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mongoose

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Have any of you cooked with tobacco?

@Babsie: My question was, 'Have any of you experimented with tobacco as a flavouring ingredient, and if so, what were your experiences?'

To get cancer, you need two things: genetic predisposition, and repeated exposure.

You need to quite a bit of tobacco for it to have an emetic effect.

My boyfriend's family are all grownups, all were aware of the presence of tobacco; none chose to sue me.

Before using the tobacco, I researched it
( cancercontrol.cancer.gov/tcrb/monographs/9/m9_3.PDF ); this is the intelligent thing to do with any unfamiliar ingredient. The single pinch of tobacco flavouring the cream I used in an entire batch of truffles contained way, way less nicotine than would be considered a risk factor. The idea was for it to contribute a flavour nuance, not have an overwhelming presence.

I can understand people's concerns over certain ingredients, such as tobacco, but it helps to have a little perspective on things; it is important to be able to grasp the difference between the repeated use/use of substantial quantities of such substances, and the occasional use of the same substances in miniscule quantities (I've heard say that alcohol, also sometimes used in small quantities to flavour sweets, may cause liver damage and addiction if taken in sufficient quantities).

Gluten free gravy, chestnut soup?

Make a jus gravy, which sidesteps the starch factor altogether, and is full of flavour:
Deglaze the pan with half a litre/2 cups of low- or no-salt broth (if there is much salt in it, it may be unbearable once it is reduced), including a couple of tablespoons of wine, if you like (sherry or madeira are both good), and reduce over low heat (you can do this over higher heats, but watch the pan like hawk) until it reaches a consistency you like. Then season it to your taste.

I haven't come across a chestnut soup that involves starch as a thickener (the chestnuts do the thickening), so that really shouldn't be a problem.
I make a pumpkin chestnut soup. The recipe is flexible (you can even make it without the pumpkin, if you prefer, but you'll need to double the amount of chestnuts you use, and I think the pumpkin does add something), as there are no tricky chemical reactions to keep track of, so it can easily be adapted to produce a very wide array of different end-products.

You'll need about a tin (the smaller size) of pumpkin, at least a cup of dried chestnuts, chicken broth (home-made if you have it, two tins of the best you can get your hands on, otherwise; if you're vegetarian, a good vegetable broth would works just fine), and the seasonings that strike you as best fitting in with the rest of the menu (I've done everything from just salt and pepper, to a wide array of spices, e.g. saffron+cardamom+nutmeg+cloves, etc.).

Overnight, soak the dried chestnuts in two cups (or one tin) of broth (in the refrigerator). I usually soak the chestnuts in the pot I'm going to use, ready to go the next day
The next day, add another cup of broth (the dry chestnuts absorb a lot of fluid), bring the chestnuts to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the chestnuts until they are tender.
At this point you have two options:
A. remove the chestnuts from the broth, and fork-mash, puree, or rice them, according to whether you want a smooth soup or one with a less even texture, then return them to the broth, add the remaining broth, the pumpkin, and the spices, and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency.
OR
B. simmer the broth until it has reduced to the point that, in combination with the natural sugars in the chestnuts, it is a thick brown glaze over chestnuts (these taste delicious, and I've used these on their own as an accompaniment to various savoury dishes). Mash the chestnuts (or leave them whole, if you prefer), add the pumpkin, and as much broth as needed to give you a consistency you like, and season.

Capsule version: Simmer chestnuts in broth until tender, and reduce broth to a thick glaze if you so please; mash chestnuts to the desired texture, add pumpkin, more broth, and seasonings; bring to a boil and simmer for a minute, or until you're happy with the texture.

Etiquette for Eating on Planes/Trains/Buses

Truculence, why on earth would someone bring fries on a trip like spare socks?! Actually, they seem a weird choice for carryon food, but if you reduce this to being all about YOUR specific smell sensitivities and preferences, you are essentially standing in the same field as those who think it is their fundamental right to bring their whiffy food on board.

I agree that strong-smelling food should not be on board, but it is as much about the fact that the cumulative effect of a lot of strong-smelling foods is pretty rough. Yes, I do have preferences, but I try to be a grownup about this, I know it isn't all about me.

Thing is, who determines what is 'too strong smelling'? And while they're at it, can they please deny permission to board to anyone wearing noticeable perfume?

