Sunday, December 23, 2012

Out The Sprout!

Okay, this is less of a tip and more of a rant, but it needs to be said.

That little green sprout that's growing up inside the individual cloves of garlic needs to be excised before you serve it to decent folk.  It tastes bad, it smells bad and there is not one good culinary use for it; you can take that sprout and plant in the ground to make more garlic.  Other than that, get rid of the damned thing before you make the mistake of serving it to me.

You can simply remove it from your crushed or slice cloves of garlic, so there's not that much waste and they are very easy to pull out with your finger tips or the tip of a knife.

I have walked out of restaurants because I could smell the chopped garlic sprouts mixed in with the food and I won't patronize a lazy chef.  Don't be a lazy chef.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Back Story

There is a lot of cooking to be done for the holidays; everything from office buffets to a full sit down dinner for the entire family and it all takes planning.  That's what we're going to address today, how to strategize and plan so that your meal comes together your way.

Your two most important tools during the planning process are pen and paper, making lists of all kinds is crucial - and the larger, more complex the meal, the more lists you will need.  A typical holiday meal asks only for shopping, prep and timing lists, but I know of one busy caterer who routinely made a master list of lists for each job.

I can almost see the curious eyes out there lingering over the timing list, wondering about it's nature.  The timing list helps to coordinate all the small components and bring them together at the same time for one beautiful meal.  The soul of good cooking is in good prep and the best prep always starts inside the cook's head.  Think around the corners before they become roadblocks and you will be a more consistently productive chef.

What I'm about to tell you may sound wrong, but it is the very best piece of advice I could give to anyone wanting to create anything from a well balanced plate to an eight course meal.  Work backwards, see it clearly in your mind first, see the plate or the table filled with serving dishes; see it all clearly and that is where you start.  Envision the main course, all the sides, sauces, garnishes and condiments; every single thing that you want to be available to your diners.

Ask yourself many questions during this process, is your menu well balanced?  Are all the ingredients easy to source?  What kind of prep time does each component require?  Do you have all the equipment/serving dishes required to prepare everything?  How much food storage space is there in your kitchen?  Are any special needs guests like diabetics being left out?

All of those questions and many others should be asked and answered during this beginning phase of your cooking.  Once you have worked out your menu, creating the shopping and prep lists are a snap, so the last thing to think about is your timing list and this part requires painful honesty in order to work.

In order to make a good timing list, you need two things; the menu and the mealtime.  Working backwards from the time you want to serve, start making your prep list.  Most big meals feature some kind of large roast, so resting and carving time are the first factor, so you deduct thirty minutes from your mealtime as the time for you roast to come out of the oven.  Working backwards from that is your target time to put the roast into the oven and back even further to prep/dress your protein.

Now repeat this step for everything you have envisioned, working backwards as you go, and you will find out ahead of time if there will be enough burners when needed.  It's a kitchen dance that needs choreography and it gets easier with practice.  Just be honest with yourself about how long it takes you to get things done and make a reasonable timing list, consider everything from how much counter space is available to how much wine you plan to drink while cooking.

Many of us cook for the joy of cooking, the joy of watching others eat; don't frazzle yourself unnecessarily.  Thirty minutes of brain time will help make your cooking thirty times more joyful.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Whup It!

This is a good time of year for cooking, the cold weather keeps us indoors and the holidays offer an abundance of excuses to make delicacies and specialties.  This post is all about the toppings, I'm a sucker for toppings of all kinds because it takes more than a cherry to make a sundae.

It is pie season and who doesn't welcome a flaky, warm slice of apple pie with some freshly whipped cream or a bright lemon pie piled high with snowy meringue?  Here are a few tips to help keep your toppings looking and tasting freshly made.

Let's start with meringues and a stable meringue starts with a good foundation.  Room temperature eggs are the best for whipping, so get them out ahead of time.  Grease is the enemy of any food that is composed mostly of air - and air is the primary ingredient in meringue - so make sure that your bowl, beaters and spatula are grease free.  The best way to do that is to always wipe your utensils with a clean paper towel before you even start.

Even if you know for sure they are already clean.  Do it anyway.

Now, when it comes to separating the eggs, there is a good rule of thumb:  If you need just the whites, keep all the yolk OUT, if you need just the yolks, a little white is fine.  I very much recommend the dish intensive method (not something I often do), which is this:

  • Break the egg over one small bowl, drain the white and put the yolk in a separate bowl. 
  • Put the white into another small bowl.
  • Repeat each step for each egg

The reason for this is to protect as much white as possible from potential *contamination* of the yolk.  This way, if one of the yolks accidentally breaks and mixes with the white, only the one egg needs to be replaced instead of all of them.

