Why Not Try ... Savory Pancakes

PS And ... there's a world of flours out there besides the various types based on wheat. Legume, Grain, Seeds, and Nuts.

Shown above:

1. Chopped Tomato, Sweet Onion, Cilantro, fresh Green Chili, toasted Cumin seeds, Turmeric.

2. Basan (Chick Pea) and Jowar (Sorghum) flours. Baking Powder.


Please Watch Your Language in the Kitchen

We think it's high time, now that your culinary borders are so all-encompassing, to also extend your vocabulary whilst in the kitchen.

There are myriad verbal options for the various chores even the average cook will do on an everyday basis.

This is not a new idea. Why ... Mario Batali is famous for his "Anointing" of things with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Our heart throb Nigella Lawson is practically synonymous with flowery language in describing her methods. Sometimes, even saucy. Pun, and not pun, intended.

Then there's Rachel Ray. We won't elaborate. You either get it; or, you don't. (Just to say ... too contrived. "EVOO" ... really! And, "Sammy"!)

Here we go ...

Take, for instance, pressing a crumb crust into a pie plate or square baking pan. From now on instead of "pressing" let's say we're "convincing". As in, convince the moist crumb crust evenly around the pan".

Now you don't have to peel potatoes, you coax them from their jackets.

That sauce you're seducing on the stove top for hours, be sure to titillate it every so often.

Why not compel those ingredients into the pot.

Roughly savage the vegetables for the stock.

Whip Cream wants to be thrilled.

Instead of "drizzle" why not to Jackson Pollock.

From the British TV show Posh Nosh we now annoy the vegetables instead of boiling.

Also from the latter, we embarrass our vegetables rather than peel.

Rembrandt a fire under the skillet.

That roast, disable it in its own jus.

Spank that Chicken Breast into a thin cutlet.

Terrify the potatoes in butter until golden brown.

Slash the carrots into bite sized pieces.

Add a finalized Bay Leaf.

Picasso the arrangement for your Antipasto.

Bring the pot to a self-bubble and lower the heat and undersell it until it develops an attitude.

Baffle the steak with Bearnaise Sauce.

Gather the salad ingredients into a bowl.

Van Gogh the mixture on the toasted rounds for a Goldilocks Crostini.

Here's a look at how it works in the real world ...


Homemade Sauerkraut for Dummies

If you have found yourself here, consider yourself a Dummy. Now, don't take umbrage. In fact, if you don't know you're a Dummy, stop reading this right now. It's not for you!

We've posted a Sauerkraut recipe before, but it occurs to us that for the uninitiated that version — as wonderfully simple as Cooky Cat can make it — may still be too complicated.

We understand the intimidation of the unknown. Fondly remembering our first attempt at the Omelet. Kimchi. Sex. (That last one: Baby, really, I had no idea.)

Also, if you are venturing into this fermented food territory for the first time, you don't want to make — what we say in the feline world — "a litter box full".

So now that you are sufficiently amused, here's something to amuse your bouche.

1 Quart Sauerkraut Recipe

— 5 Cups tightly packed thinly shredded Cabbage. (The salted shredded Cabbage shrinks, so 5 Cups slims down to 4 Cups.) 

2-3 small cabbage leaves/pieces 

— 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt (No Iodized!)

— 2 Cups clean water (No Tap Water!)

Toss the shredded cabbage with the Tablespoon Kosher Salt. Tamp down. Let stand for a few hours. Then, add 2 Cups pure water and mix. Tightly pack shredded Cabbage into a clean Quart jar. Place cabbage leaf pieces on top to hold down shredded mass under brine. Fill to top with brine. Place lid on jar loosely. Wait a few days. Taste. Refrigerate when sourness is to your taste. The Sauerkraut will continue to slowly ferment in the refrigerator; but slowly. Keeps a long time.

Check in every day. As gas forms in the jar, the cabbage mass will expand. Tamp down. Fermentation is anaerobic; so it happens under water, away from air. Be sure to place a plate under jar during fermentation to catch any brine spill over. Top with a little salt and water as needed.

Here are the other fermented foods recipes for when you want to go to the next level. 

A link to another take on the subject.


Fermented Vegetables

Here are the most basic elements for fermenting vegetables. 

