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Fred Rickson

Advice for the beginning of a knife collection

Given how many great knives have become known and available due to the internet, I would not recommend a block set from a single manufacturer. My knife "set" is eclectic because I usually fall in love doing a store demo cut, or cooking with someone, and my brands are from all over the world.

I do have one odd-ball which is among my most used. It is a 10 1/2 inch, heavy, chef's style Mundial from Brazil. My hands are not large, but are meaty, and so I appreciate knuckle clearance and this heavy knife has 1 1/2 " of space. I don't know where or when I bought it, but for rocker chopping it is a dream.

And, I would stick with quality (bought over time if need be). I always laugh when America's Test Kitchen offers a "better deal" than the top choice, but looking a bit you never see one used in their kitchen.

Behind the Scenes In Kenji's Home Kitchen (A.K.A. Home of The Food Lab)

Looking at the neatness of the kitchen, I feel deeply ashamed. However, the fridge and freezer doors make me feel good again.

Maintaining a sourdough starter

It will.....keep about a 3/4 Mason jar going....pour out 1/2 for whatever....re-build to 3/4 full jar.

Wahoo! Looking for recipes for this ono fish.

Half inch cubes make a great poke....as in Hawaiian.

Maintaining a sourdough starter

I keep a 30+ year-old sourdough starter in the fridge in a Mason jar with the lid on lightly. About once a month, if not baking, I pull it out, add two big heaping T of rye flour and enough water to be like thick pancake batter, let it sit out for maybe 20 hours till bubbly....back in fridge. Don't stress about weights or percentages....the first 49ers probably didn't. Good luck.

How to preserve dried New Mexico chiles in Washington state

Living in wet Oregon for 30 years, and growing hot chilies during that time, I offer two caveats. Hung outside, they will rot; hung indoors, your eyes will complain. I built a food dryer, placed in a garage, and lived happily ever after.

Seasonal Baking: What To Make With Meyer Lemons

I'm not trying to be cute, but if you have a tree with 300+ Meyers on it, like we do, the juice freezes very well for later use when the crop is gone.

Anyone check out the new Food and Wine site FWx?

Sort of the anti-Saveur.

What Happens When You Order Every Mix-In at Cold Stone Creamery?

Well, it's a good thing you didn't try this in Hawaii where a small cup with two mixes starts at about $8.00........you might still be washing dishes.

One Bowl Baking: Easy Boston Brown Bread

Good to see a piece on what, as a kid, my mom called "can bread." I have been making it for about 50 years and, in addition to a killer finger food at parties (folks just say "what is that?" and reach for another piece), it makes the perfect basement for a scoop of quality vanilla ice cream. Thanks.

Taste Test: We Try All of Andrew Zimmern and Pat LaFrieda's Sausages

Well, being pre-cooked, does put them into the Food Network viewer zone, right?

Pantry Essentials: All About Liquid Smoke

I guess, maybe, I must have noticed a residue in the bottles long ago because I just put the little square bottle in the freezer. No residue even for a year or so till time for a new bottle.

High Road Ice Cream Really Is Worth $10 a Pint

In addition to the quality of ingredients, the amount (%) of air, or overrun, is equally important in the final product.

Miso Ramen With Crispy Pork and Burnt Garlic-Sesame Oil

If you can't find trotters, look for pork neck bones at about $1.00/lb. Two-three pounds works fine.

Food Pimps

Wow, you still watch the Food Network? Verrrrrrrry interesting!

Miso Ramen With Crispy Pork and Burnt Garlic-Sesame Oil

The ultimate complement

This summer, twice, I made Momofuku ramen for a 75 year old Japanase women who runs the Yellowstone RV park we stay in for the Summer. Each time she thanked me profusely, and said it is "just like in Japan." I use a 12 hour cook time. Neat, huh?

Herbs and heat v. medicinal properties

Sorry, but this is "flake" science. The folks who espouse such natural products, including "Dr." Oz, usually have 10M houses in Miami, think about it.

Herbs and heat v. medicinal properties

Sorry, but this is "flake" science. The folks who espouse such natural products, including "Dr." Oz, usually have 10M houses in Miami, think about it.

Eggshells in disposal question.

@boobird....I did read your link....says nothing of fact....could also say the moon is made of blue cheese. Trusting the Internet as fact, without data, is a bit naive. Thanks anyhow.
Best,
Fred

Eggshells in disposal question.

Well, so far, seems like nobody has a clue. The about.com answers (@.15 per reply for the author) with no references, are worth their weight in guesses. I can't see egg shells really doing any harm to the steel blades, so thanks everyone for the time....always fun to ask. Down go the shells........!

