Hit Me with Your Best Shot

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“Don’t tamp it this time,” my son says. 

“What?”  

“With my Gaggia,” he says, “I’ve stopped tamping.  I get better crema. Try it.”

The coffee, he means, in the filter basket.  

It’s a Saturday morning.  I’m making him an espresso in my Delonghi Dedica Deluxe Pump Stainless Steel Espresso Machine. When you make espresso with a machine, tamping is a thing. It’s part of the process, the ritual. I’ve always tamped. The pros in coffee bars tamp. Every machine I’ve owned came with a tamping tool. When I tell him with this machine I only gently tamp, just leveling the coffee off, he says I might get better crema leaving it loose.   Continue reading

Pass the Oil, Please

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The truth of the matter is, much of what I’m eating today is an excuse to consume olive oil.  Salads with spiral-cut zucchini and arugula and tuna–it’s a dish that wants a generous anointing with extra virgin olive oil.  Fava beans with chopped tomato–oh, yes, let there be oil. On a steak or a slab of fish, oil provides a definite enhancement. Last night, snacking lightly, I ate a chunk of bread leftover from lunch, giving it a drizzle of olive oil to soak into those dried dimples and crevices, topped with a few slices of mozzarella and leftover scraps of zucchini spirals. Continue reading

I Spiralize…

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Meanwhile my life has been permanently changed by the discovery of the spiralizer, a kitchen device that transforms a zucchini into spaghetti.

What joy. What delightful culinary alchemy. In my wife’s family there is a mildly chiding remark employed when someone states the obvious. Hai scoperto america. You discovered America. So, all right, the spiralizer (I will never tire of using that term) is old news. But to me, it’s new news.

It’s lightweight. Its dies are razor sharp. My first time spiralizing I drew blood, my own, twice. The shiny white easy-to-clean appliance wasn’t exactly covered with gore. But if it was, so what. A quick rinse under the tap, and blood’s away. Easy to use, easy to dismantle and clean, easy to mantle.

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I’ve spiralized twice now. Second time, caution was observed and I came away unscathed. Now, to the eating. Spiralizing will reveal new worlds. What to spiralize? What to do with spiralized stuff? This spiralized zucchini, I’m eating it raw, with arugula and chopped tomato. Olive oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt. I used to think, How did we live before arugula? Now I wonder, How did I live without a spiralizer?

A year from now, will it still be special? Or will it fall onto the junk heap of other kitchen devices like the cap snaffler, egg cuber, roll ‘n pour, alli-grater, pancake pen, electric hotdog slicer, Oreo dipr, the one click stick butter cutter, the battery-operated spaghetti twirling fork, the condiment gun?

I predict the spiralizer will last. It will stand the test of time. I spiralize. Therefore I am.

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Third Eye Seeing

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She announced, out of nowhere, that she could see auras.

I was sitting with this girl at the Orange Julius in Ann Arbor late one afternoon in 1973. It was a sunny day in early April, the end of winter semester. Outside the last of the blackened snow was melting.

“Around some people,” she said, “I see this shimmering.” Continue reading

Hey, You Guys!

The Michigan–how do you take your plural–asparagus or asparaguses or asparaguys are on the shelves, and they are fantastic. These lovelies we had for lunch today have distinctive blue tips. The stalks are shaved, giving them a more delicate green. Suitable for framing. Unless you’re hungry.

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Always make too much, always make too many.  Doing so, if you have a couple ounces of restraint, will mean you have a couple leftover asparagus to enjoy with a rice dish the next day.  Ahhh, leftovers. How did they become the poor cousins on/at the menu? Pictured here, brown rice, chopped tomato, and sliced asparagus. Served cool, with sea salt and fresh ground paper. No oil.

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Veal Feathers

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On the package it says “Plume de veau.” I read that as “veal feathers.” Thinking: Now what have they done to those poor animals?

It’s hard not to feel guilty. The don’t-eat-the-veal campaign in the 1980’s just about ruined osso buco for me. The Wall Street Journal reports that per capita consumption of veal in the US fell from 2.3 pounds in 1986 to just 0.3 pounds in 2014. But now, early in the 21st century, veal has been rehabilitated. Continue reading

Cauliflower: Boil Now, Eat Later

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If I had to do college all over again, I would probably still major in English. But this time around, I would definitely minor in cauliflower.

Consider the lowly cauliflower, resting on the kitchen counter. I hold it aloft and admire it, like Hamlet lifting Yorick’s skull and addressing it: “a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.” Cauliflower, a vegetable of infinite possibility, of most excellent taste. Continue reading

Yoga, Space, and Bragadin’s Skin

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“I like the albumin,” I say to my wife.

We’re having a light breakfast before going to yoga. I’m one egg, sunny side up; she’s two, poached. I tried yoga with her a year ago, half a dozen sessions, and decided it was too much work. Plus, it’s a full hour of listening and following directions, which is probably good discipline, but still, it’s discipline. I’m trending post-discipline these days. But she’s persuaded me to give it another try.  The mind-body connection appeals to me, or the idea of it does. Today will be my fourth session. Continue reading