Posts in “Food”

November 26, 2012

Nacho perfection

Nachos are the perfect food. Prepare them perfectly:

Line the tray. Scraping melted cheese off a dish or tray is no way to end an evening. Line your tray with heavy duty aluminum foil.

Thin chips. The heavy-gut-guilt of a bad tray of nachos comes from thick corn chips. Remember, we’re not here for the corn. It’s just a light, crunchy base for cheese.

2 year-old cheddar. Medium, sharp, or extra sharp? No. Buy cheddar graded 2 years, 3 years, or ‘weaponized.’

Pro-tip: Grate cheddar onto a paper towel or, better yet, pre-sliced wax paper. Easy to dump on the chips, easy to clean up.

Chili con limon. Or “chile lime seasoning.” This is the secret; shake it liberally over the cheese and chips.

Jalepenos. Lots of them.

Broil. Don’t let me hear that you are microwaving nachos…


June 7, 2010

You’re not eating enough Georgian food

I was introduced to Georgian food on a trip to Moscow, and ever since I’ve been marveling that there isn’t a Georgian restaurant in every city in America. (Maybe it’s the confusion between the Republic of Georgia and the land of peach cobbler?)

“Georgian cuisine uses … walnut, aromatic herbs, garlic, vinegar, red pepper, pomegranate grains, barberries and other spices combined with the traditional secrets of the chef’s art … which make Georgian cuisine very popular and unique.”

Or, as Eli puts it, ”What are we going to do with all these walnuts?”

So we’ve got to make do at home. Start with khachapuri (cheese bread, recipe below); the lamb in pomegranate marinade is tasty and not too exotic, and I like the equally accessible potatoes with walnuts.

You’ll find most of the ingredients familiar and readily available; it’s the proportions and combinations that are unusual. Lots of herbs, lots of flavor, lots of happiness.

I studied this khachapuri video carefullly, and translated it to my American kitchen with great success.


2 cups yogurt (matsoni = Bulgarian yogurt = I used plain “regular” yogurt)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 eggs
4 oz butter
3 cups of flour


2 lbs cheese (I found the traditional sulguni/suluguni, but have seen half-feta, half-mozzarella suggested as a substitute)
2 eggs
4 oz butter

I let the dough rise for two hours in a warming drawer. Split it in two and and shaped and filled as shown; brushed with egg and milk wash and sprinkled with salt, baked at 400 F on a buttered tray until golden brown. (I had only purchased 1 lb of cheese, so I made half the filling and it was still wonderful.)

I meant to include a photo, but we ate it all. It looked like this, and can look like these.

December 14, 2009

Everything tastes better with umami

The secret to my amazing chili?

A quarter-cup of Worcestershire sauce.

Why is Caesar salad dressing so good?

Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and (I hope!) anchovies.

I spent years loving umami-rich foods without understanding why. It’s a natural flavor common in many foods and cuisines, but if you don’t know it’s there, it’s hard to incorporate in your own cooking.

The WSJ has an excellent overview, and you’ll find more information and recipes at the Umami Information Center. My rule of thumb? There aren’t many dishes you won’t improve with either parmesan cheese or Worcestershire sauce.

July 30, 2009

Fennel salt, you make me happy

FennelAndSalt What’s wrong with America, where there’s no cheap, simple pleasure we don’t turn into an expensive, complicated pleasure?

I don’t know, but I’m going along, at least in regards to salt. Murray River Pink Salt Flakes are a difference you can taste at the table. (It’s too expensive at the gourmet stores; split a 2 lb. bag from SaltWorks with a friend. Or keep it all; you’ll use it.)

And then I discovered Fennel & Salt. Twice the insane price of Murray River by the jar. But sprinkle it on some sauteed vegetables…or right into your mouth…it’s like fairy dust from Italy. I don’t regret it one bit.

June 5, 2009

We could have had an F-8

My grandfather worked for the Campbell Soup Company from 1946-1978. There were always lots of Campbell’s products around, and I drank a lot of V8.

Alas, I never got to try F-8, V-8’s fruity friend, and one of the projects my grandfather worked on. “This deliciously distinctive fruit drink is a blend of: water, sugar, naranjilla and cocona juices, concentrates of pineapple, apricot, apple, lemon and lime, banana puree, citric acid, guar gum and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).”

I don’t know if F-8 even made it to shelves, or how long it lived; I do know the concept lives on in V8 Splash and V8 V-Fusion.

An F-8 label was tacked to the boathouse ceiling at my grandparents’ summer home, and I always wanted one. My mother has the last one we could find, and I scanned it in so I could share it with other family members. And you.

F-8 Blended Fruit Drink

December 30, 2008

The Computing Cheese Cutter

Computing Cheese Cutter Some time ago I visited Everybody’s Store, in tiny Van Zandt, Washington. Everybody’s is an exotic grocery store and temple to the hand-made sandwich, located outside Bellingham in a town so small it has no Wikipedia article (!).

I ordered some Havarti Dill cheese, which is a bear to slice. But it was no problem for the 100-year-old hoop cheese cutter they were using.

“I’ve got to get one of those,” I exclaimed.

“Good luck,” the owner replied.

And sure enough, even the Internet failed me. I couldn’t find one for sale anywhere.

Cheese Wheel Cutter Persistence paid off, though, and I eventually found one on a local classifieds site. The picture above shows it as delivered; below after a lot of elbow grease and some mineral oil, still on the workbench.

I’m happy that I found one with all the original parts; after a shot of lubricant we were even able to get the lever to turn the wheel (in precise regular increments, for honest cheese dealing).

My long season of searching helped me learn more than anyone could want to know about cheese cutters. A century ago they were the subject of frequent innovation, a wide spectrum of design, and cutthroat competition and lawsuits. (I found one of the patents for this model.)

Computing Cheese Cutter, Co. What makes a cheese cutter a computer? Integrated scales and measuring controls that could cut consistent-price wedges from wheels of varying weight.

In fact, the company that made my cheese cutter stayed with computing longer than cheese: you know it today as IBM.

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