A passion for food + fashion

Posts Tagged ‘cook’s tools’

Bagna Càuda Grilled Oysters

In Food, Recipes on December 30, 2010 at 9:09 am

Oh my god I love oysters. And that 18th century adage about only eating oysters in months that contain the letter “r”? Welcome to the 21st century where sustainable farming and advanced wet storage for freighting means you can enjoy oysters year round. Yes, there are seasonal crops, so do ask your fishmonger what’s best to grill, what’s best to eat on the half shell in any given month. And while now is the height of the season to enjoy Pacific oysters raw, last night I had grilled oysters on the brain. Something about the pouring rain and hot-off-the-grill garlicky oysters sounded super. Back at home, Mr. Foodinista shucked away.

First, a word about gear. We have a French-style stainless oyster knife with guard by Rösle that is ideal for smaller oysters, like my favorite Kumamotos. That said, with our monster Canadian mollusks, last night we were wishing we had an East Coast-style shucker with a long flat blade (also called a “stabber”) given the deep cup of the shell and flat top. I think I’m going to order a four-inch Dexter-Russell with a high-carbon-steel blade for Mr. Foodinista. Hog Island Oyster Company sells them online for $15.

Dexter-Russell oyster knife via HogIslandOysters.com

While Mr. Foodinista shucked, I opened up a little tin of Trader Joe’s anchovies. I keep a few of these tins on hand at all times. Sometimes, when I’m feeling nostalgic for my starving student days and craving a sodium bomb, they stand in for lunch in a pinch.

Last night, however, a filet or three found their way into a modified bagna càuda (traditional Piedmontese warm dipping sauce of garlic, anchovies, oil, butter). I threw the anchovies, a bunch of Italian parsley and about 8 cloves of garlic into a mini food prep and chopped the hell out of it.

The mixture then eased its way into a hot bath of melted butter and olive oil in a skillet.

Ideally you would have rock salt on hand and would first sprinkle that onto a baking sheet and nestle the oysters on the half shell on top to steady them. We did not have rock salt. Next time. I spooned the bagna càuda over the freshly shucked oysters and Mr. Foodinista disappeared with the tray and grilled them over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, when the sauce just started to bubble.

My husband noticed that the sauce that had spilled over onto the pan steamed up during the grilling, and I like to believe it added a little extra loveliness.

Since there was a fair amount of the bagna càuda left, I tossed some into a wok and added a ton of spinach leaves, along with some more chopped anchovies, red pepper flakes and mint leaves from our garden. You then sauté covered, over medium heat (stirring a few times with a wooden spoon) for three minutes. Pour yourself a glass of Gavi (a Piedmontese white), sit down around the table and make a wee bit of a pig of yourself.

Sunday Morning Pancakes

In Food on March 7, 2010 at 12:29 pm

A couple weeks before I found out I was pregnant with Tiny G, we tore the roof off our house and demo-ed the kitchen. We lived without a kitchen during all but the final month of my pregnancy, and all the while we fantasized what life would be like on the other side—of the remodel, of becoming a family. We talked a lot about pancakes, and how we wanted to wake up on Sunday mornings and make them and then walk into town to the farmer’s market. That year, for my husband’s 35th birthday, I splurged on a gorgeous orange terry cloth robe from Hermès with these Sunday mornings in mind. When it came to picking out our range, we went back and forth on whether to get the griddle option or additional burners; in the end the burners won out and we got this awesome Lodge reversible griddle to put on top of the burners.

And then we woke up to reality. With a newborn, the idea of even showering on a Sunday was pure luxury let alone leisurely pancakes and leafing through the New York Times, or god forbid what kind of a havoc a newborn might bestow on a Belgian cotton robe. But I never let go of the fantasy and knew which recipe would become our family’s favorite.

Fast forward two years. Today we woke up to the most gorgeous sunny Los Angeles day imaginable. We walked to farmer’s market and ran into neighbors and friends…Anna, Hugh, Carolynn, Debra, Jon, Marc, Selena, Andrew, Ariana. Tiny G stopped to listen to some reggae with his favorite friends from music class, Fifi and Desmond.

We got three small bunches of bright orange tulips for $2 a bouquet.

And then we came home and made Poppy Seed Pancakes from one of my favorite blogs, 101 Cookbooks. They get their nutty crunch from toasted sesame seeds and poppy seeds, and wholesome deliciousness from whole wheat flour. One bite and we could taste the future. And let me say, it was worth the wait.

