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Category Archives: Food + Technology

Learning the mystical magical ways of making pasta

Happy New Year! And welcome to 2014, whatever it may bring. So far it has brought me a very bad cold (actually, 2013 gave it to me as a parting gift, so maybe 2014 will miraculously clear away the cold and spare my already shredded sore nose asap).

When it comes to pasta, actually, what I learned is that there is no magic. There is only muscle and patience. 😉

I received a pasta machine for Christmas this year and naturally I needed to try it out a few times right away. Yes, I agree, it’s a bit scary looking.

IMG_6993And needless to say, if you are gonna crank up the monster, you want to make a bunch of pasta. So we’ve been eating a lot of pasta in the last few days.

The recipe for pasta is easy: for one portion, you want 100 grams of durum wheat flour and 1 egg. Just multiply for more people. And note, once you make the pasta, it’s easy enough to dry it and store it in your pantry for later eating. And worth it. Make more, trust me on this.

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Start out by making a mound from the flour and crack the eggs into the middle: I read in the instructions afterwards that it is easier to do this in a bowl. But it was too late by then.

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Take a fork and gently and slowly mix the eggs with the flour from the center. Add water if the dough is too dry and won’t come together (as in my case) or more flour it it is too wet and sticky. Ultimately you want a lump of dough that looks like this:

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To get there, you need to knead the dough to a nice even consistency, it should feel like the texture of an earlobe. Feel your earlobe. Yes, like that. You *will* need to put some muscle into this – the dough is tough, and it will fight you.  It should take about 5-10 minutes of kneading to get there. Let it rest  for about 20 minutes, and then cut off a hunk of it and roll it out so you can fit it into your new pasta machine.

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I was worried that these things would be complicated to use, but they’re truly not.

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You simply pass it through the rollers a bunch of time, each time narrowing the opening through which you fit the dough.

Eventually, the dough can get WAY TOO LONG to handle.

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But the solution is easy. Cut it.

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And trust me, you don’t need to take it all the way to the “9” thickness on your machine – it’s too thin for most dishes. Go for 5 or 6.

Next step: cutting the pasta. The attachment on the back works just like the rollers on the front. Pass the dough through and out comes tagliatelle. Like magic.

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Sort of wow. At least the first time.

You will have a hell of a lot of it very fast. Like 3 times this amount.

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Find a recipe to cook. Jamie Oliver and Marcella Hazan are pretty fail proof.

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Make sure you have some hungry eaters around.

The fresh pasta takes just a few minutes to cook in a nice pot of boiling salted water.

Eat and enjoy.

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Spring Fling

So last night was girl’s night in. More specifically, three girlfriends came over to cook and eat with me and naturally talk about technology for at least a few minutes since we are all tech geeks who work in the industry. You know. The Industry. Two designers and an Information Architect and a marketing strategist all sitting around a large table, frantically forking together my ravioli concoction, eating humus and carrots (Mallorie’s requirement), and having another look at James’ app. Version 1.1.1.

Caro

Caro, our Information Architect extraordinaire, started off the testing of “Hands Free Browser” – the app I wrote about a week or two back – now that we have the update, it was time to check it out again. I have a few video clips here and there, but since I am not paying WordPress a penny for this blog, I am not allowed to upload video. It would do a better job of conveying the current suggestions and thinking on this version from experts other than myself.

I will confess…you should know that Caro loves to cook and Mallorie…well…Mallorie cooks a bit. But both were a bit stretched to find the *need* for the app. I think Mal captured it most succinctly with the statement: “why do I need this? I would just keep a towel next to the ipad and wipe my hands before I touch it.” Ok. Not incredibly encouraging.

Mal

Other quotes captured during the testing included (we wrote them down on a notepad):

“There’s too much text.” (Opening screen)
“Why did it make a bookmark?”
“It’s looking at my elbow.”
“How do I select something?”
“Come on!” (when nothing happens)
“The camera is too far away….it is capturing my left hand, not my right” (right-handed person).

Yikes. I will stop now. The thing is…the idea remains good. But I think the technology is still too far behind to keep up with the human pace of things. The camera can’t react quickly enough. Samsung’s new phone apparently doesn’t use the camera, but some other kind of sensor. You need to position your hand just so to make it work. The new features (e.g., bookmark!) are not mentioned (I think) on the opening screen with all the text. There is not yet any kind of tutorial/walkthrough.

But…the thing is, the app is free this weekend. Go grab it. Try it out. Tell me what you think. How can we make the app really valuable to a cook? Where’s the magic gonna happen?

