Category Archives: Text

My kitchen timer

Magic Chef Kitchen Timer
I have owned several kitchen timers over my 20+ years cooking, but none have lasted very long. Now this may be because invariably I’ve bought the cheap kind, or it may be because timers today are not made that well.
For the last couple of years, though, I’ve been using my grandmothers old Magic Chef timer – which I would guess (by the style and my grandmother’s last trip from Argentina to America, where she bought it) dates from the 50’s or 60’s, for the last couple of years and I love it. It works perfectly every time, it runs neither quick or slow and it doesn’t stop. It has a loud but not annoying ring and I’m just happy with it.
The kitchen timer is not in the best condition. It’s rusted in the back and the front plate is sort of lose. It’s lasted 50 years and I hope it’ll last a couple of more decades. I hope.
I was reluctant to use the timer at first, just as I am reluctant to use any of my grandmother’s kitchen utensils. I brought them with me from Argentina after my adored aunt Gladys died because of the emotional attachment I had to them. I grew up seeing Granny and Gladys cook and bake with them, and when I look at them (the utensils) I can feel the warmth of their kitchen, and remember those sweet moments. But there is some sweetness in using the utensils, it’s almost like maintaining the connection between Granny and Gladys and I. So for the time being at least, I’ll continue using my timer.

Xmas Cooking Gifts

Every year I put a bunch of cooking stuff in my Xmas list – and this year Santa (aka my friends/family) have obliged.
My friend Lola got me a copy of the Bouchon cookbook – which I’ve wanted for a long time. I’ve never been to Bouchon (one of the restaurants of acclaimed chef Thomas Keller), but I’ve been to the The French Laundry, albeit many years ago, and that was definitely the culinary experience of my lifetime. My friend Regina got me The French Laundry Cookbook a few years ago, but the recipes there were impossible to make for the home chef. I didn’t even try.
I am looking forward to cooking from this book, though. At first glance, the recipes seem approachable; Bouchon is a bistro and thus it serves bistro food, which (to a limited extent) I know how to cook. The book, however, suffers from the disability of being *big* and *heavy*. According to Amazon, its dimensions are over 11″ x 11″ (closed) and it weights over 5lbs. It’s also beautiful, which may make me think twice before using it in the kitchen. But, I do have one of those multi-use printer/fax/scanner thingies, so I may just photocopy the recipe I want to use and leave the book on the coffee table πŸ™‚
I got three other culinary gifts.
My brother got me a set of beautiful serving-size wooden bowls. They are very pretty and serviceable – and I’m aghast that my brother actually has such good taste.
My sister Kathy got me a Knife Sharpener (Farberware Platinum), which I asked for because last year I got a couple of nice knives, which have not been sharpened since. Mike, meanwhile, got me a J.A. Henckels International Classic 10-Inch Sharpening Steel. As far as I can tell, a knife sharpener /sharpens/ knives, while a sharpening steel keeps them sharpened, so it’s useful to have both things. We’ll see how they work out.
And I think that’s it.
A good Xmas loot, all in all – now I have to clean my kitchen from Xmas Eve dinner/Xmas breakfast so I can actually start using the stuff I got πŸ™‚


I don’t know why it’s so hard to find brisket in this part of the Bay Area – or even find out if it’s available. It’s Hanukkah, brisket is traditionally made for Hanukkah, you’d think stores would understand that, but noooo.
The Safeways in San Leandro don’t carry it, the Lucky’s in San Leandro & San Lorenzo were out of it, Al Lunardi & Co’s, a local meat company, had it at $2.50 lb, but each brisket was between 12 and 15 lbs. Galvan’s, another local butcher, didn’t have it. The meat departments of P & W in Castro Valley, Draegers and Farmer Joe’s wouldn’t answer the phone. Sheesh!
I finally found it (the flat kind) at Smart & Final in Hayward. The smallest brisket was 9lbs, but it was only $1.80 a lb, so I can’t complain. Now I’m not sure if I want to cook it all at once or cut it in two and freeze one half. I like having leftovers, but if we have too much we probably won’t eat it. Decisions, decisions!

How to catch fruit flies

fruitflies.jpgFor the last few days we’ve been having fruit flies pestering us. First they were after some fruit, then after some strawberry jam, and then after whatever they could find. Annoying.
Last night I unwittingly left out an opened bottle of Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc and woke up this morning to a fruit-fly-free kitchen. It seems that the little fruit flies are fatally attracted to this wine. A waste of $2, of course, but at least now I know how to get rid of fruit flies the next time they attack.

