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Everything posted by DaveFaris

  1. Fwiw, I've never felt insecure working with one, slippage wise. (Sharpness wise, maybe.) And I've never developed blisters, or even hotspots on my skin, using it. But I could see if I were a professional, cutting mountains of stuff with it, maybe it would be an issue.
  2. I got a Global last year, along with the sharpener mentioned above, and I've been nothing but completely satisfied with the weight, feel and quality of it. It's the best knife I've ever owned, (but it's also the most expensive one, too).
  3. Don't know if you want to plant forsythis, per se... just use the ones your neighbors have already planted as an indicator that the ground is thawing enough to start working the soil. (This is also a good time to start spreading lawn fertilizers, too.) Of course, this might be all wrong for your zone... so ask your local garden people. As for my early gardening experience, I wish I'd thought to cover the plot with black plastic to kill the grass, and then just till it in. I actually dug the top 3 inches of the garden off and tossed it into the compost bin. It would have been MUCH easier to just till it all in. And don't even think about double-digging, unless you're a masochist. Double-digging is a technique where you dig a trench, 18 to 24 inches deep and a foot across, reserving the soil outside the plot. Then, digging another, tossing the dirt from the second trench into the first one, and repeating until you've gotten to the last row, and then you toss the dirt from the first trench in. In cooking terms, it's sort of like folding something into a batter. In real terms, it's backbreaking work, and not for anyone, fit or unfit. Rent a rototiller. (Though, unless you rent a big huge heavy one, you'll probably have to dig some anyway.) Till the soil of your bed first before you add any amendments (fertilizer, compost, what-have-you), to a depth of 18-24 inches ideally, and then add the amendments, and till again. Your goal is to get light, airy soil, sort of the consistency of sifted flour. Once you till it, try not to walk on it at all. The lighter the soil, the better the roots of the plants will be able to move through it. Walking on it will compact it. Experts say you should get your soil tested to figure out the pH. You can buy a kit to test it yourself, or you can supposedly send a soil sample off to some state office or whatever -- obviously, I've never done this -- and they'll give you a breakdown of your soil's condition, and what special amendments you'll need to add. When you start working the soil, you'll find out consistency of your soil -- either normal, sandy or clay. Sandy is better than clay. If your soil is sandy, it means you'll be watering it more, since the water will drain away more quickly. Clay means the water won't be apt to penetrate, and your plants (and you) will have a tough time moving through the dirt. Both sandy and clay soils can be fixed over time by adding lots of organic matter, compost. (If you want to avoid the whole mess, and as a first-time gardener, I wouldn't blame you, you might want to consider going with raised beds... what you'd do is layout one or more rectangles, 4-6 feet across plus the 8 or 16 inches... then buy enough 4x4 or 8x8 lumber to build boxes 18 to 24 inches deep, with no tops or bottoms. Reenforce the corners with steel L-bars) When I built mine, I put a layer of sand at the bottom, about 3 inches deep, and then a mixture of top soil, compost and peat moss. Raised beds means no tilling, and also less bending when it comes to planting and maintaining the bed.) When you plan out your garden, plan the rows so that the middle of the row is no more than an arm's length from a path or the edge of the garden, so that you can still work and maintain the garden without walking on, and compacting, the prime planting space Earthworms are good. Ladybugs are good. Preying Mantises are good. Bees are good. Almost everything else is bad. If you can't get grass clippings to cover your garden bed, try to get some hay. Stay away from straw, because it still has the seeds (or is that the other way around?) Leaves will work in a pinch, but the wind tends to blow them all over the place. If I were you, once you get to your place, I'd figure out where and how big the garden will be, taking into account the shade nearby trees will cast on the ground (which will be hard because their leaves will be long gone by then), stake it out, and then cover the area with black plastic, which will kill the grass and any other weeds. In the springtime, the black plastic will heat up in the sun and thaw the ground sooner than the rest of your yard. Let's see... what else? Most tomatoes take 80 days from germination to first fruit. In my zone (zone 6/7), that means the heat-tolerant crops, like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and watermelon go in around May 1st. Besides mint, another invasive plant, though strictly not culinary, are morning glories. Plant these in your yard once, and they'll be with you for the rest of your natural life. I forgot to mention before about early season crops is mescalun. Plant it early, and within 3 weeks (barring any late frosts), you'll be eating stuff out of your own garden! Sorry for the brain-drain here. Don't really want to overwealm you!
