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Mack's Corner

This Week


I don't do "Go out of town" vacations too often because there's just too much to do to get ready for it, it's almost like moving. And I never was one of those people who has to leave town every 2 months.  There's one thing that has to happen for me to go on vacation, I have to know that I'm going to have dinner at a world class restaurant and the chef at that restaurant has to have a cookbook from that restaurant… ie. the food that he serves at the restaurant has to be in the book, none of this "Cook at home" stuff. The whole point of the trip is to see if my food that I cook tastes like the food in the restaurant. Am I doing it right?  Am I doing it wrong? Am I doing it better? The bad part about this is that it's hard to get reservations at most of the places I want to go.  My favorite place in the whole world is The French Laundry in Napa Valley. It's a tiny place, 17 tables. They get 300 calls a day for reservations. They open their lines for reservations at noon for a table in 2 months. If you have not gotten through and talked to the reservation person by 2 minutes after 12, you can quit trying and wait till tomorrow. So I got the bug to go one year and started trying to get a reservation … hotels, rental cars, airplane, all of that was easy, can't even talk about that till you get your reservation. I called every day for a month, never got in. Wrote 2 letters, no response. Then I found out that if you can bring 11 people with you, you can book a reservation more than 2 months out. It would be easier to talk 11 people in to coming with me than it would be to get a normal reservation, maybe I'll try that … So I called and left a message with the Long range reservations person, she never called me back.  So I wrote one more letter to Thomas Keller, the owner and Chef:
"Dear Chef Keller,
I can only assume that you and your staff have been taken by aliens and the people answering the reservation phone are those aliens. This is my 3rd letter to you with no answer and I've called your concierge, twice with no return call. I would think that the aliens would book my reservation so that they could get me out there and use me for experiments, but I guess I'm not the right stuff.

Don't give up, I'll be there soon. Maybe I can get the aliens to trade Emeril for you, maybe they'll think he can cook, like everybody else does ….

I'll be there soon. Don't let them talk you in to doing foam, aliens love foam… try to resist.…. Call me if you escape ….. I know a great BBQ place where everybody wears long yellow coats and purple hats, you could hide there.   Aliens have a problem with purple."
I got an email the next week from the concierge asking when I would like to come and to call her on her private line. I thought, OK now I've got to come up with 12 people to go too. But she said "No, just you and your wife, any date is fine." Just let her know and she would book it for me … What????? … I wasn't expecting that …. Wait, say that again!!!! ..  "Chef Keller says any time you want to come. Just let me know." …. I was in…I almost did a backflip.. I knew how it was going to turn out!!! ..  It was the greatest meal I have ever had… Nothing is even close… who knew? 

God's like that: It seems like you wait and wait for him to show up, to do things you've prayed for, and you're just about to give up or you do give up and then it turns out that he had a better idea all along. He was pushing you in that direction the whole time, but you couldn't see it. Maybe you still can't see it. Don't stop asking and don't give up. God hears every prayer…. You know how it's going to turn out …

I wonder if I should take some BBQ with me so they won't think I made up the part about the place with yellow coats and purple hats…..


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

Mediterranean Diet:

First, Here's a cool thing you didn't know… From Modernist Cuisine:

Food scientists have discovered a remarkably effective way to extend the life of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables by days or even a week. And it's easily done in any home by anyone. This method, called heat-shocking, is 100 percent organic and uses just one ingredient that every cook has handy - hot water.

You may already be familiar with a related technique called blanching, a cooking method in which food is briefly dunked in boiling or very hot water. Blanching can extend the shelf life of broccoli and other plant foods, and it effectively reduces contamination by germs on the surface of the food. But blanching usually ruptures the cell walls of plants, causing color and nutrients to leach out. It also robs delicate produce of its raw taste.

Heat-shocking works differently. When the water is warm but not scalding - temperatures ranging from 105 F to 140 F (about 40 C to 60 C) work well for most fruits and vegetables - a brief plunge won't rupture the cells. Rather, the right amount of heat alters the biochemistry of the tissue in ways that, for many kinds of produce, firm the flesh, delay browning and fading, slow wilting, and increase mold resistance.

A long list of scientific studies published during the past 15 years report success using heat-shocking to firm potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and strawberries; to preserve the color of asparagus, broccoli, green beans, kiwi fruits, celery, and lettuce; to fend off overripe flavors in cantaloupe and other melons; and to generally add to the longevity of grapes, plums, bean sprouts and peaches, among others.

The optimum time and temperature combination for the quick dip seems to depend on many factors, but the procedure is quite simple. Just let the water run from your tap until it gets hot, then fill a large pot of water about two-thirds full, and use a thermometer to measure the temperature. It will probably be between 105 F and 140 F; if not, a few minutes on the stove should do the trick. Submerge the produce and hold it there for several minutes (the hotter the water, the less time is needed), then drain, dry and refrigerate as you normally would.

