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    Laura Pazzaglia

    Suzanne, I haven’t been following the whole topic in detail so apologies if you asked me something earlier. But I read your post because my name caught my attention. : )

    I’m 99.9% sure that “sun dried tomatoes” is a marketing term. Italian markets only sell “dried tomatoes” and they don’t tell you how the dried them (probably in a big industrial oven) and they taste the same as the ones I used to buy at Trader Joe’s.

    Go for the bulk, not the romantic name! ; )




    Hi Suzanne. The dumplings aren’t that time consuming when you have made a few. Unless you make your own wrappers which is way to much bother for me. I learned how to do it, but buy the wrappers now. Actually I buy the dumplings and the steamed buns mostly these days. Supermarket ones aren’t that great but good enough with the right sauce.

    Most Chinese restaurants, even the best ones, buy frozen dumplings from Asian bakeries. These are far superior in taste and variety to most supermarket ones, including Asian supermarkets. Not that much more expensive even at the retail level. Sometimes cheaper.

    I was making them because I have friends who make really great ones and it was a challenge of sorts. Did make some last month but it was to use up some frozen fillings and wrappers. They were very good though.

    When I freeze them I put a serving size in a 1 lb. non Ziploc bag and put these in a large Ziploc freezer bag. I will put 2-3 of each type in a bag so when I want dumplings I can just take out a single bag instead of mucking about with several. My Asian friends will freeze them on reused Styrofoam trays wrapped in Saran wrap though and these last very well. More than you wanted to know about dumplings I am sure.

    Still liking my mandolin and have put up a hook to hang it on where I usually slice/dice so I will remember to use it. I do miss the use of my small food processor which I lost the blade for. My giant KitchenAid has an adjustable slicing blade which works good although it also like to dance on occasion. I find if I stop it half way down and add more it will generally push it through pretty good. But too big to leave out and a PITA to clean. I will eventually get another small food processor once I am totally convinced I will not find the blade for the one I have. I still use it a lot for chopping and making crumbs etc. and a smaller food processor bowl does not have as much food climbing the walls and sticking. Plus I use it so much I don’t have any trouble getting the bowl on straight.

    I am reasonably sure I won’t injure myself with my mandolin or meat slicer. Although I have cut myself often enough wth knives, graters and even scissors. I would have to cut of my arm before going to emergency though.


    Interesting about the dried tomatoes. I am pretty sure you are right but would never have thought of that myself. I bought 2 tubes of tomato concentrate based on your recommendations, both imported from Italy. One is sundried and one is not. Can’t tell the difference but then again I only use them in recipes calling for small quantities and use cans otherwise.

    What do you personally use dried tomatoes in?

    And fire roasted canned tomatoes, are they that much better? hard to find in Canada, and 5+ times as much per can.


    Fire roasted tomatoes are slightly scarcer than hen’s teeth here too. So I brew my own.

    You can do them under a grill ( broiler?) too.

    As always , ripe tomatoes work best. Roma’s are good as they hold up to the rough treatment well. You can also treat capsicums (bell peppers?) and eggplant the same way.


    roma tomatos (pomodoro’s right?). and mozzarella di buffalo. in a salad with olives and (other antipasta) and olive oil.

    i do so miss naples …. vedere napoli e morte, as they say. according to some that’s not the right translation, but it’s the way i remember it said by the neapolitans who have their own tilt on ‘italiano’! /guy

    Laura Pazzaglia

    They don’t sell fire roasted tomatoes here and I’ve never tried them while in the U.S.- the latest innovation that was introduced a few years ago here are canned cherry tomatoes. Which I always keep around to fancy-up stewed vegetables when the fresh are not available.

    I’ve seen fire-roasted tomatoes called for in American recipes so I broiled a tray of tomatoes until they were a little charred. It took forever and it didn’t taste that “fire roasted” to me. I also tried roasting tomatoes on my gas burner flame through a skewer, like I do peppers, and those didn’t taste that great either (made a terrible mess, too). If I ever want to try that again I’ll just use canned chopped tomatoes add a dash of liquid smoke and call it a day.

    I never heard of sun-dried tomato concentrate. Maybe instead of reducing tomato sauce, they just made a paste with powdered dried tomatoes?

    It’s not commercially available, but in southern Italy, you can buy powdered tomato. It’s an amazing flavor sweet and tangy. My husband’s cousin sprinkled a dash on steamed veggies and it really brought them to life. It was like going from b&w to colorvision flavorwise. I have no idea how they make it (everything is a secret down there) and it costs a fortune because it’s home-made.



    Laura Pazzaglia

    P.S. Look carefully at the label of any tomato product you buy to see the origin. There was a big expose’ here about how Italy imports low-quality (rotten, moldy, with suspicious additions) tomato paste and products from China. They use it prepared pasta sauces and to thicken-up and sweeten tomato puree’s with it and can still say “Made in Italy”. They say that it’s mostly used for products exported to “other countries”. What a shame. What cheaters.

