Friday, April 20, 2012

Pumpkin Seed Oil Winner

Thought this posted, but obviously I am technically challenged...clearly computers are not one of my polymathmatical skills!

Maggie, email me your address at staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) come and your pumpkin seed oil will be on its way!

The Polymath

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Freezcube Winners

Congrats to Emilie, Mvarela and April, you have won your own Freezcubes!

E-mail your mailing addresses to me at staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) com.

Coming soon...some more awesome new products, and the return of the Stennifer Lunch Tour!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Food Safety

It may have been mentioned before, I am very diligent about food safety.  Charming Suitor might occasionally call me the food police.  This is usually after I have recklessly and wantonly discarded four day old takeout leftovers that he "was going to eat tomorrow". 

To be fair, we come at food safety from very different places.  He has a cast iron stomach, inherited from Reverend Charming, who can eat two week old pasta with chicken and pronounce it "tingly, but delicious", with no ill effects.  I, as we may have mentioned, have a digestive system only slightly less sensitive than a fifteen year old girl with a breakout on junior prom night.  I have been poisioned by many, but never by myself, and I would like to keep it that way.

But while I am diligent, I am not insane.  I know the difference between a "sell by" date and an "expiration" date.  I believe in trusting my eyes, nose, and mouth, and just because the cottage cheese says four days ago if it isn't fuzzy, doesn't smell off, and tastes good, I will still eat it.

Today I want to talk about the freezer.  Many people think that because food in your freezer is frozen solid that it is automatically protected from bacteria etc.  For a long time I did too, and only discarded food that I knew was really old, or was freezer burnt...and even then more because I knew they would not be delicous, not because I thought they might be harmful.

I have many freezers in my life.  We have the upstairs freezer, for ice and everyday items.  We have the freezer in the downstairs fridge, for stuff like frozen meat and veg to grab for dinner.  And then we have CS's huge chest freezer for large cuts of meat, and bulk items.  And there is the freezer at The Farm, where we spend most weekends.

And that is where the problem starts. Because two out of four weeks when we get to The Farm, our microwave and the bedroom clocks are all blinky.  Meaning at some point since people were last there, the power went out.  But for how long?  Ten seconds?  Ten minutes? Two days?  The minute food in your freezer goes above zero, bacteria can start to grow.  If the power goes out, and then comes back on a day later, your food will refreeze, and you will never know what might be lurking.

Until now.

CS and I went to the Housewares show, and the minute I saw this little beauty, I jumped up and down and clapped like a child.  CS pronounced it "made for you", and I investigated.

Say hello to my leeetle friend!

This, my Chickens, is the Freezcube, and you are gonna want one for every freezer in your life.

The premise is simple.  You put this in your freezer with the small side down overnight, which will freeze the liquids solid, provided your freezer is set cold enough for safety. 

(guess whose wasn't!  THE HORROR!) 

Then you flip it over, so the frozen parts are on top.  Then leave it.  If you check your freezer and any of the liquids have melted into the bottom, you know something has gone awry.  The different colors are labeled based on the number of days you have to consume the contents of your freezer without danger, from 1 day to 14 days to THROW EVERYTHING OUT RIGHT NOW!

The simplest thing in the world, peace of mind.

And while you can get your own Freezcubes at Amazon , they have also sent me a few to give out to some lucky readers!

So, comment below with your own food safety tips, or confessions, or quirks, or any tools you use to keep the contents of your fridge and freezer safe for human consumption, and on Monday I'll let you know who is getting a Freezcube of their very own!

Your in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Little Molecular Gastronomy

So Chickens, where do you fall out on the whole Molecular Gastronomy thing?  Pro or con?  Cutting edge cuisine, or elaborate hoax?

For me, I am pro, but with some caveats.

As with any style of cooking, it is about elevating the ingredients.  Sous vide cooking, very low constant temp immersed in circulating water, for example, can make a short rib both meltingly tender AND perfectly medium rare, heretofore impossible.  So if someone has that on the menu, I am in.  The ability to manipulate texture, especially in contrasting temperatures, is very interesting and when done well, can enhance the experience of eating a dish.  The classic El Bulli trick of taking the purest essence of olive and sperifying it so that it LOOKS like an olive, but explodes in the mouth with olive flavor is exciting, and works with the food.

HOWEVER.  The people who just put foam on everything like a garnish of cat gack, the people who are more concerned with showing off knowing a technique than they are with the food, that I find annoying.  There are many many fewer people doing Molecular Gastronomy WELL than one might imagine from the preponderance of powders, liquid nitrogen ices, and caviar-ed EVERYTHING that pop up on menus everywhere.

Not everyone can be Grant Achatz, whose Alinea continues to be one of the most exciting meals I have ever had the pleasure to experience.  And I'm less and less interested in the food that looks like something else...I actually don't find the idea or visual of eating dirt or cigar ash appealing, even if it does end up being delicious.  (Dirt Cake with Gummy Worms is exempted from this, of course, because chocolate trumps everything.)

But like many other trends and techniques, I had never had much desire to "try that at home".  My parents will remember cringingly my unimpressive C- in high school Chemistry.  And I don't want to fuss that much over my food.  But there is something to be said for the proverbial gift horse.

Culinary Imports sent me some of their products to play with, and I have to say, it can be fun, and there are some applications for the home cook.

The main thing I find cool to work with is that sperifying effect, making "caviar" is actually pretty cool, and they feel fun to eat.  I'm a bubble tea kind of girl anyway.  And I miss Freshen Up Gum. 

This is Balsamic Vinegar "caviar" floating in olive oil.  An enormously fun way to re-imagine a caprese salad for a dinner party, instead of dousing your beautiful white cheese with liquid, strewing these glistening dark balls over the top is both show-stoppingly gorgeous, but also makes the experience of the salad new and fun.  Ditto over strawberries or vanilla ice cream for an elegant and unusual dessert.

Our best applications were for cocktails, for which we enlisted our best mixologist pals, C&H.  The caviar trick allowed us to add a punch of flavor without diluting the original drink.  Since we are on such a Negroni kick, we made some Aperol caviar (a bitter liqueur) and floated them in our classic Negronis.  The drink remained the same, but now and again with a burst of extra flavor,  totally fun.

Frankly, a lot of the rest of it, foams and gels and glow in the dark and DIY pop is a bigger pain than it is worth for the kind of cooking I do.  But I will give Culinary Imports a lot of credit, they have made the process MUCH more accessible for people who do want to play at home.  They have worked to make the chemistry easier, with a measuring system that doesn't require a scale or an advanced degree.  Their kits come with everything you will need and recipes to start you off, which make them a potentially awesome gift for the uber-foodie or mixologist on your list.

Not at all interested in food-science projects?  CI will not leave you in the cold.  Perhaps their single best product?  Pumpkin seed oil.

This bright green oil has a mild nutty flavor that is really delish!  We tried a riff on pesto, replacing the traditional basil and parsley with arugula and mint, and replacing the olive oil with pumpkin seed oil...fantastic.  It works very well on salads, especially grain salads like wheatberry or quinoa.  And it is very good for you.

And Culinary Imports wants one of you to try it for free!

Yep, they have donated a 16 oz bottle for one of my fabulous Chickens.

SO...comment below with your opinions or experiences with Molecular Gastronomy, pro or con, or a tale of what you want to make with Pumpkin Seed Oil, and one of you chosen at random will get this prize.  Winner announced next Monday.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath