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Archive for the ‘Tips, Tricks & other Cooking Utensils’ Category

aprons

 

What foodie among us doesn’t love watching the Food Network? Who among us doesn’t salivate over the gastronomic creations and, even more so, the gleaming, decked-out kitchens, the ease with which the stars whip up their homey, yet inventive meals, and the stress-free environment in which they serve them to their guests.

 

I love watching the Food Network’s porcelain-perfect cooking, and, in particular, Everyday Italian with Giada DeLaurentis. She is perfectly made up, coiffed, and dressed, and her football-field-sized kitchen is immaculate and stylish. Not only that, but the woman features mascarpone, whipped cream, and crème fraiche in nearly every show, which makes me feel like we are culinary kindred spirits. Word, Giada, word.

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What is it about human nature that makes us willfully engage in activities that we are certain will have disastrous outcomes? That extra martini? Probably not going to make getting home (or remembering your bag) any easier. That cute guy reeking of Axe Body Spray? Probably not going to call you back. That inky black Prada bag with butter-soft leather that you simply couldn’t leave, because it felt like a baby being snatched from a mother’s arms? Probably going to feel like a bulldozer landed on your head when you see your credit card bill.

 

For whatever reason, the complicated and mysterious workings of our minds make it such that we do things we know are wrong with willful ardor. Such was my situation baking a long-forgotten favorite treat, Sticky Cinnamon Twists, over the weekend.

 

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Perfect Spanish olives make perfect Spanish olive oil

Perfect Spanish olives make perfect Spanish olive oil

 

For those that didn’t read it in the previous post, PT and I recently went to Spain for a little get-away. We each prepared for the vacation by scouting activities that we wanted to do – The Prado and olive oil tours for me, bull-fighting and Real Madrid game for him – we are nothing if not predictable.

There is a little town in northern Andalucia (the southern-most region of Spain) called Baena, and it is best known for producing tremendous olive oil. Driving out of Madrid and into Andalucia,

Those are all olive trees, extending for miles, and this was just one small snippet of a 300 mile drive.

Those are all olive trees, extending for miles, and this was just one small snippet of a 300 mile drive.

we were struck by the enormity of the olive oil tree fields – hundreds of thousands of trees for miles and miles blanketed the landscape. We arrived in the sleepy little town of Baena (and I mean that quite literally, the town was taking its siesta), and immediately found the charming, yet slightly out-of-the-way Museum of Olive Oil.

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If you're like me, this sight will bring tears to your eyes.

If you're like me, this sight will bring tears to your eyes.

 

Have you ever had the feeling that you had a super-power and then lost it? Maybe you were a superb orator, effortless distance runner, or spectacularly limber, and suddenly – WHAM! – with no warning, what once came naturally has you grimacing in effort and frustration.

 

I am not naturally athletic or gifted in the arts, but, though obscure, my super-power was immensely useful given my passion for cooking. It was the ability to chop onions endlessly and never shed a tear. Odd? Yes. But unusually impressive as a live show. I would be in the kitchen chopping 5 cups of onions with glee while friends were seated in the living room, coughing and rubbing their eyes from the sting. Nobody could understand how I could chop them with such mirth and no aid to reduce the burn.

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Doubleboilers (both real and makeshift) enable you to melt chocolate to a perfect, luscious consistency.

Doubleboilers (both real and makeshift) enable you to melt chocolate to a perfect, luscious consistency.

 

The state of the economy is more than a little frightening these days, and most people are feeling a compulsion to behave with a modicum of prudence and a careful eye for value.

 

Given this environment, it seems odd that the product development teams at Williams-Sonoma, All-Clad, and the like are working double time to produce ever-more specific, and by nature, less useful kitchen utensils. On the WS homepage, a glaring image beckons me to their “More than 250 New Items for Winter.” I am hardly a model of restraint and do love to moon about in WS with lofty fantasies of ever-grander, cleaner, and better-stocked kitchens, but even I have to question the utility of a Classic Soda Siphon or a Crepe Pan Kit in these uncertain times.

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This little machine delivers thrills galore with its hazardous, multi-purpose efficiency.

This little machine delivers thrills galore with its hazardous, multi-purpose efficiency.

 

I think that there is a misconception out there that only men are attracted to loud, dangerous machinery – the kind of contraption whose weight alone tells you that you need some serious skills to wield it without losing a limb (or a digit, at the very least).

 

I, for one, adore my noisiest and most menacing kitchen gadgets – after all, the deafening grind and capable-sounding whir tell you that they’re working, right? Right!

 

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