Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ghee, Kinetic Madness, and Buttons

If everything is better with butter, then everything is rosy with ghee. I've been cooking a lot of Indian food lately because I have a pantry full of dried beans, a pressure cooker, and Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Cooking. My old supply of ghee ran out, so it was time to make some more.

A pound of butter, some low heat, and an hour later, I had ghee! This is a picture of mid-gheeness.

I continue to heat the butter until the solids (foamy stuff you see above) drop to the bottom and start to brown, leaving a nutty tastes to the clarified butter. The strained solids make good Mingus and Vespa treats. Just the tiniest niblet will make Mingus do about 10 doggy push-ups (Sit! Down! Sit! Down!).

This month is considerably more quiet than last, meaning we can go kayaking and hiking on the weekends. Finally! Last month was a blur thanks to a little race in Eureka called The Kinetic Sculpture Race. The boy and his family all work en masse on putting together a machine that can go over asphalt, sand, and water. After a 12-year hiatus, they returned. The craziest part of it all is that they won! Take a look at 2010's Grand Champions! They look regal, eh?

This is the first water crossing across Humbolt Bay.

I forgot how exhausting it is to watch this race, especially when the racers you are watching are so speedy that you never get to stay in one spot for long. Next year, I think I'll strategically watch them in the tricky spots, but soak in the rest of the race a bit more instead of rushing from spot to spot.

Last weekend, I decided to venture into my first estate sale. In our 'hood, there seems to be at least 3 of them going on nearby, but I have enough trouble keeping our stash of stuff at a minimum, let alone buying another person's stuff. However, much to my surprise, I did find a little something to take home.

These wooden buttons will be perfect for my next cardigan! Since I'm going to be crocheting the afghan forever, as far as I can estimate, no plans on what my next cardigan will be.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The sluggish days of summer are here, at least for those of us who are subsisting on a risotto and ice cream diet. Activities in the kitchen have alternated between my pressure cooker and my ice cream maker, two tools that have become synonymous with summer cooking at casa wildtomato. I don't have nearly enough pictures of the things coming out of the kitchen, making this a rather lame blog post, but I'll summarize some recent successes and mishaps.
  • Green tea ice cream made for a recent Thai and Tub party (Thai food potluck followed by a soak in a hot tub). This was my first attempt at a custard based ice cream, and tempering eggs was not nerve-wracking as I had been led to believe it was by a certain individual who clearly wants the world to eat less ice cream. Because the cooking gods couldn't let me have such unfettered success, they made me drop the remaining eggs in the carton onto the floor. Or perhaps one of my dogs did a special egg drop dance to the gods earlier in the day.
  • Cherry sorbet. Yum. All I did was pit some cherries, pummeled them in the food processor, added sugar, heated the mixture until sugar was dissolved, let cool, and tossed it into the ice cream maker. It's funny how I say "all I did" followed by a bunch of steps, but "all I did" expresses how easy it is to prepare the sorbet. The cookbook I used for this sorbet method, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, suggested measuring out the fruit puree, dividing it by four, and using that as your sugar measurement. I did that, but my sorbet turned out too sweet even with a squeeze of lemon juice. I should have trusted my taste buds more.
  • Cinnamon ice milk. Since the green tea ice cream contained 6 egg yolks and 2 cups of cream, I wanted to make something that still had a creamy mouth feel but omitted the egg yolks and cream. I started by breaking 6 cinnamon sticks into 1-inch pieces, toasting them over a hot cast iron skillet, and adding them to 4 cups of whole milk, a pinch of salt, and 3/4 cup of sugar (again, too much sugar). I simmered the mixture for about 20 minutes, then turned the heat off and continued to steep the cinnamon sticks in the milk for another hour. The mixture then went into the refrigerator to cool down. All was going well, until I decided to be clever and add some xanthan gum, leftover from making gluten free cupcakes, into the milk. I thought a little xanthan gum, an emulsifier, would make the ice milk seem just as decadent as the fatty stuff, but it just made it weird and gummy. Yeah, the whole point of making food from scratch is to not have weird stuff like xanthan gum in your food, but I was tapping into my inner mad food scientist. I added 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum powder to the 4 cups of milk, and it was too much. Chewiness isn't a coveted ice cream texture. At least the cinnamon flavor rang strong and true. Next time, I'll omit the xanthan gum or at least reduce the amount by half. To salvage the chewy ice milk, I blended it with a handful of blueberries and some almond milk (pictured above).
  • Brown basmati rice. Easy peasy in the pressure cooker. 25 minutes.
  • Cauliflower and potato curry. 10 minutes in the pressure cooker.
  • Split pea dal and spinach soup. 35 minutes in the pressure cooker. I'm in awe of the cooking times.
Other than cooking, I've been working on the afghan. 19 stripes and counting! My plan of using the yarn store as my stash backfired when I almost could not find some of the colors I needed when it was time for a refill. So due to paranoia, I now have more balls of yarn that I care to look at taking over my closet.