    The only way to be sure that these low-quality ingredients are not being used and sold as Italian is if the product says it is “made with 100% Italian Tomatoes” or in the US you’ll want it to say American or California or whatnot.


    Sorry. I mis-spoke. I don’t have four Microplanes

    I have five. Sigh. Gear freak? who me?
    I use the one on the left most. Followed by the one on the right.
    The others rarely get a look in. Especially the second left. I prefer an old school box grater when I want things that coarse.

    Here to legally say “Made in Australia” they just need to “value add”. Some bring them in in bulk, add a little water and presto… Made in Australia.
    If you are lucky they will say “Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients”
    Country of Origin? They definitely don’t want to tell us that.


    Laura, thank you for your insider information on sun-dried tomatoes. It reminds me of the press that olive oils imported from Italy got several years ago. That throwaway oils from other countries, or any olive oil not extra virgin might be in a bottle sold in the U.S. as Italian extra virgin. They were merely bottled in Italy. Italy’s reputation as a foodie capitol brings in the bucks, apparently.

    Greg, on your four, no FIVE microplanes, which you so nicely pictured. As a former science teacher, you would have been accustomed to having multiples of everything in your lab. Maybe it’s echos of your former persona.

    Helen, sad to hear your food processor blade went missing. I recall you’d gotten it from a thrift store and it served you well. Tools that do exactly what they should, bought on the cheap are doubly dear! Hope you find that blade. I’ve had three small food processors briefly — returned each one. I wanted something to quickly chop that carrot, onion, and celery that seem to go into most of what I make. The carrot would end up very un-uniform: tiny crumbs and big chunks. The celery and onion would have much of the liquid crushed out and, again, end up in pieces/shreds of all sizes. Same with my Kitchen Aid. It wasn’t a cosmetic issue. Veg cut like that don’t cook uniformly and, the carrot crumbs, particularly, would over-flavor the stock. What is the brand of your small food processor?

    I have bought tubes of tomato paste and anchovy paste, thinking that they would last for a while, but I recall in relatively short order, the partially deflated tubes would puff out with, I assume, gasses from bacterial action, and I’d have to discard them. So it puzzles me when tomato paste in a tube gets recommended as lasting longer than tomato paste from a can. How long do the tubes last you folks? And what about anchovy paste?


    My last 3 or 4 posts seem to have gone to never never land in this and 2 other threads. Oh well. Maybe they will turn up.
    Maybe my food processor blade will to but I have searched everywhere. It is a Moulinex food processor with all kinds of attachments. Never sold in North America AFAIK but I bought it in brand new condition in a Thrift Shop about 1 1/2 years ago. Works perfectly despite being almost an antique. I also had a Black and Decker about 20 years ago. Had the shute on the side for slicing/grating. This worked pretty good for slicing/grating etc. but the Moulinex was perfect for me. Had a Salad Shooter which was very efficient in terms of not wasting those ends of things. It wasn’t big or hard to use except taking it apart and cleaning was a PITA. I gave it to friends who are big on coleslaw and other mass slicing endeavors and they love it. My KitchenAid does a pretty good job of slicing, but is big and heavy and I could hand slice quite a few veg in the time it takes me to get it out, put it together, use it and clean it and put it back. Takes up two shelves. The mandolin is pretty good. I have it hung on a hook so easy to get and takes almost no time to clean. Plus the more I use it the easier it gets. I may eventually like it better than the Moulinex as no bowl/lid to clean.

    I like my slices even, looks better cooks better etc. Don’t care about celery as I hate the texture of cooked celery and don’t like the strings in raw celery. Picky picky. so I usually freeze it and then chop it fine.

    Greg has nothing on me with the kitchen junkie thing. Only reason he has more is he has more room I believe.

    I did post again on the tomato paste but it hasn’t shown up. Was Gia Brand Sundried which is a mixture of sundried and regular puree all grown and made in Italy. Almost gone but shows no sign of spoilage after 6 months.best before date is 2016. I will probably return to using canned though. 6 cans of my favorite brand cost less than one tube and are I think twice as big. I used to freeze the can unopened and open both ends the first time I used it and push it through and slice.

    Anchovy paste supposedly keeps a long time. As do opened canned anchovies. Some people say years but if you have them that long opened I wonder why you have them. You can also get jars or dried. I have been unable to even find a store carrying canned anchovies.

    Totally off topic but I have recently seen the Instant pot 7 in one as low as $78 USD or 108 CAD. Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. Pretty reasonable as these things go.


    Yesterday’s post has not shown up, so I’m trying again hoping this will not be a duplicate.

