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February 5, 2006

Gooseberry Fool — by Amy Clampitt

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The gooseberry's no doubt an oddity,
an outlaw or pariah even—thorny
and tart as any
kindergarten martinet, it can harbor
like a fernseed, on its leaves' under-
side, bad news for pine trees,
whereas the spruce
resists the blister rust
it's host to. That veiny Chinese
lantern, its stolid jelly
of a fruit, not only has
no aroma but is twice as tedious
as the wild strawberry's sunburst
stem-end appendage: each one must
be between-nail-snipped at both extremities.

Altogether, gooseberry virtues
take some getting
used to, much as does trepang,
tripe à la mode de Caen,
or having turned thirteen.
The acerbity of all things green
and adolescent lingers in
it—the arrogant, shrinking,
prickling-in-every-direction thorn-
iness that loves no company except its,
or anyhow that's what it gets:
bristling up through gooseberry ghetto sprawl
are braced thistles' silvery, militantly symmetrical
defense machineries. Likewise inseparably en-
tangled in the disarray of an
uncultivated childhood, where gooseberry bushes (since
rooted out) once flourished, is
the squandered volupté of lemon-
yellow-petaled roses' luscious flimflam—
an inkling of the mingling into one experience
of suave and sharp, whose supremely im-
probable and far-fetched culinary
embodiment is a gooseberry fool.

Tomorrow, having stumbled into
this trove of chief ingredients
(the other being very thickest cream)
I'll demonstrate it for you. Ever since,
four summers ago, I brought you,
a gleeful Ariel, the trophy
of a small sour handful,
I've wondered what not quite articulated thing
could render magical
the green globe of an unripe berry.
I think now it was simply
the great globe itself's too much to carry.
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February 5, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Crème Brûlée — Without the water torture

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The worst part of making crème brûlée, at least for me, is the treacherous passage from the counter to the oven with my ramekins inches–deep in their baking pan water bath.

One slip and that dessert is history.

So I was delighted to find the someone has finally taken a long, deep look at the crème brûlée space and come up with a better way.

From the website and catalog:

    At last! An easy way to crème brûlée.

    Baking in a water bath — BLECHH!

    Too much trouble.

    Make the silkiest custards ever with NO ramekins sloshing and sliding around a water–filled pan.

    Not when you use Chicago Metallic’s crème brûlée set.

    Fill the pan with water, fill white porcelain ramekins with custard (or mini–cheesecakes), set on rack in pan — voilà!

    No fuss and perfectly–baked, delicate custards.

    • No more ramekins sliding around the water bath!

    • Rack holds ramekins and rests securely in pan.

    • Great for mini–cheesecake, custard, coddled eggs or flan, too.

    • Ramekins are microwave-, oven- and dishwasher-safe.

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Not a bad deal: the 8"–square pan, wire holding rack and four 4–ounce, 3.5"–diameter porcelain ramekins for $22.95.

Want to take it to the next level?

We can do that for you.

Also available is a set of colored porcelain stoneware ramekins (one each in yellow, blue, red and green*),

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precisely the same size and material as the white ones pictured and described above so they'll fit into your nifty new crème brûlée baking set, for $9.95.

*You'll be wanting to offer me the green one.

As if.

February 5, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stovetop Potato Baker

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Time to take the humble baked potato above and beyond the oven space.

Why heat up the big iron to 550° when you can simply plop this deceptively innocuous piece of kit atop one of your burners and prepare that über–potato your friends rave about?

From the website:

    Non–Stick Potato Baker

    Place over your gas or electric burner to bake up fluffy, light, and luscious potatoes with crispy crunchy skin.

    Non–stick coating makes cleanups a snap.

    8" dia.

$17.99.

February 5, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Got Deckle Edges?

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You will if you throw this puppy in your kitchen drawer.

From the website:

    Cut perfectly even, beautiful pasta and crackers

    The Italian-made Multi–Cutter, a heavy, ergonomically–shaped handle with nine sharp plastic blades, cuts rolled–out pasta or cracker dough into pretty pinked–edge strips ranging from 1/2 to 4-3/4 inches wide.

    Add, remove, or rearrange blades to cut the exact width strips you want.

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With this tool your pies will look positively store–bought.

Amaze your family and impress your friends.

$18.95.

February 5, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Strange Eggs

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February 5, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sunny Side Up Egg Timer — 'Turn the yolk, time your eggs'

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Also works for soft– and hard–boiled.

Bonus: also times other foodstuffs.

Works outside the bun space too.

Up to 60 minutes.

4" diameter.

$7.99 here.

February 5, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: 'I will give up my Teflon frying pan when they pry it out of my cold, grease–spattered dead hand'

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If that's your position then you have good company: no, not just me — I mean, I'm not that bad company but I'm referring to someone who knows whereof he speaks when it comes to Teflon and frying pans.

Dr. Robert L. Wolke, author of "Food 101," a sparkling column that appears every Wednesday in the Washington Post Food section, takes no prisoners and is beholden to no one.

A professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, his latest book is "What Einstein Told His Cook 2, The Sequel: Further Adventures in Kitchen Science."

I like him because he writes the truth with no need to shade or slant things to please editors, reviewers or advertisers.

They don't like it?

Tough noogies.

Anyway, on February 1 he wrote on the burgeoning Teflon controversy recently jump–started when the EPA asked eight U.S. chemical companies to reduce and eventually eliminate perfluorooctanic acid (used in the manufacture of Teflon).

The final sentence of his article was, "So please excuse me while I go fry an egg in my Teflon pan."

Here are those that preceded it.

    Don't Toss That Teflon Pan -- Yet

    Last week's news about U.S. manufacturers' gradual elimination of a certain chemical from their factory emissions and products with nonstick coating caused home cooks to look askance at some of their kitchen equipment. We asked "Food 101" columnist and chemistry professor Robert L. Wolke for his take on the matter.

    Maybe it's a sign of our times, but who would have expected stories about a chemical compound called perfluorooctanoic acid to strike fear in the hearts of cooks?

    But the recent news led one authority to say, "I certainly wouldn't use a Teflon fry pan."

    What's the connection?

    PFOA is used in the manufacture of fluorine-containing polymers, materials such as Teflon that repel water and resist staining by oil and grease.

    In addition to nonstick cooking surfaces, consumer applications include microwave popcorn bags and pizza delivery boxes.

    Although many chemists would be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what PFOA is, it hit the front page of The Post and other newspapers around the world Thursday, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked eight U.S. chemical companies to substantially reduce and eventually eliminate the chemical from its products and plant emissions. They agreed to do so.

    Why?

    Because PFOA -- a synthetic industrial chemical that as far as we know does not exist in nature -- is, according to the EPA, "very persistent in the environment, [has been] found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population, and [has] caused developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals."

    Although research on the environmental and health implications of PFOA has been fragmentary and no correlation between PFOA exposure and human cancer has been found, calls are being made in the United States and as far away as Australia to ban the chemical entirely.

    Most nonstick cooking surfaces are made of Teflon, or polytetrafluoroethylene.

    And PFOA is one of the intermediate chemicals used in the chain of chemical-reaction steps that produce it.

    But the PFOA is virtually all gone before the final material comes off the production line.

    Intermediate chemicals of one kind or another are part of virtually all chemical manufacturing processes and are not allowed to contaminate the final product.

    Teflon is microscopically smooth and nonporous (one of the reasons nothing sticks to it).

    Even if it does harbor trace amounts of PFOA, which is all anyone has suggested, the PFOA is unlikely to seep into food or escape into the air in kitchens -- unless, of course, an empty nonstick pan were abandoned on a hot burner, because above 600 degrees or so (a temperature rarely reached in cooking), the Teflon would begin to decompose into toxic fumes.

    Before we even see a nonstick pan in the store, its coating already has been heated to high temperatures during manufacturing, partly to get rid of any residual PFOA.

    In my opinion, PFOA in the environment probably came from factory emissions, perhaps during the high-temperature phases of manufacturing.

    That's certainly more plausible than blaming me for frying an egg in my nonstick pan.

    Susan B. Hazen, acting assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, has been quoted as saying, "The science is still coming in."

    But she adds that eliminating PFOA "is the right thing to do for our health and our environment."

    So should we throw away all our nonstick cookware, eschew microwaved popcorn and stop ordering delivery pizza?

    Some historical parallels exist.

    On the theory that the mercury in silver-amalgam tooth fillings causes an array of illnesses, some people have had all their fillings removed.

    And believing that aluminum causes Alzheimer's disease, some people have thrown away all their aluminum pots and pans.

    If we also throw away our nonstick pots and pans, how are we ever going to cook food to be chewed by our mercury-free teeth?

    I quote from the EPA's Web page (http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa/pfoainfo.htm): "At present, there are no steps that EPA recommends that consumers take to reduce exposures to PFOA because the sources of PFOA in the environment and the pathways by which people are exposed are not known. Given the scientific uncertainties, EPA has not yet made a determination as to whether PFOA poses an unreasonable risk to the public. At the present time, EPA does not believe there is any reason for consumers to stop using any consumer or industrial related products that contain PFOA."

    So please excuse me while I go fry an egg in my Teflon pan.

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No, the photo below

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is not yet another macaroni and cheese variant but, rather, an up–close–and–personal view of Teflon film.

February 5, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'One good egg' mini frying pan

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It's 4.75" wide, with a nonstick surface meant to fry one egg.

Made in France.

$10.99.

But perhaps you're in a whimsical mood — I know I am, what with it being Sunday morning and all.

No problema.

How about the little fella below?

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It's called it the "Egghead Small Fry Mini Pan" but I call it amusing.

"Ideal size and shape for a single egg, muffin or bagel."

$6.99.

February 5, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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