Your Kitty does not hold hands, or pussyfoot around. There are lots of resources on the Internet for the step by steps. Even some links here to some Cooky Cat recipes.

Basic Points

1. We ferment vegetables to preserve them. And, more importantly now, because they taste good. And, they're good for you. 

2. Fermentation is ... during fermentation beneficial bacteria in the vegetables convert sugars to lactic acid. This is a natural preservation that prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.

3. Fermentation is ... an anaerobic process. In other words, the veggies have to be submerged under brine

3. Salt initiates fermentation. Most important to use non-Iodized salt. Kosher salt works great. Pickling salt also. Never Iodized table salt; you will not get fermentation.

4. Water. Some vegetables after being salted give up liquid. This is a natural brine. In order to be sure the vegetables are submerged under the brining liquid, add more brine to cover. 

Brine Recipe: 2 Tablespoons salt* : 1 Quart of water**. 

*    Kosher or Pickling salt. No Iodine!
**  Pure water. No tap water, unless boiled to remove chlorine. Spring water has no chlorine. Chlorine inhibits/prevents fermentation.

Here are links to Cooky Cat entries for things fermented...


Szechuan Buttons

Here's a good example of something which, on one hand, looks rather fascinating. Szechuan Buttons, a flower bud with numbing mouth feel and alchemical effects on the palate.

We're all for the new. After all, isn't it your own Cooky Cat who introduced you to the idea of cutting your Pepperoni for Pizza, rather than in to round thin slices, but each slice into quarters; and a thickish? (Props to Pizza Town in Elmwood Park, New Jersey for that discovery.)

Yet, there's this thing in the culinary world about searching hither and yon for the most exotic and rare and obscure recipes and ingredients. Baron Ambrosia, one of our own very personal faves, is off the hook in that category. Makes Bizarre Foods maven Andrew Zimmern look like a neophyte. And, that's saying something. That Zimmern, with his references to the right amount of "Poopy-ness" or "Bloody Minerality". The Baron waxes eloquent with Bat Wing Curry and Meal Worm Hummus. Those last two we made up, but not far from the mark. Look Baron Ambrosia. He keep us current on Facebook. Look for him only the best of the best hang their hats. "Merc - That - Thang"

But, with all this new stuff to put in your Bouche. We are not amused. Basta!

Where the kanker gnaws is in how a magazine like Saveur can so blithely mention something like Szechuan Buttons and suggest you try. As if those little blooms are just around the corner. Or, affordable. Like my corner grocer Joe should have a whole bunch on hand even as we speak. Can someone please tell us where to get Szechuan Buttons other than a special trek to China or a lengthy Internet search? This just in: On Amazon for $49.93 plus $34.95 for shipping. They better be worth it.

It's a slippery slope. Sort of like eating overcooked Okra. If you have unlimited financial resources and have a staff to go-fetch like Martha Stewart, fine.

We put mustard on our Hot Dogs and Ketchup on our Hamburgers. Never otherwise. That is the extent of our culinary snobbery.


Cooky Cat Home Page
When it comes to cooking . . .this Cat can Cook! Very Cooky!


The Internet is full of cats these days. Here's a Cat among cats. The one who put the puss in his boots. The very one whom the Ad Biggies referred to when they said, "let's put it out on the back stoop and see if the cat licks it up."

Cooky Cat cooks from scratch. (No claw-related pun intended.) You’ll find not so much recipes, as suggestions. The world, after all, doesn’t need another cook book. A certain culinary skill is expected to dig this cat.

Inspiration is what is needed. And Cooky Cat brings it. A sense of humor also wouldn't hurt. He kids... but, always, he loves. In his own words, "Just kitting."

We give you... Cooky Cat!

The Cooky Cat is into cooking. He can be a playful kitty, sometimes prone to exaggerating the facts (he can be a down right fibber), but always true blue when it comes to steering you in the right direction kitchen-wise. Take what he may say otherwise with a grain of salt. Just shoe him off your lap(top) when he gets too frisky for you.  

Cooky Cat can cook anything (he is not vouching for its edibility, however). Don't expect recipes and treatments on the more conventional dishes. [E.G., regarding omelets... Wisk a few fresh eggs, shake and stir in a pan with some butter, fold onto plate. Done. Next.]