I almost forgot…spring fling…was a reference to our heavy-with-spring-vegetables dinner last night. Ricotta/leek ravioli with a truffel butter fava bean scallop sauce and a side of my favorite (although Britta was skeptical about how well it paired with the ravioli), Barba dei Fratti (monk’s beard) – a kind of obscure italian succulent plant/vegetable that tastes like spinach.

Ravioli were good though.

Ricotta Leek Ravioloi with Truffel butter fava bean and scallop sauce

Ricotta Leek Ravioloi with Truffel butter fava bean and scallop sauce

 
 

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My Magic Hands

Any chance you remember seeing this little Korean spot a couple years back? I did, although it took me almost an hour of searching through my facebook links to find the sucker. (FACEBOOK! why can’t I easily see a list of all my links and put a search term in to find what I am looking for? I have only two friends who work for facebook, so I guess this lament is rather worthless. Anyway…)

I remembered it as a Samsung phone, but it wasn’t one. Now it turns out that the new Samsung phone has come out with similar functionality (says James, I haven’t seen it yet). Nonetheless, this kind of gesture-based, eye tracking (the Samsung version) device control technology is all still cutting edge. At least in the mainstream for us common folk.

So it seems that James and I have a similar problem. We both cook, although I guess James favors complicated sweets like Black Forest cakes, and I favor things like Indian curries and folded savory pastries. Egal, as we say in German. The fact is, you’re there in the kitchen, up to your elbows in something sticky or spicy or gooey or just foodish and you are closely following some recipe…some very long recipe…on your iPad…which has become a requisite kitchen tool because you loath printing out every recipe these days….and you need to SCROLL further. The critical next step is below the fold and if you wash your hands just to move the cursor down the screen ONE MORE TIME you will scream.

So James, as a software programmer, decided to DO something about this. He created a gesture-based control layer for a browser. Well, to be fair, for a Google search function.

Ok, it’s very early days. It needs some work. But APPLE accepted it into their store. Which I know is no small feat. If you want to test this thing out, James is even willing to offer it to you for free in the Apple store for a few days – to begin soon…I’ll tell you when I know more. (James…that screenshot on your app page…it’s gotta go. You need screenshots of your APP, not the Wikipedia page you were looking at when you invented the app. And how did your Black Forest Cake come out anyway?)

Hands free browser in Itunes store

Hands free browser in Itunes store

Ultimately, this little browser will give you what it gave me. Magic Hands. You wave your hand in front of the camera (a little translucent photo of you in the corner helps you get some orientation on your gesture – check me out…trying to figure this all out, and the screen bumps up or bumps down based on what you are trying to do. In this case, looking for a recipe for tomato, shrimp and vodka pasta. Which is what was for dinner tonight. Except with salmon. And cognac.

Hands Free Browser
Hands Free Browser

Hands Free Browser

As I said, it’s early days and basic. It needs work – James, will send you a bullet point list of where you need to make some changes in my opinion – but it’s pretty impressive for a quick start. Your screen will move without you touching the screen. It’s a bit choppy, and sometimes up can also equal down…if you are too fast or when you run out of space and have to RAISE your hands in order to lower them again…but IT WORKS.

We at diginibble, (me, myself, and I) will keep you up to date as things develop. No need to go out and buy that Korean phone just yet….;-) Just go grab James’ app. Which, in case you’re interested, is available here. And in case you are wondering (cause I did), it is rated 17+ not because there are exciting pictures with naked folks embedded somewhere within, but because Apple makes you rate your app this way if it accesses web pages…anything outside the native app itself.

News alert: I hear that version 1.1 is now available in the app store and that 1.1.1 will be coming in about a week. Also, at the end of April there will be three days of *free.* That’s right, you heard me, you won’t even need to pay the 99 cents, it’ll be FREE. (Don’t tell anyone…April 26 to 29. Oh alright, I take it back…tell everyone.)

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in Food + Technology, Technology

 

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The last kitchen gadget

Madiecam Magic

Madiecam Magic

The photo up there? I’ll explain at the end of the post.

So starting again. You could interpret the title of the blog post (“The last kitchen gadget”)  in really all different ways:

  1. The last kitchen gadget…I will ever buy…
  2. The last kitchen gadget…I bought…
  3. The last kitchen gadget …that anyone needs…
  4. The last kitchen gadget…I have room for.

