One of the reasons I enjoy food writing happens to be embarassingly practical: food is an extensive topic. Sometimes revelatory, sometimes distressing, food study touches the arts, sciences, politics, economics, religion, ethics, psychology...
"The Hedonista Hundred" is my project to document 100 food joys in much the same way Saveur magazine does every year in their "Saveur 100" issue. Backtrack if you've missed parts I and II or read on for items 11 through 15. Bon appétit!
11. The Larousse Gastronomique. I always hated looking up words as a child, but my father would never answer word definintions outright. "What does xx mean?" inevitably directed his finger to the dictionary and produced a "Why don't you look it up?" Unfortunately, dictionaries are full of interesting words, and I'd usually forget the one I was looking up, endlessly distracted by all its tantalizing neighbors. I have the same problem with Wikipedia. Larousse quadruples the difficulty. Every entry is a thorough discussion of some aspect of FOOD.
Want to make a foodie sit — quiet and passive — for thirty minutes at a pop? Plunk down a copy of Larousse Gastronomique. Open to any page you like. Done deal.
12. The Microplane. Grating is just... grating. Microplaning, on the other hand, is just great. It's transcendent. I actually enjoy using the microplane. Yes, it'll cost you a bit more than your cheesebox grater did, but if you love to keep a hunk of aged Parmesan around and you find yourself needing to zest things... the microplane is really, really your friend.
13. What in the world did I do before the age of Heat-Proof Rubber Spatulas? Oh yes... I remember. I melted a whole fleet of regular rubber spatulas in neglectful kitchen mishaps. Praise the heat-proof rubber spatula!
14. Olive-wood utensils. Filled with meandering grain patterns in warm brown and gold hues, an olive-wood utensil is beautiful to see, silky to touch and lasts three times longer than the standard wood utensils, which are what? Pine? Elm? Larch? The olive-wood spoon I use for stirring my stews cost a bit more to begin with, but I really think it's a thing of beauty and a value in the long run.
15. Lemon curd. Awful name, "curd." Yet this stuff is tasty, light, tangy-sweet, goes-anywhere and takes a whole fifteen minutes to make. It's a tart filling! It's a spread for morning toast with butter! It's a dip for fresh-cut fruit! It's a cake filling! Fold in some freshly whipped cream... it's a lemon mousse! Make it from one of the time tested recipes of yore, or just use my quick and dirty version. I don't like to make a lot at once because there's only one of me, and you don't want to keep the 'curd for more than two weeks.
Q&D Lemon Curd(Makes a bit less than a cup.) 1 large, fresh egg 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon's worth) 1/2 tsp lemon zest (use a Microplane) 1/4-1/3 cup sugar (I like it more tart, so I use 1/4 cup) 1 1/2 Tbsp cold, sweet butter, cut in small chunks
You'll need a whisk, a little sauce pot and a small, non-reactive and heat-resistant bowl (plastic would be a bad choice here). A heat-proof spatula is nice, too.
Boil about a cup of water in a small pot and whisk together the egg, juice, zest and sugar in bowl that covers the steaming pot. Whisk the mixture continuously (scraping the sides of the bowl a bit) over the steaming pot for about three or four minutes. It should grow progressively thicker as you whisk. It'll look like a pourable pudding when it's done.
Take the bowl off the heat and scrape any extra curd off the sides of the bowl. (At this point, you could strain it if you cared to do so. I really don't care about the zest remaining in my curd, so I don't.) Add in the butter chunks and stir to melt and blend them.
Transfer to your storage container of choice and, if you don't want a skin to develop, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the curd. Store up to two weeks. Easy-peasy, right?