Cooky Cat is also very straight ahead in the kitchen. No stunt foods. So don't expect any of those trendy piled high ego displays or cakes made to look like... whatever. Take this pledge: "I will never again watch a cake show on television." About foam... you can't even get him anywhere near the foam of a bubble bath. And, as few gadgets as possible. It took him years to get around to a Cuisinart processor; prior, it was the trusty Benriner mandoline.

He also vigorously eschews the trend to overly combine wildly disparate ingredients or overly sauce and/or multi-spice recipes. Things do have their own taste and Cooky Cat stands for letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

His motto: Create meals from what looks good at the market, always looking first for what is seasonal, fresh, and local. Shopping to a recipe is a way to go, but many times slavishly sticking to that approach can be frustrating if you can't find the ingredients; it forces compromises if what's only available is of lesser quality, and it is certainly the most expensive approach. Quality costs, and pays off in the long run; but when it's on sale, go for it. By and large, you get what you pay for.

There have been comments from certain quarters that the recipes are not detailed enough. The point Cooky Cat is making has to do with conveying the secret ingredient to all good cooking. If you want the specifics, just do a search and zillions of options magically appear. To repeat, the world does not need another cook book!

Now go ahead, scratch around and see what Cooky Cat has for YOU!

A faithful follower of Cooky Cat  shows her appreciation. . .



You Don't Tell an Italian How to Make Tomato Sauce

Recently I learned that an old friend had passed away. His name is Joseph Oddo. Joe.

Somehow a lot of strings got tied together. Beautifully.

Not long ago I got a Facebook friend request from someone whose relationship with me wasn't clear. I interact on a private professional page and assumed he was a colleague. I didn't inquire further and accepted the invitation. On LinkedIn, the more the merrier. Yet it still nagged me a bit when Joe liked something or other I shared, but still I didn't inquire further.

Very recently I got a notice that he had passed away. Still I didn't look any further.

Then shortly after that news my partner Michele was cooking and asked me about that fellow I had always mentioned who never tasted the food he was preparing; but used his nose, his sense of smell.

It all came together.

Time was when I offered service at a meditation ashram in New York City. Joe Oddo was a contemporary. Offering service (Seva) is part of the dharma, and Joe and I did a lot of work in the kitchen, assisting the cooking of daily evening meals for up to 100, special events for 100's.

Once the community was asked to take over all the kitchen activities, and cover the work with volunteers from the community itself. Prior to that a full time dedicated cook was on staff to head the kitchen. I was asked to fill that role. (If you know about working in the Guru's ashram, you know your ego will get, well, challenged. All in the process of purification to be sure. But, challenged — better, pricked — and sometimes it feels like fire. We people have our differences, don't you know.

Well here I am as manager of the kitchen having to train people to cook full meals for large numbers. Some volunteer cooks with no prior experience. Just how do you cook a pot of rice for 100 servings? And, as I said, each with their own set of experience, backgrounds and temperaments. Plus the policy to cook only for the number reserved for the meal. Little or no leftovers.

If you've ever been in a position to manage a group of people you know it's a dance. Something between wanting to get your way all the time and feeling utterly useless in the face of the inexorable tide of things. Usually, the experience is closer to the latter. You sit back and watch it happen. Adding a little seasoning here and there. Of course, if you are properly placed to manage in a situation, you also know when to call a foul or stop something from going wrong. In the Guru's Kitchen you learn to orchestrate with a light hand. Yet, you will feel the heat in that Kitchen, sometimes get burned. If you are a true Yogi, you take that in stride too. You don't put a pot on to boil that your soul doesn't feel the heat.

Our Joe Oddo cooked with his nose. As many times as I tried to get him to taste the food, he wouldn't. His nose told him everything. Mother's knee sort of thing, I believe. Now I could get all up into a hot argument about how in the hell he could determine the right amount of salt, but he wasn't the sort who was open to that kind of discussion/argument. His speciality was Italian Tomato Sauce. And, like I said, you don't tell an Italian how to make his sauce.

Tomato Sauce aside, Joe also, during my reign in the kitchen anyway, never mastered the knack of cooking right to the expected number of people. When Joe cooked we had leftovers. Where in terms of taste his nose knew, in terms of quantity Joe seemed to cook by eye. I never was able to get him into the math of calibrating the final goal amounts based on number of guests, serving sizes, cooked volume versus raw. But, Joe was a good cook and we folded his, ahem, abundance into the next meal.