Buying meat from trucks

Yesterday, a guy came to my door with some story about delivering meat somewhere and being left with a lot of stock on his truck (all sorts of things) that he was selling for cheap. He, of course, offered to sell me some – I, of course, declined.
Why, I can only wonder, would anyone buy meat from some stranger from a truck? Can the bargains be /that/ great, that someone would be willing to risk the possibility that the meat be contaminated, had been kept badly, be ready to go bad, come from sick cows, or just be less than tender? And who the hell are these people and where did they get that meat?
If anyone has any clue as to the last question, please let me know. I’m intrigued πŸ™‚

A Saint for Italian food

I probably shouldn’t make fun of this but today the Vatican beatified father Carlo Gnocchi, a military chaplain during WWII who went on to dedicate his life to the disabled. It’s not clear what miracle father Gnocchi is said to be responsible for (you need to have performed one miracle to be beatified – the first step on being cannonized) – but I want to believe that it was something to do with food. Perhaps a bad cook somewhere prayed to him to make a good Bolognese sauce? Yeah, I doubt it too – but with a name like that I think it’ll be hard to not associate saint Gnocchi with food and perhaps today, as I attempt a boeuf bourguignon recipe based on Julia Child’s, I’ll pray to him πŸ˜‰

Bloggers must now disclose compensation

According to an article in today’s LA Times, a new federal regulation explicitly requires bloggers who receive cash or in-kind payment to review a product to disclose the fact that they were compensated. Such posts are considered an endorsement of that product. Bloggers are allowed to receive a sample of the product for review, provided that it’s not too expensive (e.g. like a car).
Personally I think it’s appalling that anyone would review a product for compensation and not disclose that fact. Who can trust a reviewer that gets paid by the manufacturer/establishment to write that review? I even think that it’s unethical (though it perhaps should not be illegal) to not disclose it when you get free samples, it’s hard to write a critical review when someone was nice enough to send you a box of cheesecakes (and yet, I think I managed to be so). But when you get paid? No way you will be objective.
Unfortunately the regulation does not have any penalties associated with it. At worse, the culprit can get a cease-and-desist letter and be taken to court if he does not abide by it. But how likely is that to happen?

Testing ads

I’ve been reluctant to try to capitalize this blog in any way, but given the financial situation I thought I’d give google ads a try – at least to help a bit with my bead obsession. So I’m giving it a try and putting a small, discreet, but not-endorsed-by-me (I don’t get to chose the ad, and I can’t even filter ones that I don’t like) ads at the bottom of the left margin. Please click on them πŸ™‚

It’s Ramadan

A factor I didn’t consider when I made my menu plans for the week (I’ll be cooking Colombian and Costan Rican food, and trying to make desserts from the Baleares, Bordeaux and Croatia). Fortunately Ramadan lasts a whole month, so I have time to get in the spirit of the season πŸ™‚
I’ll be cooking a Chinese Muslim dish next week, the only one I could find, and then I’ll look for some typical Ramadan food. I remember that when I was in Morocco (over fifteen years ago), the iftar menu was pretty standard. It had some lentil soup, a hard boiled egg and a very sweet pastry – I don’t remember if anything else. I’ll look it up and try it.
If you know traditional Ramadan food from any other country, please let me know.

Good food, cheap wine

2chuck.jpgYou’ve heard it over and over, from both expert cooks and people who have barely stepped into a kitchen: “never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink”. I think few commands have frightened people off the kitchen, or at least off cooking with wine, than this one. While there are many drinkable wines under $5-10, it’s hard to predict whether the one you chose will be one of them, so if you follow this mantra chances are you’ll end up spending much more money on the wine that you’d otherwise want to. And all for nothing, because the truth is, cheap wine makes GREAT cooking wine.
I’ve been cooking with 2-bucks-chuck pretty much since it came out. I won’t drink it unless I have to, but I find it perfectly fine to flavor sauces, braises, stews and marinades. I very seriously doubt that anyone would be able to tell the difference between a dish cooked with a $20 award winning wine and one with chuck – once you heat them up and combine them with other flavors, cheap wine improves magnificently. Indeed, that’s what NY Time food writer Julia Moskin found out, when she decided to test the premise by making identical dishes both with good wine and cheap wine – she couldn’t tell the difference in the finished dishes.
And it’s not only cheap wine that makes great cooking wine – old wine is also good for food. I pretty much never finish a bottle of wine when I open it – so I keep the leftovers in the fridge for when the muse inspires me to cook. In my experience, wine will still be good for at least two weeks after you open the bottle. Just make sure to put the cork back before you put it in the fridge.