Archive for the ‘Modern Cooking Technologies’ Category

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November 05, 2012: Cook’s Country on DVD

November 5, 2012

Sorry for such few posts lately, folks. Please be patient while I iron a few pesky inconveniences like how to pay for the mortgage, clothes, food…I have a number of posts already composed in my noggin. I just need to get some time away from job searching to flesh them out.

I continue to prospect through the river of knowledge with my pan of curiosity for the gold of experience at my favorite little library, the Hudson Public Library. This week’s gold is the entire “Cook’s Country” PBS cooking show on DVD.

For the best of American cooking, the magazine “Cook’s Illustrated” and its’ sister magazine, “Cook’s Country” (and now the TV show) hits the spot. These are classic American recipes tested and retested by “America’s Test Kitchen” (the name of the group that oversees the cooking and the media) to make them “bulletproof.” Both the magazines and the TV show work out all the ways a chef  can go wrong with these classic recipes and guide the viewer to ways of perfecting them. They also test out modern tools and gadgets and recommend their top choices. They do the same with store-bought, popular foods. Best of all, they frequently show you how to take care of your kitchen tools to make them last and functioning top-notch.

Christopher Kimball founded “Cook’s” magazine in 1980 and was publisher and editor until 1989 when the magazine was relaunched as “Cook’s Country.” I was surprised (and pleased) to discover that Christopher is a Boston native and that America’s Test kitchen is located in Brookline!

For years I subscribed to various cooking magazines and finally settled on “Cook’s Illustrated” as the perfect one for me. There is nothing flashy about “Cook’s Illustrated.” A well-composed color illustration for the front, color photographs of the recipes inside the back cover and just clean, black and white illustrations for the inside to accompany the articles.

The PBS-TV show has a little bit more by way of presentation, while holding back on the flash. It comes close to the Julia Child show, minus Julia’s charming goofyness. “Cook’s Country” does radiate a warmth as Christopher graciously takes a back seat as tester, taster, and sometimes target for his charming, affable, and clearly knowledgeable staff. Viewers are taken through the recipes step-by-step, with the staff pointing out where they went wrong in their tests and most importantly why these trials went wrong. I believe I learned more watching just the first season of “Cook’s Country” than I did working an entire year and half at a bona-fide French restaurant!

I won’t deny that I sometimes like to go a bit fancy on some dishes. I do like to spoil my guests, when ever possible, with the visual and the complicated. Fancy I can dream up on my own, but for practical, solid solutions to good recipes of America’s favorite dishes, nothing beats “Cook’s Country” and “Cook’s Illustrated!”

www.cookscountry.com

www.cooksillustrated.com

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August 21, 2010: Welcoming Party for the Girls

August 21, 2010

Last weekend Teja and Barb held a welcoming party for Nicole and Katie. My part was food organizer from all the wonderful dishes people brought. Dan Winkler’s contribution was meat for grilled skewers. Dan came up with a very unique suggestion: he had just acquired a new cooking device called a Sous-Vide cooker. “sous vide” is French for “with vacuum.” The Sous-Vide relies on slow cooking to cook meat (vegetables, fish, etc.) thoroughly, yet to a desired doneness (from edge to edge) with much, much more control than conventional cooking techniques. You place the food, (in this case, meat) in a plastic bag and remove all air. Place the bag in the SousVide device and set the time and temperature.

What Dan suggested is to buy chuck steak (normally too tough for grilling) and cook slowly, in the meat’s own juices, in the Sous-Vide. He cooked the steaks for 26 hours at a precise 131° setting. What he got was a perfectly tender, rare steak, each in a neat plastic bag. Dan then put  each bag into a cooler with ice to transport to the party. When I cut the steak into cubes for grilling the skewers, I found that each steak was perfectly uniformly rare from edge to edge. I then interspersed the cubes with onion, marinated each skewer and grilled to perfection (tender and rare on the inside, grilled on the out). Thank Dan, for your suggestion, that showed me a wonderful new way to grill!

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August 12, 2010: A Slice(r) of Heaven

August 12, 2010

Photo by Kyocera

Yoshio (always generous) brought me back two of the coolest gifts from Japan. One was a t-shirt with the names of sushi written in Japanese calligraphy. The other was this Kyocera ceramic slicer. Kyocera, located in Japan, makes a variety of kitchen ceramic tools like knives, scissors, grinders, peelers, and mills as well as computer chips and other ceramic objects.

This slicer, made of white zirconia ceramic, is super-sharp, stays sharp, does not rust, can be bleached and is easy to store and clean. The blade is so sharp it’s easy to forget and go too fast, so be sure to use the finger guard that comes with the slicer!  Although 70% of Kyocera’s business is through Japan, Americans can order Kyocera products through Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table. Kyocera sells this slicer for an quick mandolin-style cut and also an adjustable one with four thicknesses.

I just whipped up a carrot, cabbage, radish salad in about a minute using the slicer! Just the thing for a pre-run snack!