    Greg, I had a chance to consult a guru about your ipad problem with refreshing Web pages with the Shift key held down. I don’t use an ipad, so I haven’t tried this, but here’s what he said. There are two things you can do. You can touch the Shift key twice, turning on all-capital letters. Then refresh using a menu or keyboard shortcut if you have function keys on your screen. Also, he said your ipad virtual keyboard might display function keys only in horizontal orientation. The second thing you can try is to go into Safari and bring up the Settings pull-down menu. There, there’s a link for cleaning out History, that will force your browser to display the most current page. Hope this helps.

    This past weekend I took the time to work page-by-page through The Food Lab. I noticed Kenji’s Basic Vegetable Stock has Granny Smith apples in it. — interesting. Also, merely fresh mushrooms as a nod to umami; no Marmite, anchovies or soy sauce. I compared this to his Hearty Vegetable Stock recipe online, which is pretty similar, except online he includes kombu. It looks to me like he is reserving his umami bombs (Marmite, anchovies, soy sauce) for beef recipes. He uses traditional Asian products — soy sauce, kombu, shitake — for vegetable-based dishes. (Although he does include some Marmite in his vegetarian chili.) Like Greg said earlier, the Marmite is used to elevate beefy flavor.

    Now I understand why most soups call for chicken broth — I’m guessing it provides nucleotides to boost the effect of any glutamates. Nucleotides are harder to come by in ingredients than glutamates, so chicken broth is an easily available, neutral-tasting source of them. It motivates me to make chicken broth, which I’ve been lazy about doing. A good soup should stand on good technique and quality ingredients without the help of chicken broth, I‘ve said to rationalize my sloth. Okay, not so much now.

    I wish I’d had this book years ago. It’s so useful to understand how cooking works instead of following recipes and wondering why the result is sometimes mediocre. I ordered a pound of dried shitakes and will stock up on kombu next weekend. Then I’ll give Kenji‘s “Spanish Chickpea and Spinach Stew,” “Pan Seared Corn and Zucchini,” “Hearty Winter Vegetable Soup,” and “3-Minute Tuscan White Bean Soup” a try. His minestrone and his caper sauce for salmon also look pretty good.

    Thanks, Helen, for turning me on to this book!

    Do you think freezing leftover tomato paste degrades the flavor? I keep thinking I should freeze it in tablespoons in an ice cube tray, but not sure if it is worth it.

    Here’s that Asian Soup you indicated an interest in. I started with a recipe in the Vitamix cookbook and added fish and rice to make it a meal. I should mention I use mail-order imported Japanese artisan miso. It is better than the best U.S. domestically produced miso, I firmly believe. Canada may do a better job of it. I don’t notice a difference in white miso as much, but I do with red rice and barley miso. We got our first snow on Thankgiving Day, so miso soup season has begun!

    Miso Fish Bok Choy Soup

    1 6-inch piece kombu + 6 C water for stock
    1 or more shitake mushroom(s), chopped
    1/8-inch thick slice ginger, minced
    3/4 cup bok choy, chopped
    3 oz or more cod, in smallish chunks
    1 spring onion, chopped
    1 tsp red rice miso
    1 tsp white miso
    ½ – 3/4 tsp tamari
    ½ C cooked rice (I use basmati brown rice, but any rice should work)
    Fresh cilantro leaves

    Make stock by putting kombu in water and bringing almost to a boil. Allow it to sit in water several minutes, then remove. Now you have 6 cups of stock. Freeze three portions and use one immediately. I don’t use bonito flakes in the broth.

    Simmer ginger, mushroom, bok choy, cod and white part of onion in one and one half cups kombu stock for 3 minutes or until fish is done. Take the pan off heat. Add miso (dissolved in a bit of soup liquid), tamari and rice. Stir and garnish with cilantro and onion greens. Serves 1.

    It’s not bouillabaisse, but it’s quick, filling, warming, fragrant, and nice, and doesn‘t taste made in a factory. Hope you like it, Helen.


    Thanks for the recipe. I may give this a go, but not for 6 months or so as it is coming in to summer here.

    I freeze tomato paste (the really thick stuff not passata) all the time. Most recipes call for one or two tablespoons and I buy it in 120 ml plastic tubs (about 8 American tbs) I use what I need and bag the rest and toss it in the freezer. I have never noticed a taste degradation though it can discolor if it gets freezer burn badly. I must admit though for most things I have taken to just using the whole tub. There are only a few things I cook where the flavour is thrown off unacceptably. I have seen the ice cube trick mentioned and have even tried it, but find it more trouble than it’s worth. I just hack out what I need (if it is not the lot) with a knife.