And actually in my case it’s kind of a combination of all of those things. Except probably #1. I’m continuously tempted by new kitchen tools – most recently a friend told me about this device which is about to go into production (The “Nomiku” – essentially a home-cook’s sous vide machine):

Do I need this thing? No. Am I curious about it anyway? Yes. Sigh. Very. Will I buy it? No. Very doubtful. For one, I don’t cook all that much meat and I think that sous vide is probably best for cooking meat. Although I can well imagine cooking eggs and fish too. But just like a dozen other cool new cooking devices out there that I could well imagine trying to cram into my already over-packed kitchen (see #4 above), I just can’t imagine the value add being all that high. And the girl in the video is a little too happy about her device. You’d think it did more than just “cook food perfectly.” 😛

But I finally bit the bullet on another kitchen gadget a couple weeks back. Nothing very sophisticated or new: a coffee grinder. I already had a coffee grinder because I am a bit snobby about having freshly ground beans in the morning for coffee. But in the last years I have been continuously frustrated whenever I cook Indian food. You can’t put your spices into the same coffee grinder that you grind coffee with or you get curry-flavored coffee. Or alternatively coffee-flavored curry. Neither of which sounds good to me.

A few weeks back I was fed up with it all on a Saturday afternoon, and I walked into Saturn and bought a second grinder to grind spices with. Not really a big deal – only about 20 euros or something. The struggle was more about…”am I so lazy that I can’t continue to pound the spices by hand?” combined with…”do I really have room for this thing?” And apparently the little devil sitting on my left shoulder answered “yes” to both of these questions. And when a friend recently sent over a fish recipe for me to try out, which called for “madras curry powder,” there was no longer a reason to wait to use my brand new gadget.

Homemade Madras curry powder…here we go. There are all kinds of recipes for it online and I used this one, I think (Tumeric is missing in the photo below – added in at the end).

Madras curry powder ingredients

Madras curry powder ingredients

Let me tell you: it was worth it. In about 5 minutes (after roasting the spices in a hot pan to release some of the oils), I had freshly made Madras curry powder.

Finished Madras curry powder

Finished Madras curry powder

I packed up the leftovers in an empty spice jar for the next time. But there was a major difference in flavor. I made some brown rice to go with the fish..a kind I don’t think I’ve tried before – norwegian skrei – but which was good with the curry.

Fish with tomato curry

Fish with tomato curry

So there might be a bit too much blogging in the next weeks about various curry powders and combinations. I apologize in advance.

Oh, and the photo at the top? Just a gimmick to get your attention. That’s a cute little app called “Maddiecam” that you can use to put the image of a dog (various versions of her) on top of any photo you take with your camera. Created by the guy who posts this tumblr blog. Quite famous by now. The photo in the background was a quick snap of the Isar from one of my more recent runs.

Have a great weekend!

 

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Love Letter to Morton & Bassett

In case you didn’t know, Morton & Bassett is a company that sells spices.  Here’s their homepage:

Morton & Bassett homepage

Morton & Bassett homepage

It’s a shame that it’s not scratch and sniff…because even if the scents don’t evoke strong images and memories for you (like they do for me), you would still be mesmerized by the perfumes.

My mom sent me two jars of their bay leaves for Valentine’s Day. She sent other lovely things as well (chocolate, beautiful vases, a card, a cute little puzzle), but it was those bay leaves that I was waiting for. I was down to my last two leaves – I must have forgotten to buy some when I was home in November last year. (No idea how that could have happened!).  I opened one of the jars and stuck it under the noses of my friends at work, where I’d received the package. They were awed or at least they pretended to be.

I even gave *one* leaf to a colleague of mine who loves to cook as well. Apparently he cooked a lasagna with it last night and it was (as expected) very delicious. I had two girlfriends over for dinner last night and I put it in the dal I made. Ahhh…so lovely.

This morning, just now, my colleague just contacted me. We think it is time Morton & Basset started to distribute here in Europe.

So I wrote them a letter. It’s something between a love letter and a pushy aggressive needy begging communication. I hope they take it the right way. 🙂

loveletter

Meanwhile…I will hoard my little treasure.

 

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Getting Viral

Today’s the first day in quite awhile that I can say…I feel normal again. Which is a really nice thing to be able to say because yesterday morning I was getting pretty upset as it seemed like the vertigo was setting in again. But…by the afternoon it had cleared up and I decided to stop taking the antihistamine meds that the doctors were prescribing. Instead am focusing on vitamins, an over-the-counter homeopathic pill, and sleep. I keep reading up on what could have caused this whole mess and it sounds like the most likely thing was a viral infection of some kind. I’m really hoping that once it’s gone for a few days it’ll really really be gone.

