Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-01-31

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-01-24

  • @LoLoLolaWants Sounds delicious! What's going into your meat sauce? in reply to LoLoLolaWants #
  • Tidied, finally, a bit. Caught up with family. Sweating potato slices for tortilla de patatas-or atortilla espanola, potato frittata, etc. #
  • @MollyRen I could NOT agree with you more! Definitely my favorite bodily fluid. Amazing. in reply to MollyRen #
  • My plans for youth workshop re: #education sound more and more like "#Fight the #System!" and "Break It Before It Breaks You!" #WTF #STPP #
  • I have trouble grappling with #education. So many #amazing things are happening, so many good #changes – but only because it's been so #bad. #
  • @maymaym #Dolphins? We haven't granted personhood to #humans under the age of #18. Which is scarier? in reply to maymaym #
  • What is #KinkOnTap worth to you? To @maymaym and I it's a labor of love, but here's why we need your support: http://bit.ly/4sWh8y #

Simple Food: Pasta with Egg and Cheese

This deserves to be the first recipe posted on this blog. I started cooking it in Freshman year of college. I did not have a kitchen, but my friend who was a year ahead of me did. I would get together with her and the boy who would become my partner, and we would try to put together something dinner. The trouble was, she was a vegetarian, and he was obsessed with making sure he was getting enough protein, and none of us had much money.  This dish, which is like an absurdly simple, vegetarian variation on Pasta Carbonara, served us well then, and has served me well ever since. Like many things of equal simplicity, it gets better with better ingredients.

For 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc)
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 oz or so hard cheese (this will be grated, about 1.5 or 2 cups by volume of Asiago, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, or the like)
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher Salt

Equipment:

  • 1 large pot, preferably tall and narrow rather than short and wide – an 8 to 10 quart stock pot does well here
  • 1 large bowl, big enough to fit a pound of cooked pasta, with room for stirring
  • A large sieve or colander
  • A box grater or microplane
  • Tongs
  • A ladle, or a mug, or other water-moving device
  1. Fill your pot to about 3 inches from the top with water and bring to a rolling boil. Ladle about 2 cups of water into the bowl Рthis will warm it up, which will be useful later on. Add salt generously РI go with a small handful, maybe 1/4 cup.  This will help to season the pasta, inside and out.
  2. Add the pasta all at once, and stir it around with your tongs a bit to keep from sticking. Cook till al dente (the point when it no longer feels sticky in the back of your teeth). I take general guidance from the package instructions, but generally start checking the pasta pretty frequently after about 6 minutes. It’s done when it feels done.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese (if you’ve not already done so).
  4. When the pasta is almost done (but still sticks just a bit in the back of the teeth) dump the water out of the bowl and crack in the eggs. Whisk them around, together with the cheese, until they are combined and the eggs show now large striations of yoke and white.
  5. Place the colander in your sink (empty of dirty dishes, please!) and drain the pasta.
  6. Place the drained pasta in the bowl with the eggs and stir vigorously and immediately with your tongs – the heat of the pasta will cook the eggs into a sauce, but if you don’t move quickly they will be less sauce and more “clumps of cooked eggs in among the pasta.”
  7. Add olive oil – a good glug (about a tablespoon and a half to begin with, perhaps 2 tablespoons) and grind on LOTS of pepper. This is to taste, but I’ve seldom felt there was too much. Stir vigorously once more, and serve immediately.

This goes nicely with a simple salad. For the simplest of all, place some pre-washed baby spinach or spring-mix salad leaves into a bowl. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and a grind or two of pepper. Take a lemon and roll it on the table to get the juice flowing, slice it in half and juice 1/2 of it into a funnel placed over a small jar (a jam jar, perhaps, or a leftover caper or anchovy jar). Pick out any seeds with a fork, and add olive oil till there is just under twice as much olive oil as there is lemon juice. Screw the cap on tightly and shake vigorously to combine. Dress your salad and enjoy your meal with a glass of wine if you like that sort of thing, beer if you like that sort of thing, or water if you’ve got neither around or happen to be a teetotaler.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-01-17

Food Manifesto 2: Kitchen Stuff

It is probably possible to cook with no utensils at all. Really good vegetables, for instance, are often stupefyingly delicious with nothing but a quick wash in cold water. The rest of the time, however, you’re going to need some tools.