Why salt my salad?

Salads are traditonally salted: that is, technically what makes them 'salads' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salad#Etymology).

But if you don't care for it, or if you're restricting your salt intake, you might ask if they couldn't skip the salt.

Etiquette for Eating on Planes/Trains/Buses

Lorenzo, you're not a snob, you just don't make much sense.

It is absurd to describe flying as a luxury; I fly a lot, and have no choice in the matter, nor do many other fliers. If a client says 'I need you here tomorrow', you are bloody well going to be flying. Passengers may not have a god-given right to nirvana when they fly, but airlines make pretty certain that there is no risk of that. As for the profitability, if it wasn't profitable for them to offer low rates, trust me, they wouldn't do it. The CEOs of airlines are not, by and large, washing their own socks in the sink, and living on ramen noodles. The cost of in-flight food may not break the bank, but paying the amounts involved for the utter garbage that is generally sold is outrageous and offensive. The alternative is to bring your own. Some clearcut guidelines would be an excellent idea, however. Then again, I think fragrance and bores should be banned from flights, too.

Etiquette for Eating on Planes/Trains/Buses

I mostly do transatlantic flights, where everyone is eating the same disgusting food at the same time, and since they're focusing on having it not end up on their clothing or in their lap, this distracts from the general repulsiveness of the experience.

On US flights I bring a few nutrition bars and some water (and rather wish other people would do that too). Some people get airsick, and the smell of food/sound of chewing and crunching doesn't help; I'll do whatever necessary to avoid someone chundering anywhere near me in a relatively confined and poorly ventilated space.

Also, the bars remain fully edible, even if flattened or smashed by other things in my carry-on. If you pick decent ones, they're fairly nutritious, too. I occasionally bring Cliff blocks or those Powershot thingies. You get odd looks from those sitting nearby, when you eat (suck?) the latter, though

I'd say that anything strong-smelling should be out of the question, except, perhaps, coffee.

Debunking the MSG myth

Well, MSG certainly turns pretty much any food into crack, as far as I'm concerned, but, like crack, it also (I can't bring myself to say 'unfortunately', however :D) can induce hallucinations. At least, it does in me.
Yes, really, no kidding. If eat something with a lot of MSG, and have nothing else in my stomach at the time, I hallucintate my face off.

First time it happened, I hadn't yet eaten that day, and, since I turn into a collossal bitch when I'm hungry, and I do try to protect people from my hunger-induced rage, I thoughtfully I picked up some deep-fried wontons on my way to meet my boyfriend.
I was supposed to meet him at a restaurant, and got there a bit before him. By the time he arrived, I seemed to be moving through time at a much greater rate than the world around me, and I could feel the molecules in the table-top. My brain still worked, so I concluded that I was stoned out of my mind. I decided to reject the theory that the Chinese take-away place was spending good money to load their food with drugs, and concluded that it must be something in the food itself.

In order to check this, I began regularly getting take-away from various Chinese restaurants that were honest about their use of MSG, making certain on each occasion to eat half the order on an empty stomach, and the rest later, after a small meal. It's pretty consistent. I seem to hallucinate easily (an excess of coffee has made me hallucinate, as far back as when I was two... crazy neighbours, not negligent parents!), so this may have somthing to do with it.

It's not really horrible, to be honest (okay, it can be sort of fun), but it has sort of ensured that I've never been tempted to experiment with drugs. And anyone with a sensitivity to MSG may want to think twice about letting their young children eat things containing significant amounts of MSG, since the sensitivity may be inherited, and hallucinations can be pretty unsettling, if you have no idea of what they are.

I have a hunch that those who are sensitive to MSG in any way are so because it is both concentrated and isolated from whatever it would occur with, naturally. Still, yum...

Are You A Fan of Food Souvenirs?

I may as well be honest: we travel with the bare minimum of personal necessities, and leave the rest of the luggage space for food and kitchen stuff. Last trip was to Emilia Romagna on the mototrbike, and we each brought almost nothing with us, but filled the originally empty space in the sidebags and topbox with so much stuff that the suspension had to be tweaked a bit, before we headed home.

Are You A Fan of Food Souvenirs?