Researchers still are working out the details of how heat-shocking works, but it appears to change the food in several ways at once. Many of the fruits and vegetables you bring home from the store are still alive and respiring; the quick heat treatment tends to slow the rate at which they respire and produce ethylene, a gas that plays a crucial role in the ripening of many kinds of produce. In leafy greens, the shock of the hot water also seems to turn down production of enzymes that cause browning around wounded leaves, and to turn up the production of heat-shock proteins, which can have preservative effects.

For the home cook, the inner workings don't really matter. The bottom line is that soaking your produce in hot water for a few minutes after you unpack it makes it cheaper and more nutritious because more fruits and veggies will end up in your family rather than in the trash.

Cool .. huh!!!


I tell you all the time that all you really need to cook anything is an Iron skillet, but there are times when a wok is really handy. And really you can almost cook anything in a wok. It's just hard to put it in the oven, it wobbles…. YOU CAN ALSO DO THIS DISH IN AN IRON SKILLET!!!

Here's how you cook in a wok: get wok hot - add oil - 1 min - stirring and turning constantly all through the cooking process --  add anything that could be called non-veg seasoning (peppers, fish sauce, tabasco, curry, spices, etc…) - 1 min - add meat if any - 2 min - add veg ((meat and veg could be reversed depending on what it is. Carrots or potatoes would take a long time to cook, so you would add those first. Or shrimp/fish would cook fast so you would add that last.))  - season with salt and pepper -- 2 min - add anything that could be called seasoning but that is a veg (garlic, ginger, chile paste, zest, etc..) - 2 min --  add garnish or leafy veg - 20 seconds -- done = get it out quick.. you are now a wok expert!!!

Note: Garlic tends to burn and become bitter when it's cut up or grated and put in hot oil. So in wok cooking or any kind of dish where you are putting garlic in hot oil I smash it and peel it and put it in the hot oil whole. Then I remove it before I serve the dish. All you're going for is to flavor the oil …. If you want nice, sweet garlic in a dish get a whole head, cut off the pointy top. Heat your oven to 300. Put the garlic on a small sheet of foil. Pour a little olive oil over the top, add some salt and pepper and wrap the foil around the garlic and seal. Put it in the oven for 45 min - 1 ½ hours. Remove from foil and squeeze the head. Pure beautiful sweet garlic will ooze out.. Put it on toast, it's glorious!!!

This is from the New York Times, David Tanis

Simple Spicy Asparagus in a Wok

TOTAL TIME 20 minutes  


1 1/2 pounds asparagus, medium- or pencil-size

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 small dried red peppers (or 1 tbsp of red pepper flakes )

Salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon Chinese chile paste (Kroger, small jar)

2 garlic cloves peeled

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 jalapeño or serrano chile, finely chopped

1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro

3 green onions, slivered

6 drops toasted sesame seed oil (buy a small bottle. It will be enough for the rest of your life… it's great stuff!!)

(((Could add meat to this: Small pieces of chicken, uncooked shrimp, small slices of beef, pork, fish.. anything works.)))


1.. Snap off and discard bottoms of asparagus, then cut into 2-inch pieces (halve thicker pieces lengthwise first).

2.. Set wok/Iron skillet over high heat and add vegetable oil.

3.. Add dried peppers and let sizzle 1 min.

((( if you wanted to add some meat here's where you would do it!! cook 2 min.. if you are adding fish or shrimp, add it after the asparagus.. between step 4 & 5))) ..

4.. Add asparagus, tossing well to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir-fry for a minute or so.

5.. Add chile paste, garlic, ginger, orange zest and jalapeño. Continue cooking over high heat for a minute, maybe less, until asparagus is cooked but still firm and bright green.

6.. Add cilantro and green onions and sesame oil, cook for 1 min.. Remove garlic

7.. Mound asparagus on a serving platter… you can add more sesame oil here , but be gentle. Sesame seed oil has a very strong flavor… Taste! Taste! Taste! … re-season
YIELD 4 to 6 servings


How about saving a kid's life!!

When you give Platelets it's like giving St Jude $700 - $1000. If we don't give them, they have to buy them.

Giving Platelets is like giving blood, it just takes longer (1 1/2 hours) and you get all of your blood back (so you can do it every week if you want) . I know it's a long trip to go all the way down to St Jude, but you may be saving a kid's life . plus you get to watch a movie while you're there. Call Kim at 901.595.2024 and she'll setup an appointment and treat you like family. Just tell her you're from Hope.

Directions: From Poplar, turn north on Third Street, then right on Lauderdale/Jackson Ave (first right after you go under the expressway). Enter through the north guard gate (you'll see the Danny Thomas Pavilion. Gold top).

Tell the guard at the gate that you are here to donate blood. The guard will instruct you where to park. You will then enter the hospital by the red side door closest to the blood donor parking lot. The Blood Donor Center is in the southwest corner of the hospital on the ground floor.

Appointment times are generally available Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Except on Tuesdays they start at 9:15am.

See you online this weekend. It's going to be great!!!


Posted by Mack Oates at 9:21 AM