  4. Forsythia is a bush that starts off bright yellow in the early spring, and turns green as the season goes on. It's one of the earliest flowering things you see in the springtime.
  5. The tomato plants being too leggy means that since you can't replicate the intensity of the sun with grow lights, the plants will grow, but the space between the leaves will be end up being pretty far apart, so the plant will grow tall and spindley. When you choose the spot for your garden, make sure you pick a spot that gets at least 6 hours of full sun every day. 8 would be better. Look into buying a drip irrigation hose (aka soaker hose)... it looks like a normal black garden hose, but it has thousands of tiny perferations, and when you snake it throughout your plants, especially once they're established, it provides water to where the plants need it. A good one should only set you back about $25. And consider getting a spigot timer, while you're at it, but don't completely rely on it. I strongly second the mulching with newspaper. I covered my garden (including the irrigation hose) with strips of newspaper, covered by 3 inches of grass clippings. (My yard was too small to produce enough grass clippings to cover my whole garden bed. Luckily, many of my neighbors bag their grass clippings and throw them out with the trash -- free mulch for the taking -- but stay away from neighbors who have dogs.) There are those who say that you should avoid newspaper with colored inks, since the inks may contain heavy metals, which end up in your soil when the newspaper breaks down. However, the only place I know to get newsprint these days without colored ink is at the art supply store. Mulching keeps the weeds down, and you don't need to water your garden as often. And the watering that you do end up doing won't evaporate as quickly. I've always heard that it's best to stay away from wood mulch in the garden, because as the chips break down, they leech nitrogen from the soil. In zone 5, your growing season is pretty short... you may not get your garden going until late spring. Lots of seed companies will sell you seedlings instead of seeds (more expensive), and some will even send you the plants at the right time for your zone. Otherwise, get to know the people at your local hothouse. They'll have great advice. Neighbors, too. For a very rough time-table, you should start preparing your beds when the forsythia blossoms. You should plant the stuff that likes the cold (lettuce, spinach, peas) when the lilacs have blossomed. Tomatoes and other hot weather crops shouldn't go in until all danger of frost has passed... usually mid-May. Neighbors with trees often bag up and throw away leaves in the autumn -- another source for free compost material. As far as specific plants go, it's easy to get carried away on your first year -- and maybe it's necessary as part of the learning process. My first year, I planted too many plants, too close together. Not enough air circulation, I guess. Still, I got more than enough tomatoes, peppers (hot and sweet), herbs, and pickling cucumbers to make it all worth it. (During high season, I was making 15 quarts of pickles a week!) With tomatoes, it's a good idea not to water the plant from above, especially the fruits themselves, because the heat of the sun combined with the water on the flesh is apt to cause them to split. Of course, unless you live in a desert area of Illinois, you'll get rain, and it will be unavoidable. I've read that putting a couple of crushed Tums in the hole before you plant your tomato seedlings will prevent some common tomato ailments (due to the calcium). Don't know if it helps, but it certainly doesn't hinder. Marigolds in the garden keep aphids away. Gardening is fun, but lots of work. Best of luck!
  6. I recently had the opportunity to be a temporary parent. My brother and his wife were heading off for a weeks vacation, and I offered to watch their kids (12, 10, 8). I hadn't seen any of the kids for about 3 years, so as a way to re-introduce myself to them, when I got there, I tossed their mom's menu aside, and asked them each what their favorite meal was, and that I would make one night's meal a special one for each of them. The oldest one wanted roasted chicken... fine, no problem. The middle one said his favorite meal was --- ramen noodles. Ok. Ok. Helps with the budget, despite my shock. The last one didn't know, but finally settled on pasta. To accommodate the other two, who have some weird aversion to spaghetti sauce, I decided to make spaghetti carbonara for the pasta night. I mean, who doesn't like that? Well, apparently they didn't like that. The picked out the bacon, and left the cheesy pasta. I ended up eating it all week long as leftovers at lunch. Pearls before swine. (and I say that in only the most loving terms.)
  7. DaveFaris

    Reuben Sandwiches

    By no means a strict reuben, I used to get a sandwich at Gold's Deli, on the Post Road in Westport, Connecticut ... smoked turkey on pumpernickle with horseradish coleslaw and russian dressing. duhrool, duhrool!
  8. DaveFaris

    Deep-fried turkey?

