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Posts posted by nduran

  1. It's getting so you can't swing a dead cat without hitting something labeled "organic" these days, and I've never been impressed by any of it. The food that comes from chains like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods is frequently horrible on multiple levels, but rich yuppies pay the ridiculous markup just because they've been convinced that "organic" is synonymous with "good" (like all that organic spinach that was killing people a few months ago).

    I come from a long line of farmers and growers and I had my own little organic garden as a kid (though the term "organic" had not been popular at the time, I just liked squishing the little bugs with the hand trowel more than spraying things) including a variety of fruit trees. I know what fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts are supposed to taste like, and the cheap pesticide laden stuff is almost always closer to what I expect than their overpriced organic counterparts when it comes to chain stores. Farmer's markets and roadside stands are another matter entirely, but as a general rule, I don't buy anything that says "organic" on it unless there's no other choice. $3 for a tiny, flavorless garlic bulb my fanny.

  2. There was a recipe for eggplant chips in a recent issue of Gourmet that was pretty good, and I also like cutting them in big slabs and grilling them with a spicy tequila lime glaze. Slap them on a toasted hamburger bun with some sauteed mushrooms and a fresh onion ring and call it a day.

  3. One: Even the most perfectly seasoned cast iron pan will never be non-stick. If you need completely non-stick, buy another pan.

    I'm not looking for non-stick, I'm looking for a usable cooking surface that does not render everything it touches an inedible mess. I know what cast iron is. I know how it behaves. I know how to clean it. I know all of the rudimentary care procedures and employ them successfully on three other pans on a near-daily basis. What I apparently don't know is how to convince anyone else that I know these things.

    Two: I echo the bacon solution. Don't sweat it and please stop sanding it -- just cook some bacon. This pan has been around for a long time, so relax, have fun, and take the long view.

    Unless there's some magic fat contained in bacon that the several pounds worth of pork sausage I already ran through it lacked, I'm not convinced this oft-repeated suggestion is the panacea it's being made out to be.

    Something about this thread seems to be lowering the collective reading comprehension level to the point where I'm beginning to feel like I'm talking to myself so I'll just thank the folks who seem to have experienced a similar problem for commiserating and let it bury itself quietly. Thanks kids!

  4. What CAN'T you make with gelatin in it might be a better question; just ask a vegan how hard it is to avoid.

    The caplets would probably be the best solution if you need to add a significant amount of it to your diet, however. Anything that contains a lot of gelatin is probably going to end up being a lot like the Jell-O you're trying to avoid.

  5. It may be that the newer pan was already seasoned well enough and that you were really just shoring up the seasoning not actually doing it from scratch (so to speak) on a freshly sanded pan.

    Nope, I sanded it down, too.

    I'm sure the oven is not the greatest method in the world but it's all I have at my disposal. I've heard just as many people lambast lard as praise it, and I did use it to cook a ton of extremely greasy pork sausage with the surface temp reading a little over 500--it stuck like glue, charred and took the seasoning with it when I scraped it off with a plastic spatula.

    Again, I've worked with other pans without problems, so I know not to put it in the dishwasher etc.

  6. My grandmother recently gave me an old cast iron skillet that belonged to my great grandfather. It's a good, solid hunk of metal, but it's been sitting in a box unused for decades. When I first tried it out it did nothing but shed giant black flakes, so I sanded it down to the bare metal and re-seasoned it. It seemed OK, but food still stuck to it like there was no tomorrow, and within a couple of uses the new seasoning had begun to flake off, too.

    At this point I've sanded and seasoned this thing at least four times, and it simply will not take. Fearing my technique to be faulty, I repeated the same process on a newer pan, and it worked beautifully--rich brown surface, eggs slid around like they were on top of a block of ice, and a gentle salt scrubbing cleaned off all the gunk without damaging the seasoning.

    I don't want to throw this pan out as it is something of an heirloom, but it really is unusable in its current condition, and I have no idea what else to do to it.

    My method is:

    1. Coat the pan with a very thin layer of fat (tried peanut oil, Crisco and Wesson so far)

    2. Wrap loosely in aluminum foil and place upside-down in a 300 degree oven for 3-4 hours

    3. Open all the windows and hope nobody in the building calls the fire department

    Anything else I should try before I pitch it?

  7. My mother is the exact same way with her knives, and it is pointless to try and get her anything nicer. She either won't use it because it's "too sharp" and she's afraid of it or she'll use it directly on granite, throw it in a drawer, and it'll be in the same condition as her other knives within a week. I of course do not know your mother personally, but based on what you've said, it doesn't sound like this would be a productive use of money for you. I agree that you should take her out for a $200 dinner somewhere nice instead.

  8. If you google "frozen mangosteen puree" a bunch of manufacturers come up, most of which (at a quick glance) seem to be located in Thailand. Perhaps check with your local Thai grocery?

    All I see are 5 liter drums of the stuff from one company. Even if any of the local markets had that kind of freezer space to spare, I most certainly do not. I'm really more interested in learning how it's produced mechanically.

  9. You could just buy the pre-made puree?

    If such a thing were readily available for a reasonable amount of money, I most certainly would buy it. As it stands I've never seen such a thing for sale, and given the price mangosteen juice fetches, I have a feeling it wouldn't come anywhere near the $1.50 I pay per can of whole fruit.

    Cutting just isn't an option as the seeds are incredibly soft. I have never been able to successfully excise one without including a good sized chunk of the seed in the fruit as even the dullest knife will hack right through it with the slightest pressure.