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April 22, 2010: Review LifeAlive Restaurant in Lowell, Ma

April 23, 2010

LifeAlive Natural Food Restaurant-Lowell, Ma. (photos by Y. Saito via IPhone)

To be honest…it’s not the easiest thing to get great taste with the most healthy ingredients.  As much as we all know that raw vegetables are the best thing for us, it takes knowledge, imagination, and skill to make raw vegetables not only palatable but a culinary feast.

So, while visiting Yoshio today, and he knowing I’ve been a vegetarian for many years, he recommneded having lunch at LifeAlive, an organic cafe located at 194 Middle St. in Lowell, Ma. They say first impressions are the most important: LifeAlive has a cozy “New Age” decor with real art on the walls and comfortable furniture that made the place feel like a friend’s house. The staff was cheery and informative: whenever Yoshio goes to a new place he seems to query the staff for their opinions on the best food. The staff person immediately replied that while all the food was very good, his current favorite was “The Adventurer” which is base of short grain brown rice and quinoa topped with pieces of kale, chopped beets, bits of tofu, toasted almonds, and melted cheddar cheese with a sauce of sesame-ginger-nama. “The Adventurer” was delicious combination of tastes with each ingredient having a distinct character of its own, yet combined wonderfully together. Special touches like the warm toasted almonds and especially how the slightly sour of the beets combined with the creaminess of the cheese were wonderful. I asked Yoshio if he knew what “nama” was, and when he said “no” I asked the clerk and she said that it was “raw” shoyu (soy sauce)! When I went back to Yoshio to say that I think “nama” was Japanese, he asked me to spell it. He took a second and had that “AHA” look and said “Oh, yeah “nama” is “fresh” in Japanese”

[Yet another example of how bad my Japanese is. Whenever I cook Japanese meals at Teja’s house and I ask for “mirin” (Japanese sweet-ish vinegar) Teja…every time…and Teja, I love you man, but is every time, he get’s these curly eyebrows and asks “What’s that?” After saying ‘mirin” three times and then spelling it, he looks at me and says “OH! mirin…yeah I’ve got some”]

My “Seductress” wrap was also very good: a slightly toasted wheat tortilla warpped around shredded beet and carrot, kale, broccoli and hard-poached egg. Delicious!

We met the owner, Heidi Feinstein, who it turns out is a nutritionist who clearly loves providing this kind of food that is “closer to the source” with 95% of her food from raw ingredients. Bostonians will be pleased to know that she will be opening a LifeAlive at 765 Massachusetts Ave,  Central Sq. this September. Visit their website: http://www.lifealive.com

LifeAlive: tasty, healthy, fun. Food doesn’t get any better (or better for you) than this.

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April 11, 2010: Chef Saito Cooks for Friends & Family

April 11, 2010

Katrina (L) and Karen (R) Photo by Jonah Goldstein

At a request from his daughter, Katrina Grigg-Saito, Chef Saito made a special meal for her friends’ (Jonah, Karen and Rich) surprise party to honor Rich’s birthday. All Yoshio knew was that Rich liked meat, so it was up to him to design the menu. He served:

  • Lobster Bisque
  • Crown Roast of Rack of Lamb
  • Julienned Carrots in  brown butter
  • Spinach w/Lemon-Butter
  • Steamed Broccoli
  • Yam with Rosemary

I got a chuckle when Yoshio characterized this as a “simple” meal, although I knew what he meant: yes Yoshio, simple for you (maybe not so simple for the rest of us.) Never having made a crown of rack of lamb he gave me a few tips:

  • Sear rack to seal in juices
  • Small incisions at the top, between each bone allows you to shape rack
  • Turning the crown while cooking (unless you have a convection oven) helps to heat the crown uniformly because ovens are often uneven
  • Cover rack with foil and rest 15 minutes instead of the usual 5. Resting allows the pressure of juices to equalize and be distributed throughout the interior of the meat

Yoshio was unhappy with how the crown sat. If he had time, he would have trimmed the rack to set it more evenly. I think it sounds (and looks) wonderful! In the photo, at the bottom you see the broccoli and spinach. Inside this you see the juliened carrots. At the top you see the yams. Chef Saito pointed out that the rosemary for the yams was chopped extremely fine, so that it did not overpower the yams. He always tries something new for each meal and the rosemary was the new thing. He was very pleased by the effect.

It turns out that Rich (as well as everyone else) loved the meal although it turns out that Rich didn’t think that he liked lobster or lamb. Figure Chef Saito to make a convert to just about any food aversion. You just need a master chef at your next “simple” meal!

Photo has a link to Katrina’s wonderful article about her friends  published “Skirt” magazine.

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March 14, 2010: Motoman vs Yoshio???

March 14, 2010

Motoman SDA-10 Robot making Ononomiyaki

Yeah…we would love to see Motoman just TRY to mix Okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise, on the top of Okonomiyaki, with an edge of a spatula like Yoshio does! We think Yoshio is better looking too (…but, we bet that Yoshio would like to have Motomans’ burly shoulders!)

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