Father Kitchen's Profile

Title Last Reply

Baking Soda to Reduce Acidity of Tomato Sauce

Coll, those fennel bulbs make a marvelous salad. Slice them vertically as thinly as you can. Toss them with slices of orange--blood orange is especially nice--some olive oil, and mint or other herb.

Nov 17, 2014
Father Kitchen in General Topics

What cookbooks have you bought lately or are you lusting after? October 2014 Edition. [old]

Good suggestion. Thanks!

Oct 27, 2014
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What cookbooks have you bought lately or are you lusting after? October 2014 Edition. [old]

I have had a soft spot for Mark Bittman ever since his book on fish helped me overcome my fear of cooking seafood. All the same, his minimalist approach can grow tiring, and it sometimes yields results like paint-by-numbers copies of great masterpieces. When “How to Cook Everything Fast” came out, I approached it with some skepticism; but it intrigued me enough buy it as a Christmas gift for a niece who often asks me, “Uncle Dave, do you know an easy way to cook ... ?” I decided to test run a couple of recipes. I started with his Black Bean Mole, because my niece asked me for an easy mole recipe, and his Key Lime Crumble, because I’ve wanted to make a Key lime pie for some time. Both recipes reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the book.

The mole was easy to prepare and flavorful. As short-cut moles go, it was better than some I have had in Mexican restaurants. You wouldn’t confuse it with the classic Mole Poblano, but on its own terms it was worth making, though the fast preparation and limited ingredient list couldn’t match the layered flavors of the original.

The Key Lime Crumble was a good take on Key Lime Pie, and presenting it in serving-size ramekins a nice touch. However, in calling for “three limes,” Bittman fails to specify whether he wants Key limes or Tahitian limes. Given the quantity and the lack of further qualifiers, I guessed he meant Tahitian limes, in spite of the recipe title. Since Key limes are smaller, that lack of editorial attention to detail might have led to very different results if I had used three Key limes. Some of that difficulty could have been avoided had Bittman specified the approximate quantity of juice the recipe required. Similarly for the graham cracker topping. He called for 12 crackers. Did this mean 12 pieces as they come out of the package or 12 individual squares? I crumbled 12 full crackers. When I ended up with two cups of crumbs, I realized he meant individual squares. Again, giving the volume measure--or better still the weight measure--would have been helpful.

Since so many people today follow either low-calorie or low-fat diets, a nutritional profile for each recipe would also have been helpful to the harried home cook.

Of course, his 45-minute target for meal preparation is a bit optimistic for anyone who does not have good knife skills or who is preparing more than one dish. On the other hand, the varied flavor combinations should open the door to more imaginative cooking by blind recipe followers.

In spite of these shortcomings, I think “How to Cook Everything Fast” will appeal to cooks who find complex recipes daunting or who think they don’t have time to put out anything other than pizza and pasta. In fact, I’ve kept this copy as an aid to our friars who struggle to get out a Sunday supper for us. I’ve ordered a replacement copy for my niece.

Has anyone else used this book? Did you find any recipes that are keepers?

Oct 26, 2014
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking
1

What is "real food"?

Caroline, unfortunately underdeveloped countries now have the same metabolic problems the developed nations have. When water is not safe to drink, they turn to bottled soft drinks. When protein and fat are hard to find, they depend on high carb diets that drive hyperinsulemia and the resulting non-contagious diseases. It seems to me that foodstuffs which make us sick should not be considered real foods.

Oct 23, 2014
Father Kitchen in General Topics
1

What is "real food"?

This has been a nice discussion.
I don't think "real food" is a meaningless term, since it is an important part of the current food debate. I think it is an inexact term that invites discussion about what nourishes human beings.
Perhaps "healthy food" would be a better term, but I'd hate to see the debate that term might start.

Oct 23, 2014
Father Kitchen in General Topics

What is "real food"?

That looks like a pretty good description to me. This ended up in the wrong place. It is in reference to the reference to FED UP.

Oct 23, 2014
Father Kitchen in General Topics

What is "real food"?

I got "Real Fast Food" recently from Britain through Amazon. Cheap book. Good recipes. But the Brits seems to eat with greater variety than we do.

Oct 23, 2014
Father Kitchen in General Topics

National Geographic on world food supply.

This is a very god resource.