  10. I like mangosteens a lot. I also like adding a bit of tamarind and palm sugar to some mangosteen puree and making everything from sorbet to pie filling out of it. The one thing I do not like is pureeing mangosteens.

    If I throw them in the food processor, then the seeds get hacked up along with the fruit and lend a mildly bitter flavor to the entire thing. My luck with food mills hasn't been much better, though I've never tried one of the really expensive ones. What I end up doing is dumping a few fruits into a little wire mesh basket (whose actual intended purpose is draining oil off of deep fried foods) and grinding them against the metal with my hands until most of the meat has been scraped from the seed. Needless to say, this takes a very long time to produce a usable quantity of puree, and isn't too gentle on the hands, either.

    This just seems like one of those "THERE'S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY" sort of situations, but I'll be danged if I can think of one that wouldn't involve a centrifuge. Anybody else have any tips or suggestions?

  11. The Costco in my neck of the woods has huge (28g) bottles of saffron for $22. It's not the best in the world, but it's as good as the microscopic little vials the gourmet grocers charge the same amount for.

    They also have a pretty good vanilla extract and balsamic vinegar for dirt cheap, and you can get a gallon of heavy cream for the same amount you'd pay for a tiny little carton in a regular grocery store.

    What's best is I just got dental insurance through them for $85/year. It's a lame Delta HMO, but hey, cheap cleanings at least.

  12. Crocs don't work for me either. But electrician's boots? The issue for me, and for most people I think, is that workboots are an impractical and uncomfortable solution for the home cook.

    Impractical for some, maybe, but uncomfortable? Try them on before you make that call.

  13. Crocs have zero arch support, so if you have flat feet (like I do) you'll probably be in more pain with them than without them. I had mine on for about an hour before I took them back to the little hut in the mall that sold them--they were the most uncomfortable shoes I've had since I was in marching band.

    My footwear of choice would be a good pair of Wolverine DuraShock electrician's workboots. They're safety-toed so you're safe from any dropped kinves, and the heavily insulated soles are incredibly springy and comfortable. If I try standing on concrete in anything else my toes go numb.

    Anti-fatigue mats are always welcome. What I'd really like to get is some of the super-springy stuff they surround the semi-dangerous rides with at young childrens' playgrounds. If they could pave an entire city with that I'd move there in a heartbeat.

  14. So, my question.  If you use a combo of soaked favas and chickpeas and then grind them up, how are the soaked favas different than the soaked chickpeas (before cooking or mixing with anything else)?  What do the favas lend?

    Well they're two different legumes with two different tastes and textures. I don't know what else to tell you other than to give them a try and decide which you like best.

  15. If someone knows the proper technique I'd love to hear it.  The first couple I made like little discs, but then I started kind of mounding the falafel mixture, those looked more like what I'm accustomed to seeing.

    What I usually do is grab a small handful and toss it back and forth from palm to palm, squeezing ever-so-gently until I have a somewhat spherical little lump. I lay them out on a cutting board and then lower them into the oil gently with a large spatula. A few little hunks may set off on their own once they hit bottom, but they usually hold together pretty well.

    Once they start browning fairly seriously I roll them around to cook their little green "heads", which I like to leave sticking out until they get up to temperature so as to provide an escape path for the steam. Also: watch your temperature. This isn't tempura, and I don't know what the smoking point of olive oil is, so use roughly the same amount of heat you would to fry an egg.

    I find that they take much longer to brown up in the olive oil, but the taste is well worth it, and it's pretty easy to reclaim most of it for another go-round later in the week. I prefer to store the raw mix in the fridge/freezer to making them all at once and re-heating later.

  16. Tried agar and didn't care for the taste. Re-tried gelatin and finally got a mixture that would hold together well enough when frozen if I also adopted a fairly unconventional knife technique: Using a very small, dull kitchen knife I ordinarily reserve for opening the styrofoam seals on plastic bottles, I score the caramel deeply to create a little gap for the blade to slide (if the knife was sharp the gap would be little more than a hairline and would close up on itself almost instantly). Then with a series of angled downward stabbing motions I cut through the ganache, half inch by half inch, wiping the blade frequently in between stabs. This spastic motion ironically yields cleaner cuts than I was able to obtain with my 8" Global razor blade.

  17. I've used the skin-on beans in falafel and the only really negative side effect that I noticed was the fact that I had a lot of chunks of bean skin stuck in my teeth when I was done eating. Nothing so bad as corn on the cob, but a good flossing was required.

  18. I was told it's easier to get non-Dutched cocoa in the US than anywhere else in the world?

    I honestly think it's harder to find a grocery store that doesn't carry it these days. Even the run-down Safeway here carries Scharffen Berger and Guittard products, and with all the big name chocolate companies like Hershey and Nestle struggling to tap into the gourmet market I can even pick up bars of 100% cacao at the drug store. No idea what it tastes like, but it's there.

  19. I don’t know if this will help but I’ve come across (but not used) methylcellulose.  Unlike most gels that liquefy when heated, it’s a gel that is solid when hot and liquid when cold.  Again from memory it is used to get the liquid centres in chocolates – which sound pretty much similar to what you’re trying to do.

    That definitely sounds interesting and I may use that info for something else, but in this case if the caramel were "hot" it would liquefy the ganache.

    Tried tapioca flour--it worked, but the result had a subtle starchy/grainy texture that I didn't care for. May try again with different proportions and cooking methods. Gelatin didn't seem to have much effect. Tried regular old grocery store pectin, too since the caramel's got some citrusy acid in it, but that altered the flavor in so undesirable a manner that I threw the batch out before I even bothered waiting for it to set.

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