My last tip generally applies more if you need the yolks rather than the whites; the solid white stringy mass, or chalaza, is neither appetizing nor visually appealing.  Feel free to remove it, which I try to do while separating because they are slippery little suckers.  No harm comes from not removing the chalaza, it just looks nicer.

As much as I adore whipped cream that sprays from a can - truly a marvel of culinary technology - I am also more than fond of real whipped cream.  While the heavy cream you can buy at any supermarket is perfectly fine, and what I most often use, I do occasionally go to Cash & Carry for manufacturing cream.  It's what the restaurants use and it is serious stuff, heavy on lush mouthfeel and depth of flavor.

Your best results for fluffy, stable whipped cream is to pre-chill everything for about 15 minutes in the freezer.  Put the cream into the mixing bowl and put the bowl into the freezer, make sure to get the whisk attachment in there too, and get them nice and frosty.

The standard ingredients for basic whipped cream are vanilla and sugar, but those are really just a nice place to start.  Any liquid flavoring can be used such as almond extract, spirits like rum, bourbon or schnapps are also good choices.  Fresh fruit juice like strawberry or even the juice from a jar of maraschino cherries will give your topping a fun flavor to enhance any dessert.

This time of year you can think about adding some dry spices to your whipped cream too.  Cinnamon, ginger and cloves will add something special to a mug of hot chocolate with a dollop of chantilly, as the French call it.

So what happens if your fluffy and buoyant whipped cream suddenly sprouts little chunks throughout?  Hmmm, very serious, you have over-whipped your cream and there is no rescuing it at this point.  You have but three choices now:
  1. Dump it out and start over
  2. Continue whipping it into butter
  3. Both of the above
Let me say in favor of option three that butter made at home from heavy cream is a sublimely sweet and delicately flavored potion.  So what if you already sweetened and flavored the cream?  Now you will have a unique compound butter that you can freeze until the right pan of cinnamon rolls calls out for such an unusual treasure.

A bit of cream of tartar will help to stabilize whipped cream so that it won't weep before you use it up.  Use between 1/2 and 1 teaspoon depending on how much cream you are whipping.  If the chantilly has broken (pools of liquid in the mixture), just whip it back into shape with a chilled whisk and you'll be back in the dolloping business.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Buying Guide For The Offbeat Shopper

Buying groceries is an art form, actually let me rephrase that, supplying one's pantry both fully and economically is more art than science.  Depending on the diversity of your personal pantry, it can be daunting to keep fresh supplies without breaking the bank.  A good grocery expedition is great fun for me, and a newly found store is full of potential culinary discoveries so I feel like a mighty huntress in the urban jungle.

Those giant, soulless supermarkets hold very little appeal anymore with their mood lighting and disappointing prepared foods.  They all have the same stuff at about the same price in about the same place as the next super market down the road.  And they all have extra crowded parking lots full of people who think that common courtesy has no place in parking lots.

I go in them when I have to, but there are far better places to spend my dollars and I'm going to share some of my strategies with you.  I know it seems counter intuitive, but when it comes to groceries, shop small and shop local.  Very local, there are probably several great places to buy food within two miles of your home that you haven't even considered.

Such as Big Lots, they are everywhere and have a respectable selection of gourmet and international foods at great prices.  From juice to pasta to pet treats, it is worth a few minutes to browse the selection and see what's in stock.  Another place I go occasionally is Smart & Final or its cousin Cash & Carry, they are both targeted towards professional food service but open to the public.  They are great for disposable goods like paper plates and such, but have a full selection of grocery items.

One of my favorite resources are small ethnic markets, please don't ever buy one of those tiny bottles of overpriced seasoned rice vinegar at the super conglomerate.  Go to the local Asian market and get a gallon of it for a third of the price.  There's a little place in Sacramento on Broadway with a tiny parking lot that's hard to get into, but it's a hotbed of activity.  I can find everything from fresh seafood and ginger to amazing varieties of soy sauce packed into that tiny place at very thrifty prices, so it's worth the trouble to go and stock up once in a while.