Pretty Tough In Pink

In Fashion on October 13, 2009 at 9:19 am

nfl breast cancer awareness month

This weekend I off-handedly remarked to my husband that I couldn’t think of a single pro-sports team that incorporated pink into their uniform color scheme. He was watching the Colts – Titans game at the time, and said “Well, Peyton Manning is wearing a pink hat on the sidelines as we speak.” Who doesn’t love Peyton Manning, and even more so for showing his softer side? And then I noticed pink cleats and gloves on various players, like on TO clobbering Brodney Pool (above), and with a little more investigation found out the NFL is supporting National Breast Cancer Awareness month. I love it! The NFL has never looked so good, and I’m even willing give that jackalope Randy Moss (below) a free pass this week for his participation in this cause.

randy moss breast cancer awareness

And for those of you who love Tom Brady (sorry, I’m a hater), here’s one more reason why he just might be the perfect male specimen (I will give you—and Giselle—that). Check out his pink kicks.

tom brady pink cleats

Here’s the to NFL for supporting breast cancer research. Breast cancer does not discriminate by age—two of my best friends have battled it in their 20s and 30s, and another’s mother is currently undergoing chemo. Please help support breast cancer research! And for the foodie philanthropist, check out Cook for the Cure from KitchenAid!

Pink KitchenAid Mixer

Hog Wash

In Food, Recipes on August 25, 2009 at 8:14 am


Saturday morning following a long run on the beach, I headed over to Santa Monica Seafood to pick up two dozen oysters for dinner. There, I ran into friends Anne and Dudley, who were picking up an insane amount of seafood for a paella dinner party we went to on Sunday night (more on that later this week). Back to the oysters, on offer there were Kumamotos from Hog Island in Northern California. Kumamotos are rich and buttery and just a little bit sweet (if you ever see their sweetwaters available, they’re even better—briny smokey sweet). The Kumamotos are small and a little more manageable when it comes to shucking, though I think a gloveless Mr. Foodinista might beg to differ:


A couple years ago I got him the Rösle shucker as a stocking stuffer, but have never quite had it in me to pull the trigger on this FOUR HUNDRED DOLLAR chain mail oyster glove from Moss in NY:

oystergloveYet gloveless, triumph he did over two dozen of these little guys. We cracked open a bottle of Charles Heidsieck blanc de blancs (crisp, dry with mineral notes—perfect with the oysters!) and served with my favorite mignonette, which has just a little heat from jalapeños—again, a match made in heaven with a crisp, dry Champagne. Here’s the recipe. Also, I used Vietnamese cilantro from our herb garden instead of traditional cilantro—but either way, totally addictive.

Hog Wash
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup natural rice vinegar
1 large shallot, peeled and finely diced
1 large Jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime


Meet Mortimer

In Food on May 19, 2009 at 7:04 am


What you see before you is Mortimer the Pig, aka our beloved molcajete—a Mexican mortar and pestle made from volcanic rock—that we received as a wedding present. Mortimer was billed as being pre-seasoned, but as of this writing, shamefully I have yet to put that to the test even though we’ve had him for going on two years now.

So picture this scene. On Sunday I run into Carolynn Carreño (a vicious competitor in our upcoming Guac Off), and she’s deep in conversation with my very favorite Mexican chef, Jimmy Shaw (chef/owner of Loteria Grill). What do you think they’re talking about? GUACAMOLE. I’m not even kidding. I had to shut it down right there on the spot. Carolynn later confessed that she was asking Jimmy about seasoning her molcajete. She has one like mine (sans snout) and believed hers was also pre-seasoned, only to make a test batch of guac laden with grit. And so, even though Carolynn is fierce, she is also a friend and was kind enough to share Jimmy’s advice for seasoning. First, rinse your molcajete and tejolote in water and allow to dry. Then put a couple scoops of rice rock salt and grind to a fine powder, using short, downward motions and not continuously around the side. [Note: I misunderstood: Jimmy recommends rock salt, but Carolynn has had several others tell her rice so why not try both?]


Do this every day for an eternity. Apparently it will take years to get this thing glassy smooth, and the oils and acids used in making salsas and guacamole help in the process over time, but in the countdown to Guac Off, we’ll be seasoning Mortimer daily to get him in fighting shape.

BREAKING NEWS: Meanwhile, to find out what Carolynn and her molcajete are up to, click HERE.

The Skinny on Baking Sheets

In Food on April 2, 2009 at 4:53 pm


Yours truly is not a baker. I have neither the patience nor precision for it, despite my otherwise Type-A leanings. So when my friend Roy emailed me the following, I hadn’t a clue how to answer:

what’s the best way to go for baking sheets — e.g., stainless steel vs. aluminum, silicon pads, nonstick vs. regular, etc?

I did, however, know whom to ask. My friend Sarah used to work in the kitchen at Chez Panisse, and is an expert baker. Her advice (which I recall her sharing when I was putting together my wedding registry a couple years ago) is to avoid nonstick cookie sheets. She says:

I adore the baker’s half-sheets at restaurant supply stores,  or I believe from Williams-Sonoma 13 x 18 x 1 (aluminum). They are a terrific all-purpose baking sheet as they won’t bend or buckle due to their heavy weight. They can be used for roasting chicken or baking cookies. Silicon pads are great to have in addition for certain types of cookies as they won’t stick. I prefer using a Silpat to a nonstick sheet only because I tend to scratch the pan when cleaning….


