Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cooking by rule of thumb!

As a young cook I was taught by a bunch of older chefs. They didn't believe in recipes. They taught me that all food was different. Whether it be the soil of the earth they grew in, or the season of the year, that specific food changed constantly. I was taught that by tasting, touching, and they way food looked during cooking was the best way to tell if a dish was perfectly cooked. It seems those days have come and gone. Chefs today rely on recipes as a way of keeping consistency and ensuring a common taste for the food they make for diners. I have to say that a lot of the intuitive nature of cooking is lost. I'm here to bring that way of thought back from the death of modern scientific recipes, and lack of ability to taste. The mission is to get people to "feel" the food for flavor, and use their senses to determine the perfect flavor.

Consistency wasn't an issue when I was in restaurants using this method, and it shouldn't be a problem now. Think about how your grandma cooked. Most likely she used the rule of thumb method. She just knew how it was suppose to look and feel, and taste. I love the imagination of some of their dishes. They lived off of the land, at least a lot of them did, and knew that a tomato in July was not the same as one in August. The rain had fallen in between those times, and nutrients had changed in the soil. Salt content was different, and so forth. My recipes will be a guideline.

There are some things that will usually always work. Like a classic vinegar and oil dressing. It needs acid, oil and sugar for balance. Salt and pepper are used as a flavor enhancer, and a million other things can be used to finish the dressing to bring it to the point you want. Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, and purees of vegetables could be added to chance the flavor and viscosity of the dressing. The combinations are endless. One thing remains true. It starts with acid and oil. That is the common denominator.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Winter Time Blues... And HyVee downtown?

I really need a dose of Spring. We are so close to warmer days, more sunshine, and fresh vegetables grown locally. I'm personally looking forward to starting my own garden this year. The Downtown Farmers Market on Saturday mornings is great, but to watch something grow, dream about what you'll cook with it, and then actually making it for yourself, and a few good friends, is sublime. Eggplants, tomatoes, and summer squashes, are what I'm dreaming of right now. I'm busy reading recipes, reading gardening books, and ordering seed catalogs, all in preparation for what will be an awesome summer. Right now getting ready for the upcoming growing season is what is keeping me going during what has been a really dark, snowy, cold as heck season. Oh yeah... 2 inches of snow expected tomorrow. Cant wait...


I read a few minutes ago that the city is thinking of putting a HyVee supermarket downtown on the site of a parking lot. While I understand that Downtown is a growing in leaps and bounds right now, and residents need a place to shop, this is just a bad idea. Why in the middle of The Court Ave. District? Would a spot in some other area be better? The area needs more parking. It's hard enough right now to find parking in the area. Taking away the spot where most vendors of the Saturday market park is simply a bad idea. It shows how behind the City of Des Moines is right now. The other two choices where interesting. A proposed movie theatre is a bad idea. The second is a permanent enclosed, year round, farmers market. That would be ideal. Healthy, high quality groceries would be perfect there. Like a Whole Foods, but without the corporate structure, and garbage that goes along with that. Lets hope they come to their senses.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Farmers Market Saturdays

Today was a great day. It was 60 degrees, sunny, and of course, Saturday. That means there is a farmers market in the Court Avenue area in Downtown. The market is filled this time of year with the sights and sounds of Fall. Lots of root vegetables, beautiful locally grown brussel sprouts, and gourds and squashes of all kinds. Today I bought some of all of those things, some local garlic, and a great pork shoulder from a local farmer. We also sampled a couple awesome pastries from La Mi, and some of the worst BBQ I have ever tasted. The coffee from Java Joe's was still amazing, and the cheese curds were, well, cheesy. There are also some beautiful flowers for my wife. I love Saturday. Remember that right now there are a ton of people out of work because of the government shutdown, people without Federal Aid, like WIC, along with the already hungry all over the country. Please give to your local food pantry, and remember that protein items like tuna and peanut butter are needed desperately. I feel lucky to be so blessed that I am not hungry today. Remember, food is precious.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I started reading Michael Ruhlman's new book, Ratio, the day it was released. First just thumbing through it, then this week reading more in depth. Wow! What a great read, it was like unlocking a door that I had just peeked through before. I even went out and ordered a great scale so that I could measure the ratios more exactly. A cup of flour isn't always a cup of flour, but 100 grams of flour is right on the money every time.

I'll be posting more about this book as I read through it. So far it's been amazing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pineapple Sherbet

1 can crushed pineapple
Juice of 3 lemons
2 egg whites
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. sugar
Put pineapple and lemon juice in freezer and chill both. Whip the egg whites until stiff. Add 1/4 cup sugar. Mix the pineapple, lemon juice and beat egg whites and add 1/2 cup sugar. Put the mixture into freezer. Fill freezer with whipping cream (not whipped) or milk. This recipe makes 1/2 gallon of sherbet.

Fantastic recipe for spring or summer

Simple Hot Mustard for Ham

2 T ground mustard
1 T rice vinegar
2 T water
S&P to taste

Mix altogether and let sit 20 minutes, as the mustard will absorb liquid.

Eat with ham

Easter Ham

My Grandmothers ham...

1 whole or half ham. Bone in of course...
About 20 cloves or so, depending on ham.
Ground mustard. Enough to pack it on the entire ham.
Dark brown sugar. Enough to pack it on the entire ham.
1 small can of pineapple juice.
Use empty can to measure one can of sherry

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.

With a knife score the entire fat cap on the ham, crossing diagonally.
At each intersecting diamond stud the ham with a single clove.
Pack ground mustard onto entire ham.
Pack brown sugar onto entire ham.
Pour juice and sherry onto ham.

Roast ham until internal temperature is 140-150 degrees F. Basting with cooking liquid every half hour, until done.

This is the easiest way I've ever roasted a ham, and it's really, really, great ham.