Bittman - 'Reducto ab absurdum', and forgive me if I spelled this wrong

I'm not planning to base the days of reflection on the book, but I would use it as a reference. I've only done one so far, and I planned it around bread and soup. We baked no-knead bread. I started a loaf the night before and we baked that, and we mixed the dough for another at the start of the morning, so people got a hands-on feel for it. We had about twenty people, and they all worked in the kitchen. We pulled up scripture references to food and cooking. We talked about using meals to build relationships and to feed the whole person, including the spirit. We talked about cooking as a form of service. Other topics could include nutrition, feeding the poor, social justice, etc. And we made four kinds of soups. Maybe next time I would do less. We did not work from a recipe but from concepts. I'd got people to taste things and suggest what to do next. When needed, I offered some alternative seasoning and ingredients. I asked them what they think would be good. We made a corn chowder, a lentil soup, a butternut squash soup, and an Asian-inspired chicken-noodle soup similar to pho but made from home-made noodles which we cooked as fast as we cut them. Bittman's variations on a basic recipe support this kind of thinking.
I would like to focus on cooking methods since many folks today don't know basic techniques.
Another approach might have been to bring a selection of ingredients and work directly from them.
After cooking everything, we had a meal, which included salad prepared by retreat house volunteers who joined us. Later, several participants told me they had gone home and repeated the Asian-style noodle soup for their families.
In a similar vein, each Lent we have a "Rice Bowl" lunch at which we serve a potluck of international dishes, preferably mostly-vegetarian dishes from third-world countries. For several years, I've adapted some simple Bittman recipes instead of using recipes from Catholic Relief Services that come with the Rice Bowl materials. However, the hands-down favorite has always been bean fritters which one parishioner does to perfection.

Calling All Cornmeal Afficianados

Update: I got an electric flour mill recently, but it doesn't get as much use as I would like, because I don't have much time to bake and am on a low-carb diet. Still, I make John Thorne's skillet corn bread often and mill corn from Outpost Natural Foods. My mill will handle popcorn, though not even the manufacturer could tell me whether it would handle flint corn, if I find any. I haven't used up my stock of ordinary corn yet. I'll try popcorn when I do.

Oct 23, 2014
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Tamales - Is lard necessary plus...

I get rendered lard from pastured pigs at our farmer's market. Good stuff, and not at all "processed" tasting. I also get it at Cermak, a market up the street that caters largely to Latinos. Totally different flavor. Mexican-style lard is rendered at a higher temperature and takes on a darker tan color and a slightly piggy flavor. I'd use either one. (Save the leaf lard for pastry.) However, rendering your own lard needn't be a big project. There are plenty of YouTube videos on rendering lard, and it can be done easily in a crock pot. Or, if you braise a fatty cut or pork, like pork shoulder, save the fat from the chilled juices. In any case, rendered lard is even healthier than butter, as recent research has shown. (See Gary Taubes" "Why we get fat and what to do about it." I started using it and my cholesterol panel normalized in recent blood tests.)

Oct 23, 2014
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Bittman - 'Reducto ab absurdum', and forgive me if I spelled this wrong

Unfortunately, a great many people today simply do not know how to cook or think they do not have time to cook. It seems to me that Bittman (like Jamie Oliver in his "Food Revolution") or Alice Waters in "Simple Cooking" writes for these. But the books also provide plenty of stimulating new ideas for experienced cooks who don't follow recipes as a rule. His most recent book, "How to Cook Everything Fast," will be a perfect Christmas gift for a harried mother know who wants to learn to do more than bake a frozen pizza or cook boxed mac and cheese. In fact, this book would be a great reference for a planned series of days of reflection on cooking and spirituality. He provides the how and we explore the meaning. For a slightly different take on the theme, look at some of Slater's books, including "Real Fast Food." He doesn't outline the structure of cooking, but he takes a similar approach with ingredients at hand. Yes, there are other complex ways to do things, but for me the final test is whether something is both nutritious and good tasting. Simple food can encompass both.

What is "real food"?

I'm all for that!

Sep 09, 2014
Father Kitchen in General Topics
1

What is "real food"?

We see the term "real food" often, but cookbooks that contain it in their titles often disappoint. Nigel Slater's book of that title is closer to what I would have in mind, and so would just about anything by Peterson or Oliver. This is not an academic question: as one of the metabolically impaired majority in the U.S., I have become very nutrition conscious, and I know that eating well does not have to mean elaborate cooking or expensive ingredients. For me, real food is food without additives, minimally processed (except fermentation that adds nutritional value), prepared with good hygiene and cooking techniques, and eaten as an expression of sharing life with others. What is "real food" for you?

Where Does a Newbie Start?

These replies are good. But more important than books is the experience of doing something and then extending that skill. My cooking began with scrambled eggs when I was a kid. Be aware with all your senses so that you let the food teach you more than a book. That said, besides Joy of Cooking and other books mentioned below, there are several good books that I think really help you get beyond a recipe-driven approach. The first is Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which imparts some basic skills through some interesting good recipes. (I love his approach to roasts.) The second is Alice Water's Simple Cooking. (I haven't seen the sequel to it yet.) The third, is the "Tante Marie's Cooking School" cookbook, by Marie Risley, probably available only used on the net. A great cook I know learned to cook from her. Many of the chapters end up with a "how to cook without a recipe." It takes all the fear out of messing around in the kitchen. Of course, YouTube is a gold mine, though not all that glitters is gold. But lots of things that sound complicated in print turn out to be amazingly easy if you see it being done: for example egg pasta and bread. Finally, expect to make mistakes. Our seasoned cook today burnt a cherry pie to cinders. She forgot it was in the oven and went to do some cleaning in the pantry. We all had a laugh. Nobody gets it perfect. Not even Julia Child.

