Archive for August, 2010


August 31, 2010

I have long wanted a Dutch oven to the point of crippling indecision.  Le Creuset or Staub?  Le Creuset is classic, but with Staub, I can potentially make the No-Knead Bread because it has a screwpull that can take a 500 degree oven.  Or what about the elusive Chef’s Mate from Target which was top rated by Cook’s Illustrated?  Sometimes the decision is made for you when opportunity knocks.

The score of the summer is a ten piece set of Le Creuset cookware from the flea market – a 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven, a 2 quart Dutch oven, two 6 cup saucepans, and a 4 cup saucepan – all in 70s station wagon brown.  A total impulse buy that I couldn’t even carry home without the aid of a borrowed stroller.  Curious about their history with its retro color and bulbous fondue pot-like handle, I snooped around on the interweb for information, which started to put doubt in my mind about the authenticity of the pieces.  The two larger pieces had “LC”, instead of “Le Creuset” on the bottom, a ridged bottom, and no enamel on the rims.  Only one piece had a diamond stamped on the bottom.  Were these factory seconds?  Fakes?  Did I get what I paid for which was not much?


To put my mind at ease, I contacted Le Creuset who got back to me in less than a day.  Indeed they were genuine, the stamps ranged over the years, and the brown has been discontinued for about 12 years.  After using these solid pieces compared to my flimsy Ikeaware, I’m sold, not hoodwinked.  No regrets and no looking back, I still have room – at least in my heart – for the big ass oval Staub.


Post Corn

August 26, 2010

Having an excess of corn spurns a more creative recourse than just on the cob.  The easy way to prolong my largess is to take the kernels off their ears and freeze them for later.  I like a little more of a challenge and instant gratification.  A corn, tomato, and basil salad encapsulates the best that summer has to offer, but barely survives a day before it becomes swampy.  A pan-fried corn recipe from an old New York Times brings out the best of fresh corn while still retaining its integrity for days.  Off the cob and fried with minced jalapeno, the corn becomes a roast-y caramelized brown, adding an extra dimension of flavor and a hint of heat.  I’d almost say it’s better than fresh.

Crazy for Corn

August 24, 2010


I have been crazy for this summer’s corn.  For the past four weeks, I’ve been buying the five for $2 special at my local farmer’s market, and I have yet to be disappointed.  I feel for fat, chunky ears – passing the bony ones – a trick that I picked up from another market goer who didn’t even look at them as he was picking.  I’m usually able to share my bounty with others, but this week, I had to find a way to use all five ears of corn on my own.

A change of cooking technique was one way to keep my interest piqued.  Roasted corn from an old old issue of Real Simple provided an alternative to my standard boiled corn.  Not as easy as throwing the ears in a pot of boiling water, this entails pulling out all the corn silk without removing the husks, tucking in bits of butter and herbs, tying the ears with twine and roasting them at 450 degrees for 25 minutes.  The problem?  If this summer wasn’t hot enough, a roasting oven makes it hotter.  The result is slightly smokier, with surprising pockets of butter and herbs.  The kernels are full and bursting, not dried out in the least.  It’s tasty with a pretty presentation, great for guests, but not enough to make me change my ways on my own.

In a Pickle

August 17, 2010


I love pickles.  A powerhouse of flavor – salty, sour, crunchy – they liven up the dullest sandwiches, and are satiating on their own.  I’ve always thought that they required a lot of work with sanitizing glass bottles and rubber gaskets, but the hardest thing about these Easy Pickles from an August 2004 issue of Martha Stewart is waiting the week to cure.  A simple brine of vinegar, herbs and spices is boiled, then poured over blanched vegetables.  Almost as easy as going to the store to buy them.

Dill-Pickle Chips taste just like the real thing, only better, with its meaty 1/2-inch slices.  I substituted caraway seed for dill seed, and used much less than the required proportion of fresh dill, eyeballing the amount as not to overstuff the container.  It makes the best sandwich on a crusty baguette and brie, I can’t really say the same with Vlassic.

Spicy Pickled Green Beans trump potato chips in crunch and flavor for a simple nosh.  Not tremendously unlike the green beans in a three bean salad, the long beans are more elegant, and worthy of bringing to barbecues.  With the leftover brine, I can make a fast Asian pickle with the addition of red pepper paste and an overnight wait.  An experiment with wasabi is in my reach, as I love Rick’sPicks Wasabi Beans, but not the $8 price tag.

The biggest surprise was the Tarragon Pickled Carrots.  Nuanced and mild, made with white wine vinegar instead of standard white, the licorice flavor of the tarragon was almost perfume-y.  They were more like candy than pickles.  

Even though pickles, like canning, are meant to prolong the bounty of the season, I will probably scale down in the future to make small batches.   These recipes make it easy enough to do so.