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Things you'd be crazy not to make yourself


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Jeez, it's no wonder people start to feel inadequate in the kitchen.

It's easy to assume that anything I make is easy or convenient for everyone else to make, but that's just not the case. Yes, I make my own lime cordial. It's easy and fast, but I'd never say that anyone else is crazy if they don't make it. And if I hate to bake and make crappy pies and cakes, then I'd be crazy not to buy good quality pies and cakes from someone who makes good ones (and likes doing it).

Well, I'd agree with you if we're talking about pies and cakes and duck confit. They certainly do require some knowledge and effort and time in the kitchen.

But salsa?

Com'on.

No question, homemade salsa is a snap to make and infinitely better than the jarred stuff--as long as you have access to quality ingredients. The tomatoes I can get November - May are not worthy of any salsa, so if i really want the stuff, I buy it premade. Sad but true.


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No question, homemade salsa is a snap to make and infinitely better than the jarred stuff--as long as you have access to quality ingredients. The tomatoes I can get November - May are not worthy of any salsa, so if i really want the stuff, I buy it premade. Sad but true.

Me too. Actually, mostly I do without Salsa in the dark times. I keep thinking that one must be able to make a salsa that is at least as good as a canned salsa out of canned tomatoes, no? Still not 100% sure where to start.

Confit is ridiculously easy to make even if lots of people don't know what it is.

Lets see .... bread crumbs. In that vein, croutons.

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No question, homemade salsa is a snap to make and infinitely better than the jarred stuff--as long as you have access to quality ingredients. The tomatoes I can get November - May are not worthy of any salsa, so if i really want the stuff, I buy it premade. Sad but true.

Me too. Actually, mostly I do without Salsa in the dark times. I keep thinking that one must be able to make a salsa that is at least as good as a canned salsa out of canned tomatoes, no? Still not 100% sure where to start.

. . . .

You could start by dispensing with the notion that tomatoes are essential to a good salsa.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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This topic is a wee bit silly. Really, all we are talking about is cooking: how much we like to do it, and what foods matter to us enough to make them a labor of love. Someone who eats a can of spaghettios (sp?) might find a good quality jarred sauce and de Ceccho dried pasta a revelation. To someone else for whom pasta is a staple and a great love, only home-made pasta and sauces will do. People who don't cook at all usually think making a simple tomato sauce is time-consuming. People who do a lot of cooking know that a decent sauce can be made blindfolded with a can of San Marzano tomatoes, an onion, some butter, and half an hour.

Things are a snap only if you are comfortable doing them and have a pantry full of staples. Just imagine making salsa if you had never done it before; how many questions you would have. Fresh or cooked salsa? Fresh tomato or canned? Canned green chile? Chile powder? Where can you buy fresh chile? What type of fresh chile should I buy? How hot is it? What's the difference between red chile and green? How do you roast chile? What is cilantro and where do I get it? Lemon or lime juice?

Some of us have the advantage of being born into a family that passes down recipes and traditions, or have parents that were adventurous, talented cooks. It may rub off, and it may not. Others don't have any home-cooking traditions, and buy the same canned and prepared foods their parents bought. Some take the leap and experiment on their own using cook books, some take cooking classes as a way to start.

Every cook makes a dozen decisions about what's important every day. I don't care enough about mayo to make my own, so Best Foods tastes fine. I do care about salsa, so I find home-made makes a big enough difference to be worth the effort. But on the other hand, in summer, I always have plenty of fresh good tomatoes and cilantro and limes in the house, so I don't have to shop for ingredients. I love soups, so I care about stock, and make my own. To me, it tastes astronomically better than any type of broth I can buy. I don't like pate enough to make my own. I don't like gardening enough to grow my own produce. I don't want to kill my own chickens (or keep them, for that matter.) What you end up cooking and eating is a complex inter-relationship of what you enjoy doing, what foods matter to you, and how much time and money is available, no?

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You could start by dispensing with the notion that tomatoes are essential to a good salsa.

Ah, well, replace Salsa with Tomato Salsa. Naturally there are other, very good salsa's, which I eat and enjoy, but I was speaking of the tomato sort.

Edited by Paul Kierstead (log)
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Gravlax is another great thing to make yourself. I remember when I started doing it several years ago, it seemed like a complicated thing, but now I realize it's five minute's work, ten if I have to fillet the salmon, and then two days of waiting, and it's this excellent thing to have around at maybe 1/3 the price of what it would cost in prepared form.

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I keep thinking that one must be able to make a salsa that is at least as good as a canned salsa out of canned tomatoes, no? Still not 100% sure where to start.

