Friday, May 27, 2011

Catch the geoduck if you can ...

I just listened to an interesting segment on a radio show on how to catch geoducks. If you do not know, a geoduck is a species of clam with a large, sometimes wrinkly, rather phallic, “neck.” The radio show host described them as a clamshell with a fire hose sticking out. That’s probably the cleanest way to describe them. Like clams, geoducks are quite tasty and sought after. And some can reach 6 feet long, packing far more meat than the standard clam.
Geoducks live 3 to 4 feet below the surface of the sand. They do not move fast, and they cannot retract their neck into their shell, but digging down that far is a challenge for some. The guest on the show, Langdon Cook, author of the Fat of the Land foraging blog, described an excellent way to catch these guys: like a “bank robber moving in next door to a bank,” Cook said that you have to set up shop adjacent to the geoduck (you can tell it’s down there from an oblong “tell” hole at the surface of the sand). Put a hollowed out bucket next to the tell, and dig down, using the bucket to keep your hole from collapsing.
When you get down three feet – and this is the part that troubles me – you have to dig across toward the geoduck’s lair and feel around in the wet sand for him, or her. I am sure this is an excellent way to catch geoducks. But I have always had trouble with scenarios that involve putting limbs into the homes of wild animals – especially underwater ones. I am 100 percent positive that the geoduck does not have teeth or poison barbs, but … it just sounds nauseating. I once got sick watching a show about these guys who went noodling – that type of fishing where you stick your arm into a catfish hole, wait for it to bite you, then pull it out. No thanks.
Anyone have any good geoduck stories? Whether it’s a good recipe, a funny geoduck catching story, or a good method on how to catch them, let us know!
(geoduck photo by Jesper Rautell Balle)

Remembering Our Fallen Soldiers

The thought of Memorial Day conjures up all the emotions of a three day weekend.
Camping, barbecuing, block parties and even just relaxing around the homestead.
But we must also remember the true meaning of Memorial Day:
to commemorate the men and women who have died fighting for our freedom.

We here at ChefTools hope each and every one of you have a wonderful weekend
filled with good food, good friends
and creating great memories with family.
Take time to celebrate the lives of our fallen soldiers
and rejoice in the freedoms they have secured for us.

Happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blood Bones and Butter

Not exactly the pretty picture you conjure up when planning a menu, but when it comes down to it, blood, bones and butter are the heart and soul of not only the meal, but also the spirit.

Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef and creator of Prune restaurant in New York and the author of Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of A Reluctant Chef. It's also the book I've just finished for my latest book club selection. Not only was it a heartfelt, soul-touching, and inspiring book for someone like myself who loves to garden and to cook, but more than that it was a raw and honest look into the life of an accomplished chef and a growing and changing woman. In order to honor this amazing chef who cooks extraordinary food in a way I think she would appreciate, I'm throwing a brunch party for our next book club meeting, including recipes from the author herself.

The setting of the brunch will be on my back deck, tucked into the woods, overlooking a salmon-spawning stream. Fun antique kitchen & garden decor, beautiful outdoor serveware and fresh, basic food from the Farmers Market will set the stage. Taking advice from the book, I want everyone to be comfortable, well fed and to thoroughly enjoy themselves.

The menu? Caramelized onion, crisp bacon and thyme quiche will be served with a dollop of ricotta on the side - of course topped with drizzled honey, fresh seasonal fruit and pine nuts. My new favorite salad in all of the land: ruby red grapefruit and avocado tossed with fresh cilantro and a basic shallot vinaigrette served over butter lettuce. Thick toast coated in butter, fresh squeezed orange juice, and of course my favorite Cafe Verona coffee from my beloved Starbucks, brewed very strong.

There's nothing like sharing a home-cooked, simple meal with close friends. And celebrating the words of a no-nonsense, down to earth, praised chef? Well, that just makes it all the more meaningful. Blood, Bones and Butter - let Gabrielle Hamilton's experiences mold the way you cook, celebrate and appreciate life.

Photo of Blood, Bones and Butter courtesy of

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

To Snail Or Not To Snail

That was the question, for me at least, while dining at Balthazar Restaurant in New York City a couple of years ago.

A bunch of us girls got together and flew to NYC to be part of the Martha Stewart Shows studio audience for a show about "Girlfriends." I tried my hardest to get reservations at Babbo, even getting up at 2:00am to start calling right at 5:00am EST, when the restaurant listed it would start taking reservation calls for the day. I also had to call exactly 30 days in advance, and although we struck out on Babbo, we got in at the groups other coveted restaurant - Balthazar.

My friend Angela loves everything to do with France and since we WERE at a French restaurant, she wanted to eat like the French and try the Escargot. Although we are quite adventurous food-eaters, not a single one of us seven ladies had tried snails before. And honestly, being a gardener myself, the thought of eating one of the little yellow critters I toss when I find 'em hanging on my Clematis Vines, kinda creeped me out.

Since we had already downed a couple bottles of wine and the buzz of the wine coupled with the thrill of being in New York City together had gone straight to our heads, we all decided that it would be the perfect time and place to slurp back a slimy snail. To Snail it would be!

And you know what? It really wasn't all that bad. It tasted like herb-infused garlic butter. The texture, on the other hand, not my favorite thing in the world but definitely not something I'd stick my nose up if ever dining at Brasserie Le Halles or Le Bernardin. And now we can all say that we've tried escargot.

So on this 24th of May - National Escargot Day - go ahead and slurp back a slimy snail or two - that way you can say you've had it and will never have to try it again. (Hey, you can even come take all the snails you want out of my yard, they might not be the culinary treat of French chefs, but they sure would help my brussel sprouts and cauliflower from being eaten alive.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

The designer behind OXO

Here’s an interesting story from CBS News. It’s about the designer behind OXO products.

Who would have thought that the OXO sink strainer started as a prototype made of a toilet plunger and a measuring cup?

If you think about it, OXO products are among the most innovative and fun of any kitchen tools. Growing up, I remember my parents’ kitchens were stocked with bland items, like the metal spatula with the melted hard plastic handle, or a couple of chipped wooden stirring spoons. And my favorite: the metal can opener that dug canyons into the palms of your hands because you had to hold it so tight. Then OXO came along and introduced these comfortable, good looking, and soft products. All the tools have round edges, are colorful and useful. They seek to solve problems.

What stands out to me most in their design is the fun, almost cartoonish sensibility. The designs line up with Ikea products, a store that has ushered in a new era in home design. In a related but different realm: has anyone read Bill Bryson’s book about the history of home design?