Summer is just another excuse for the dogs to seek and conquer sunbeams. I tried to join them, but I was too hot within 5 minutes.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Love

Some people love German cars, but my love goes to German pressure cookers. My new tool arrived on my doorstep a couple of days ago, and the more I use it, the more I lurve it.

WMF pressure cookers kick my little old T-Fal's butt. Why?
  • No jiggle top. The T-Fal's jiggle top made a loud, annoying "psst-psst-psst" noise like a rotary water sprinkler on steriods. Subsequently, it also lost more liquid during cooking, something that was really annoying when cooking items, like stew meat, that needed longer than 30 minutes to cook because I'd have to drop the pressure and add more stock. My WMF pressure cooker is mostly silent and barely loses any liquid. A few hisses of stem burp out when the unit is almost up to pressure, but other than that, I don't have to worry about waking a sleeping boy up when I get the urge to make dinner at 7 AM on a Saturday morning.
  • Thick, even cooking surface. My T-Fal was so thin that simple tasks like sauteing onions and browning meat were dreadful due to sticking issues. Since my normal pots and pans are hearty All-Clads and cast iron skillets, I'd have to recalibrate my cooking style (lower the heat, more frequent stirring). No recalibration is necessary when I cook with the WMF.
  • Removeable lid handle. The WMF's removeable handle makes it really easy to clean the lid. The contact surfaces between the lid and the handle are all metal, too, so it is robust.
  • Quick pressure release. Instead of running the WMF pressure cooker under cold water (what a waste of water), all I have to do to quickly release the pressures is to slide a button back. For me, this is also a plus because I aim the steam that comes out at my backsplash tiles and wipe them up. Those backsplash tiles get covered in all sorts of greasy junk, and not having to use any elbow grease or abrasives to clean it up is a plus.
  • Pressure canning. I can use the WMF as a pressure canner!
I opted for an 8.5-quart (about 8-liter) model because it's bigger than my 6-liter T-Fal and I can still cook small amounts in it if I choose to do so. Sheepishly, I have to confess that I have the urge to add a 6.5-quart WMF to my set, though. What's stopping me is the big downfall of the WMF pressure cooker: its price. Quality like this doesn't come cheap. It was 5 times more expensive than a T-Fal.

So far this morning, I've made brown rice (25 minutes!) and a potato and cauliflower curry (4 minutes!) using my beloved WFM. Next up today are a dal soup with spinach and perhaps a batch of risotto. Upcoming experiments will be chicken broth, cheesecake, and pot roast.

The T-Fal (marketed under the brand name Mirro now) served me well. For soups and steamed vegetables, it was perfect. Artichokes in 7 minutes? You got it! Rather than retire it completely, I'm going to teach a few of my friends the basics of pressure cooking and let them borrow it for a spell. I'll be a traveling, one woman pressure cooker preacher. Hallelujah!

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    Giddyup Kitty!

    The Tilden Park Scarf is an easy ruffled and ruched infinity scarf that adds a feminine touch to any outfit.

    Giddyup kitty! When your cat dons this itty bitty cowboy hat, don't be surprised when your cat sneaks out to go the saloon to down a frosty glass of milk or tries to lay down the law with you.

    Check out my other free patterns for more cat headgear ideas.

    • 30 yards of worsted weight yarn. I used Lion Cotton Solid.
    • Size J/6.0 mm crochet hook
    • Tapestry needle

    • 4 sts in sc = 1 inch
    I have a feeling I'm a tight crocheter, so you may have to go down a hook size or two if you crochet on the loose (aka normal) side.

    [ ] repeat instructions between brackets
    ch chain
    sc single crochet
    sl st slip stitch
    st(s) stitch(es)

    5/28/11 Edited directions to fix increases so stitch counts are correct.
    Use the magic ring method, ch 1. SC 5 into the loop. Pull the tail tightly to close the hole and sl st into the turning chain (the first ch 1).

    Top and Side
    Rnd 1: Ch 1, sc into base of sl st just made, sc 2 times into next 5 sc. Sl st into the turning chain. (12 sc total)
    Rnd 2: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 1 sc, sc 2 times into next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (18 sc total)
    Rnd 3: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 2 sc, sc 2 times in next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (24 sc total)
    Rnd 4: Ch 1, sc in next st to end. Repeat Rnd 4 until the hat is 1.5 inches high

    Rnd 1: Ch 1, sc 1 into base of sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 3 sc, sc 2 times in next sc] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (30 sc total)
    Rnd 2: Ch 1, sc 1 into base of sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 4 sc, sc 2 times in next sc] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (36 sc total)
    Rnd 3: Ch 1, sc 1 into base of sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 5 sc, sc 2 times in next sc] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (42 sc total)
    Rnd 4: Ch 1, sc 1 into base of sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 6 sc, sc 2 times in next sc] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (48 sc total)
    Rnd5: Ch 1, sc 1 into base of sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 7 sc, sc 2 times in next sc] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (54 sc total)

    Using the tapestry needle, thread yarn tail through the remaining st. Weave in tail.

    If you make this, I'd love to hear from you. Have fun humiliating your cat!


    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


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