Sourdough Bread

For starters, I would suggest a 3-4 day build to really develop the taste and acid. And, go over to The Fresh Loaf site, under sourdough, for about a million threads.

Pre-cooked bacon: Where's the fat gone?

Let's see....die of oatmeal, or die of bacon fat....this might take a while.

Vegetarian Meats and Cheese

Sorry, but why try and make something taste like something you don't want to eat?

Faux Cubano Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Whatever you put in a "Cuban sandwich" is up to you. However, after 10 years in the Keys fishing, I still think the soft, tasteless bread usually used is the sad part. A Cuban sandwich made with any bread of substance is a worthwhile panini, but not that mushy thing usually served up. 2 cents, and not a penny more.

Pizza with Pesto, Ricotta, and Mozzarella

Make pesto pizza all the time, but fresh pesto is always best added after the pizza is cooked. For me, cooked pesto just doesn't taste bright enough.

Tamales...warning rant follows

Have you folks noticed that tamales seem to always get a bad rap for being so time consuming and troublesome to make. Last week Mark Bittman in a NY Times article on tortillas noted "Tamales -- steamed packages of corn-husk-wrapped dough -- are more a test of patience than of technique. (They're definitely not a quick weeknight preparation, though. If you're looking for that, make pupusas.)." This is about the upteenith time I have read something like that, and makes me suspect food writers just copy each other on the topic.

Living in Tucson, I make tamales all the time....it goes something like this. Put corn husks in hot water, mix masa (with or without a lipid), put a nice big spoonful of the masa in a husk, add whatever on top of the masa, fold husk over, put in steamer for 45 minutes. Eat...there, was that so difficult and time consuming? Granted, if around Christmas your group makes something like 200 dozen tamales, it is a project. But, you can make a dozen in about 15 minutes of effort. Sheeze! Sorry, rant over.

Sausage, BBQ Smoke, curvature solution...the easy way

The other day, at Yellowstone Park, it dawned on me that some of you might appreciate a little technique I have done for a long time that just might be an original. I really don't care, enjoy.

BBQing sausage (andouille, Italian, Polish, Cajun, Spanish), which have nice concave-convex sides, present a problem if you like you weenie BBQed on all sides (sorry Carlos Danger)......and like smokey flavor.

Take two 2"x2" pieces of wood (your choice) the length of you grill surface, and put them on the grill when you start warm up. They will begin to char and smoke. Cook your weenies on the two flat sides while the wood pieces continue to smoke under a cover. Now, move your weenies to their convex or concave sides and press the two pieces of wood together to hold the sausage in the correct position (10 at a time in my case) to cook a third side. Repeat on the other curved side. Cook to finish, and you have cooked and smoked your weenies. My current pieces of hickory are in their third year, nicely charred, and still going strong with billows of smoke while my weenies cook. Yes, I have done the wood "chip in-foil thing" but this is as much about cooking the sausage on all sides as smoking. Enjoy...thanks Carlos.

Eggshells in disposal question.

Am I dreaming, or did I read somewhere long ago, that it was bad to put eggshells down the disposal? We have a 3/4 HP beast that seemingly would grind up whole trees, but I can't seem to get the eggshell admonishment out of my head. Anyone else ever heard this one? Maybe yet another urban legend? Thanks.

A Brazilian manioc question

A number of years ago I had the pleasure of spending two months camping out in the Amazon region while doing a tree inventory. About once a week we would be in some small settlement for a day and visit the local restaurant. I became fixated on a toasted, Panko-like manioc condiment (Grape-Nuts like) present on every table. It was all over Manaus also. It was meant to be sprinkled on everything (at least that is what I did). I became addicted, and, on and off, I have tried to find some in our local Tucson ethnic stores (3) and on the web without success. I can find plenty of manioc (cassava) flour, but a toasted crumb product eludes me. I suspect that I just don't know the proper Brazilian name for that particular product as I would find it listed on a web grocery site. Can anyone help, please? Thank you.

Fred

TIC Gums, Inc. for no-calorie dressings

A year ago I lost 50 pounds, I'm 74 yrs old. No secret, just counted calories and did excerise. However, I really like to cook and enjoy a fancy bowel of salad maybe four times a week for dinner. The greens and shrimp or a few pork belly lardons are no great problem, but any dressing oil is 120 calories a tablespoon, and at 700 cals a day allowed, that was a problem.