So, to start out, your Batterie de Cuisine*- the stuff you need to cook. Lots of people many gadgettes to improve their food. There are breadmakers and pasta machines and standing mixers, and they are all very well, but they’re not needed for every day cooking, nor are egg poachers ¬†or even rolling pins – use a wine bottle.¬†I have had limited pocket money as long as I’ve been cooking, so I use a few things, over and over again. With the exception of a few suggestions (the 10×17 inch rack and the springform pan) I own everything listed below, and use it all with relative frequency. I have a few other things, but if it’s not listed here than I probably hardly ever lay a hand on it. And there are some common and useful items that are not listed at all: an electric mixer, for instance. I haven’t had the cash, recently, and besides, I feel kind of good and earth-mother-y when I’m beating eggs or whipping cream by hand.

Most of the stuff I use is of pretty good quality. Some things, especially baking things and big pots, can and should be bought used, at yard sales. Most of this stuff I have because I’ve been asking for a pot or a pan or a knife every birthday and Christmas for years – I could never have afforded it all myself. You don’t need all these things to cook every dish. Get started with what you have, and if you want to make something but don’t have the equipment (or anything that can reasonably be put to use) then get it, just like you’d get any other ingredient. Don’t look at the list and panic. The things accumulate. Start with what you have, and as you slowly accrue more kitchen implements, keep some very useful items in mind. They are**:

The Bare Essentials

  1. A big chef’s knife.¬†Mine is a 10 inch Forschner.¬† It costs about 30 dollars, and I use it every time I cook, without exception. It slices, it dices, it smashes cloves of garlic. I feel lonely without it. It’s a European style knife, unlike the now famous Shun knives, which are Japanese. I don’t know that one style is better, but I do know they require slightly different usage.
  2. A  6 quart pot, preferably of a heavy dutch-oven style.
  3. a 12 inch skillet, with a heavy bottom and a tight fitting cover. This can be nonstick (which helps immensely with eggs) but does not need to be.
  4. Mixing bowls. A few will do, but this is a more-the-merrier item. Some of them should be glass or metal, the rest can be plastic. I like deeper bowls with narrower mouths, but this is a matter of preference.
  5. A cutting board or boards – I use color coded ones to prevent cross-contamination from chicken to beef to veggies, and although I have a wooden butcher board I always use a platic board on top.¬† I have no use for a small cutting board – you can cut a small thing on a big board, but you can’t cut a big thing on a small one.
  6. Scallop-edged tongs. After one summer cooking in a restaurant in Brooklyn, I relied on these so heavily I thought I was turning into a lobster. They turn food, they pick it up, they move it around. If you pay more than 10 dollars for a pair you are a fool.
  7. Measuring cups and spoons – I use liquid and dry measure interchangeably, so you could get by with one set of spoons and a single graduated measuring cup. But more are handy.

Extra Stuff To Make Things Easier

  1. One or two small, sharp knives. I like¬†victorinox utility knives. They are very sharp – use then till they aren’t and toss ’em. They cost around 5 dollars a pop.
  2. A¬†sharpening steel. So far as I know, any type will do. Steels, unlike whetstones, don’t actually sharpen your kife – they keep it from getting dull. As you use your knife, the fine edge of the blade will bend over. Running a steel along it at a 20 degree angle before¬†every¬†use undoes this, and keeps your knife sharper, longer. It will still get dull, and must then be sharpened by grinding some metal off the blade. Have somebody who knows how to do this teach you, carefully, or leave it to the pros.
  3. 2 more pots – a¬†10 quart stockpot (mostly for long pasta, sometimes stocks)¬†and¬†little sauce pan (for a bit of pasta, peas, rice, ramen), say, 2 quarts. These are very good things to pick up at a garage sale – with the exception of the stockpot, which will only ever be used for things that involve a lot of liquid, you’ll want to look for heavy bottoms.
  4. Another pan or two Р a 6 quart saute pan, for instance, and perhaps something smaller (again, heavy bottom and tight fitting lid), or a cast iron skillet. These will add to the variety of omelets, stir fries, sauces, and braises you can make.
  5. Wooden spoons and a¬†flat edged wooden spatula, some plastic spatulas, slotted spoons, whisks – this stuff will accumlate. It is the Stuff You Like To Cook With. Buy ’em cheap, use ’em till they season. If they break, toss ’em out.
  6. A 13×9 inch rectangular pan and a 8×8 inch square pan. My are pyrex. These are for roasting vegetables or meat, or making brownies or square cakes. A few pie dishes and perhaps a spring form pan are also helpful in baking.
  7. A¬†half-sheet pan or two. These function as cookie sheets, but¬†are used for a lot more than making cookies. If you can find a pan with a fitting rack (you’ll want an 11×17 inch rack), get it.
  8. A box grater. For cheese, potatoes for the latkes, onion.

