An interesting NPR article on the Depression era diet and an interview with the authors of “A Square Meal.”
I don’t usually fall for those late night TV commercials, you know, the ones saying things like, buy one, get one free, but wait there’s more and, act now for free shipping. I once bought this pair of super special driving sunglasses. I actually bought one and got one free. They were supposed to cut glare, help you see through haze and a few other things. The first time I wore them a lens fell out. Then the ear-piece broke off of the second “free” pair.
But even after that, the Gotham Steel frying pan commercial got to me. There’s this fast talking English chef, cooking all sorts of things with it. Trying to burn and scrape it, but nothing bad ever happens. Burnt food just slides off and nothing seems to damage the coating. I saw the commercial a few times and I couldn’t resist. I forgot about the lousy sun glasses and went on line and bought one. I felt a little stupid but, what the hell, $19.99 plus shipping and handling, it was worth a try.
About a week later it arrived in the mail. It looked pretty good – solid and shiny. I started with something simple – hamburgers – and they were perfect. I’ve used it for other things since and it never let me down.
The pan was everything they said. Here’s a screen shot from their site listing its “Features and Benefits” and you can see, it’s even PTFE/FOA/PFOS FREE, whatever that means.
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Anchovies – Lots of people don’t like them but when dissolved and used as a spice in a recipe most people can’t tell that they’re eating anchovies. It’s all about umami.
Basic Salernitano Rules (from Grandma):
Bouquet garni – 3 sprigs each, rosemary or parsley and thyme tied around 3 bay leaves.
Breadcrumbs – If you don’t make your own (a blender and two day old bread – simple) always buy unseasoned breadcrumbs and use your own seasoning. To toast – put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy frying pan on medium heat. Add a cup of the unseasoned bread crumbs and keep them moving until they darken. Don’t walk away to do something else because they’ll burn. When they reach the right color remove them from the pan immediately or they’ll keep cooking. They should smell like toast, not burnt toast. You can use this on many pastas in place of cheese and there are some sauces where you can only use toasted breadcrumbs – fish sauces like pasta con sarde or baccala.
Browning meat – just put small batches in the pan. If you crowd it, instead of browning, it steams.
Eggplant – for almost all eggplant recipes:
“Peel the eggplants but leave some of the skin on to ‘hold them together.’ Slice them into rounds and place the slices into a scolo pasta (colander). Salt the eggplants and place a heavy plate on top and set the colander in the sink for about 1/2 hour.” – Nicki Filipponi
Grated cheese – Use Parmigiana, Loccatelli, Romano or whatever you like but don’t think you can put it on everything because it can conflict with and overpower delicate flavors. If you really want cheese, eat a piece of cheese.
Oil – when a recipe calls for oil, it’s always regular olive oil unless otherwise specified. Only use extra virgin when it’s not going to be cooked because it burns and looses its fresh taste at a very low temperature.
Parsley – always flat leaf/Italian. Even French cooks use it because curly/French parsley has no taste.
Pasta – First, use more water than you’d think you’d need, about four quarts for one pound. Add a lot of salt, at least 2 tablespoons (it can only absorb so much). Pick a pasta shape that compliments the sauce. Cook it until it’s done the way you like it and don’t worry about the Al Dente Police raiding your kitchen.
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Not too long ago my wife Bridget and I, my sister Nicki and our neighbor Susan signed up to take a recreational cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education. The course we chose was Essentials of Sicilian Cooking. It was taught by by Giovanna Bellia La Marca, a professional chef and author of the cookbook Sicilian Feasts.
Some of us knew how to cook and some were beginners but we all worked together with help from Giovanna. It took about 2 hours to prepare the meal and when everything was ready we sat down to dinner with wine right on the work tables where we prepared the dishes . Full time I.C.E. students served and cleared. It was a great was to spend an evening. The cooking was fun and we really learned something. The meal at the end of the evening was great and we got copies of the recipes to take home.
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A kitchen was set up on the sidewalk and food served under a tent.
A whole roasted lamb right on 90th Street – not something you see every day.
Traditional Greek dancing and songs throughout the day.
When I was drafted, at my first breakfast in an Army mess hall I saw what I thought were people eating mashed potatoes with their eggs. I was wrong. I asked what that white stuff was and was told it was grits. I had some and thought they were great. I even wrote my mother to tell her “they serve polenta for breakfast in the Army.” I’m a New Yorker with a warn spot in my heart for grits but as a ‘’northerner” I don’t feel right about weighing in on this sensitive issue. What do you think? Sugar or no sugar. Let me and the Mississippi Sun Herald know how you feel.
UTINSILS – Part II
Small Mandolin Slices garlic as thinly as Paul Scovino did in Good Fellas and it’s cheap enough to throw away when it gets dull. Get one in a housewares store for $5 or $10. Watch your fingers, it’s sharp.
Good for handy storage of root vegetables and perfect for drying peppers.
For getting that ugly brown stuff off mushrooms.
Quicker than a whisk for fluffy omelets and zabaglione.
This gripper was my father’s and is over 50 years old – Delty’s Fish Gripper, Lancaster PA.
Use it to make a lumpy sauce smooth – squashes tomatoes, onions, etc. as they’re cooking.
A great design by Lamson Sharp.
Really a grater but it doubles as a grill for roasting peppers on a gas burner – about 2 or 3 jalapenos or 1 bell at a time.
This one only holds about 2 ½ cups. I use it for making a trinity or any other fine chopping.
To keep parsley, rosemary, etc. fresh put them in water in a rocks glass, cover with a baggie and refrigerate. Works with basil too but don’t refrigerate. Rather than a bowl or tray, use baggies for marinating meat and fish
Use it for deglazing. It’s gentler than a metal one for scraping up the brown bits.
Hachoir or Mezza Luna (?)
I found this chopper at a yard sale. I’m still not too sure how it’s really supposed to be used but its old and interesting. It came from a Philadelphia restaurant.
Perfect for removing choke from artichokes. I suppose you can use it for balling melons too.
When the butcher doesn’t make them thin enough, here you go.
Good for powdering spices or making Flips & Frulatto. I got this one in a flea market. It’s nothing fancy with only two speeds, on and off.
For Old Fashioneds, Mint Juleps Caipirinhas, etc.
Speaks for itself.
Buy a cheap one and replace it when it gets dull.
The curved bottom is the perfect shape for squashing olives so you can remove the pit.
A simple design but does the job.