Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Do the Knowledge: Citrus Rinds

I'd like to try adding something new in this space, namely to offer up a generalized food/culinary related tip. I encourage anyone to write their own tip post so we can develop our own little section of good advice, and it's something to keep the thread active between meals and Blake's offerings of leftfield cultural oddities (Potato chips promoting conservative sexual values to women in a 1991 street credible brand? All I wanna do is a zoom zoom zoom and a boom boom - After Marriage! Bronners soap better watch out.)

Back to the topic at hand. Simon and I were discussing the substantial merrits of adding orange and lemon zest to baked goods and other dishes. Frugal gourmet that he is, he informed me that he keeps a bag of orange rind shavings in the freezer, next to his gun. Inspiration struck me to try what I am sure is a not-new-to-anyone-else-but-me kitchen tactic, but I was so impressed with the results that I wanted to share. Orange and lemon zest (superficial and thin shavings of the fruit's outer skin) keeps remarkably well, no doubt because it's the plant's first line of defense against the elements. I went a little zest-crazy since I found out and added bits of my stash into crepes, pancakes, pie crust, and even curry. The flavor that comes out is remarkably potent but doesn't interfere with the rest of the dish and adapts very well wherever it is added.

According to Wikipedia (integrity be damned), the oil in citrus rinds contain flavonids and limonids, both important but non-essential compounds produced during the growth of the fruit. They defend the fruit from insect infestation and provide pigmentation for color, but are low enough in toxicity to be edible. In addition, flavonids are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-carcinogen, and pro-choice. Put another way, flavonids are like a really awesome team of characters from Transformers that conquer the evil forces of the Poor Healthicons.

Rind oil itself is bitter, but this is easily disguised in most dishes and leaves only the essential taste. To get the best flavor, it is wise to make the peices of rind as small as possible, or to 'zest' a larger peice of rind with the proper tool. Smaller bits of rind maintain the best diffusion of oil and won't get stuck in your teeth. The best advice, then, is to peel the orange with a knife or vegitable grater into larger slices to freeze, then grate or dice them into smaller bits before using them in cooking. A little goes a long way, and aesthetically the fragments of color are quite pleasing. Also a neat trick, if you are trying to seduce someone and want to perfume a room, take a peice of peel and squeeze some of the oil out into the flame of a candle (careful, it is very flammable).

So save rinds! It's good for you, and one large orange will give you more zest than you can probably use in a week (although you never know).

Get Familiar

Friday, March 02, 2007

Room 4 Dessert: Apricots and Nosey Servers

For those not in the know (losers), last night Simon, Martine, Jen, and I went to a swanky downtown desert joint called Room 4 Dessert. Being that I am more inclined to criticize than to praise, I'd like to say right off the bat that the food was amazing. I'm pretty sure i managed to try everyone's order, and they all lived up to the super-swanky-dessert-joint hype. I don't really recall what everyone else ordered, thought I do distinctly remember my Chocobubbles. Memorable not only for its tastiness, but also for its supremely retarded title.

And so, there in lies the ultimate downfall of Room 4 Dessert. For despite its many culinary accomplishments, the inherent retardedness of the entire affair prevents the experience from being altogether memorable, or at least in any good way. The many pitfalls of R4D (not to be mistaken for the H is O, i.e. the Heat is On) regrettably don't end with the word choice on their menu. What irked me the most about the meal was the way, way too in-your-face server, who insisted upon positioning herself almost directly in front of me for the entire meal. Standing a good foot or so taller than I while sitting at the bar, she managed to make me feel completely uncomfortable almost the entire evening. Even when I tried to break the awkwardness with a joke, albeit a corny one, she barely responded.

Truth be told, there were only a few other minor flaws. The price being one of them, I felt the $10 minimum for dessert to be a bit inflated, and the $5 coffee to be completely disappointing. Moreover, I couldn't help but feel a little guilty knowing that just next door, you could get what I would assume is an amazing slice of cheesecake for just a couple bucks.

Cost and douchey staff aside though, the food was great.