I found a company, Walden Farms, that makes no calorie salad dressings, and, using their list of stabilizers, set out to make the dressings I like, no-calorie. Gel suppliers for the commercial market, on the web, sell each of the usual stabilizers in "pound" quantities, and I was disappointed until I stumbled on TIC Gels. They sell small containers of various mixes under snappy names and so you can try a few till finding what seems to suit you, for a reasonable initial investment. I tried several and their #702 "Saladizer" is what I now use; about one teaspoon in an initial two cups of water plus whatever additives used, makes a pourable dressing. My final mixes, done in a blender, with a tablespoon of olive oil to absorb the oil soluble components (such as powered cheeses), usually comes to about 10-15 cals/T; not 120. Also, you need a preservative and that seems to be sodium benzoate (1tsp/2C water) and needs a low pH to be effective so I add a dash of vinegar or lemon juice. I found a small quantity of sodium benzoate available at, of all places, SoapGoods.com.

Over the years I also have grown pounds and pounds of basil for making pesto, and now use water rather than olive oil plus the same gel mix. The pesto certainly doesn't have the "oil look or feel," but dressed on hot pasta you really can't tell the difference. And the pesto, with pine nuts, comes in at 10 Cal/T rather than 140.

All of this might seem trite and small, but if you are really trying to lose weight, and are honest about counting calories, hopefully it might help. Substituting for oil is not all that easy.

I need a ginger substitute

My wife is allergic to ginger. I have cooked Asian food for 40 years and can handle other substitutions due to other allergies, but ginger has me stumped. I just leave it out, but the final flavor is simply missing that punch. Can you help? Maybe there is no substitute and galangal is a ginger so that doesn't work. Thanks for the time.

A physics of boiling water question.

Anyone who has a pot or pan of simmering liquid, and turned off the heat (gas), must have noticed the instant "burst" of steam coming from the liquid surface. I mean instant. There is no way that any change in heat transfer from the source, to the liquid surface, could be involved in that instant.

I understand all the physics of boiling, atmospheric pressure, heat transfer, and the energy of the molecular movement of water molecules. But, I still don't get the "puff" of steam which happens when the energy source is removed. And, that elevated emission continues for some period of time.

My latest sighting just occurred when finishing a reduction of half and half, a head of garlic, and two tins of anchovies for a northern Italian bugna couda dip. Thanks for the time.

Momofuku ramen broth: Some discrepancies on line

Various blogs, trying to provide a recipe for Momofuku ramen broth, seem to have some meaningful variations from the TV noodles show on Mind of a Chef with David Chang. The show adds kombu, mushrooms, meat, and vegetables in a certain sequence and for certain timings which, sort of, follow how I have always made stock (50 years). Basically, you cook the meat and vegetable components for a long time and throw them away because there is no flavor remaining as all flavor is now in the stock. But, on various blogs (I know, I know, not even close to experts), we see variations which are, apparently, quotes from the Momofuku cookbook which deviate greatly from the TV show. Cook the chicken for an hour and save the meat? Put the vegetables in for only an hour at the end? The show, with presumably footage from the restaurant, says cook it all (after the kombu and mushrooms) for 12 hrs plus and, I guess, throw meat and veg out....which seems like the correct way to make a stock.

So, if you have the cookbook, and have saved the TV show, any ideas on these two diversions on Momofuku ramen broth?

Black pepper mixture

For your enjoyment, I offer the following mixture.  We have worked on and off in southern India since the early '80s, and have always appreciated the use of local black pepper in southern Indian cooking.  A bit different, try this instead of your table pepper.

3:1:1 black pepper, Szechwan pepper corns, Grains of Paradise....dry toast and grind. We really enjoy this mix on a piece of seared tuna or on a light pasta.

Fred and Melinda Rickson
Tucson

Personalities vs. chefs

Interesting that a February 22nd piece in the Miami Herald, on the South Beach Wine & Food Festival lists Food Network folks such as Flay, Deen, Ray, Laurentiis, etc. as personalities, while other names we recognize such as Ducasse, Trotter, English, Matsuhisa, etc. are listed as chefs. Elaine Walker in the Herald sure got that one right.

No salt needed in pasta water, or most anything else

Maybe it has been said many times before, but you do not need to add salt to pasta cooking water. It does nothing to help in the cooking. I bring this up after watching cooking show after cooking show grab a paw full of salt (especially the "blond" chef of the Cooking Network) and add it to the water (or anything else in sight of the stove). I had two grandparents who emigrated from Italy who salted everything. So, after 60 years of salt 'cause my grandparents couldn't be wrong!, right? my doctor said knock off the salt, you don't need it.