Most of my souvenirs are food souvenirs; prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, my favourite candies from when I was growing up, Penzeys spices, the list is plenty long. Lots of kitchen-related hardware, too. The real coup came the first time my boyfriend and I went to Bolzano; my boyfriend was smitten by a commercial slicer he saw in a shop window, and there was nothing for it but to buy it, partially dismantle it to fit into our luggage, and bring it home.

Eating & drinking Florence, Tuscany & Rome

Of the places you mention, I only know Florence (but since I grew up there, I don't often eat out, but at friend's homes). I can recommend Il Cinghiale Bianco (in the oltrarno), with one caveat: if the bloke at the door is not in a great mood, remember a previous engagement and go elswhere, because the experience of myself and my friends is that the entire staff shares the same mood on any given night, and when they're having a grouch, they can ignore you for simply ages.

There is also a quite good place at Via del Moro 22, near Piazza Goldoni, called Ristorante Osteria di Giovanni... not certain whether or not they speak English, however.

I really recommend doing a little shopping at the panifici and salumerie, and making sandwiches! I also recommend the botanical garden (not so much the Boboli Gardens, which aren't so relaxing) as a great place to sit and eat them :)

Jamie Oliver - Taking On Obese America?

People just don't move as much as they are intended to. I've worked on farms, eaten 4 whacking great meels a day, and been slim; I've also spent months crouched over a computer, subsisting on nothing but water, coffee (no dairy, ick), grapefruit, Wasa crackers, and small dinner, and had a persistent spare tire.
Yes, heaps of people eat badly/excessively, but for most people, if you don't have movement in the equation, your metabolism functions at the slow end of its range, and you store fat.

'Cake Bible' Author Rose Levy Beranbaum Charged $25 'Forkage' Fee at The Breslin

I still want to know whether it is actually LEGAL to NOT mention the existence of a fee; in many businesses, this is illegal.

There are actually two separate discussions going on here: whether or not it is okay to charge various fees, and whether or not is ethical to not alert customers to these fees.
The former is purely subjective, and the ethics surrounding a lack of transparency when it comes to costs is, too (clearly, many feel that ethics cannot be permitted to interfere with desired profits) illegal (objective); on the other hand, ethics aside, this failure to inform smells like it is on the border of illegal.

Perhaps RLB is not entitled to special treatment, neither do I see that the restaurant industry should be exempt from the same standards that govern the business practices of other industries

Cook's Country's 'Wellesley Fudge Cake'; have you tried this?

Thank you! I was wondering about the eggs, because the layers came out so domed... in fact, last time I made this, I eliminated an egg-white, and it seemd to help that problem although it didn't eliminate it.

The addition of hot water (I used boiling) was puzzling; was that discussed? I couln't figure it out, and if it was meant to bloom the cacao, it didn't seem the most efficient way to do it; I was thinking about seeing what would happen if I added it to the cacao alone (to bloom it), then added the cacao-water mixture at the end.

Because of Serious Eats I _______

Annoy more people, I believe. Sorry, guys...

What are your morning coffee gripes?

Too many factors make getting my morning coffee away from home not worth it, so I get mine at home.
My only gripe? When the moron who is supposed to keep track of whether or not there is enough coffee on hand (that would be me) fails to do so.

The fine art of making Tiramisu?

The recipe wazup posted sounds good, so I'm going to just post a recipe I use to make savoiardi (it comes from an Italian woman who is not, however, my mother), if you're in the mood for making them (ones from a shop or a bakery are fine, though!). The measurements are bit odd, because this is an Italian recipe, and I had to convert grams to ounces; I did not convert this to volume measurements, because they aren't as reliable as weights.

They come together pretty quickly, and can be used at once; you can get going on the other parts of the tiramisu while they're baking.