Here in West Sacramento, we have a big eastern European community and those Russian markets are a good time.  Many of them feature breads, pastries and hot foods prepared on site along regional specialties that are begging to be tried.  When I visit my dad out in South Sacramento, I stop in Little Saigon at one of the mom and pop places to get the best damned fresh baked bread in town and browse the endless array of packaged prepared Vietnamese foods.  Those pickled mangoes are really good.

Let's not ignore the Mexican grocery stores, the go to place for fresh limes, avocados and coconuts.  The best buy is the bulk spices though, don't pay for that useless bottle, buy the bagged spices and save serious money.  My local Mexican grocery store is pretty good size and has a whole aisle devoted to herbs, spices and other great finds, generally I can get at least three bags for the same price as one bottle of the big market brands.  Of course, I don't go to all of these places every week.  It depends on what I need at any one time, but the trick is to stock up on the essentials when the stocking is good.

For the holidays, you might even consider making up gift bags of international foods from ethnic market finds that would impress even the most discerning foodies in your life.  Grocery Outlet always has big and affordable selections of high quality cheeses and wines for parties and even premium whole bean coffees perfect for gifting with a festive mug.

We live in the land of plenty, and we should give thanks daily for that, so it's hard not to get overwhelmed with all the choices.  Taking control of your personal supply line requires a little practice, but it's worth the time because of the money saved.  If you cook like I do, frequently completely on a whim, then it pays to have a pantry that's ready when you are.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Flash Tips

I have a lot of cooking knowledge crammed into my brain, but it is shoved in there with a bunch of other stuff and sometimes hard to access.  This blog was started so I could share what I know, but oftentimes the tips I would like to share bubble up out of nowhere when I'm busy doing something else.

Remembering not to forget that tidbit before it gets written down is easier said than done these days.  Hey, I'm still writing my book series, trying to market the first book and running two blogs, so there's a lot on mind at any given time.

Henceforth, the occasional Flash Tip will burst forth from Spoon!  Priceless pearls of culinary wisdom delivered guerrilla style before they fade away.  How many and how often depend on my brain and what it decides to send up, today's offering was oddly inspired by my making an untoasted bagel.

  1. One thing your diners will always appreciate, especially in cold weather, is warm plates or bowls.  One of my favorite tricks is put the serving dishes into the oven after I've pulled out whatever was cooking and turned the oven off.  The residual heat will do the work nicely, but make sure to give the plates a quick touch before pulling them out, you might need a towel to protect your hand.  If I'm just using the stove top to prepare the food, I put the plates near the back when I start cooking so they will be toasty when the food's up.  You can put a clean towel or napkin over the top plate to protect from spatter, which leads to my next tip.
  2. BECOME COMPULSIVE ABOUT CHECKING THE STOVE FOR POTENTIAL FIRE STARTERS.  I look at the burners every time I go into the kitchen, whether or not I am even cooking.  Towels, pot holders, wooden spoons, plastic handles, toothpicks and puddles of grease are all flammable under the right conditions.  This time of year can see a lot of traffic in the kitchen, so make sure your home stays safe from easily avoided disasters.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gravy Train

When I married my husband almost 20 years ago, I married his three children too and they came to live with us soon after the wedding.  Their biological mother never claimed to be a cook and it did not take long for the kids to start looking forward to meal times.  For the longest time, none of them would touch my homemade gravies though, despite my assurances that it was good eating and their father's enthusiasm.

It took a while, but the oldest one decided to be brave one night - not much of a surprise for anyone that knew her, she had a lion's heart - and proclaimed the chicken gravy to be delicious.  The other two were swayed by her compelling arguments of yum and slurp; they came to know the wonders of gravy and are better people for the knowledge.

Our middle daughter is a very picky eater, there are not many meats that she cares for but the gravy is a completely different matter.  There is always a puddle of it on her plate and a pleased smile on her face that pleases me immensely.  As for my son, well he and I are of the same mind about one thing:  that leftover rice and gravy is perhaps the best breakfast ever.

Winter is the time for steaming pot roasts and crispy roasted chickens, so it is therefore also the gravy season and I'm here to tell you how easy it is to make great gravy.  Let me say here that the reason my kids refused to eat gravy in the beginning was because all they ever knew until then was commercially made stuff in a jar or can.  No small wonder they shunned those foul concoctions, store-bought gravies have no redeeming values and have yet to justify their existence in my view.