Chelada Time

In Drink on March 29, 2009 at 2:17 pm


I attribute the fact that I’m feeling so fresh and scurvy free today to the refreshing Cheladas we enjoyed with friends last night. Cheladas are basically fresh lime juice and light Mexican beer served in an ice-filled glass with a salted rim. (Micheladas, on the other hand, are more savory and include Worcestershire sauce, Maggi seasoning and hot sauce.) Chiladas are very low in alcohol since you’re diluting already light beer with lime juice and ice, and they are super refreshing. There’s nothing quite like having a fridge full of beer and a boatload of limes to get the evening off on the right foot.


Tiny G’s BARNSLIG DJUR Ikea bib ($3.99/set of 2), below, made a great shield from the lime juice splatter on the marble countertop. I really hate juicing citrus, so I love the KitchenAid Citrus Juicer attachment, which makes this a snap.


Hold onto one of the juiced limes, and use it to wet rim of glasses. Then dip glass onto a plate of salt to coat rim. I had a special glass for my friend Adam, who has amassed a truly impressive tiki collection in his garage, complete with a grass skirted tiki bar and a Margarator. ¡Salud!


Triveting News

In Design on March 25, 2009 at 5:55 pm


My biggest regret about our lovely marble countertops is not the chip my husband innocently took out of one while putting a beer bottle in the recycle bin or the acid from the lime juice I spilled while making margaritas that ended up eating the surface and leaving white blotches, but the fact that you can’t put hot pans down on it like you can with granite. My quick fix is this awesome Japanese wood trivet that I got yesterday for $10 at OK on Third Street. It’s so tactile. I love it! 

For those who aren’t familiar with OK, it is without doubt one of the most smartly edited stores in L.A., with everything from exquisitely etched sake glasses (one of my absolute favorite wedding gifts, from my friend Lizzie), Heath Ceramics, and groovy placemats to Anne Ricketts bronze sculptures, Max Bill clocks, recycled gold wedding bands and chic little Comme des Garçons wallets. The best news is that they recently launched an online store: okthestore.com. Happy surfing!

Whisked Away + Bowled Over

In Design on March 21, 2009 at 7:29 pm

whiskSeveral years ago I was given this ball whisk as a gift by a designy friend, who picked it up at MoMA. But unlike many kitchen utensils that rate high in looks, this one actually works. It has become my favorite whisk, particularly when it comes to cleanup as there are no crevices for food to get stuck in. Also, the design means that the ball rods can generate more whipping action using less effort. What’s not to like?  They are now available with silicone handles and balls, as well as a flat-whisk option. I’m guessing these are less likely to leave scratches on those amazing Rösle stainless mixing bowls that you knew you had no business spending that much money on, but then your awesome friend Dreanne got them for you as a wedding present and they are the BEST. BOWLS. EVER. You know, those.


I’m In the Mood for Love

In Food on March 7, 2009 at 9:55 am


This past Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be really romantic to sign up my husband and me for a knife skills class. After all, nothing says “till death do us part” quite like a 10-inch chef’s knife. My knife obsession is no secret, and our kitchen features two knife drawers each holding about 10—one for Germans and the other for Japanese, with the Germans in the west drawer and the Japanese in the east. I love reaching into a drawer on a whim, and picking up an old friend that feels right for the task. Maybe I want to use my beloved Michel Bras all-purpose knife with a titanium-coated blade to slice mushrooms. Or my trusty Wüsthof chef’s knife to dice a pork butt. Or slice carpaccio paper thin with a spectacularly sharp FKW 9 MAC knife. Here’s a sneak peek of a few of the knives in each of the drawers.


There will be tons more posts on knives in future, believe me, but back to our knife skills class, which was held last night at Sur la Table at The Farmers Market. While I have ZERO formal culinary training, I have long been a fan of the instructor’s preferred “pinch grip” (which Alton Brown showed me years ago when we were judging a wild game competition together in Portland, Oregon) and the “claw” to keep your fingernails intact, but I learned a few new tricks including how to do a fine julienne, and an awesome new way to chop onions. However, allow me to save you the $79 (come on over, and we’ll julienne for free!) and any guilt over your love affair with sharp blades and lots of ’em. Our instructor systematically dissed just about every knife in my albeit excessive collection, telling us that all we need is a chef’s knife and maybe a paring knife (hot tip though: her favorite paring knife is one sold at Smart & Final for a song). I’m sure this is true—you really can do anything with a chef’s knife from clobbering a whole chicken to smashing and mincing garlic, but where’s the romance?