I had also vividly remembered a time when Joe and I and a few others set about to fix the stone steps leading down from the sidewalk at the Ashram. Joe took charge. Let's just say, his way and mine were different. I fumed. (Remember, you burn in the Guru's House.) Not least for having to speed off very near retail closing time on Saturday fetching bags of concrete. Double burn. We literally took the stairs apart and rebuilt them. Fine enough, except the treads we reset were not the same vertical distance apart. In short, not right. We hired a stone mason — Italian to boot! — and it was done correctly.

I had told Michele this story many times, clearly remembering Joe, but forgetting his last name. Then she asked what was his name and I instantly said Joe Oddo.


Confession. I had remembered Joe — and so many others from my past history — mainly for the ways in which we rubbed each other the wrong way. This had been a nagging point of discord for me in my sadhana. Something unfinished. Remembering the past, and coming up with mostly sore memories. The word is Forgiveness. A word. But it's the act that matters. That counts.

I've always held that the time of a loved one's, or even an acquaintance's passing, is a time of blessing. So too with Joe Oddo.

I remember Joe very fondly and now those recollections warm and gladden my heart. I do apologize, Joe, for not recognizing you when you requested being a Facebook friend. You are a friend in a much larger sense than that. A friend of my heart. I love you. Happy trails.

Om Namah Shivaya!

Jai Guru, Hai!

If you get into that heavenly kitchen and cook up some sauce, don't overdo it. The Boss there is strict. But, as the joke goes, there aren't that many to cook for anyway.


Chinese Food for Social Media

If you are one of those sorts who likes to share pictures of foods you've prepared, or foods you are eating RIGHT NOW! at some fancy joint, you may have been stumped a few times or so.

Specifically, when what you whipped up on the stove is just not all that pretty for a picture. For example, your Matzo Brei, Boiled Noddles, Grits, Pea Soup.

Here is the solution to your problemo, Muchacho/a!

Introducing Instant Chinese Wok, a PNG file image of a Chinese Wok to overlay on your boring, bland, just downright plain looking stuff.

Simply overlay the PNG file image above and you got you food looking proper Chinese, just like Friend David Wronski does with his social media posts. 

Behold . . . 


Swing-A-Way Vegetable Peeler

I you happen to own a Swing-A-Way we know you swear by it. At least, the one once made in the USA. It'll last you forever.

As for the vegetable peeler they market, it's something you swear at. Also, I've learned that now that the opener also comes from offshore, the Amazon review is that's it lousy. Corporations! Outsourcing!

Does anyone still know what products made in the USA stood for? It's not just about the Red, White, and Blue. Long lasting. Overbuilt. Bulletproof. Solid. Like that.

We're getting our second replacement peeler from the manufacturer. First one was dull as a mud fence. The one that replaced it fell apart. A vegetable peeler that falls apart! Swing-A-Way!

Here's the chronicle we submitted to Amazon . . . on the sale page for the Swing-A-Way Potato Peeler . . .

Step 1.

My Swing-A-Way can opener is bulletproof, reliable, well made . . . the only one you'll ever need. Also with that Made in the USA robust design and materials. The peeler . . . the exact opposite. It has been sitting in our drawer for a few years. I couldn't believe how poorly it worked. In fact, it never worked. I did call their customer service on that, but I must've made the wrong connection. The company at the time listed for that product answered as if I got the parking attendant's booth. Dead zone. Since I recently purchased the Jonas (Made in Sweden) peeler and found it to be light years better than anything I've ever used (not sticking peels, they just fly away. Razor sharp too.) I made another attempt to contact AmcoHouseworks only to find their customer number on the website is for retailers only. No listed number for consumers. They directed me to another number for consumers. The representative who answered the phone was rather uninterested in hearing that they were difficult to reach. I will be receiving a replacement and hope that the original unit was just a fluke. It was just such a shock after my glowing experience with the can opener. Customer service . . . C-. Yes, I'm getting a replacement, but sometimes a dissatisfied customer also wants to be heard. Deaf ears was my experience.

Step 2.

