Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 1st, 2009

Three good dishes

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I made three quite tasty things today. As proto-recipes:

Sautéed Kale

2 bunches of fresh kale, washed and chopped
2 strips thick bacon, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
olive oil (just a little bit of Agrumato olive oil, pressed with lemons)
sherry vinegar

Wash kale (I swish it around in a sink full of cold water), then shake dry and chop. (I chop the entire bunch, including stems and veins.)

Chop bacon into pieces, and put them in large sauté pan. Cook over medium or medium-high heat until fat is rendered and bacon is starting to brown. Add the chopped onion and continue to sauté until the onion is transparent.

Add the chopped kale. Cover, and cook, removing cover from time to time to turn the kale. Add 1/4 cup water and continue cooking until water has evaporated.

Remove from heat, add olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper and mix well.

As I ate this tonight, it seemed to have a great balance of flavors and, if you mixed in some pasta, to be a complete meal.

Texas caviar

Nothing special here—one of the usual variations. I soaked a pound of dried black-eyed beans only for about  3 hours, which seemed plenty. I simmered them just until they were tender (start checking after 20 minutes of simmering).

When they were tender, I drained, cooled under cold water, then drained again and put into a bowl, to which I added:

2 finely chopped jalapeños
1-2 bunches chopped scallions, including green part
1 bunch chopped cilantro
olive oil
juice of 2-3 limes
dash of Worcestershire sauce
dash of liquid smoke

Change the proportions to suit your taste.

Easy-peasy Shrimp

Bring 2 quarts of water to boil, dump in 1 lb shrimp (without peeling them), and simmer the shrimp for 2-3 minutes. (They turn pink almost immediately, but it takes a little longer for them to cook through.)

Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain thoroughly and put into a bowl. Over the shrimp pour some hot pepper sesame oil and sprinkle Old Bay seasoning.

Same idea as eating blue crabs: put the seasoning on the shells, and as you shell and eat, the seasoning will get on your hands, then on the shrimp and into your mouth.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2009 at 6:45 pm

19 Worst Americans of 2008

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Michael Tomasky has the list. David Addington didn’t make the cut for the Top Ten, which I think is probably a mistake. Here’s the top 10; full list at the link.

10 The boys from AIG. Less than a week after the insurance giant received an $85bn federal bail-out, some AIG execs and sales reps spent $440,000 on a retreat at an exclusive resort, including $23,000 in spa charges. Well, they were under tremendous stress, you know.

9 Eliot Spitzer. The prostitute-visiting ex-New York governor, remember? Usually, when a scandal breaks, one reads the reports and starts thinking, “Well, I can see how they could wriggle out of this one.” Even when the Lewinsky scandal broke, I could see how Bill Clinton might get out of it. But when the Spitzer story broke, it was evident instantly that he was dead meat.

8 Dick Cheney. Just because. If he lives to be 99 – and he’s not as old as he looks: can you believe, for instance, that he’s younger than Ringo? – and I’m still doing this column, something tells me he’ll always find his way on the list. It’ll take that long to undo the damage he’s done to flag and country.

7 Steve Schmidt. John McCain didn’t make the list, but his chief campaign strategist has earned an indisputable spot. He displayed a rare combination of incompetence, tone-deafness and cynicism. He’s only as low as number eight because it didn’t work.

6 Joe Lieberman. It’s not that the Connecticut senator backed McCain. It’s the way he did it, the way he does everything – the self-regard, the pride, the arrogation to himself of some kind of moral authority that he in fact does not have any more (even if he once did, itself a debatable proposition). Don’t take it from me. Take it from his constituents, who ignored him to the tune of supporting Obama by a 22-point margin.

5 Michele Bachmann. Of the many memorable moments the campaign produced, I will never forget watching this Minnesota congresswoman say on national TV in October that Obama “may have anti-American views” and endorse the idea of a media investigation of all members of Congress to determine whether their views were sufficiently pro-American. The single most appalling political statement of the year.

4 Rod Blagojevich. “Whatever I say is always lawful, whatever I’m interested in doing is always lawful.” Uh-huh. Depending on what comes out at his trial, he’s a strong contender for an even higher spot in 2009.

3 George Bush. There were years when he would have been higher – 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. I’ll give him a slight pass for 2001, what with the attacks and all that. In those previous years, he stole an election, started an unnecessary war, lied about it, approved torture, let a great US city drown and so on. This year he merely presided over the bankruptcy of the global economy. Twenty days and counting.

2 Sarah Palin. Does she really deserve to be this high? Never in my adult lifetime has one politician so perfectly embodied everything that is malign about my country: the proto-fascist nativism, the know-nothingism, the utterly cavalier lack of knowledge about the actual principles on which the country was founded. So, heck, you betcha she does!

1 Bernard Madoff. It’s pronounced “made-off”. Could Dickens have named him better? Bilking people and institutions out of $50bn is a pretty surefire way to make yourself No 1 with a bullet on anyone’s year-end bad guys’ list.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2009 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Daily life

Knife sharpening

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Updated again 13 Oct 2015: have learned some things, so updates below.

