anywhere to find/pick/buy wild strawberries?

As I understand it wild strawberries are fragile and difficult to pick cleanly and also degrade quickly after being picked. As a result, they rarely (or never) make it to market.

I'm driving across the Great Lakes area in late July, Wisconsin to Philadelphia with a bunch of meandering in between. Is there anywhere in there I could finally try wild strawberries? Preferably as close to the source as possible, but I'd be interested in anything. I thought Michigan might have some?

I'd be interested in other wild fruits too (I mean different strains that you might miss out on from normal markets, e.g. I've never found alpine or musk strawberries).

May 06, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Great Lakes

Japanese Ramen: Is it a Hype?

This is totally based on anecdotal evidence but I think the proportion of new ramen places that are knowingly hip and trendy is much greater than the proportion of pho/wonton places that are. I feel like more of the pho/wonton places are mom-and-pop type affairs that are less amenable to "hype". Put another way, I can think of more hole-in-the-wall pho/wonton places than ramen places as a proportion. But, again: pretty much just conjecture.

Avocado seed find!

It does turn orange, but you wouldn't want to eat it on its own (or probably at all in terms of flavor, see my other post below).

May 05, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Home Cooking

Avocado seed find!

OK, I don't know where the sarcasm begins and ends here, but for anyone who's hearing about this for the first time: avocado pits will turn orange if you grate a bit off and let it sit for a while. Like bright, safety cone orange. The flip side is they are very, very bitter if you taste them like that. Alone they're probably the most bitter thing I've tasted.

Grated avocado pit is occasionally used in moles for bitterness, and only in tiny quantities relative to the rest of the dish. Rick Bayless has a Teloloapan red mole recipe that serves 12 as a main course and uses 1 tsp grated pit for the whole thing.

May 05, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Home Cooking

Low carb Lean protein - need some suggestions...

There's a Vietnamese salad spring roll in one of Mai Pham's books. I like to make the filling on its own: briefly cook a minced shallot in a little peanut oil, add some julienned jicama and carrot with soy sauce and water, simmer that for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile cook a two-egg omelette so that it's pretty firm and julienne that. Same with some bok choy. Add some chili paste, julienne in a big handful of basil leaves drain the jicama-carrot-shallot mixture and mix in. Add a couple cloves minced garlic, and sprinkle on roasted peanuts and lime juice and fish sauce and rice vinegar at the end. It's a pretty good salad and apart from the carrot pretty low-carb and low-fat as far as I can tell.

I make some of Andrea Nguyen's Vietnamese salmon cakes with dill and fish sauce and some other stuff that I fry and eat over this. Neighbor's cat wouldn't let me in my front door today because he wanted to come in too (I made the salmon cakes with canned salmon; they smell when cooking, and for a good time afterward too).

You add a pinch of salt. How much is it?

I was curious, so I checked. I picked up about as much coarse kosher salt as I'd personally define as a pinch and then massed it. 1.0g, and my scale goes to +-0.1g accuracy.

I'd be interested in how this varies from person to person. Anyone else care to contribute?

Apr 26, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Home Cooking

polenta - home made

I've never tried either of them, but I plan to once we're into summer. I think part of the appeal of corn stock was using a trash part (the cob), so that's all I ever tried it with.

Apr 21, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Home Cooking

polenta - home made

I just cut the kernels off a cob with a knife and then simmer the cob(s) in some lightly salted water. Other people use corn husks but I think the cob itself is best for that sweet corn flavor.

I wonder what happens when you reduce it down. Surely there's enough residual sugar from the corn to thicken up a bit?

Apr 20, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Home Cooking

Bryan Voltaggio has a cookbook coming out

The seaweed mashed potatoes on p. 280 are actually quite good and not very hard.

Bryan Voltaggio has a cookbook coming out

It's kind of a bummer but I have to agree. Cooked a few things from it and 2/3 were really odd. It's not a bad book to pick up for $5 or so, since the photography's great, the writing about the dishes is neat, and you can find some interesting techniques and ideas in the recipes. But the quantities are generally suspect, so it's hard to trust it, especially when most of these are time- and labor-intensive dishes to prepare.

What's your favorite food blog?

Their full-time job is some form of culinary consulting/classes, so while it's still impressive it's not *that* crazy.

What's your favorite food blog?

Ideas in Food (blog.ideasinfood.com) posts roughly daily and is effectively a chronicle of the cooking experiments that husband-and-wife team Alex and Aki explore. Both are seasoned professionals, but they also have a young daughter together, and the posts tend to reflect this. Some posts are equipment- and labor-intensive while others are short and simple. Everything has a backbone of strong technical know-how and experience, fleshed out with an experimental and creative approach (right now, for example, they're on a week-long kick on using different parts of the cauliflower, incorporating vacuum-sealing, pressure-cooking, smoking, spherification, etc.; other times it's just "here's a good chocolate cake recipe"). If you're already a decent cook and like reading recipes to learn tricks you can incorporate later, or you dig the experimental process of learning about cooking and ingredients, this is a great site.

Forager Chef (foragerchef.com) is written by a current chef - I'm not clear on kitchen hierarchy, but I think he was somewhere up the totem pole at Heartland in Minnesota and is now executive chef somewhere else nearby - who focuses a lot on wild/foraged food, especially mushrooms, and not just in a trendy well-I-guess-Noma-does-it kind of way. A few of the recipes linked from the main page are: rabbit braised in milk with black trumpet and carrots, dark beer shortribs with dried boletes and root vegetables, and spruce poussin with apple mustard sauce. The photograpy is also great, and the recipes are pitched at a nice Chowhound-type level, albeit involving more special-occasion or special-project type effort. Instructions and quantities tend to be fairly loose (unlike Ideasinfood, which believes in by-gram accuracy most of the time). Criminally underrated at barely 2000 Facebook likes.

Reusing old spice containers

Glad you like it. I'm not sure which spices are strong enough for this to work, but I'd like to hear if anyone else experiments with it.

Apr 07, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Home Cooking

polenta - home made

I like this method. One extra trick: try cooking the polenta in corn stock instead of water. You can make corn stock by just simmering cobs in water after shearing them of kernels. If you like a little more corn flavor, this is nice.

Apr 07, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Home Cooking

Reusing old spice containers

Sugar is more common, but I've seen vanilla salt. Ideasinfood has talked about it before.

Apr 07, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Home Cooking

Reusing old spice containers

I had a little tin of pimenton I really liked and by the time I got to the end of it all that was left was a fine coating of red dust and a real strong pimenton aroma. So I poured some kosher salt into it, forgot about it for a few weeks, and just remembered and sprinkled some over sourdough, avocado, sardines, olive oil, and white wine vinegar. It's neat! Just enough paprika sweetness to add something without overwhelming.

I've heard of perfuming salt with spent vanilla pods, but does anyone else go beyond that?

Off the beaten pah Chicago eats for a first timer

FWIW Elizabeth has promised various dishes using Native American cooking techniques in the coming summer menu. No idea what that means in practice, but tickets are set to be around $75 each. Not a distinctly "Chicago" meal, but Elizabeth tends toward very good execution of ingredients foraged around the midwest, so it's not something you could easily get anywhere else. It is not at the level of Grace or Alinea, nor is it really off the beaten path, but it is pretty unique.

Mar 20, 2015
lamb_da_calculus in Chicago Area