In the wintertime, if you want to make a cooked tomato salsa (think Salsa Ranchera) in the style of Pace that is about a hundred times better, and all you've got is fifteen minutes or so, try mine: Salsas & other things. Next time, instead of picking up that jar of Pace, put a bowl of this on the table to go with those chips and see what happens.

There are many recipes/methods in that Diana Kennedy thread that produce various excellent salsas. Including non-tomato-based.

Really, salsas are so easy to make, and such fun to experiment with. You can try out almost anything and if you don't like what you wind up with, you can toss it out with very little invested in time or money.

And you very often will stumble onto something brilliant.

______________________________

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Yeah, I love winter salsas ... not sure if this is traditional, but I've made them with roasted tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, onions, and smoked dried chilies (chipotles, guajillos, ets.). So tasty. Very different from fresh salsa but I think just as good.

Notes from the underbelly

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I recall that back in 1981, I visited an older woman's family home in Santa Fe, and she made salsa from canned tomatoes. I believe that she just drained the tomatoes, then added fresh garlic and onion, and used green chiles from her freezer. (people buy big sacks of green chiles in August, when sellers have big roasters outside, they then clean them and freeze in small bags for use year-round) It was an interesting item that was better than jarred salsa, and better than using the lame, pale pink tomatoes that were 'available' in the store at the time

Also note that every grandmother I ever asked about salsa in Santa Fe informed me that the new generation wasn't making it right because they were leaving the skins on the tomatoes. The old-school method of salsa making involved cutting a tiny X in the tip, then a brief dip in boiling water, then peeling. And, nobody ever used lemons or limes in salsa. They were difficult to get and expensive.

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And, nobody ever used lemons or limes in salsa. They were difficult to get and expensive.

The "secret ingredient" in the tomato-based salsas of many oldtimers is a dash of vinegar. Just a little acid to give it a tang.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Gravlax is another great thing to make yourself. I remember when I started doing it several years ago, it seemed like a complicated thing, but now I realize it's five minute's work, ten if I have to fillet the salmon, and then two days of waiting, and it's this excellent thing to have around at maybe 1/3 the price of what it would cost in prepared form.

Again, it is easy if you have good ingredients. I tried to make gravlax while living in Santa Fe last summer. The best salmon I could get, out there in the desert, was just too old for making lox. It reeked! I threw it out, but was tempted to bury it. OMG. I may try again now that I am back in southern California. Although living by the ocean doesn't mean you can get fresh fish.

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Again, it is easy if you have good ingredients. I tried to make gravlax while living in Santa Fe last summer. The best salmon I could get, out there in the desert, was just too old for making lox. It reeked! I threw it out, but was tempted to bury it. OMG. I may try again now that I am back in southern California. Although living by the ocean doesn't mean you can get fresh fish.

I've tried it with individually quick frozen Alaskan wild sockeye salmon from Trader Joe's, and it worked pretty well. You just need to find two similarly sized portions. The fish comes very neatly filleted, so there isn't any waste, and it's about $7-8/lb.

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Again, it is easy if you have good ingredients. I tried to make gravlax while living in Santa Fe last summer. The best salmon I could get, out there in the desert, was just too old for making lox. It reeked! I threw it out, but was tempted to bury it. OMG. I may try again now that I am back in southern California. Although living by the ocean doesn't mean you can get fresh fish.

I've tried it with individually quick frozen Alaskan wild sockeye salmon from Trader Joe's, and it worked pretty well. You just need to find two similarly sized portions. The fish comes very neatly filleted, so there isn't any waste, and it's about $7-8/lb.

Care to share your rub ?

edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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This topic is a wee bit silly. Really, all we are talking about is cooking: how much we like to do it, and what foods matter to us enough to make them a labor of love.

Well, yes. But this is an Internet forum; if we had to stop every time it got a little silly there wouldn't be much left.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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We use canned stewed tomatoes for salsa in the winter. But we have to have fresh cilantro to make it taste good, which fortunately Wegman's usually has in stock.

Duck confit may be easy to make but the only duck I can find is a $20 frozen one! No confit for me.

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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Care to share your rub ?

The main thing is one part sugar to three parts kosher salt, and then everything else is a flavoring. For traditional gravlax, that would be coarsely ground pepper (about 1/4 or 1/2 as much as the sugar) and fresh dill (a few sprigs to cover the inside surfaces of the fillets). Lately I've been trying other things. The last one I did the main spice was black fennel seeds with coarsely ground black pepper and juniper berries.

The traditional method is to cover two fillets with the rub and set on a plate with the two sides face in with the dill in the middle and another plate on top weighted down, spooning the juice over it and flipping it after a day of curing, and it's done in about two days.

What I've done recently is to vacuum seal the fillets with the rub in a bag and just flip the bag without any additional weight, and the pressure of the vacuum seems sufficient. I've also done a single fillet this way, and it's worked fine, but the curing time is shorter.