Post updated 14 Jan 2009, incorporating new information. Clearly the world of sharpening is vast, and knife sharpening is only a small part of it.

Now I have a bee in my bonnet about knife sharpening. Said bee was created by a decision to upgrade a kitchen knife. I’ve been using one of these knives—specifically, the Tosagata Hocho 6-inch Santoku Hocho, which I learned about through Cool Tools. I love its sharpness and the ease with which I can sharpen it with a waterstone.

Yet because it’s carbon steel, one must take care to wipe it off after using it to minimize staining and rust. I’m not so careful of that as I should be. “Completion” for me remains the point at which I’ve cut up the veg, not when I’ve cleaned the knife blade after cutting up the veg. I haven’t been able to train myself to include the cleaning step as the completion of the cutting task. YMMV.

I decided to get the Hiromoto Aogami Super TJ-25AS Gyuto, with a blade length of 210mm (just over 8.25 inches), which can be found on this page (link fixed). The reason:

The blades are made of Hitachi Aogami Super (AS Carbon steel), an ultimate Hagane refined from Yasugi sand-rons. High carbon steel (1.40 – 1.50) with Chromium (0.30 – 0.50) and Tungsten (2.00 – 2.50) added for extra durability and longer edge retention. This core carbon steel is clad with 405 stainless steel to prevent from rusting.

I did look with some longing at the Hattori KD series, specifically the KD-32, a gyuto-style knife with a blade of 210mm. Unfortunately it’s sold out, as you can see. Another drawback: it costs $1030 per copy, beyond my price range.

So far, so good. I passed along the Tosagata Hocho knife in anticipation of the arrival of the new knife, and to tide me over I got out one of my David Boye chef knives. Quel horreur! It was like cutting with the edge of a tray. And yet I had sharpened them…

Then I recalled that the Chef’s Choice 110 electric sharpener The Eldest owned (just like mine) had somehow gone bad: when you tried to sharpen, the knives were dulled. I talked to Chef’s Choice, and they told me that their sharpeners are good for only about 2 or 3 years—at that point, the abrasive pads must be replaced (a factory job that costs $30 not including shipping). So if  you use this sharpener, you’re out $50 every 2-3 years (including shipping costs). Not a good deal at all.

That started the bee a-buzzing. I need a good knife sharpener. And, I think, it would be wise to have my David Boye chef knives (I have two) professionally sharpened to restore the edge. So began the search: knife sharpening services and knife sharpening systems.

Services: I wanted a good professional knife sharpener to restore the edge. I decided on the sharpening service at Just Knives 101, since that company is where I got my Tosagata Hocho knife with the perfect edge. (It also doesn’t hurt that they do factory-authorized knife sharpening for Wüsthof-Trident, JA Henckels, Global, Kershaw Shun, and Masahiro.) And the price is right. Plus they have sharpening equipment far beyond anything I could get.

My local supermarket will sharpen knives for free in the meat department: drop off up to 3 knives and pick them up the next day, sharpened. This would work for non-critical knives. I doubt that they do final touches like stropping, and they may not even do a compound bevel (see below). But: free. specializes in the sharpening of Japanese knives. That’s a good idea, because Japanese knives have a different edge that US and European knives. Not only do the Japanese often use a single bevel (one side is perfectly flat—actually, somewhat hollow ground—and the bevel is on the other side). These knives come in right-handed and left-handed versions. And even when a knife, such as the Gyuto I just bought, has a bevel on either side, it is a very shallow bevel—15º in the case of my knife. That makes for an extremely sharp edge, but also an edge that’s somewhat delicate: you wouldn’t try to cut frozen foods, bone, or hard things like a butternut squash or a pineapple.

Western kitchen knives are typically sharpened with a compound bevel to make a stronger edge that is not quite so sharp: a primary bevel of 18º, a smaller secondary bevel of 20º, and a final, very small bevel of 22º that forms the cutting edge. Each bevel is honed with progressively finer grit and the final bevel may even be stropped to polish the edge.

As this article states, some jobs should be done only by professionals. The article points out how an amateur polishing job can completely ruin a fine Japanese sword or naginata.

Sharpening systems: I did not want an electric sharpener: I’ve learned that lesson. To bring this story up to date: I ultimately did get an EdgePro Apex System, which works well for my chef’s knives, though I did not like it that the knife was unclamped. But it did not work at all well (in my hands, at least) for small knives like paring knives and pocket knives.

I did read a bit about the topic in general and found three good posts, one by Mike Casey and one by Steve Bottorff and one by Chad Ward. Reading these and looking at the diagrams make it clear what you’re going for and why some knives are difficult to sharpen: they arrive in a badly shaped edge.

You can also view videos on knife sharpening. It’s good to look at several: sometimes the advice in a particular case may not be so good.

