Category Archives: Cooking

Arrogance and E. Coli

Those little bastards

Those little bastards

“I like my steak rare.  It’ll be fine.”

Those are the words I uttered last Saturday as I cut into a self-prepared steak and discovered my medium rare steak had clearly fallen more on the rare side.  Much more.

I’ll eat it anyway.  It won’t hurt me.  I’m a man.  I’m arrogant.  Especially when it comes to my ability to man a grill and my intestinal fortitude.  I also didn’t want to relight the grill.

Twenty-four hours later, as I lay sprawled across the linoleum in the bathroom, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision.

E. Coli is no joke.  If I’d have been a child or elderly I would’ve been hospitalized and may not be here  today.  As it was, I simply had 5 days of misery to ask myself why I didn’t give my rare steak a little more flame.

Now, I’m not going to become a medium-well kind of guy.  Stubbornness is another male trait I have in spades.  And, ultimately, rare doesn’t mean E coli.  It  only means I’ve hit the menu disclaimer:

* “Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.”

But I am going to learn from my exercise in macho grill arrogance.  I will learn to cook my steaks a little longer.  And I will, I promise, relight the grill after cutting into a steak that gives me pause.  Unless I don’t feel like it.  It’ll be fine….

As a quick aside, since I’ve undermined my credibility in steak preparation, check out this guide to be sure my fate doesn’t befall you. 

A Home Cook is Born

home cook

Earlier this week I met with a friend to discuss a some issues she was having concerning her diet and nutrition.   Overall she was doing really well.  She ate a protein filled breakfast everyday, ate a turkey sandwich at her desk for lunch, and had discovered kickboxing.

Her struggle started when the hours got late.  She admitted she rarely, if ever, cooked her own dinner.  Something to work on, to be sure.  But there are worse diet problems.

To address her biggest dieting hole she decided to set an easy goal.  Once a week she would plan and prepare a meal at home.  Problem #1, however, was she had no earthly idea what to cook.

As her sister and I began offering suggestions she seemed slightly intimidated.  Screwing up was her main concern.  Burning down the kitchen less so.

I assured her she would in fact produce a few interesting results.  Learning to cook will do that to you.  But I forgot to stress she will also eventually get it right.  In fact, I’m certain at some point she’ll surprise herself.  The joy of cooking will indeed find its way to her stove-top.

And then a miraculous thing will happen.  She’ll actually want to cook for herself.  She’ll want to perfect the one thing she surprisingly produced.  Then, bored with that, she’ll slowly branch out and begin to dabble in areas she’d never previously considered.

Soon the days of nightly Chinese delivery and frozen dinners will fade.  She’ll be a little healthier as a result.  A home cook is born.  One botched, and successful, meal at a time.

The First Step to Becoming a Better Cook

Pic stolen from a friend.  He's a better cook than I.

Pic stolen from a friend. He’s a better cook than I.

I’ve never worked the line in a restaurant.  In fact, my glorious summer as a busboy at Olive Garden notwithstanding, I’ve never spent any time in a restaurant kitchen.  Put simply, I’m no cook.

But I’ve managed to pick up the first, and arguably most important, step in preparing more palatable home meals. Those that have worked the line call it mise en place.  I call it food & forks before fire.

It means getting all your food chopped, tools prepped, and seasonings organized before you light the burner.  Lest you burn the chicken while scrambling for a set of tongs or a shaker of thyme.

This kind of efficiency is required for restaurant line cooking.  Where, from my perspective, prepping food seems an exercise in managed chaos.

But even if the only chaos you encounter is getting the burgers plated before kickoff, the principle of mise en place can make you a better home cook.  Or, minimally, a less stressed one.


Frozen Junk Food has Gone Too Far

There’s no way we’ve become this lazy.  Or this stressed for time.  I understand  junky food is designed to be quick and easy, but this is ridiculous.

I spotted this at Target last week..20121206_182029

A frozen nacho kit.  With directions for microwave heating.  My god, what have we done?  Are we really unable to put forth any effort in preparing food?  Even easy-to-make nachos?  Brown beef, spread chips on tray, sprinkle cheese, add beef, broil for 3 minutes…Bang, you’ve got nachos.

Michael Polian, author of Food Rules, says if you want junk food, make it yourself.  His idea is if you put the effort into making say, french fries, you’ll eat it less often.  A solid idea.  If not widely practiced.

But nachos are a loop hole to this plan.  10 minutes!  And you can follow his advice and still eat poorly!  Unless he supports making your own tortilla chips.  In that case, his advice goes from reasonable to unpractical.