    Trying to do it indoors is just asking for disaster! NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! And while it doesn't take near as long as my gramma's recipe for roasted turkey (which involved getting up at 4 in the morning of Thanksgiving Day), deep frying isn't as quick as you might be led to believe. It's true that the cooking time is pretty fast (like 90 minutes or something), you have to remember that it takes a good long time for that coupla gallons of oil to get up to heat... (and here in Virginny, that means the cook (me) gets to sit out in the cold, cold while everyone else is inside eating chips and dips and watching football or playing video games.) !!
  9. DaveFaris

    Deep-fried turkey?

    If I can give you any advice about deep-frying your turkey this year, it would be to implore you to test the depth of your oil before it's over a flame. Novice deep-fryers often overfill the pot with oil, and there's nothing worse than a quart or two of molten oil spilling out near an open flame. Take your turkey, and put it in the empty pot, then fill it up with water until the water level covers the bird by an inch or so, but is still a couple inches from the top of pot. Then, take the turkey out, and note where the water level reaches on the inside of the pot. Dump out all the water, and fill the pot with oil up to that level.
  10. I'm not a pro-chef, and I don't pretend to be. I really like the Global 10-inch knife I got a few months ago.
  11. herb : thyme spice : pepper, and if pepper is a given, nutmeg.
  12. Would it be safe to say that foodies tend to bond with picky eaters? (picky as opposed to discriminating, of course.) I know it's true in my case. There's very few things I won't eat, but the list of things my wife won't touch is voluminous. The funny thing is, though, I rarely will cook just for myself. So the only real time I get to eat stuff that she refuses to touch is when we eat out, and then I get to watch her squirm and fuss as she looks at my plate.
  13. I visited the in-laws in Tennessee last year, and ordered cornbread at a restaurant with my dinner. I took one bite, and must have made a noticable face. My aunt-in-law said "there's no sugar." Southerners think it's a crime to add the sugar to the recipe, but my yank palette expects and requires it.
  14. I inherited a really crusty old cast iron frying pan a couple years back. The thing felt positively spongey with black, crusted on goop. I built a nice hot fire with lots of coals in my webber, with all the vents wide open, tossed the pan right onto the bed of coals, put the grill's lid on, and walked away. 4 hours later, the pan came out fine, and ready to be seasoned. So, if vegetable oils leave the pan sticky (as I've found), is it preferable to use lard or bacon drippings instead?
  15. DaveFaris

    Ground Beef

    A staple when I was growing up, my mom called it "Slumgulion," and I've heard of other recipes called "American Chop Suey." It's simple fare, and is a stove-top recipe. 1-2 lbs. ground beef, browned & drained. 1 large onion, chopped fine 1 large bell pepper, chopped fine 2 t. oregano 1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 T. olive oil 1 large tomato, cored and diced (or 1 can diced tomatoes) 1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked & drained salt & pepper Combine the first four items in a large frying pan, and cook until the onions are clear. Add the tomato & spices, and heat through. Stir in the macaroni. Add more salt than you think you need. You can also add some red pepper flakes if you think it's too bland.
  16. DaveFaris