I looked carefully at the Spyderco (video here) and the Lansky (video here), and in searching for comparative reviews I read again about the Gatco, which is much like the Lansky, and then discovered the KME sharpening system. Here’s the video:

Some things that impressed me: the stronger rod; the firmness of the angle because of the nylon bearing for the road, the optional jaws clamp for small knives; the range of hones (and strops!) and strop abrasive fluid.

I realized that their full 4-hone diamond-hone system with carrying case and free strop included was the same price from KME itself as the Amazon price for the same set-up, except that Amazon did not include the ($18) strop. So I ordered from KME. I’ll pass along the EdgePro Apex: the KME can handle what I was using it for, and will be much easier and, I think, more effective, since I had difficulty in holding the knife steady with the Apex.

One route is to go to a bench-grinder, probably the long-term best bet—especially with specialized equipment like these paper sharpening wheels. But that doesn’t fit particularly well with my apartment (no workshop) lifestyle.

For a top-class home system, the consensus seems to be EdgePro, either the Pro system or the Apex system. (Here’s are videos showing a knife being sharpened.) These are somewhat expensive, so for now I’ll probably use a steel for touch-ups and ship my knives off to the service when they need sharpening (which is not very often). Eventually, though, one of these EdgePro systems may find its way here.

And I think a strop, to polish the final edge, is a good idea—something like one of these.

A sharpening steel can keep the edge in shape, but you want a smooth sharpening steel: those with striations along the length of the steel function as fine files as you stroke the blade across them, which will mess up a smoothly stropped edge.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2009 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

One resolution: eat more veg & less meat

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Yet the first recipe I’m saving is this one by Mark Bittman. (At least it does include a vegetable.)

Braised Spareribs With Cabbage

Yield 4 servings
Time About 90 minutes

You can use any kind of ribs you like in this braise. Good meaty spareribs remain inexpensive and are always a good option. But the somewhat pricier baby back ribs will become tender a little more quickly, as will ”country style” ribs, which are actually cross-cut shoulder chops.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 or more dried red chilies, like serrano
3 to 4 pounds spareribs, cut into individual ribs, excess fat removed
Salt and pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
1 head cabbage, savoy (preferred) or white, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, cored and shredded
1 cup dry white wine
Chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Put olive oil in a large, deep skillet or casserole that can be covered, and turn heat to high. A minute later, add garlic and chilies. When they sizzle, add ribs, meatier side down; sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add bay leaves. Cook, adjusting heat so the meat browns, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn ribs, and brown again. Remove ribs to a plate.

2. Pour off excess fat, and add cabbage and some more salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage browns. Add wine, and stir to release any brown bits stuck to bottom of pan. Return ribs to pot; adjust heat so mixture simmers steadily but not violently, and cover.

3. Cook, checking occasionally to be sure the mixture does not dry out. (If it does, add more white wine or water.) When ribs are tender and cabbage is very soft — this will take at least 45 minutes — uncover. If mixture is soupy, turn heat to high, and cook, stirring occasionally and carefully, until it is more of a moist stew. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to a day before reheating.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2009 at 10:07 am

Great binoculars

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I like binoculars, and Cool Tools reviews what seems to be an excellent binocular for almost anyone.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2009 at 9:29 am

Posted in Daily life

I really liked bananas

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As we all know, the Cavendish banana—the supermarket banana most of us enjoy, now that the Gros Michel (which was bigger and tastier) is no more—is also facing extinction. Here’s a recent report from Science. It begins:

The banana we eat today is not the one your grandparents ate. That one – known as the Gros Michel – was, by all accounts, bigger, tastier, and hardier than the variety we know and love, which is called the Cavendish. The unavailability of the Gros Michel is easily explained: it is virtually extinct.

Introduced to our hemisphere in the late 19th century, the Gros Michel was almost immediately hit by a blight that wiped it out by 1960. The Cavendish was adopted at the last minute by the big banana companies – Chiquita and Dole – because it was resistant to that blight, a fungus known as Panama disease. For the past fifty years, all has been quiet in the banana world. Until now.

The Australian management program consisted of quick quarantine of fields that were proven by the test to be infected. But early detection doesn’t necessarily buy enough time. The plan came apart in March 2006, when Cyclone Larry ravaged Australia’s banana growing regions. High winds destroyed more than 85% of the banana crop, and flooding spread infected water and dirt to the surviving banana trees. An October report from the Australia Broadcasting Company documented the rapid spread of the blight on previously-disease free plantations. Reporter Anne Barker wrote that the “industry, which once had such bright prospects, is now facing collapse.”

Panama disease hasn’t hit our hemisphere yet, …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2009 at 9:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Science

Megs wishes one and all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year

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And I join her in that wish. Here she is, checking out the entranceway again:


Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2009 at 9:16 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Fleur de Soul

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A Mama Bear shaving soap for the stash of untried soaps. This one turns out to be quite nice, with a floral fragrance that I quite like, and the lather created with the Emperor 3 was excellent. I used the short-comb version of the Gillette NEW and it did a fine job. Finally, a finish with Swiss Pitralon and a walk into the kitchen for coffee.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2009 at 9:15 am

Posted in Shaving

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