Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Miscellany: Of Mason Jars & Mandolines & Mishaps

"Monday Miscellany" posts contain lots of links to a variety of sources that I find interesting...

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
               Lewis Carroll, from Through the Looking-Glass

Each weekend during the school-year, I take some time to pack up all my lunches for the coming week. I've done this most of my life, now, so it's a deeply ingrained habit. Lately, I've started pre-preparing my breakfasts as well.
Wide-mouth half-pint jars full of plain non-fat yogurt
& frozen wild blueberries, with some quick oats & 
chia seeds to soak up the juices from the berries. 
I like to use good, sturdy containers, and my search for the perfect kind has led me right into the thick of the Mason Jar Craze. (By the way, have you seen Mr Anderson's cool leather handle/holder for his Mason Jar? Ask him to show it to you!)  

I'm a bit late to the party, since Mason Jar Mania has been in full swing for a few years now (and perhaps some aspects of the trend are already dying). I think of it as an off-shoot of the revival of interest in home-canning, which has been on the rise since the recession, and it probably also has something to do with the locavore movement and some wildly popular books by Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan.
A batch of golden beet & white radish pickles, with
one jar of cranberry sauce.

I've mentioned before my desire to learn how to make pickles, and I've made a few batches with my case of newly-acquired Mason Jars, but I haven't yet been thrilled with the results. (Either I'm putting too much salt or not enough sugar in my pickling brine, or I'm using the wrong mix of spices... I'll figure it out, eventually.)  I tried again just last night. I found a lovely head of Romanesco at the Co-op and used a recipe from one of my favorite canning blogs, which is called "Food in Jars."  I didn't follow the recipe exactly (I don't like coriander seeds!), but I hope the Romanesco pickles turn out well anyway.
Isn't it mesmerizing? 

Romanesco is a pretty amazing vegetable. It tastes like a milder version of broccoli and looks like some Martian version of cauliflower. Its growth patterns follow a fractal pattern, and it is often cited as an example of the Fibonacci sequence in nature, or maybe also as an example of Fermat's spiral, or both. (I guess if you can think of a math-related word that starts with an "F," then Romanesco is an example of it!)
Two jars of pickles. I steamed the remainder of the
Romanesco & had it with dinner.  

I've been exploring some rather exotic vegetables all winter. Some weeks ago, I was making pickles out of golden beets, Spanish Black radishes, and Daikon. Shortly after that, I bought a fennel bulb for a batch of lunch salads (more about this later). Because I already have some glass lunch containers, I don't make "salad in a jar" for lunch (something you can now buy from vending machines in Chicago), but I follow the same principles. That means I spend a lot of time chopping up vegetables. I'm a south-paw, a lefty, and my knife-skills are not great. So I appreciate kitchen tools that make the slicing of vegetables easier and faster. 
Julienne peeler, attacking a carrot.

One of my favorite new tools is my julienne peeler.  It makes really thin strips of vegetables. It's the sort of tool folks use to make zucchini noodles, another hot food trend these days. With most of these slicers and peelers,  you can hurt yourself if you're not careful. I hold one end of the vegetable with my right hand and then pull the peeler from right to left with my left hand.  

Back to the fennel bulb I mentioned earlier. I wanted to make a beautiful salad of sliced fennel and red Bell peppers, and I wanted to write a blog post about it, a "Meatless Monday" post. I decided I would use my snazzy new German mandoline to slice the fennel and peppers. I should have known that when the promotional video for a kitchen tool looks and sounds like an excerpt from a James Bond film, I'm in trouble. 

I knew that mandolines are dangerous--I read all the reviews on Amazon in which folks talk about slicing their fingers and ending up in the Emergency Room. But I know my way around a kitchen, and I'm smart. Right? I'd also used the mandoline successfully and uneventfully a few weeks before to make the Hasselback Gratin. So, clearly, I was a pro. Right?!

Mandolines are dangerous!
Well, let's just say that I was so focused on taking photos and planning what I'd say in the post, that I wasn't paying enough attention to what I was doing. (Who knew blogging could be so dangerous?) I also got a bit hasty and thought I could get just one more slice off that red pepper if I put aside the hand-guard (which is something you're NEVER supposed to do), and of course I sliced a tiny portion of my little finger on my left hand clean off. 
Lovely thin slices of fennel.
See the hand guard to the left?

...And after I got back from Urgent Care, I couldn't find it when I sorted through the pepper slices and cleaned up the mandoline. I can only assume it got mixed into my salad, and that I ate it! (Believe me, I kept an eye out for it all week...) I joked around with Madame Greenan that my Monday was only almost "Meatless"! Mr Mattson, who has lots of experience cooking in restaurants, tells me that mandolines are often not allowed in professional kitchens because they are so dangerous. My brother, who also has some restaurant-kitchen experience, told me to throw the mandoline away, but I haven't... That Hasselback Gratin is just too good...
Used the mandoline to slice cukes & 
daikon, but not for the red pepper.

My finger has almost completely healed now, though it still hurts a bit to type the letter "A." I used the mandoline yesterday, for the first time since I hurt myself:  I made sure to use the hand-guard at all times, and I focused on my task.  The memory of the pain (and all the blood) is still fresh in my memory and serves as a useful reminder to be cautious and careful.
All ready to go!

The result was a nice batch of salads in Glasslock containers, totally meatless. So now I'm all ready for the week, with a fridge full of ready-to-eat breakfasts and lunches. 
Pay attention to what you're
doing, & follow directions!

Are you ready for the week? It's a busy one! English 12 students have a paper due. Drafts of the Capstone Project proposals are due in Advisory today. AP students are giving very important presentations. And on Friday, all seniors need to have five blog posts up, dated after January 5 (that's five well-written, meaningful, substantial, semi-connected, aesthetically-pleasing, and carefully-proofread posts, complete with titles, links, labels, and captioned photos). Please choose the best two posts from your five and give them the label "portfolio." If you'll miss school for the hockey tournament, do your teachers a favor and talk to them about your responsibilities before you leave. Stay focused this week, and be safe! 

No comments:

Post a Comment