Say no to shortcut gravy and say yes to roux (pronounced roo), you'll be glad you did.  Roux has been villainized in recent years by food Nazis who tend to talk much more than they think or eat.  It is just a mixture of equal parts fat and flour that form the basis for silky, hearty gravies and other sauces and mastering the roux is very simple.

Here is the formula: 1 tablespoon fat and 1 tablespoon flour to 1 cup of liquid.  It can be easily increased without a change in the formula, so double or triple the recipe as needed.

Cooking the roux is even easier, melt the fat in a sauce pan or pot, add the flour, stir until combined and there you go, one basic roux.  In this stage, roux is great for lighter colored gravy like chicken, but it can be tailored to what you are cooking.  Keep stirring the roux in the pan a bit longer and it begins to change color to a darker brown and takes on nuttier flavor notes, this darker roux is great for beef gravy.

I've heard rumors that burnt roux has little black spots instead of uniform color and that it should be thrown away.  However, I've never burnt a roux, so I can't say for sure; what I can attest to is that one should not walk away from the gravy making once it has started.  It doesn't take long, but a moment's inattention at the wrong time could ruin all your work.  Gravy is a humble sauce and simple too, but it is not a forgiving sauce, not at all.

Okay, how about a little practical procedure?  We will be making 2 cups of gravy from the drippings of a roasted chicken, so we will need 2 cups of liquid.  I bolster my drippings with milk flavored with bouillon so that I get those 2 cups of liquid, but you can use stock or broth instead.  Too many dirty dishes is a drag, so I cook the gravy in the roasting pan, this is where I will put first my 2 tablespoons of fat.

Fat can come from many sources, butter is the most common for roux, but I prefer to use the rendered fat from whatever I roasted.  Therefore, I have skimmed off 2 tablespoons of chicken fat and put it in the roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of flour, turned on the stove to medium-low heat and began stirring diligently.  Get all the fat and flour combined quickly and keep moving it around with your spoon (!) until the roux is a light golden brown color.

Now you add the liquid, the closer to room temperature the better because overly hot or cold liquids don't blend as well.  Continue stirring briskly, the goal is to blend the liquid and the roux quickly, scraping out the corners of the dish and stirring down small lumps.  Allow the gravy to come to a simmer, while stirring, and then let it cook gently for another minute or two, stirring frequently.

On the stove, your gravy may not look as thick as you were hoping, but it will thicken up once it has been removed from the heat.  Taste the gravy and adjust the seasonings if necessary, a little salt could take it from good to great, and give your diners something to look forward to.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Recipe: Peanut Butter Cookies

Recently my niece Sara asked for this one, this is the same recipe I used for the cookies at the cafe.

Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, soft
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all ingredients well in large mixer bowl.  This is called 'creaming', when the sharp sugar crystals cut the fats in the butter and peanut butter before dissolving.  The mixture should be completely smooth, with no bits of un-mixed butter and a uniform color.

In a smaller bowl, mix together:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
You can put these through a sifter if you're ambitious, I get them all into the bowl and use my (clean) fingers to mix it up and break up any clumps.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two additions, keep the mixer on a lower speed and mix only until the dough has come together smoothly.  Add cookie drops now if you're so inclined and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

Drop dough onto a baking sheet using a spoon (!) or a disher.  Dishers are just glorified ice cream scoops that come in a variety of sizes and well worth the small investment at the restaurant supply house.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 8 - 12 minutes, keep an eye out.  Let cool completely on a rack before serving.  Makes approximately three dozen cookies.


I like to add chocolate chips to the dough, but peanut butter chips are also awesome as are a mix of the two.  You can make PB&J cookies by making an impression with your thumb or back of a spoon (!) on each unbaked cookie drop.  Put a dab of your favorite jelly in the impression and bake.  Peanut Butter Kisses are hugely popular, this idea came from my grandmother but back in the day, Hershey Kisses were larger and you only needed one per cookie.  You might need two Kisses, depending on the size of cookie you are making, but make sure the appropriate amount is unwrapped when the tray comes out of the oven.

Firmly press the bottom of the Kiss into the top of each cookie right when the come out of the oven and allow to cool.

Homemade Holiday

As much as I would love to ignore Christmas, it's just not possible anywhere in the U.S.  It is a lot like trying to ignore the summertime at 4 pm during a heatwave, no amount of telling yourself that the sweat is NOT happening will make it go away.  But Christmas comes every year anyway, like death, taxes and American Idol, so I have made my share of holiday goodies.

