Foodie Lexicon, March ’09

Tue, Mar 31 • 0

A monthly look at new phrases about food.

pork flap n. You have to start with the right cut of meat—pork belly. In our part of the world, we refer to it as pork flap; so when you go to get your meat to try either or both of these recipes, ask for the pork flap. Both of the recipes recommend this part of the meat but pork shoulder can work also but trust me, get the pork flap.

lo-vegetarian n. Gradually, “lacto-ovo vegetarians” grouped and shortened their title to “vegetarian.” This is why I sometimes use the term “lo-vegetarian” where the “lo” stands for “lacto-ovo.”

recess-ipe n. Recession recipes, making a family-sized meal for $10 or less.

center-of-the-plate cost n. Because whole grains offer long-lasting satisfaction, they offset what the hospitality industry calls “center-of-the-plate costs”—the expensive, high-protein foods, often rich in saturated fats, that are traditionally served in all too generous portions.

fannings After the tea leaves are taken off the drying racks, the tiny broken pieces and “tea dust” are called “fannings” and that goes into a teabag. Yup, the leftover bits with the least amount of quality and taste are in that dunkable paper sac.

home meal replacement n. In America, though, where eating out is a way of life, the supermarket dinner—“home meal replacement” as they call it in the business—has yet to catch on.

homedulgence n. During a recession, the tendency for consumers to prefer home-based indulgences, such as cocktail parties and lavish dinners. “The move to homedulgence is one way consumers can ride out the recession and it is predicted it will soon extend to many other areas of life, such as mix-your-own cocktails evenings and home dining clubs.”

The Hummers of Food n. a nickname for hamburgers, supposedly because of the ecological impact of beef production. Reporting on research into the “environmental costs of food from field to plate,” A.F.P. noted the comparison between burgers and luxury S.U.V.s: When it comes to global warming, hamburgers are the Hummers of food, scientists say. Simply switching from steak to salad could cut as much carbon as leaving the car at home a couple days a week.

Gyaku-Choko n. (Japanese for “reverse chocolate.”) Previously, it was the unwritten rule that Japanese women buy chocolates for the men in their lives – ranging from their husbands to male colleagues at work, or even the managers of their condominiums. But this year, a new buzzword has hit the country – gyaku-choko, which means “reverse chocolate.” In order to attract male customers, department stores promoted chocolates next to men’s fashion displays and the confectioner Morinaga even decided to print the packaging of a range of chocolates in reverse.

Courtesy of  The Double-tongued Dictionary, Word Spy, and Schott’s Vocab.

Italian Grilled Lamb and White Bean Soup

Fri, Mar 27 • 0

So I managed to score just under 3 lbs of lamb shoulder steaks the other day. My intention was to grill them, so when I got home from the store, I put them in a zip-top bag with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, 4 or 5 large cloves of garlic (crushed), a tablespoon of dried oregano, a medium yellow onion, chopped fine, salt and pepper. I massaged the meat and marinade thoroughly, and went back every 12 hours and did it again. I guess it stayed in the fridge for about 36 hours like that.

Unfortunately, last night, the weather was grim … cold and rainy, so grilling was out. So, loosely working with a recipe in one of my cookbooks, I ended up making a a soup with it. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know instantly that I used my pressure cooker, but I’m sure you can adapt it for a normal soup pot. I started out with dried beans, but you could soak your beans overnight, or even use canned, rinsed beans.

The result was possibly the best soup I’ve ever made.

3lbs. lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat, bones removed, and marinated (see above)
1 cup dried cannellini beans or great northern whites
4 cups water, plus another 2 cups
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken stock
1 15oz can whole tomatoes, crushed, plus the juices
3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 package frozen string beans (optional)

2 tablespoons dry sherry

Put 4 cups of water, the dry beans, and the salt into the pressure cooker. Heat at high pressure for 5 minutes, and then quick release the steam, and drain the water off. Heat up a stovetop grill pan over high heat. Remove the lamb from the marinate, scraping off as much of the onions as you can, and grill both sides for a total of 5 minutes.

Make sure you turn off your smoke alarm and turn on your exhaust fan for this one!

Move the lamb into the pressure cooker, and stir in all of the other ingredients, along with the onion and garlic marinade. Set the pressure cooker for high pressure, 25-30 minutes. Allow the pressure to naturally release. (Total time, about an hour.) Remove the lid, and spoon off any of the fat that might be on the surface.