A Few Less-Common Things I Recommend (Optional Extras)

More or Less in Order by Frequency of Use

  1. A Microplane grater. For downy clouds of parmesan or to neatly get the zest off a citrus fruit or add a bit of nutmeg, there’s nothing like these, which are adapted from wood shops prettied up and moved into the kitchen.
  2. A small sieve. Very useful for getting the seeds out of lemon juice, the bits out of a reduction.
  3. A funnel. It’s just handy.
  4. A set up for making coffee. It’s not necessary, but I wouldn’t go a day without it. Mine is a kettle, krups coffee grinder (I buy my beans whole), a #2 Mellita cone and filters. I recently got a French Press, but I like my single-brew cups better, so I’ll reserve it for friends. The grinder can also be used for spices.
  5. A board scraper. I actually use a plastic putty knife from a hardware store for this purpose, but I would like to get a stainless steal one like this.
  6. A salad spinner. Very for drying veggies and fruits.
  7. An instant read thermometer. Really useful for meat.
  8. An immersion blender: there is nothing like it for sauces, purees, and soups. With one of these and some deep bowls, I’ll doubt I’ll ever need a standing blender.
  9. And the ultimate optional extra: a food processor. There are some jobs that take about 20 seconds with one of these and about 2 hours without, but I find they are few and far between. I decided to split the difference and got the model shown here, which does 3 cups at a time. I’ll almost certainly have to do several batches every time I use it, but it was cheapish, and easy to store, and is very portable.

* This is French. French is the Language of Cooking, except when it’s not, in which case Italian, Chinese, Japanese, or Spanish is. Very seldom is English the Language of Cooking, and when it is it’s almost always dialectical. Food is a regional delight – but how you talk about it is not as important as how it tastes, when you get right down to it. So relax.

**With the exception of the two knives and the items in the “Optional Extras” section, I do not specifically endorse any of the items linked too. I tried to look for equipment that would meet my specifications or tastes were of a reasonable price, and that was similar to the items with which I actually cook, but I have not product tested any of these. The links are just for reference.

Food Manifesto: It’s About Time

I would hazard to guess that most people who read this blog think of me primarily in terms of sexuality. A nice young lady (or some days, a nice boy) who thinks and writes and talks about sexuality, in politics, in a podcast, on the internet and with her partner.

And I am that, I do that, that’s definitely a part of what I do and a big part of what shows up here. But when I put this blog together it was designed to contain all the parts of my life I wanted to put in it, which include not only sexuality, but also general musings on my life, personal experiences, and food.

Yep, food. I love food. I love to cook it, I love to eat it, I love to talk about it, and I have to admit that in my own strange way, I’m an unabashed snob about it: I will not eat packaged bread. I will not, if I can at all avoid it, purchase from a restaurant food I could cook better and more cheaply at home. I do not cook out of boxes or warm up packaged food.* I use decent olive oil and vinegars, and keep a pantry stocked with spices and bottled sauces and ingredients, and grow my own herbs in pots. Rather than eat bad food, I will refrain from eating or eat a meal that most people would not recognize as such – my lunch, most weekdays, is half of an olive-baguette from the local bakery, sliced lengthwise and eaten with butter. I am a pinch-penny who will keep wearing socks with holes and unravelling sweaters, but I will, once or twice a year, happily drop a hundred dollars on a REALLY good meal, and think my life deeply enriched for it.

When I lived with my ex-partner, or when May comes to stay with me, I will cook a real meal almost every night. I plan carefully and cook on the cheap – $50 per person per week is my target budget, and I am usually successful.** ¬†I accomplish this in part by keeping a house stocked with staples – having them ready-at-hand means that I know what I’ve already got, and don’t have to buy them specifically for a dish. It means that in any new apartment there are few expensive “setting up” shopping trips, but it gets much cheaper after that.*** Also, I cook largely vegetarian or mostly-vegetarian food (otherwise the budget would be completely impossible to work with), and, of course. I try to enjoy myself.