Got the replacement. Worked great. The new one had a sharp blade. Then, after about a dozen uses, the blade came away from the central shaft to which it is attached. A small length of metal either was never there or broke off the crimp collar which holds the blade to the shaft; so it couldn't surround the shaft and hold secure. After another lengthy search to find customer service I finally got a number. Will call tomorrow during business hours. Also wrote an email. Much too much effort over getting something this basic to work, from a company which seems to make so many quality products. And, the replacement was not as good quality as the original one I purchased. Their excellent hand can opener is USA made. I don't think the peeler comes from these shores. I'll report on the next transactions.

Step 3.

Getting yet another replacement. No hassle on that part. Customer service there confirmed all Swing-A-Way products are now made in China.

It's an interesting look into corporate ownership. Used to be a Made in USA product(s) with management probably within shouting distance of shipping. Now management is virtually inaccessible to peons like me; customer service might as well be in another state; quality control in another; and the production line in some backwater, and likely only accessible through some front company in Hong Kong. With manufacturing contracts won based on ballpark quality and lower costs. The previous replacement product was clearly not even to the quality of the first, which latter was probably also made in China.

Customer service was, well, serviceable. All the rep wanted to do was send me another unit. I finally suggested that I purchased two faulty units and that might be a red flag for somebody. But, in corporate culture, fragmented and distant as the parts are now, that point I’d bet won’t get noticed.

Rant . . . over.

Here's a photo I sent with the email to the manufacturer.

Step 4.

Awaiting replacement peeler.


Little Things in the Kitchen Mean a Lot

Your Cooky is a new Cat. He finally stopped being so penny-wise and sprung for a proper vegetable peeler.

Big deal. You could say that. But, if you spend time in the kitchen you know things need to be prepped. And that means, vegetables to be peeled.

Now we know too well how the marketing folks have mined every nook and cranny, and the result in terms of peelers — like everything else — is you got all manner of shapes and designs to choose from. Those icky non-slip handled kind are from the devil himself, if you ask us.

You know that trusty Swing-Away can opener. Those folks make a righteous looking simple peeler with their trademark molded-on plastic grip. The unit we bought wasn't worth a pile of what we would put in the litter box. And — what a downer — contacting the company was nearly impossible, and the outcome when we did speak to a "customer rep" was pretty much another little box full of you know what.

If you have in fact spent time peeling vegetables you know that all peelers are not created equal. We have always preferred the simple ones you can find pretty much in any supermarket in their small kitchen equipment section. We like the cheap price and they work well enough. But we have also come to expect that cursed of all features of the vegetable peeler: those peels stick to the blade of the peeler and you have to shake them off after every pass.

Hallelujah! No longer!

In an online order recently we needed an item to bring the sale total up to qualify for free shipping. How about a peeler? We sprung for a Jonas peeler at $7.95, a price we didn't think you should ever have to pay for a peeler. It's make in Sweden, evidently by the folks who in fact invented that particular iconic design.

Just to say the blade is sharp as a razor. And — mirabile dictu — the peels fly away off after every swipe. Repeat, fly away off.

Just to conclude . . . Go get one. And . . . You are welcome.


Dim Sum . . . Tea*

[There's an error in the title. Do you see it? No? Read on.]

If you don't know from Dim Sum, read on. If you do. Read on. If you're not sure. You will be.

When this Cat is referrin to Dim Sum, he not talkin bout those few menu entries you see under the appetizer section on most Chinese restaurant menus. We speak of the real deal.

Find yourself some weekend morning at a proper Chinese restaurant. That be one where lots of Chinese folk go. Not, certainly, any one of those ubiquitous holes in the wall where all you have to do to cook there be of Chinese descent. But, the real deal. If you don't know of any, just follow your nose. Google will show the way.

Dim Sum as we generally know it is a moving feast — literally — usually served on weekend mornings in some Chinese restaurants. Really goin concerns in major metropolitan China Towns will have it every morning. 

You are seated at a table, very likely after a bit of a wait — and, don't be shy if you happen to be given a place at a very large round table with many other diners you may not know. The vibe is hospitable; but not all like let's get to know each other, and what's your favorite color. Mind your own business. OK? — and food cart after food cart will parade by driven usually by women hawking their wares. They can be rather brusque, even brusk.