I have opted out of Christmas for the foreseeable future, any of you who are now clucking about that decision, please consider this:  it was the most kind, most loving, most well thought out Christmas gift I ever received.  Isn't that the spirit of the season??

However, I do understand that many people actually enjoy this holiday and want to not only participate, but wallow in the festivities too.  Finding gifts for everyone on your list can be daunting and expensive, so I traditionally made a variety of treats every year.  The following is a list of some of the more successful offerings that are also fairly easy to make and easy on the wallet.

  • VINEGAR BLENDS  -  Make your own signature blend by combining a variety of vinegars, such as seasoned rice, apple cider and balsamic.  Jazz them up by adding spices or fresh herbs and put in a cute bottle with a fetching label.  You can also make a blend using your favorite wine as a base, fresh fruit juice like pomegranate also works well as does sparkling wine, so experiment and be creative.  Give your blend a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, stirring or shaking once a day.
  • SPICED ALCOHOLS  -  This is very easy, just purchase your drink of choice, I recommend bourbon, rum and vodka, and remove about an ounce from the bottle.  Drop a variety of dried spices into the bottle, replace the lid and let stand for two weeks, shaking the bottle daily.  Cinnamon sticks, star anise, black peppercorns, whole cloves, fresh grated nutmeg, crystallized ginger and vanilla beans are some of the best add-ins.  This stuff tastes as good as it smells and inspires custom holiday cocktails a-plenty.
  • VANILLA SUGAR  -  Carefully slit open 4 - 6 vanilla beans and immerse them in a 5# bag of white sugar for two weeks.  Divide the vanilla sugar into gift bags or jars with a tag advising its use in coffee or to make cookies with.
  • RUM CAKE  -  Replace the water in your packaged cake mix with rum and bake per box instructions for a super easy cake.  Serve it with homemade whipped cream flavored with vanilla, cinnamon and sugar for a fairly light dessert.
  • DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE  -  Just about anything enrobed in chocolate is a welcome gift.  Pretzels, Oreo cookies, crispy rice treats, dried nuts & fruits and fruit jelly candies.  CandiQuik coatings make it easy (get it at Big Lots for a good price), but you can also use regular dipping chocolate and even chocolate chips melted with a teaspoon of vegetable oil.  MAKE SURE NOT TO GET YOUR DIPPING CHOCOLATE WET!!!!!  Even a drop of water will harden up your melted chocolate faster than a sailor on shore leave, so be careful!  To further prettify your dipped treats, sprinkle them with colored sugar before they dry.
  • STAINED GLASS COOKIES  -  This one is great for kids, either make sugar cookies from a mix or your own recipe and cut into desired shapes.  Cut out small impressions in each cookie, like 'ornaments' on a tree shaped one or the center of a star.  Crush up a roll of Lifesaver's candy and sprinkle the crushed bits into the impression on the cookies and bake.  The candy will melt leaving colored 'glass' in your cookies.
  • GO TO THE DOGS  -  For the canines on your list, get some carob chips from the health food section of the grocery story.  Secure a selection of hard dog biscuits and cookies to dip in the melted carob and reap the slobber of happy dogs.

My last suggestion is purely decorative:  Disco Dust.  Edible food glitter is an amazing thing, even a Ho Ho looks festive with glittering red sparkles.  A generous sprinkling of disco dust will liven up even the most last-minute, desperation, I-forgot-the-Christmas-party-at-the-office food offering.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Lemon Drops

I live in the very center of California, in long valley formed eons ago that would be a vast floodplain in times of extreme rain if left to it's own devices.  The San Joaquin Valley is made up of large tracts of fertile dirt and just about everything you can think of is grown here.  From cotton to kiwis, a drive down I5 through the valley is an education in agricultural diversity.

The growing season is fairly long here too, it's almost December but there's still one chile plant fruiting in the garden along with a handful of onions.  What is abundant now are lemons, for me anyway since both my neighbor and mother in law have heavily laden trees ripe for the picking.  The winter lemons are the best in my opinion, they are big and I can practically hear them bulging with juice.

Like most seasonal fruits and vegetables, they come to me in large batches and it takes at least three weeks for the full lemon harvest.  Almost all the lemons get juiced, it's one of the most useful and versatile ingredients in my year-round kitchen, so many days are spent filling up ice cube trays with lemon juice.  But it is well worth the time and freezer space because bottled lemon juice is just yucky.  Pre-squeeze all your uncut citrus fruits between your palm and the counter top to get maximum liquid with minimal effort.