So please, don’t microwave frozen nachos.  I’m asking as a fellow human.  Keep some things sacred.


A Healthy French Fry

Kholrabi bulbs come in purple and green

What magic a CSA box brings.  The mildly exotic veggies that appear in our weekly order often open our eyes to new flavors and textures.  Little did we know from our box last week a diet changing vegetable would spring forth.

The magic came in the form of a root vegetable called kholrabi (kōl-ˈrä-bē).  We were puzzled how to prepare this strange-looking vegetable known as a German turnip.  The magic of Google led us to a kohlrabi fries recipe.  We gave it a whirl and the world flipped upside down.

We had discovered healthy french fries.

Ok, ok.  They don’t taste EXACTLY like McDonald’s fries.  But they’re not far from a homemade style you often find at a barbecue.  The texture is slightly different and the taste mildly similar to a broccoli stalk.

But I’m willing to bet if you unwittingly scooped kohlrabi fries onto your plate you couldn’t tell the difference.  Or you may conclude your hosts had offered up some exotic potato.

Kholrabi fries taste even better when you learn they offer:

  • About 50 calories per serving
  • A solid dose of dietary fiber
  • A low glycemic index (won’t spike blood sugar)
  • B-Vitamins, Vitamin C, and Magnesium in good amounts.

Whatever’s opposite of the above you’ll find in standard potato fries.


Kholrabi Fries for our Fish n Chips

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Remove the leafs from the bulb and peel like a potato.  Cut into wedges or fries.
  3. In a small bowl toss fries with a small swuirl of olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other seasonings desired. (I like cajun or greek.)
  4. Place fries on a greased cookie sheet and place in the oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Flip fries and bake an additional 15 minutes. (For added crispness broil for the last 2 minutes)
  6. Remove from oven and enjoy with condiments of your choice. (Feel free to toss cooked fries in vinegar, parmesan, or whatever catches your fancy.)
Give these a try and let me know if your life changed.  Or at least your diet.
Check out a few more kholrabi recipes.  Here’s the a full nutritional analysis.

An Easy Breakfast for a Crowd

On Sunday we had a couple friends over for brunch.  To have a happy brunch gathering you need champagne, orange juice, and…….that’s pretty much it.  But, our guests expect food, so an easy and delicious offering is the way to go.

This week we made a frittata.  Not to be confused with a Furtado.  She’s like a bird.  Frittatas are an egg based concoction that fits the bill for easy, cheap, and delicious.  Add some bagels and cream cheese and you’re set.

What you put in your frittata is up to you.  We usually add bacon, diced onions, sundried tomatoes, and any other veggies we have laying around.  We’ve even used asparagus.  The idea is to experiment and make it your own frittata de casa.

How to make a frittata

Tools:  Non-stick fry pan (cast iron skillet works perfect), spatula, bowl, fork (or whisk), stove top, oven.

Food: eggs (about 2 ½ per person), shredded cheese, whatever else you want to add.

How to do it:

1)      Prepare your contents. Chop your veggies into bite size pieces.  Crisp up some bacon or brown sausage.  If using the same pan as your frittata, drain the grease.  Most of it anyway.

2)      Scramble eggs.

3)      Lightly coat your pan with non-stick spray and set it over medium high heat.

4)      Toss in your veggies.  Cook to desired doneness.

5)      Add eggs.  Stir the eggs once only so they have a chance to leak under your veggies.

6)      Reduce heat to medium and add any precooked meat.

7)      Once the eggs have set about 2/3 of the way turn on the broiler.

8)      Sprinkle cheese on top and move pan to broiler.  Cook under broiler for about 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted.

9)      Cut like a pizza and serve immediately.  With a fresh round of mimosas.

It’s About Thyme

A few weeks ago I extolled the virtues of my herb garden planter box and promised to give quick guides on each of the herbs growing on my windowsill.  Today let’s talk about thyme.

Every morning I peel about a dozen thyme leaves off their stem and toss them in my omlette along with salt and pepper.  It makes my ordinary breakfast taste somewhat sophisticated.  Which, in turn, makes me feel more sophisticated.

Besides eggs, thyme adds a nice complement to pasta, bean dishes, and seafood.  Thyme adds a satisfying undercurrent to dishes, but rarely overpowers the food.  Making it a perfect fresh herb to experiement with.

Give thyme some, ahem, time, in your kitchen and you’ll become a better cook. Or at least feel more sophisticated.  Possibly French.