So, hope you excuse the pun for now…but I just read a GREAT article over on the nytimes on how to make effective (and in this case, hopefully viral) videos. The advice in there is mostly stuff you already know, but still, the examples are classics and it offers me good stuff/food for thought for my current project: I’m helping a new client with their facebook and youtube presence – a project that looks like it will be fun because we’ll learn a lot together. They’re already very successful so far thanks in large part to my colleague who has been working with them for the last 4 months or so.

Example of a great (successfully viral) video? Of course I have to focus on my topic of choice: food. Check it out – in honor of last week’s Valentine’s day (which I spent in Frankfurt with the client, so unfortunately couldn’t try this out at home) – in this almost 8 minute video you can learn how to make a Grand Marnier Souffle.

What’s really powerful is it is 1) super simple and clear and focused, 2) the perfect length for the topic, 3) funny – his puns throughout the video are GREAT, 4) useful/informational.

I do love souffles, but most of the time I find that they are not worth the hassle – but this guy makes me feel like I would bother again. It’s Sunday here in Germany, though…and while I have almost all the ingredients in the house, I don’t have any Grand Marnier. So it’ll have to wait for now.

Happy belated Valentine’s Day!

 
 

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Me vs. The Pressure Cooker

Me: 4, Pressure cooker evil devil: 1.

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I think I’ve never before actually been excused from work officially by a doctor. Certainly it is a “luxury” that one will never get in the USA, and I’m grateful to exercise it once in 5 years here in Germany. I’ve had a good week to recover from what turned out to be a nasty case of BPPV (I didn’t know what it was either), or alternatively an infected nerve between the brain and the inner ear. The doctors (and there were many – too many in the end) didn’t quite know what it was. I gave up before they did. Will have one or two more appointments…but then that’ll hopefully be it.

Anyway, I’m working a bit from home today, which is a break from doctors and from an admitted dose of boredom. Thankfully the room doesn’t spin anymore when I look at the computer. Read a great post by Avinash Kaushik about today’s best digital marketing experiences, which led me to find a really wonderful new website: songza (don’t bother clicking unless you are in the US/Canada or using an IP address that shows you in the US/Canada – it’s not available in Europe or Asia). I’ve already hyped it on facebook, but a second plug here (yeah, I have one of those IP addresses that shows me on the east coast of the US).

It’s frankly totally awesome. Check out the home page when you land on it:

songzapick

Super simple. And it looks to my computer to see what day of the week it is and what time of day. Then rather than sending me down a long route of filtering exactly what genre I want (although it offers me that option too if I what it), it starts off with offering me some easy options. When I work and write, I’m not able to listen to music with lyrics, it’s just way too distracting for me – and I guess a bunch of other people aren’t as well, because that is one of their categories (Working, no lyrics). A few clicks further, I had picked out Acoustic Guitar to listen to and I was on my way.  Really nice music curation – at least to my taste.

songza

Now back to that pressure cooker…

Actually there isn’t much of a story to tell yet. I am not an expert yet. But I have cooked with it 5 times already:

1) Chicken soup: great and fast as promised. Cut the cooking time down by about 2/3.
2) Chana Dal: ummmmm great. Very creamy and tasty. Again, cooking time down significantly – at least 50%
3) Black beans – sort of mexican style. Solid, not great – I could have let them go longer. Flavor not as developed because of the shorter cooking time (I think).
4) Chickpea and spinach soup. MAJOR DISASTER. By this point perhaps I was a little too cocky, I dunno…but what happened was that this soup is supposed to be pureed when you’re done cooking the chickpeas and only after that do you add the spinach and pressure cook it for *one more minute.* It seems like that was where the mess came in. I must not have thoroughly mixed the soup up enough. So the bottom of the soup – heavy with unpureed or partially pureed chickpeas – burned. And I don’t mean just a little burned. I mean CHARCOAL. As I waited for the pressure cooker to heat up the second time I could smell something burning and I was hoping that it was just a tiny bit on the bottom worst case. Nope. Soup went uneaten. 😦 Pot was a wreck. Took me 30 minutes to scrub the charcoal from the bottom of that thing – and that was after the recommended baking soda and vinegar treatment.
5) Tomato Broad beans (yeah, I know, there is a bean trend, but I think broccoli will be next): Whew – back to success. These suckers take at lease 3 hours in boiling water when you don’t soak them overnight in advance (which I hadn’t). In a pressure cooker: 1 hour. Nice. Those were lunch today.

So all in all, it’s been fun experimenting. Now I want a slow-cooker. 😉 If I come up with any brilliant recipes in the next weeks, I’ll be sure to pass on the wisdom.

The part I hate though: that you can’t open the pot until it’s done. Very frustrating and something to really get used to for someone like me, who is used to opening the pot every 5-10 minutes to check on progress. Learning patience.

 

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