Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I recently hit my big 4 - 0. It wasn't much of a big thing for me. I kept it simple and had a group of close friends out for dinner at my favorite Yakitori house in Little Tokyo, Kokekokko. A few of my friends also took me out for a breakfast of pastries and soft-boiled eggs at Le Pain Quotidien and then a crazy lunch of hot dogs at a new hot dog joint, The Infield. At the Infield, we ordered a good portion of the menu, but then the owner took over and treated us to his own choices, Wagyu Beef dogs from New Zealand, Chili Cheese dogs and for dessert, a Twinkie Dog. The Twinkie Dog consisted of a classic dog with a fried Twinkie as a bun topped with Cheez Wiz (geared to the late-night crowd). Crazy, yet not as terrible as it sounds. A bit overly sweet for me - it would've benefited from more Wiz. We did discover that deep frying Twinkies brings out how cloyingly sweet they actually are. You don't really taste it when they're straight out of the pack. Fry one and you won't be eating many.

Everything was great, but the day was really topped off by the most perfect birthday present I could receive. My wife presented me with a beautiful Bob Kramer, handmade 5-inch Utility knife with a Rosewood handle. It was especially great because she had gotten me a 8-inch Chef's knife from Kramer for my 30th Birthday. 10 years later, I get my second heirloom-quality knife. I've loved the 8-inch Chef's knife since I received it and have always wanted another, but there has been a backlog and long wait for his knives (currently 3 years). They are amazing pieces of art, well worth the wait and the cost. They are not cheap, but you get what you pay for. Kramer has been making custom kitchen knives for almost 20 years. The knives' handles are dense beautiful hardwood (usually Cocobolo or other exotic hardwoods if specially requested) with precisely inlaid metal detailing and the blades are forged with 52100 Carbon Steel, hardened in a six-hour long, seven step heat-treating process. Needless to say, they are sweet. They feel great in your hand, cut amazing, and hold a very sharp edge for a long time (I cut myself by barely touching the blade putting it into my knife bag - seems I always need to christen a new knife with a cut of my finger). The Carbon steel does need a little more care than a Stainless steel knife, but it's basic. Just keep it clean and dry. Clean well after cutting acidic foods or it will stain and could show bits of rust. All can be polished easily with some soap and a green scotch brite pad. You can see in the one picture my Chef's knife is showing some staining. I haven't polished it lately because the look doesn't really bother me, but I will.

I think that if you're going to cook and cook often, you need to have good knives. You don't need a gazillion different ones. I think the most useful ones to spend some money on would be a Chef's knife (6-inch or 8-inch) and a Utility knife (4-inch or 5-inch). After that, you could spend some money depending on your budget on any number of other knives. My other decent knives are a Carving knife (barely use) and a Boning knife (constantly use). Oh, and a cleaver, but I use that mostly for opening coconuts (probably should be using something cheaper for that).

Thanks again to my wife for such a thoughtful fantastic Fortieth Birthday present.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Slacking again. Been on the road another long spell for work. Despite that, I still owe you these recipes from my Easter post. Pickled Eggs pickled in two variations, sweet and spicy.

My mother made beet pickled eggs for Easter as far back as I can remember. They were a good gateway device to introducing a kid to beets. Beyond those eggs, I had no idea what a beet even was. I'm sure I threw away the yolks and concentrated on the vinegar sweet purple-stained whites. I wouldn't do that now, but I can say that I watched a friend at our Easter dinner put down six eggs in about 4 minutes sans yolks. His excuse was "cholesterol". It was a sad sight. Six lonely yolks sitting on a plate, wasted. My Pickled Beets with Red Eggs is an evolving recipe. I based it on a combination of recipes, mostly traditional Amish versions. I've tweaked it here and there over the years and I'm happy with it's current state.

My Pickled beets with red eggs
9 beets
water to cover
1 cup cider vinegar - Ha's Apple Farm Vinegar (my local apple grower)
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp salt
1.5 stick cinnamon
7 cloves
10 whole peppercorns
1/4 tsp ground mustard - Colman's
16 hard-boiled eggs - peeled
cook beets on high for 12 mins. Let stand. Make sauce. Mix all together. Drain beets. Slip off skins. Pour sauce over beets. Cover. Cook on high for 8 mins. Let stand several days. Add eggs to sauce and some beets. Let pickle for at least 2 days in the refrigerator. Store in the refrigerator as well.

The spicy pepper eggs are my version of Joe Jost's pickled eggs. Joe Jost's is a great old family -owned tavern in Long Beach, California. The bar has a separate pool hall in back with pool tables, snooker tables, and a shuffle board. Foodwise, you can get amazingly simple, yet super delicious sandwiches at the bar. I rotate through three of the sandwiches: Joe's Special, Liverwurst (2 inches thick) with Red Onions and mustard, or Thick sliced Salami (thick means THICK) with cheese. Joe's Special consists of two split Polish Sausages (basically, hot dogs) with a pickle spear, swiss cheese and mustard on rye. This would be my proper set-up for a bit of relaxing at Joe's while watching a game: a Joe's Special, a Schooner of beer (Sierra Nevada), two pickled eggs (or more), and some fresh roasted peanuts. The pickled eggs are served with some yellow pickled peppers on top of a handful of skinny pretzel sticks, wet with the pickling juice. Delicious.

My eggs are pretty close to the real thing. Actually, they're probably better, but of course they lack a certain je ne sais quoi that you won't get unless you're at Joe's. After all, Joe's claims to have sold 6,000,000 of the eggs since 1934. More on Joe Jost's here.

My Joe Jost style Pickled Eggs

2 16oz jars hot yellow chili peppers with juice
3tbsp Pickling Spice
2 cups distilled vinegar
2 cups water
1.5 tbsp Sugar
1.5 tsp Turmeric
2.5 tsp Salt
5 Serrano, Jalapeno, or Habanero (your choice) chiles blistered, peeled & chopped – with seeds
3 cloves garlic chopped
20 hard-boiled eggs - peeled
Combine all the ingredients and mix well in a large sanitized jar that can be sealed. Add the peeled hard-boiled eggs when they're still hot. Let pickle in the sealed jar in a cool dark place for at least 5 days for best flavor. The longer the better.