The female servers will be speaking Chinese, in a near sing-song voice style. They can be rather assertive, so don't be intimidated. Especially if you are of the round-eye persuasion. They will play your (presumed?) ignorance and way too soon after you just sat down you will have a pile of food on you table. Order the more exotic, though, and they will light up like a Chinese New Year celebration. Tripe does it every time. Chicken Feet, too.

Pace yourself. What goes around, comes around. That there literally must've been coined by someone at a Dim Sum Parlour. Do a little homework before you go. Also, select
what attracts your eye. Do experiment. It's all good! Another one of those catch phrases from some Dim Sum. "Some" Dim Sum. Nice, huh? If you are the sort that sniffs at things new, maybe go with an initiated friend. Or, don't go, and just stick to pop tarts or EggMcMuffins.

Those carts just mentioned. All manner of savories and sweets. Small portions on small plates and bowls, and small steamer baskets. It's what's in those steamer baskets what you want to especially shoot for. There will be several types of dainty hand made dumplings with various minced fillings. 

Oh yes. Don't turn you nose up at a bowl of savory tripe . . .  

or a pile of  braised chicken feet drenched in a thick spicy sauce. (Shouting out to a friend who will only be mentioned as "Mr. MY". He's been a little timid about putting a foot in his mouth.)

The list of things from which to choose can be huge. At the palatial China Doll, one erstwhile restaurant in Phoenix we liked, they even had a large side service where you went and fetched plates of roasted and barbecued meats and other delicacies. Even Congee. 

Congee is a piping hot bland rice porridge festooned/laced with whatever you choose from a variety of this-and-that.

Two items we want to especially suggest:

1. Filled Sticky Rice packages wrapped in Lotus Leaf . . . 

2. Singapore Noodles . . . (note: curry flavor)

When you are seated (there could be a wait, like we said) you will have been given a small menu-looking sheet. Leave it on the table. The server will check off from that list whatever item(s) you have chosen. It'll be added up at the conclusion of your Dim Sum. Sometimes that list will be organized according to price tiers. Just watch out for large dishes of vegetables and fancy things like piles of clams or snails. Not super expensive, but pricey; and, as they say, things add up.

You might even want to order something from the main menu. We've done it after copying some of the cognoscenti at other tables. Usually a special noodle dish. Some restaurants will even have a special menu for such ordering at Dim Sum. If in doubt, order noodles. 

And, if you have a favorite particular item, you can ask a waiter to bring it forthwith from the kitchen. Don't ask the food cart server. A waiter. But, ask nicely. It's a special trip.

So what about the tea? Ah, yes.

As a result of our excellent, but typically quick and dirty research we've discover it turns out Dim Sum literally means "Drink tea". The custom of eating snacks was folded in sometime during the long way to what we now know as Dim Sum.

Here's an enthusiastic, yet knowledgeable treatise on what tea choices you have for your Dim Sum. Oh, yes. After you've watched the video, you'll get the image hint at the top of this article. It's our favorite tea blend with Dim Sum. Go to a restaurant where you will indeed have a choice of teas. One of our recent favorites stopped offering a choice, and we haven't been back.

*Also, now you know from Dim Sum, don't tell us our title is redundant. Until you do know, it's not. The Cat prevails! When didn't he?


Special Sweet and Sour Sauce for Chinese Meatballs 

First served in Brooklyn by the Polish Pavillion Catering* at an Italian American Community Group gathering. Got some remarks in the serving line like, "Hey, I see the meatballs, but where's the Spaghetti?" Later though . . . raves.

Sauce Ingredients: Chinese Cabbage, Onion, Green Pepper, Carrot, Celery, Kabees El Lift (Pickled Turnips), Burdock, Garlic, Ginger. (And, whatever you may have handy.) Suggested: Mung Bean Sprouts, Pickled Scallion, colorful Bell Peppers (red and yellow), Straw Mushrooms, Chopped Tomato, Pineapple Chunks.

For the meatballs: Ground pork, blanched slivered cabbage, thin sliced scallion, slivered ginger, minced garlic, chopped fresh cilantro leaves, chopped shitake mushrooms.

*The Polish Pavillion Catering in the mid-1970s was arguably the originator, certainly at the forefront of Fusion Cuisine.