Update, Jan 4, 2010 : So I was reading about a new technique for dealing with dried beans, and I remade this recipe tonight because my grocer had a killer deal on lamb shoulder chops. The technique is this : Soak the beans in water for 8 or more hours, but add several teaspoons of salt to the soaking water. Then, drain the beans and rinse off the salt. Your beans will end up being firm yet creamy on the inside. This is what I did for this recent batch of the soup, and it seemed to work exactly that way. I put the beans in water before I left this morning, and otherwise followed the rest of the procedure, and it turned out great. This is how I’ll be making the recipe from now on.

Free Cast Iron from Cooking Monster!

Fri, Mar 20 • 14

One lucky Cooking Monster commenter will win a 10¼” Pre-seasoned Lodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet, which just might be the most useful pan you can have in your kitchen.  Just leave a comment below describing your guilty-pleasure about food — something you can’t resist eating, even if you know you shouldn’t. Only one entry per email address will be accepted, so don’t bother entering more than once with the same address. Please read the site’s privacy notice and our rules about contests and giveaways before entering.

This contest has ended. Please check the site frequently as we will have more give-aways soon!

Why are people afraid of pressure cookers?

Wed, Mar 18 • 1

Don’t let your grandma’s tale of kitchen terror dissuade you from using this great time-saving device.

(I realize I’ve been talking incessantly about my new toy, so I hope you’ll indulge me a little longer…)

Aside from the rattle of an old-fashioned pressure cooker, and the escaping of steam, there’s really nothing on the face of them that make them any different from a regular pot and lid. Except for the possibility of them exploding. And you might even have some family lore that would justify the fear.

The pressure cooker was invented back in the early 20th century, and was used as a method for industrial canning. They didn’t make it to the home market until the late 1930’s, and were thought to be completely safe. (They were even used on early transcontinental airline flights to provide hot meals for passengers.) Then came World War II, and the US government was hungry for the aluminum that the pressure cookers were made from. Companies that manufactured them were retooled to make military equipment, like airplane engine parts. Housewives were encouraged to donate their pots and pans for the war effort. After the war, the swords returned to ploughshares, and companies retooled once again to make household goods. But the quality of the pots and pans weren’t that great. Production methods favored quantity over quality. Tons of cheap, poorly made pressure cookers hit the market in the late 40’s and early 50’s, and they had the reputation — rightfully so — of exploding under the higher than normal pressures. So if you were a lucky enough cook not to personally experience an in-kitchen detonation, chances are you were wary enough of them to tuck the pots in the deepest depths of your cupboards — only to have them be resurrected by your heirs in the 70’s, who also experienced the same disasterous results.

These days, however, the newer pressure cookers are designed with safety features — pressure regulating systems, and durable, high-quality stainless steel construction. There’s little reason to fear them now.

And there’s certainly no reason to splurge on the electronic gadgetry that mesmerized me recently. Although I’ve used it for some aspect of every meal I’ve made since I bought it — either for the main course, or for a side dish — you can certainly make do with a less expensive, more conventional model. It’ll just require a little more attention and care, but you’ll save a lot on the price. A good 6 quart pressure cooker can be had for as little as $40.

One thing I’ve really noticed while working with mine is that pressure cookers seem to eat up garlic. No matter how many cloves of garlic I add, the flavor just vanishes.

Corned Beef

Wed, Mar 18 • 1

Well, now that St. Patty’s day is over, you can probably get an awesome deal on corned beef. I managed to pick up a 3lb corned beef for about $2, and that was yesterday. I’ll bet the prices are even lower now. Corned beef is usually brisket but it’s sometimes other cuts as well. It’s brined in a solution of salt and spices. You want to look for a relatively flat slab — this will indicate that it comes from the brisket. And you do want some fat on the surface, though it’s very easy to scrape this off with the side of a knife once you’ve cooked it.

I cooked mine in a pressure cooker — 6 cups of water, a quartered onion, 4 or 5 smashed garlic cloves, and 4 bay leaves, along with the extra flavor packet that came with the roast, all in the pot. (You could also add some potatoes, too.) I brought it to high pressure, and set the timer for 55 minutes. Then I let it return to normal pressure on its own. The brisket had reduced in size by about half when it was done, and it was pretty fragile. Since my intention was to make sandwiches, I scraped off the excess fat, and put it in a container, and into the fridge so it would firm up and slice more easily.

If you want to make it without a pressure cooker, boil it up in a dutch oven on the stovetop, with the same additions above, and figure 50 minutes per pound. For a traditional New England Boil, add carrots, and small red potatoes about half an hour before its done, and a quartered head of cabbage 15 minutes before its done.

When you slice the meat, make sure you do it across the grain.