Confessions of a stuffing junkie

This is a wonderful discussion. I love the traditional dressings/stuffings, but also some unusual ones. Like an apricot-brown rice version I got (I think) from Joy of Cooking about 40 years ago or a wild rice and dried cherries one I found on the net the other day that I will use next Sunday. (We're having our Thanksgiving at another monastery, so I'll cook a bird Sunday, mainly for turkey soup and sandwiches afterwards.) All of this reminded me of a chapter in Teresa Lust's wonderful book of essays and recipes, "Pass the Polenta." It centered on the conflicting family traditions of Thanksgiving dinners from her mother's family and her father's--based mainly on the stuffing, as I recall. I found it on Amazon used-like new and ordered it for $.01plus shipping.

Nov 27, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What do you wish you could do that you've never been able to master?

Debone a chicken but leave the skin intact for that Spanish/Filipino stuffed chicken dish.

Nov 27, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

DO NOT DISCARD THE TURKEY CARCASS(ES)

I get irked when some zealous friar tosses our turkey carcass at Thanksgiving. This year we have dinner at another monastery, so Sunday (hopefully after turkey sales), I will roast a bird, but mainly for turkey sandwiches and the carcass for soup.

DO NOT DISCARD THE TURKEY CARCASS(ES)

Auguri di Santo Svegeno. (See today's Italian Notebook blog.)

Nov 27, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Then, of course, there is the "Banana Slug Cookbook" sold in the Seattle area. This large creature (though not really quite banana-size) is found in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and down at least as far as Napa Valley. The book contains all kinds of tasty-looking recipes. But there is a disclaimer you'd better not miss, "Not for Human Consumption." Pity. They look like a good source of protein.

Nov 27, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

The side-car thread to the absolute worst cookbook you own -- What is your most obscure, weird or oddball cookbook.

I never owned it, but in the Pacific Northwest you often see a cookbook in the airports with recipes for cooking the Banana Slug. (Inside there is a disclaimer: Not for human consumption.)

Oct 31, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Roasting a Chicken - am I doing too much?

You are so right about the vegetables only good for the gravy.
By the way, I'd be more active if I had time. I get to it in fits and starts when things let up a bit.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

The side-car thread to the absolute worst cookbook you own -- What is your most obscure, weird or oddball cookbook.

European And American Professional Sourdough Cooking And Recipes by George Leonard & Berthe E. Herter (1975)

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Sourdough starter lacking, advice?

Refresh the starter a couple of times before baking with it if you haven't just used it. You want it "young and vigorous" as the French experts say. I don't go much for a strong sour flavor in bread. I like a balanced flavor--like the balance of a good Chardonnay wine. However, if you want to spike the acid, the best bet is to do your bulk fermentation at room temperature. (Theoretically 81 F. is idea for equal growth of the yeast and bacteria.) Then do the final proofing of the loaves in a somewhat warmer environment. Keep in mind, however, that gluten is weakened by acid, so pushing for too much tang may adversely affect the crumb.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Counteract too much butter taste?

I am not sure what "too much of a butter taste" means. I suspect that what you are dealing with is slightly rancid butter. It is a good idea to use unsalted butter. If it is slightly off, you will notice it immediately. For that reason, unsalted butter in the shops is usually fresher than the salted butter, which has a longer shelf life.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Do it at your peril! It doesn't taste like Ham. It tastes like Spam.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Jamming, canning and preserving 2013

I did forget to squeeze the bag. The bubbles were getting bigger. I must have been just a hair from the gel point. GFS (Gordon Food Service) Market sells five-pound bags of different unsweetened frozen fruit. I especially like the cherries and the blackberries, but the peach and raspberries aren't bad either.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Guam is even crazier for Spam and that's where I learned to like it. It is comfort food. Spam fried with brown sugar and clove, macaroni and cheese, and canned spinach. It may sound vile, but even the canned spinach back in the late forties tasted better than the last package of frozen chopped spinach I opened in a pinch.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Yeah, but I scanned this thread in vein for a reference to a Spam cookbook. I love the stuff. My confreres hate it. Can anyone help me convert them?

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Bacon and peanut butter with brown sugar are to be found in Joy of Cooking for a broiled open-face sandwich.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking