Archive for the ‘kitchenware’ Category

Importance of Following Rules

August 22, 2007

WARNING! If you don’t like bloody stories, or don’t want to see the reality of cooking disasters, do not read this post.

Many people don’t follow rules. Sometimes they end up going to a jail, sometimes pastries don’t get as fluffy as hoped, or this time, it ended up pretty bloody and painful.

A mandoline slicer is a great kitchen gadget to have. From perfectly cut french fries, thin sliced vegetables to even making vegetable spaghetti, it is a nifty device. I went to Chelsea kitchen market (which I found out to be Bowery Kitchen Supply store’s satellite, or a jacked up version of it), and looked around for whatever I might be able to find. And check it out, a mandoline for $9.99! When you go to Williams-Sonoma, you will find it for $150 since they are all stainless steel and fancy, and $9.99 is as cheap as it gets.

I was very excited to test the quality of it. Once I got home, I took a potato, and started to slicing it, amazed by the sharpness of the blade, and of course WITHOUT USING THE GUARD.

Below is the crime scene a couple of minutes after I sliced off a piece of my thumb. A Quarter inch deep, 1 centimeter wide skin was completely sliced off.

Would you like a piece of finger on a thin sliced potato?

When using mandoline, it clearly warns that the blade is VERY sharp, and make sure to use the guard. I had way too much confidence in me, and I cannot use my left thumb for a long time. Also I am sure my thumb will have a big dent without finger print as well. Hey, maybe I can commit a crime and no one can identify me from the fingerprint…

Lesson learned. Sometimes one has to follow rules, otherwise the result is disastrous.

All-Clad or All Crap?

July 18, 2007

I was watching the Today Show this morning, and Bittman was explaining to Lauer that we do not need to buy expensive kitchen stuff. He said one can go to any restaurant supply store and buy cheap stuff. I do see his point that chefs cook thousands of meals and abuse pots and pans, so restaurant supply is the most durable and long lasting.

I go to TJ Maxx, Marshalls or Daffy’s to buy clothes, but I have to admit I buy my kitchen stuff almost exclusively at Williams-Sonoma. I drool over their All-Clad collections, cry a little imagining life with their margarita making machine, dream about owning the full Global knife set and shout a little when finding a new shiny color for Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I shouldn’t go there after eating escolar, that’s for sure.

In terms of teflon coated pans, yes, I do buy a cheap one and throw it away once it starts sticking onto my food, but everything else is All-Clad, Le Creuset and all my knives are Global. I have a billion gadget from OXO, Microplane this and that. Is this bad? Am I a sucker for consumerism? Do I watch too much Food Network? Do I need an intervention? Over the years, I collected many pieces of All-Clad, and I don’t regret any of it, but are restaurant supply store items as good, or better than high end brands? Is this like me bitching about the German oven? What about Japanese knives using the same method as samurai sword making techniques?

I want to hear people’s opinion about this. By the way, Emeril cookware is made by All-Clad, but I do NOT consider his crap to be the same quality as my loving All-Clads.

American Brands are Not Good Enough for High Rollers?

July 10, 2007

I am hooked on food blogging! I finally bought a USB transfer thing that I can download pics from my digital camera directly into any computer, so it’s very easy to upload visuals.


Anyhow, in my previous blog about Peking duck, I mentioned Gaggenau kitchen appliances, and this time, I will tell you more about it (or bitch about it). I thought Viking or Subzero/Wolf were the best of the crops until now. Miele, and Gaggenau from Germany, or GeD from Italy supposedly makes some of the highest priced kitchen appliances and shelving units. If you have a couple of million dollars sitting around, and want to buy some of the new developments Manhattan, they are all equipped with one of these designer appliances. My friend just bought an apartment downtown (the famous one designed by Armani), and yes, the website proudly announces that their kitchen appliances are all Gag.

I say this is bullshit. Those who can afford $1 million+ apartments are the people who will most maximally keep booze in the freezer and water and coke in the fridge, and maybe some who-knows-how-long-it’s-been kind of cheese from a party they hosted 4 months ago, nothing else. They might use the stove to boil water, or make mulled wine for winter parties, but they probably also store shoes or magazines in the oven, like Carrie Bradshaw. I see the point of making the apartment look pretty with designy appliances, that will surely kick up the price by 1000s, but they are NOT user friendly, especially for Americans (or people who are used to using American appliances).

I used to have Kitchen Aid appliances, and I loved them. Yeah, they were huge but I used to cook 25 lb turkey for Thanksgiving plus stuffing on separate dish in the same oven.

But what’s wrong with them? They are not that expensive compared to these sleek design European ones. Yes I praised rotisserie rod, and I admit they are nifty. But other than that, everything else is weird. The manual says “when you turn the flame on the stove, you must keep igniting (tick tick sound, you know) for 5-8 seconds in order to warm up the heating elements”. What the hell does this mean? Every time I turn the flame on, I have to keep that annoying ticking sound for 8 seconds, otherwise, it doesn’t stay. This is weird.

Also it takes about 20 minutes to heat up the oven unless you keep the convection on. Such a small oven takes 20 minutes to heat up to 400 degrees? Yes, there is a bread dough rising function, and several different heating methods to get the maximum result from whatever you make in the oven, but who uses that many functions?

My biggest concern right now is turkey, or cooking multiple dishes at the same time for holiday meals. I am already thinking some alternative ways to make turkey this Thanksgiving, because there is no way I can cook 20 lb in such a small oven like Gag, and what the hell am I going to do about the stuffing, baked sweet potatoes, and farmers pasta (Giada De Laurentiis recipe)?!

Yet, they do look cool next to GeD‘s “no slamming” drawers, white marble tops and mirror coated stainless steel cabinet doors, I must admit…

The Vibe Collection Avocado Slicer

July 9, 2007

I picked up this avocado slicer at Target last week as a gift for Carlos, Japan Society Avocado Lover. I’m going to make him try it at lunch today and I’ll share the results. Stay tuned!

Celebrating Spring with Crazy Daisy Pyrex

May 17, 2007

When Ryohei (aka Yamahomo) announced that he was moving, the first thing I asked was, “can I buy everything you’re selling from your kitchen?” You see, Ryohei is a master chef who truly has the most comprehensive, exquisite kitchenware of anyone I know. He needed to downsize his possessions since he would be moving from his spacious 2 bedroom in Jersey to an itzy-bitzy bedroom in Chelsea–lucky for me!

First thing he offered me was his set of vintage Pyrex mixing bowls for $35. I didn’t even ask what they looked like– I immediately said HELL YES!

From the very moment I laid eyes on the set of bowls, I was in love. All four are in perfect condition, and are gorgeous. The colors cleverly alternate starting with biggest bowl, a retro pea-green color, with little white flowers that go all the way around the bowl; and white bowls with the same shade green flowers. 2 green and 2 white- so cool!

Nowadays, when you think Pyrex, you think clear glass, simple, straightforward containers and bakeware that you get at Target for $5– extremely functional and nicely designed in their own right. Wiki defines Pyrex as: “a brand name for heat-resistant glass introduced by Corning Glass Works in 1915.”

However, through my extensive research about my new bowls, and about vintage Pyrex in general, I have discovered one thing: Pyrex is highly coveted and extensively collected all around the world. It’s a cult. There is a black hole of website after website of people professing their love for their funky Pyrex patterns, selling Pyrex from the 50s, meticulously chronicling each Pyrex series, documenting and photographing their rare Pyrex collections, etc, etc. These Pyremaniacs are so devoted! I love them!

Ok, about my bowls: I found most of my information through Pyrexlove, an incredibly informative blogsite for Pyremaniacs. This is what I learned about my beloved set of bowls:
– they were first manufactured in the 60s
– the official name for this style set: “440 Series Cinderella Mixing Bowls Set”
– there is an ID# for each bowl, which is:
#441 (1.5 pint), #442 (1.5 quart), #443 (2.5 quart) #444 (4 quart)

Apparently, there is an ongoing dispute about the name of my particular series (Pyrex has cute names for every single one of their designs)- some call it “Spring Blossom Green” while it is also referred to as “Crazy Daisy”. According to a comprehensive investigation on the website “The Pyrex Files: The Patterns Are Out There Somewhere” (how GREAT is that?), the original box states that they are indeed called “Spring Blossom Green”– Pyrex Files speculates that they were redesigned at some point and were unofficially renamed (note the redesign comparison on the site). Pyrexlove also talks about the differences here.

I had been following my same exact set of bowls on eBay over the week to see how much it goes for (the vast assortment of vintage Pyrex on eBay is never ending- it even has its own category!) . One set ended with a final bid of $20.49. Another one ended without as much as one bid, with its starting bid at $24.99. Maybe that was too expensive for the Pyremaniacs? Eh, who knows. I know I paid a little bit more than the market price, but I’m glad I was able to give Ryohei’s set a loving new home. Look at how cute they are nesting inside one another in my garden of tulips and daffodils! Happy Spring! *k*

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 3,4 & 5

March 28, 2007

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Prologue
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 1 & 2

Sunday 3/25

Total Spent: $2.50

LUNCH –> $0

everyone, meet Ruby, Ruby, everyone.

i bought Ruby as a christmas gift to myself just this past December– she is a 3 quart Le Creuset dutch oven, in a deep emerald green. i named her after my favorite jazz composition by Thelonious Monk, “Ruby, My Dear”. she is gorgeous, i adore her, and i try to appease her by cooking at least one big dish with her every weekend, so that i also have enough left over for lunch during the week.

this week, i made pasta alla puttanesca.

i was introduced to puttanesca in italy, and often crave it. its origins lie in Napoli (named after local prostitutes, says wiki), and it is a simple sauce of capers, olives, garlic and anchovies. i remember i had been wandering around the grocery store a few months back, trying to figure out what to cook. i randomly found the recipe on the back of a can of italian pureed tomatoes (shown above–honestly, don’t ignore these random recipes, sometimes you’ll find something worth cooking), and bought the ingredients right then and there- all very cheap. i somehow never got around to cooking it though, so everything was just lying around my place, calling for me, begging me to cook with them. the time had come!

let me first apologize- it seems as though i have accidentally thrown away the can with the recipe. i am a horrible food reporter. so i’m just going to link you to Emeril’s recipe (i know i always reference him, but honestly, i find his recipes to be really simple, straightforward, and accessible, he’s not about the fancypants stuff. i like that). this dish is incredibly easy. the hardest part was pitting the kalamata olives. really.

a few adjustments i made to the recipe:
– i did not have an onion, so i put in extra garlic
– watch out when you add the salt- the capers and anchovies are already quite salty, so don’t overdo it
– i didn’t have basil so i added bay leaves
– as an afterthought, i could have added some red wine i had in the fridge- but then again, the capers have enough acidity to them so maybe it wouldn’t have made much of a difference
– anchovies are completely optional- don’t put it in if it’s not your thing (although i hope it’s your thing)
– i only had a box of linguine, so used that instead of penne

altogether, prep time plus cook time was about 45 minutes to an hour. you want to simmer the sauce for at least 30 minutes on low low heat, covered. when done, dump drained pasta into the sauce and mix till each strand is completely coated. i needed some cheesiness, so i shredded some parmigiano on top. not sure if the italians would have approved of this. chopped fresh parsley would have been good to sprinkle on the top as well, but i didn’t have any off hand.

i was a bit skeptical while cooking this, but it turned out quite good, i think. i love this dish for it’s saltiness, with the tarty tang from the capers. the anchovies are incredibly subtle, almost perfumy, and really brings the sauce to life. they didn’t name it after prostitutes for nothing! i have been watching a ridiculous number of Shohei Imamura films lately at BAM–according to him, all women are destined to prostitute themselves at some point. hooray for puttanesca! this one’s for the Insect Woman!

TEA TIME –>$2.50
met up with Alda in Soho for a cup of coffee. but where the hell do you go in Soho for coffee that isn’t overpriced, or isn’t Starbucks? turns out that pastry chef Iacopo Falai opened up a casual little place on Lafayette and Prince, Cafe Falai. i have been to fancy Falai restaurant in the Lower East Side, but wasn’t too impressed- “contemporary” italian. eh. but i do remember the inventive, peculiar desserts, i’ll give him that.

the original Cafe Falai is right across from Falai, so this would be Cafe Falai #2 in Soho. it’s a bustling little place with a small bar and about a dozen or so tables- serving coffee, exquisite cakes and pastries, and brunch/ light munchies. not really my scene, but our cafe au laits hit the spot, and at a $1.50, it may just be the best deal in Soho.

DINNER –>$0
had this work party to go to at Josephina’s restaurant on the Upper West Side. i was really not looking forward to having to schmooze all night, but i knew there would be a buffet and an open bar. SCORE.

when i got to the party, the buffet line was so looooong, so i kept putting it off. by the time any of us were hungry, they had taken away all the food!!!! UGH- we are such amateurs!!! take a look at the cheese board- these people are animals!!!

it’s so sad too cause this was my chance to eat a “nicer” meal during $100/2 wks/NYC. sigh. needless to say, i was starving and only had one pathetic piece of ciabatta bread. we were able to catch some of the dessert action, but Troy Division can tell you about that.

about the food, Kyoko, film historian extraordinaire, said, “The food there was so-so (grilled salmon, pasta with tomato sauce, and I forgot the rest), but desserts were good (very soft chocolate cakes, fruit, creme brulee, etc.).”

so turns out i didn’t miss out on much in the food department. regardless, i had multiple (free) drinks on an empty stomach and was a bit tipsy by the end of the night. you know you’ve been at a party for too long when the open bar turns into a cash bar.

***

Monday 3/26
Total Spent: $34

LUNCH–> $0
Fumiko brought a leftovers that Jorge made (Fumiko and i have a regular lunch club together- probably for over a year now, we take turns bringing leftovers for lunch. we text each other in the morning to see who is bringing what. it’s really cute. people at work think we are sisters). he created this recipe of chicken stewed with cauliflower, preserved lemons and olives. it was very good. good work Jorge!

DINNER –> $27

ok, this is where my lack of discipline becomes overly apparent and shameful (and is how i got myself into this $100/ 2 weeks/ NYC predicament in the first place). when i have money, i blow it. over a quarter of it. on Blue Ribbon Sushi. but really, i just can’t NOT go to Blue Ribbon Sushi during Brooklyn Restaurant Week (3 courses, $21!)- they have this sushi/sashimi combo as one of the choices, which has never ever let me down. Blue Ribbon is probably one of my favorite sushi spots in the city.

i am a true glutton, so i said YES. i ordered. i ate. i threw down $27. do i regret it? hell no! Troy Division will be telling you more about the meal, so stay tuned.

GROCERIES–>$7
Associated Supermarket
Park Slope, Brooklyn

after having spent $27 on dinner and feeling slightly guilty about it, i decided to really try hard to be strict at the grocery store. advice: don’t ever skimp on yogurt, no matter how poor you are. my absolute favorite is the Stonyfield Farms french vanilla (cream on the top- ooh la la!), but in a moment of overwhelming discipline, went for the cheapest stuff on the shelf instead. i used to actually get this when i lived in Sunset Park and there were no good grocery stores around- and i don’t remember it being this bad. i don’t even want to talk about it- the fact that i’ll be eating this for the rest of the week upsets me. it’s out: i am a yogurt snob.

***

Tuesday 3/27
Total Spent: $0.50

BREAKFAST –> $0.50
a banana and tangerine from my fruit stand man. he always gives me a discount, he’s great.

LUNCH–> $0
leftover pasta puttanesca, and i munched on Aya’s awesome grilled asparagus, rice and tomato/egg dish. yum!

DINNER–>$0
came home “early”, at 8:30pm, planning to cook up some chicken that i had defrosted over the weekend. but god, it’s so damn HARD to want to cook after work!!! i ended up just steaming broccoli and making my tuna broccoli dish. it’s about all the energy i could muster to feed myself. i have however, managed to marinate the chicken, but it will need to wait to be cooked another day (gotta do it before it goes bad!!!).

***
COMBINED TOTAL:
$2.50 + $34 + $0.50= $37 + $10 (Day 1&2) = $47

LEFT FOR 9 DAYS:
$100 – $47 = $53

…i’m so royally screwed.

*k*

footnote: to answer Jeni’s question: yes, all this INCLUDES tax and tip. everyone, please pray for me.