QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Banana bread

This is a very forgiving recipe that has a lot of room for slighlt wrong amounts, different sized bananas, and tolerance for coooking time. It's a bit of a slow cook but not tricky at all. We make this a couple of times a month, sometimes doubled recipe and freezing some.

Start off with

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar

Cream together. I use a stand mixer but whatever.

Add in and mix well:

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas

Next add and mix:

  • 2 cups flour (up to 1/2 cup whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or chocolate chips

In our household, adults always use walnuts and kids always bake it with chocolate chips.

Pour into oiled/floured loaf pan. Or multiple pans. Or make muffins.

Bake 45 minutes to an hour at 350°F. Use the clean toothpick test. Smaller cooks faster, so cupcakes may be 30 minutes, big loaves closer to the hour mark.

Garlic press review

I do a lot of cooking, and I like garlic in a lot of things. I like all of the alliums, but others do not need the same amount of attention. Sure onions and leeks are a bit of work, peeling and chopping or washing and chopping, but for many dishes you can't beat super fine garlic which is a lot of effort to hand chop.

I expect everyone actually knows that. Garlic presses are a widely available kitchen tool for exactly that reason. So why the need to bring all of this up? Because in the course of cooking in a number of different kitchens (vacation house rentals), I've used a number of different presses and most are a lack-luster experience.

But there's one I found, and some time afterwards saw a very favorable review for at America's Test Kitchen that stands out as a very satisfying experience: the Kuhn Rikon "Epicurian" garlic press. It's got a bit of an eye watering price tag, at roughly eight times the price of the bargain alternatives.

America's Test Kitchen finds it best at crushing unpeeled garlic and the swing open hopper good for getting remanents out. I was attracted to the heavy metal construstion and that swing out hopper. And I use it for some off-label uses, aided by the same leverage that helps with crushing unpeeled garlic.

Besides garlic, two things I crush with it on a somewhat regular basis are jalapeños and ginger root.

Jalapeños are not difficult to chop up, I usually only go with the press if I'm using the press for garlic anyway and I'm making a recipe for which extremely fine jalapeño mash is acceptable. So not pico de gallo, aka salsa fresca.

Ginger root, however, is a chore to chop. And the garlic press is a help, but it still needs some strong squeezing. I find the best way to press ginger is to peel it and cut into smallish pieces that can be put in the press with the strands of the ginger oriented to push through the holes. Don't want the fibers forming a long matt across the press output. For a lot of ginger, the fibrous build-up that fails to get pushed through will need to be cleared before continuing.

Garlic press loaded with ginger

For recipes with all three, garlic, ginger, and jalapeños, the Kuhn Rikon "Epicurian" garlic press takes the place of five minutes or so with the mezzaluna or careful work with a different knife, and has a faster, easier clean up.

(No one paid me or compensated me for this review, and I'm not linking to any e-store that sells it. I got mine about two years ago from a brick and mortar store.)

Grilled Pizza

I've cooked a lot of pizza over the years. These day's I'm using the Ken Forkish Same Day Straight Pizza Dough recipe, but I was using a simpler one of my own for a while:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 2 oz, plus some olive oil
  • yeast
  • dash of sugar
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Mix the water, sugar, and yeast and set aside. Measure out 3 1/2 cups flour and mix in the salt. Pour in the oil and yeast water together, stir to a dough, and knead in more flour until it is not sticky, then knead some more. Pour some more oil in the bottom of a bowl, put the dough in and rotate to cover the dough surface with oil, cover with a damp cloth and put aside to rise. The oil, both in the dough and on the surface, and the damp cloth help a lot. Let rise a while, how long will depend on temperature, at least one hour but probably two, refrigerated it might take eight. Then divide in half and shape.

I developed that recipe after getting a pizza stone for Xmas in maybe 1997. The stone broke after three to five years and I got a better stone which is still going strong. Usually I preheat the oven as high as it will go and give the stone at least twenty minutes at that temperature to soak up heat. I generously use coarse corn meal (sometimes called "polenta") on the peel to keep the dough from sticking to the peel or the stone.

But today was not usual. Today it was very hot and I decided to try the barbecue grill method I've heard about. I have a propane BBQ with a cast iron grill that I cooked directly on. First off was an extra thorough cleaning of the grill, then preheating it. With a shaped but untopped round of pizza, put it directly on the metal grill and cook for two minutes. Then scrape it off, which was pretty easy. (I used a metal pizza peel, but spatulas would work.) Grill mark side up, top it, then return to the grill for five minutes. At this point the dough was cooked, but the cheese could have used a little more heat, so I finished it with a hand propane torch.

I have a trigger start propane torch that is intended to sit on top of a 14oz tank, Ace Trigger Start Torch, I've seen nearly the same used in commercial kitchens to cook meringue, so I don't have qualms about using it for food cooking. I just waved it back and forth until the cheese was nice and bubbly and it came out great.

I expect I'll be cooking pizza this way again.

First side cooked

Off the grill with one side cooked, ready to be topped. The underside is slightly sticky, so be careful sliding it off.

Returned for more cooking

Back on the grill for some more cooking. I found gently lifting one side off the peel, pulling the peel out to the opposide of that, then dropping lifted part worked well. (I cooked it, both sides, with lid closed.

Finishing the cheese

Bubbly and slightly browned is just right.

Ready to eat

I made four pizzas, one completely consumed by the time this photo was taken. Two plain cheese, one pepperoni, and one pesto.

I also made, with leftover dough from the recipe, a BBQ focaccia (not pictured).