    Eggs Benedict

    I've been wary to eat eggs benedict in a restaurant ever since I read KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL, where Anthony Bourdain points out that hollandaise sauce is rarely (never) made on a per order basis, and the idea of that stuff just percolating somewhere, a veritable breeding ground for food poisoning -- at least that's his claim, and even if it isn't true, the seed he planted is enough to give me the heebie-jeebies.
  17. Well, I guess, in theory, putting a hot stone on a cool counter could cause enough shock to break the stone... (frankly, I'd be more worried about my counter than the stone, though). But the stone cooling on a cool countertop, and the stone cooling in a de-heating oven are probably just about the same. As you say, tossing it into ice water (or even hot water) would probably be a bad thing.
  18. I go to The Italian Store all the time. Pizza is not their strong suit. Sandwiches are what most patrons are there for. Italian cold cuts on hard or soft rolls (they'll also make just about any other kind of sandwich you want, but why bother?) You can also buy italian kitchen goods, like pasta and cookies and wine, etc. But like I said, it's the sandwiches.
  19. One thing that hasn't been mentioned (I don't think) is that keeping a pizza stone in your oven all the time is a good thing. Because of its themal mass, it helps keep the temperature in your oven more even, and allows the oven to regain its temperature more quickly after you open and close the door. (Again, so says Alton.) I keep mine on the bottom of my stove 24/7.
  20. Ok, so I use an electric coffee grinder (which has never, ever seen coffee) to grind up my whole spices and herbs. I freely admit it isn't as romantic as a mortar and pestle, but isn't it just as effective? Clean up is a breeze with just a couple pieces of crusty bread.
  21. Well, ok, ok. But I bet if you use the newspaper, you don't have to worry one bit about being careful when you turn it.
  22. I remember seeing a cooking show ("Naked Chef") where the guy kept his fish whole, stuffed it with all kinds of fresh herbs and lemon slices, and then wrapped the fish in several layers of newspaper, which he then soaked in a bucket of water before tossing it onto the flame. The newspaper, as it burns, supposedly gives the fish a pleasant smokey flavor. (If I were you, though, I'd avoid newspapers with colored ink on the pages ... maybe an , but for awhile there, they said that the newspaper inks all had heavy metals in them or something. Might not be true anymore, but better to be safe.) Unfortunately, I don't remember how long you should cook it like this. Wait! Here's the recipe! Google to the rescue!
  23. DaveFaris


    I must say, this is the last discussion board I would have expected to find socio-political discussions. Don't know why it surprises me, since food is intertwined with every other aspect of life. Still... I once was invited to spend the weekend with a bunch of friends at their summer beach home. Being the good guest that I am, and the rest had gone off somewhere, I decided to be a good guest and clean up the kitchen. I not only did not know it was a kosher kitchen, but as a suburban boy from Connecticut, I had no idea there was even such a thing. When the girl whose parents owned the beach house came back, she hit the roof and completely freaked on me. I think the problem was that I cleaned some things right along side other things, or something. In the end, it was decided that what the girl's parents didn't know wouldn't hurt them. But I was never invited back again.
  24. I've tried canning pickles, with very mixed results. Dills came out mushy, but bread & butter pickles turned out well. I haven't tried canning the tomatoes or the sauce, since freezing it works so well.
  25. So I got this offer last spring from a garden mail order company that promised I could have all the tomatoes I'd ever want in my garden. They sent me 20 plants, including a variety of huge plum tomatoes, super sweet cherry tomatoes, a beefsteak variety, and early variety and a yellow heirloom. They really weren't kidding. Even though I gave half of the plants away, I'm still up to my eyeballs in tomatoes. A friend gave me this recipe and it's been great way to avoid letting the excess go to waste. It's an incredibly easy recipe that fairly foolproof. The resulting rustic gravy is very versatile, very flavorful, and freezes well. Aside from the tomatoes and the garlic, you can add or subtract any vegetable, depending on what you have too much of. Swap eggplant and/or zucchini in place of the carrots. Add some bell peppers if you have them. The secret for the great flavor seems to be the balsamic vinegar and the roasting process itself. (And your kitchen will smell great when you make it!) Roasted Summer Bounty Sauce Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine: 6 pounds tomatoes (plums are best, but some additional cherry tomatos will sweeten the sauce), cored and quartered 1½ c. coarsely chopped carrots (optional) 1½ c. coarsely chopped celery (optional) 1½ c. coarsely chopped onions 9 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped 6 T. balsamic vinegar 1 bay leaf 1½ t. each fresh thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley 1½ t. salt 1 T. freshly ground pepper Roast all of these for 45 minutes or until everything is soft (I've left it going for almost 2 hours with no ill-effects). Remove the bay leaf and whatever herb stems you can find, and pulse in a food processor or blender or even a hand whizzer, but leave it slightly chunky. Freeze in 2 cup portions. Makes 2 quarts. I'd be interested to hear ideas for any refinements anyone can come up with.
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