A reuben sandwich has you take sliced corned beef on either seeded rye or pumpernickle bread, a bit of sauerkraut, and swiss cheese … serve it open faced, if you want, with the cheese melted under the broiler for a bit. Serve with thousand island dressing on the side. (Thousand island dressing is mayonnaise, ketchup, tabasco and finely chopped vegetables, most often pickles, onions, bell peppers, and green olives; chopped hard-boiled egg is also common.)

To make corned beef hash, you want equal parts of corned beef and boiled potatoes, chopped fine along with some onion, and fried up in butter, until a crunchy crust is formed. Serve with a poached egg and ketchup.

What’s Your Cooking Personality?

Tue, Mar 17 • 1

The New York Times had an interesting article discussing how people are cooking more at home now that the economy is ailing, and that while home cooking is generally more healthy than eating out, it’s not necessarily healthier. It all depends on what kind of cook you are. They break it down into 5 different categories :

Giving” cooks are enthusiastic about cooking and specialize in comfort food, particularly home-baked goodies.

Methodical” cooks rely heavily on recipes, so their cooking is strongly influenced by the cookbook they use.

Competitive” cooks think less about health and more on making the most impressive dish possible.

Healthy” cooks often serve fish and use fresh ingredients, but taste isn’t the primary goal.

Innovative” cooks like to experiment with different ingredients, cooking methods and cuisines, a process that tends to lead to more healthful cooking.

Can you guess what category you fall under? If you’re having trouble, they provide a short quiz to help you figure it out.

I end up falling into the last one — Innovative.  “An innovative cook likes to experiment with different ingredients, cooking methods and cuisines, a process that tends to lead to more healthful cooking. Innovative cooks have the best eye for freshness, yet there is still a big emphasis on taste. If you like great food and still want to eat reasonably healthy, the innovative cook is the person to hook up with.”

It’s not all wine and roses though, cooking this way. Ask my wife. I rarely cook the same thing the same way, ever. And if she really liked how I made it last time, she doesn’t appreciate the tinkering I do the next time, or that I usually can’t even replicate what I’ve done.

Easier Printing

Mon, Mar 16 • 0

I’ve tinkered a bit with the site design, making it so that a lot of the stuff for navigation on the sidebar, and some of the page formatting gets hidden when you want to print a particular post or the front page of this site. Still trying to decide if I should include comments on the print out, or just leave the main entry. For now, they stay in, mostly because I haven’t been able to make them hide.

Recent Penzey’s Spice Order

Wed, Mar 11 • 2

1   11950      Chili 9000 2.1 oz. 1/2 cup jar……………..$5.49
1   22042      Horseradish Dip 4 oz. bag…………………..$5.45
1   22642      Szechuan Pepper Salt 4 oz. bag ……….$4.59
1   31851      Oregano Mexican .4 oz. 1/2 cup jar…..$2.99

Shipping, $5.95   TOTAL : $25.08

Lobel’s : Who are your customers?

Wed, Mar 11 • 0

I took advantage of a promotional $50 gift certificate from Lobel’s, an upscale New York meat market that also does mail-order, at least 7 or 8 years ago, and I’ve been on their mailing list ever since. I have to admit that their products do look appealing, and am occasionally tempted to make a purchase, until I think about how much I’d be spending for what I’d be getting.

bacon_smoked_bgFor example,while I was looking around their site, I noticed that they sell Double Hickory Smoked Slab Bacon, unsliced, in 2½ pound slabs, for $29.98 — pricey, but considering how difficult it is to find uncut slab bacon, it might be worth it for a splurge — that is, until you roll in their shipping fees : another $26.95 on top of that. This means the bacon ends up being $22.78 a pound, or a total order price $56.93.

It really makes me wonder who they think will order from them, especially in this economy. Still, they’ve been in business for 5 generations, so there’s got to be people willing to part with their money.

Pocket Guide to Pesticides

Wed, Mar 11 • 0

The Environmental Working Group has just released their updated Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides. Based on 87,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between 2000 and 2007 by the US FDA and USDA, they list the 12 worst and 15 best foods to consider in an effort to  limit your exposure to pesticides, which, despite rinsing and peeling, can only be avoided if they are grown using organic methods.

“Those who eat the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than 2…”

The “dirty dozen” foods are peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots, and pears. They recommend you buy these items as organics if you can, or not at all.

The “clean 15” foods are onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mangos, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwis, cabbages, eggplants, papyas, watermelons, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. The methods in producing these foods, even if they’re done using “conventional,” modern farming practices, are thought to be safe.

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