Lady Fingers (savoiardi)

7 oz. sugar
6 eggs, separated
Grated peel from one lemon (orange and lime are good, too)
The rest of that same lemon, for its juice
Pinch of salt
4.5 oz. flour (I use an equvalent of all-purpose flour)
2 oz. corn starch (I've used rice flour and potato starch with equally good results)
A vanilla bean
Pastry bag (improvised is fine) with 1.5 cm (that's a bit over 0.5 inch) tip
Baking paper/parchment

Preheat oven to 320° F
Sift together the flour and starch, and set aside.
Beat the egg whites and half the sugar together, until you have very stiff peaks, adding a squeeze of lemon juice towards the end.
Beat together the yolks, remainder of the sugar, as much as you can scrape out of the vanilla bean, the peel and another squirt of lemon juice, until light and well-aerated (about 8-10 minutes by hand).
Using a large spoon, not a whisk, gently incorporate the flour-starch mixure, taking care to not 'defluff' the eggs.
Gently add the egg whites, still taking care to not 'defluff' the mixture.
Tranfer mixture to pastry tube, and extrude onto baking sheets covered in baking paper: make them about 4" long and a bit over 0.5" wide, and about 2" apart.
Bake 20 minutes.

If they are going to be served on their own, you can dust them with powdered sugar.

N.B. For the coffee in which the savoiardi are dipped when making the tiramisu: Assuming it is appropriate for your guests (e.g. no one among them is avoiding alcohol), adding a couple of spoonfuls of grappa to the coffee is a nice touch, and I have also sometimes replaced the coffee entirely with an espresso liqueur (e.g. Borghetti). The total amount of alcohol per serving (unless the portion is really big) will not make most people tipsy.

where do you work?

Both sides of the Atlantic/at home; I'm a mobile copyeditor. Do not get me started on the use of 'awesome' :p

Signature dish? No idea, I cook and bake so many different things (although 'beans fresh from the tin, seasoned at will' would be my guess), but my boyfriend insists that it is the 'Lasagne Verdi al Forno' from Rossetto Kasper's 'The Splendid Table', but which uses modied, usually game-based ragu.

'Cake Bible' Author Rose Levy Beranbaum Charged $25 'Forkage' Fee at The Breslin

@shortstop: Frankly, I can see the points raised by both parties, but what I find troubling is the restaurant's failure to indicate that there WOULD be a fee; there is no way that that was appropriate, and the gracelessness etc. of the reaction doesn't change that.

I keep a list of places that have 'surprise fees', most of which I discovered the expensive way, and yes, I paid them without a fuss, but I share this list with friends, and no longer patronize these places myself.
I am perfectly willing to pay even quite silly fees at places that manage to take the trouble to say (for example) 'Another napkin? Certainly, but we charge a $10 for additional table settings, even partial ones' (yep, that happened, and yes, I took the napkin, since I had half a glass of water in my lap :D ).

'Cake Bible' Author Rose Levy Beranbaum Charged $25 'Forkage' Fee at The Breslin

Well, I suppose the establishment is entitled to charge any fees it likes, but I'm wondering about the legality of not forewarning the clientele about this practice.
I can understand a restaurant wanting to protect itself financially, and not have people randomly bring in outside food, but this incident was a bit different, and at least one person at the table seems to have got a dessert from the restaurant (unless that tart was a savoury one).

I better eat in New York soon

I just don't see this going through...

Lost in ny?

Yep, need more details....

Ugly Food

The pork filling for Thai lettuce wraps that I often make looks pretty unfortunate, and the sooner it disappears into the lettuce leaves, the better, visually. But the scent and flavour are amazing.

Have Cardamom Left Over, Need New Ideas to Use It

Try it in virtually any baked good; a couple of days ago, I combined it with vanilla and black pepper, in some brownies. I particularly like cardamom with vanilla, nutmeg, and black pepper, and sometimes add it to coffee or hot chocolate, too.

In savoury dishes, I especialy like it in dishes that include one of the winter squash and mutton/lamb or game; it is also great in smooth, puree-based soups such as carrot, white bean, or pumpkin-chestnut.

here's the real reason not to eat in the subway

My first thought was that the guy was probably mentally ill; my second thought was that he was offended by your eating on the subway, and this was actually a broad, sarcastic hint.

@avaryne: yep, that sounds like typical transit authority response; I reported a man smoking crack, and all the response I got was 'Well, what d'you want ME to do?' My suggestion that she call the police was simply greeted with a repeat of the original statement.

Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Vegan Substitutes?

'Which of the following is not another name for wheat gluten (the wheat-based meat substitute)? . . .'

Actually, since wheat gluten comrprises about 80% of the protein in what, I'd say ALL these, including 'wheat proten' are other names for wheat gluten.

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