There is other valuable real estate in a lemon than just the juice, the thin bright yellow outer skin is packed with flavor potential too.  The zest is edible, it's filled with volatile oils that give it a richer, smoother lemon taste than the juice and is equally as versatile.  Zest that has been frozen loses a bit of its brightness, but not much and it doesn't take up much space.  Use a fine grater to shave only the yellow zest over a plate, stay away from the bitter white pith underneath.  Cover the plate loosely with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for an hour, after that gather up the zest in a small container and leave in the freezer until needed.

My neighbor Nat is partial to candied lemon peel, so I always make her a batch to say thanks for the fruit.  I just use a vegetable peeler to lightly scrape off chips of lemon rind, although more dexterous folk can get neat, tidy strips.  After that, it's about 30 minutes of boiling in a simple syrup that was made from equal parts water and sugar. Drain them well in a colander and dredge well on a tray in sugar; mine are still drying, it can take a few days so be patient.  Spread them out on a tray and stir occasionally with a fork until the peels are completely dry.  Eat like candy, garnish cakes with them, put them in tea, whatever pleases you.

So, let's say that you've gathered up some lemons of your own and done some juicing, what are those little cubes good for?  I'm a lemonade advocate, hot or cold, plain or dressed up with strawberries and basil, the only bad lemonade is an artificial one.  Lemon desserts are almost universally loved and made better when you use fresh juice; throw in two cubes when marinating chicken or fish or grab one to keep your chopped apples from browning.

I can say from personal experience that frozen cubes of lemon juice have formed the basis of a damned good cocktail and it really pays to experiment here.

The frozen zest can be used in all the same places as the juice, I generally use both if I have them for more depth of flavor.  I also make lemon sugar by mixing grated lemon zest with white sugar, about 2 lemons per cup of sugar for a really intense flavor.  Just mix it thoroughly and let it stand in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for about a week, stirring once a day.  Lemon sugar is fab for sugar cookies, rimming glasses, dusting pastries and putting in tea along with a host of other things.

Alright sous chefs that's what I do, but what about you?  What's your favorite tip or use for lemons? Leave a comment or send an email, the best tip will get posted soon.  Go forth and cook!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Let's Spoon!

I heard somewhere that the ancient peoples of Rome carried their own spoons around with them so there was always a utensil handy when a meal presented itself.  Sounds sensible to me, since a spoon is one of the most used and unappreciated tools in the kitchen.  Not only is it perfect for eating cereal with, but the spoon is also used for wide array of activities, mostly cooking.

Quenelles are shaped in the bowls, while cantaloupes get scraped with them and just the right spoon will have a gently pointed tip so that it slips easily between the skin and fruit of a kiwi for easy prep.  There are easily more types and sizes of spoons in my kitchen than any other tool; in fact, I'm willing to bet that is true of most cooks.

So, Spoon! was the logical choice for the name of this blog, it's the Swiss Army knife of utensils and everybody has one.  But that's not what inspired the name, oh no.  No, no, no.  Spoon! was the Tick's catchphrase, one that he picked completely at random to say when he felt victorious.


Of course, the Tick was a cartoon character from many years ago that had nothing whatsoever to do with food or cooking.  But his joyous abandon whenever he said it stuck with me and it is the ultimate in non sequiturs for the modern absurdist.

Now to business, I started this blog for a specific reason:  so I could stop annoying all my chef friends on FaceBook with my cooking tip updates.  They already know this stuff and I can practically see them roll their eyes when I post a reminder to salt the water.  However, I have many other friends and acquaintances who are not professionals and do appreciate it when I share.  This blog is for them - and anyone else who is looking to help themselves out around the kitchen.

I have spent my life cooking, for myself, for friends and for profit and have a big storehouse of tips, shortcuts, recipes and alternate uses for conventional items as a result.  My kids don't cook, apparently it's easier to break my heart than learn to cook, but I'm not bitter.  But lots of other people do and I wholeheartedly encourage them all.

So what can you expect from Spoon!?  I want this to be my legacy to the culinary world, the place where all that I've learned can be shared with others.  My restaurant days are behind me and I'm back where I started, cooking at home but even the most modest home kitchen can produce a masterpiece.  There will be as many tricks as I can remember, seasonal tips, procedural advice and even the occasional recipe.

Your comments and questions are welcomed whether you are a novice or a seasoned hand because there is always more to know about food.  Please enjoy Spoon!