Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Thin Crust Pizza

If you like the cracker thin and crunchy pizza, check out this article at Cookography.
It's got a dough recipe and some techniques from Cooks Illustrated that produce perfect
thin crust pizza quickly and easily.  No lie

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's Sukkah Time Again

The Jewish tradition of building a Sukkah in the fall has, over the last 10 years or so, gained real momentum in our city.  I often wish faith and religion were laid out like a smörgåsbord where one could pick holidays, lessons and practices from whichever ones appealed to you the most. In this imaginary spiritual cafeteria, one of the Jewish traditions that I would take a big helping of would be the Sukkah.  The Sukkah tradition appeals to me in a lot of different ways, the primal fun of being out of doors in the beautiful New England fall,   the time for the contemplation and retrospection which comes so naturally during this time of year and of course family and friends.  Sure, I could absolutely do all this without the faith aspect on a camping trip or other outing, but there is something different about a religious tradition.  For example, the fact that you feel obligated pretty much ensures nearly everyone's participation, largely without griping.  I suppose after building dozens of Sukkah's over the years that it would get old.   I can see how the last thing I would want to do when I came home tired from work, would be to go outside in the cold and dark to build yet another Sukkah.  But I would do it anyway, and that's precisely the point, because later, I would be glad I did.  The beautiful Sukkah pictured above is from 1930's Germany and is in a Jerusalem Museum. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bizzarrini 5300gt - The Coolest Italian (sortof) car you've never heard of (most likely)

Giotto Bizzarrini was(is) an Italian Engineer who has done work with a number of Italian car manufacturers; Ferrari (where he was chief engineer responsible for the GTO - and here I don't mean the Pontiac), Iso Rivolta, Alfa Romeo and Lamborghini (he designed the V12 still in use today).  Clearly talented but apparently unable to get along with anyone, he decided to start his own company.  Naturally he named it Bizzarrini SPA and he set about building and selling the 5300gt a design originally done for Iso.  The 5300 used a Chevy Corvette drive train and despite it's good looks and reliable powertrain, Bizzarrini only made like 140 of these. Apparently, the engine is set so far back in the chassis that partial dash removal is required to adjust the timing - he should have gone with a Ford 351 Cleveland, then the distributor would have been on the front.  Anyway a very cool car.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Classic Lyman Wooden Boats

The Lyman Boatworks of Sandusky Ohio began building lapstrake (alternatively known as "clinker built" ) wooden boats some time in the late 1800's.  I would hazard a guess that Lyman made more lapstrake boats than anyone by the time they effectively ceased wood boat production in the early 1970's.  Although Lymans are/were most popular and numerous on the Great Lakes, it's a  testament to their construction quality and popularity that they were also fairly common on the Atlantic seaboard.  There were quite a few of these around Cape Cod Bay when I was a kid and I have always loved the look of these boats.  The mahogany and teak woodwork was first rate and they just look "right".  Oddly enough during the late 1970's early 1980's when most wooden boat manufacturers disappeared without a trace in the rush to build Corox bottle Bayliners and other Kia's of the nautical world, the Lyman factory was left more or less intact by an entrepreneur intent on resurrecting the brand as an upscale fiberglass manufacturer.  Amazingly he never sold off or disposed of all the patterns, jigs, plans, tools etc. of the old wooden boat factory.  For whatever reason his plan never came to fruition and he sold the whole works, kit and Kaboodle to a Lyman enthusiast named Tom Koroknay of Lexington Ohio.  Tom has made a going concern out of restoration and parts services for vintage Lymans (after all, the parts are as close to original as you can get).  A quick view of the astounding number of beautiful Lymans for sale on his site demonstrates his success.  With the possible exception of Chris Craft's wooden speed boats, I doubt that there are as many well preserved wooden boats of any brand.  Check it out, not only are there an incredible array of gorgeous wooden boats, but compared to a modern carpeted plastic boat, they are in general relatively cheap.

Oh, and BTW, for those wondering what the red thing on top of the boat above is, it's a wind powered spinner designed to frighten off seagulls.

Don't Forget The Salt

"Salt is what makes things taste bad when it isn't in them."
 - Anonymous

A Salt Box Is A Thneed that Everyone Needs:
My good friend Genevieve turned me on to the simple joys of a salt box years ago and I am forever in her debt.  I keep the one pictured above right next to my stove and I have to say it is one of the handiest additions I have ever made to my kitchen. I got the one above from Fantes, which unfortunately doesn't carry it any more, but the Japanese Pottery outfit Bee House  makes a nice salt box with a wooden lid which you can get on line from Black Ink.


Special Bonus Rant:
Good old NaCl Salt has gotten a bad rap these days with the home cook which has resulted in a lot of unnecessarily bland food.  It is true that most folks have too much sodium in their diets, but it's probably not coming from salt added by the home cook.  A B.K. Chicken Caesar Salad had 1600 grams of Sodium, that's nearly a teaspoon of table salt !  Processed foods are loaded with sodium, wanna lower your sodium ? Stop eating processed crap, but for gods sake, allow me to have a bit of salt on my eggs, Mrs. Dash my ass.  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Pan Handle - Get a Grip

One of the most overlooked aspects of cookware design is the handle.  Most cookware gearheads focus on the material and construction quality of the pan.  While these are certainly important, too much focus on these aspects leads one to buy matching multi-ply unobtainium luxury pans in a set from the local dept. store. There is no doubt that these pans are decent pans and in capable hands will get the job done, but All-Clad and the others often blow the most crucial detail, the handle.  The handle is the user interface of the pan, and a crappy user interface leads to a crappy user experience and outcome.  To the average person, the handle on the sauce pan above looks all wrong, but in point of fact, it is the best I have ever used.  The extreme angle of this pan's handle is probably it's most noticeable and important feature and you will appreciate it on a crowded stove.  Why? well, the angle keeps the business end of the handle cool and out of the way of adjacent pans.  The angle also makes "flipping" sautees easier and allows you to tip the pan to monitor the cooking without putting your face over a hot stove or burning your knuckles.  The slight U shaped cross section of the handle makes for a comfortable and stable grip.  At 6' 4" 200lb's, I am a pretty big guy, but even I at times have trouble lifting at tilting a heavy and full commercial pan with one hand and a spatula with the other.  This is where this design really shines, it's shape and angle allow you to grip the lowest part of the handle from the top (with a pot holder!), resting the length of the handle under your forearm cantilevering the weight of the heavy pan.  That is a trick that just isn't possible with most other designs.  Additionally, most foodies equate riveted handles with quality and durability, and most of the cookware heavy hitters use rivets to attach their handles.  In reality a welded handle is every bit as strong as it's riveted counterpart and has one advantage, it's more sanitary.   The microscopic crevices of the rivets provide a home for bacteria whereas the smooth internal surfaces of a pan with a welded handle is much easier to sanitize.  The only disadvantage of this style of handle is that it is more difficult to store.  I'm not sure this style of handle is French in origin, but I do notice it most on traditional French pans.  In case you are wondering, the pan above is a Sitram "Catering" line stainless commercial flared sauce pan made in France.