This means a few different things:

  1. Avoid dirtying extra dishes whenever possible. Since I moved out of my parents house I have never had a dishwasher, nor, I must say, a partner who is truly of the mindset that “The Cook Does Not Clean.” Now, I live on my own, so I do all my own dishes. A meal that takes an hour to cook and leaves another half-hour’s worth of dishes just isn’t worth it.
  2. Avoid unnecessary steps. I subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, and as anybody who does so knows, in their scientific quest to make the perfect dish, their recipes tend to double or triple the number of niggling little procedural quirks. In my quest for simplicity, I like to cook their recipes and see how many of the steps I can then remove and still create a delicious meal.
  3. Eat vegetables. I have to admit, I am not a big salad eater. May is, and when he comes to town my salad intake sky-rockets, but when he isn’t around, I find myself much more likely to get my greens if I put them in whatever I’m cooking (which is, being a girl who likes few dirty dishes and a relatively quick meal, often either pasta or stir-fry). My vegetable staples as of right now are escarole, broccoli, and frozen peas.
  4. Think about nutrition, but don’t think too hard about nutrition. For me, it basically comes down to making sure I eat a variety of things. Being a dyed-in-the-wool carbovore, I try to make sure that I’m eating enough veggies and dairy (organic yogurt is my main snack food). Since protein is not as overwhelmingly important in the diet as most people think, I don’t worry about it much – rice and peas or peas and pasta will get me what I need, or cheese or yogurt. And frankly, being young and well, I don’t worry at ALL about fat or sugar. I neatly avoid transfats by cooking for myself, and almost always cook with olive or vegetable oil. Which means that when I do bake, I go for real butter. And when I roast a chicken, I happily dip my good bread in the seasoned chicken fat, and don’t feel an ounce of guilt.
  5. Try things out and have no fear: the more I cook, the better I am at it. The less I cook, the more my skills get rusty. This year, living on my own, I knew I wasn’t going to be cooking as much as I’d like. I try to get up and cook myself at least two meals a week – having never gotten used to the idea of cooking for leftovers, these tend to be one-shot meals. The other days, I eat with friends, which could mean somebody else has cooked, or that I got food ready made (pizza, a restaurant, whatever) or I eat ramen or quesadillas. I try to get some veg and non-carb protein in there too, but it’s not such a grand thing. But I never look at a recipe and say, gee, I can’t make that. I have made pre-baked tart crusts filled with creme patisserie and blue berries, topped with red currant glaze. I have made pot roasts and duck breasts and venison. I cook what’s available to me, I apply principals I learned on one dish to other dishes, and if the result is not delicious, I make ramen or quesadillas or order pizza, and don’t make the same mistake again.

So those are the 5 biggest things on my manifesto of food and eating. There will be a few more posts coming in this series, on Starting Out in the Kitchen, on Equipment, and of course, some recipes. But this is a start, and it’s about time I got it out on “paper,” and shared it with the world. I wish you good eating, friends – sans fuss.

*Except Ramen Noodles, which are always on my shopping list. Ramen is my oldest comfort food and the biggest exception to my food snobbery. I eat between two and five packages a week. It is my dinner whenever I don’t have something to cook or don’t want to cook. And I love it, sodium and all. So there.

** This gets easier the more people you have: $100 a week for two people is easier than $50 for one, and $150 for three feels positively luxurious.

*** My staples are:

  • Wet: olive and vegetable oils, balsamic and rice-wine vinegars, soy sauce and oyster sauce
  • Dry: kosher salt, whole black pepper (for grinding), red pepper flake, flour, sugar, corn starch, baking soda and powder, some short pasta and some long pasta, rice, whole coffee beans
  • Perishable (non-refrigerated): lemons, potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, fresh ginger root
  • In the refrigerator:: Helman’s mayonnaise, capers, anchovies, scallions,¬†unsalted butter, hard cheese (pecorino romano, asiago, parmesan – not grated. Do that yourself.), organic whole milk, local organic eggs (Rhode Island has cheap local organic milk and eggs from Rhody Fresh and Little Rhody, respectively… if they weren’t so cheap, I’d probably relax about the quality a bit, I admit)
  • Ready to eat (more or less): Wallaby organic yogurt cups, Maruchan ramen noodles, frozen sweet baby peas, flour tortillas and cheddar and/or colby-jack cheese (for quesadillas).

I do not always have every single one of these in my kitchen, but I am very likely to have most of them, and when I run out of one, it goes straight back onto the shopping list. ¬†In this way, there are several dishes that I am always ready to make – but that’s another post.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-01-10

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-01-03

  • Gearing up for a Very Merry #KinkOnTap with @Maymaym. This is good – a bit away from the family, huzzah! Come listen in, live.kinkontap.com. #
  • Super fun #kinkontap with a silly-sleepy @maymaym and a wonderful chatroom. More shows should be like this, screw the hard hitting issues. #
  • @maymaym I love those shows. They are totally good and worthwhile, and fun in their own way. But this was a nice little interlude. in reply to maymaym #
  • @lacken84 @Adisson89 I remember all these shows! This is amazing! #