After curing wipe off the cure with a damp cloth or paper towel, or you can even rinse it lightly, and slice like lox with a thin sharp flexible knife like a long boning knife. There are salmon knives for large pieces, but I don't own one, and I'm not usually curing such large fish.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
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Granola.

(I still don't know what duck confit is and besides you can't buy duck in Peterborough.)

I suspect if you look in the poultry section of most grocery stores in Ontario these days - you'll find duck. Here is a link to Brome Lake. Even though it doesn't mention Sobey's - they usually have it.

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I am on the same page with salad dressing, bread including pizza, beans, and stock/broth. Maggie mentioned lemonade, so I would add iced tea. The sums being spent on the bottled stuff are staggering, and they taste of chemicals or are overly sweet.

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I agree about sausages (I can buy good meat cheaper than ordinary sausage), bacon, and things like baked beans (in my location) and jams. Definitely jarred pasta sauce, dressings or salsa. Stock, no question. Many cooked / cooking sauces - Hollandaise from a carton ? Yuck.

Bread and yoghurt don't reach into the 'crazy' range for me. I can and do make great bread and have gone through phases of making yoghurt - both are simple and labour-light, but the stuff in the shops isn't outrageously-priced, and you can pay for the quality / price point that you want.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Three examples where homemade is MUCH better:

(1) Pizza:

As in

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=77282&view=findpost&p=1087260

buy a box of frozen pizza dough balls, 24 ounces per ball, each in a plastic bag. For a pizza, let a ball thaw and rise in refrigerator for a few days. Flour and roll out to about 12" diameter.

In hottest oven, bake on cookie sheet until puffed and lightly browned, maybe 3 minutes.

Take favorite homemade tomato sauce, put about 2 C in a wire mesh strainer, use a table knife and fork to cut chunks and drain. Dump drained sauce onto pizza and spread.

Top with frozen, shredded Mozzarella cheese, about 1/2 C.

Slide onto oven rack and back until done, maybe 3 more minutes.

(2) Salad Dressing:

1 egg boiled 10 seconds

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1/3 C wine vinegar

1 1/2 T finely minced garlic

3 T Dijon mustard

1 t dried basil

1 t dried oregano

2 T dried parsley

1/2 t salt

pepper

One 2.0 ounce can flat anchovies packed in oil, minced, with oil

1 C olive oil

Combine all but last two ingredients. Whip.

Add last two ingredients slowly with whipping.

I usually make a triple recipe. I keep it in a plastic tub in the refrigerator. So far I've kept this dressing for months with no sign of deterioration.

Use on crisp Romaine lettuce with some toast, and have enough dressing also for the toast. Can also top the salad with freshly grated Italian hard cheese; I use a Pecorino Romano.

(3) Chicken Soup:

Vegetable stock: In a stock pot, add 8 pounds of finely diced mirepoix of 4 pounds of yellow globe onions and 2 pounds each of carrots and celery. Add water to cover. Simmer until soft. Strain. Discard solids.

Poach. In the vegetable stock, poach two frying chickens. Remove and chill.

Cover stock, simmer to sterilize, refrigerate for 48 hours, remove fat. Stock should be nicely clear and quite red.

Take 2 C of stock, reduce to 1 C, combine with blond roux of 1/4 C flour and 1/4 C butter, add 1 C of milk. Now have a little over 2 C of chicken gravy (volute).

Shred chicken.

Reduce stock to a light syrup that will gel at room temperature. Stock should have marvelous flavor and be quite sweet.

In a 3 quart pot, add 3 pounds of mirepoix 1/2 C of water for steam, and 1 C of gelled, reduced stock, cover, steam until soft, about 20 minutes, add volute, 1-2 C of the shredded chicken, S&P, mix, heat through, and serve.

My first good chicken soup, by far the best chicken soup I ever had, one of the best soups of any kind I ever had. Above is first trial; will refine.

The mirepoix is magic.

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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Jeez, it's no wonder people start to feel inadequate in the kitchen.

It's easy to assume that anything I make is easy or convenient for everyone else to make, but that's just not the case. Yes, I make my own lime cordial. It's easy and fast, but I'd never say that anyone else is crazy if they don't make it. And if I hate to bake and make crappy pies and cakes, then I'd be crazy not to buy good quality pies and cakes from someone who makes good ones (and likes doing it).

i'm glad you posted this -- esp after the reference to confit! i've made it, i love it, but -- if i want a confit salad, i'll buy it.

that being said, i do get obsessed with making certain things and do sort of feel like i'll never buy marshmallows again. and i have very strong feelings about not buying chocolate chip cookies. well... except for tate's.

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