Look, if you make a good sauce, you do not need the salting "at every layer of flavor" admonition offered by everyone on TV. You have salt on the table....your guests can use it. Adding salt at every addition to the pot (hear me, Lidia Bastianich?) is really a sign of ignorance. It doesn't work that way because you STIR THE POT so there is no "layering" in the mix. Additionally, a braise of meat does not need salt and pepper because you will adjust the seasonings at the end of evaporation (cooking) period anyhow, so the initial browning is just browning....not an important time for salt addition.

OK, enough, sorry. You get it, think salt versus cooking vs. health and offer salt at the table, not in the cooking process.

Fred Rickson

Bourdain might be back

Since I started last week’s downer look at the No Reservations show (the clip extravaganza), I would like to note that the NY show was great. The food and its preparation was forefront with a minimum of Tony side facial shots. All hail and long live the food.

Oh, @ gingerwhatever, I hope this meets your language standards….I apologize for forgetting my long ago Latin classes.

The secret to Chinese (Asian) cooking is….

heat. After traveling and cooking Asian for 40 years I can tell 99% of the Talk folks who ask “How?” that the answer is more heat. About 30 years ago I sent home (from Kuala Lumpur) a 15 kg. gas propane ring and my cooking improved 100%. Then 10 years ago I bought a free standing Viking, three ring, natural gas burner ($1500. bucks) and thing just got easier and better. Think about it…..when was the last time you saw a real Asian chef cooking on an electric hot plate or even a typical gas range. No, they cook on a rimmed hole with what looks like a dozen blow torches facing upward. Heat equals quickness. You stand there and keep the food moving for just a bit of time, while the Food Network chefs (sic) put everything in a wok and go off to do something else. You never see an Asian chef leave the wok after adding something. Get yourself some heat and enjoy.

Grind your bay leaves

Over and over a recipe ends with “remove the bay leaves and serve.” Sorry, but using whole bay leaves, dry or fresh, doesn’t make sense. Put a few dried bay leaves into the spice grinder and treat them like the rest of your dried additions. Same with fresh bay or give them a nice fine chop. Why do folks grind everything from peppercorns, to sumac, to cardamom, to pandan, but use bay leaves whole. I don’t get it, and I'll bet you release more flavor from the ground/cut form..

Collecting really local cookbooks

I am about finished traveling, but for the past 50 yrs I have traveled in Asia and the New World. I have always sought out book shops and looked for the really local tomes put out by churches, civic groups, or women’s groups. They usually run about a buck or so. You might have to work on translations for local items (it’s a nice introduction for talking with the locals), but you’ll remember where you purchased each one and that can be fun it itself let alone cooking from really authentic recipes. And, it gives you a meaningful project for those empty moments on a trip. Start young, as my earliest is from Mexico in 1958.

A question on food photography…why out-of-focus?

A portion of my career consisted of taking and publishing photographs. Unless you really wanted to highlight a portion of a photo, such as one person in a crowd, your complete subject matter was in focus. Now, I see a plate of spaghetti photographed with maybe the middle strand on the plate in focus, and everything in front or behind, fuzzy. You would have been laughed out of the club had you tried to submit something like that for publication just a few years ago.

An out-of-focus photo means that the image depth of field was inadequate for the depth of the subject. This depth, in “close-up work,” is controlled by how small your lens is stopped (closed) down, and the amount of light you bring to bear on the subject. So, with film, quality of equipment, including the light source, was a big consideration if you wanted a complete plate of food in focus when taken at maybe a 45 degree angle.

So, is the out-of-focus in today’s food photography the result of “coolness,” something restrictive in digital equipment, or just an example of a cheap system used in film photography? Thanks.

The Paupered Chef needs and Editor.

Maybe it’s just my weak memory, but most of the recipes from this source have enough mistakes to engender questions in the “comments” column. Maybe whoever writes the web site needs an Editor or just someone who can proof the articles.

Panini press recommendation, please.

We need your recommendation for a Panini press. Just the two of us so one large or two small sandwiches at a time is all we need. I ask because there is a plethora of models out there and a seemingly equal number of considerations....lid weight, lid angle, equal heating on both sides, etc. Price is not a consideration. Thank you for the time.

Guy Fieri on Food Network can’t miss

It seems official that he will have a hit. The promos indicate that Central Casting has found Emeril’s old audience and so there will be wild applause, cheering, and weeping at the addition of salt and pepper to a dish. Well, at least no Tivo space will be used up on this new show.

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