    Hi Suzanne.
    I have had 5 posts go astray in the last little while and only one has shown up so far. Probably I talk too much:)

    I was looking at what I think was a very similar stock recipe today. They say to save/freeze the kombu to make a secondary stock. http://justhungry.com/handbook/cooking-courses/japanese-cooking-101-lesson-1-its-all-about-dashi

    Think I will try yours though as it is a complete soup. I only have yellow miso?

    Pretty sure Canada doesn’t have better miso although in Vancouver there are a pretty high percentage of Asians. A good thing for me overall. But we are way behind the US in product availability and price. Getting better but…

    When I freeze tomato paste I freeze the unopened can then I open the can at both ends and push out an inch or two. Slice it off with a knife and put can in Ziploc bag in the freezer. When it is 1/2 gone I put in another can just in case.
    I don’t like the ice cube trick either. I find a small square of anything gets an unpleasant texture in the freezer, even stock. Might taste okay but I look at it and say ugh. Anything 4 oz. or more works really good for me. Probably because I double bag it and I am not going to wrap each cube in it’s own bag. Freezing it in the can seems to work very well too.


    Thanks for the input on freezing tomato paste. I’ll give a couple of these approaches a try.

    Helen, I’ve not tried yellow miso. My impression is that it is aged white miso. Last year I experimented with using different misos in this soup and what is on the recipe is what I liked best. You may like it with just the yellow miso. I found I liked the depth and complexity that red rice miso added. A barley miso would similarly add some depth. I believe it’s a common practice among the Japanese to use different misos in soup.

    Thanks for your link to the tutorial on dashi. I’ve seen differences in the way people make kombu stock, but haven’t put my mind to finding one I like best. But in my current umami-seeking mode, I’ll try the steps in your link. I’ve been rinsing off the white powder from the kombu. Silly me! I’ve not tried making second dashi out of ingredients already used once. Seems worth doing and freezing, though, during one of my Sunday morning cooks.

    With regard to missing posts, I think I’ll change my approach. I’ve been not logging in since it became possible to respond to existing threads without it. I think that’s when I started having posts go missing. So I’m changing my password to one less secure but more easily remembered, and seeing if my posts stop going missing when I’m logged in.


    I was logged in when mine went astray. The last few days the site seems a bit better. When I post it shows up instantly. (so far).

    This recipe has a lot of umami ingredients. What I like is that it uses the green part of the leek. Also I have all the ingredients.

    I don’t know if I like the yellow miso. I put it on a chicken I was roasting and it made the skin rubbery. looked crisp but was rubbery. I have put it in soup and sauces but do not know the difference.
    I have had miso soup many times but not a connoisseur. I have had only one that was terrible and non that stood out as extra good. Same with Udon soups etc. Very good, many of them but not memorable. The best ones seem to be the ones that have the little tofu cubes and green onion floating in them but that could be a visual thing. Anyway yellow is what I have and unless I find a much smaller container of the other two it will have to do:) My favorite soups for dining out are Ciopinno, lobster bisque and French Onion. I often make French Onion and it is always excellent (again so far), but no luck with ciopinno or Lobster Bisque so far.


    Greg, your Kitchen Aid sounds a bit more interesting than a cut-proof glove. What a fun thing — the mixer — for you and yours. With your negotiation skills, you should be at the Paris climate change talks, working to get money from the big polluters to help shrinking island nations.

    Is Kenji for real about being able to use metal things in the microwave oven? I’d go back to that section to reread it, but I had to give back the book this weekend (grumbling).

    Mock stock. Hmmm. Heard this on the radio over the weekend. The woman interviewed was a test cook for the Modernist Cuisine team. Maybe of interest:

    Helen, I plan to try Kenji’s Hearty Vegetable Stock, too. Thanks for sending that link. Let’s both report back on our efforts. Now, though, I have several pounds of celeriac in the refrigerator to use up. Had never tried it before, and am still making up my mind about it.

    I shared your experience of finding miso soups mostly forgettable. Restaurant miso soups are usually bland, but then, they often contain only a few ingredients. Homemade miso soup with more different vegetables is more complex and interesting, I think. My local mega Asian grocery store sells only mass produced, pasteurized miso in tetra pack blocks. I have not tried one of these because I read somewhere that pasteurization is an indicator of inferior miso. I had been trying U.S. small-shop made ones with live cultures sold in jars at my food co-op. Each time I tried one, it sat in the refrig for years, used only once or twice, not worth the cooking. The last one I tried made good soup! I order it from this website every couple of years. http://naturalimport.com/sakurazawa_and_tateshina_miso
    I use the Sakurazawa Yuuki Barley miso and the Tateshina Yuuki Rice miso.

    On your unimpressive experience with yellow miso: I’m vaguely recalling yellow miso is made from rice, no soybeans or other grains. (Correct me if I’m wrong. It‘s been a while since I read up on miso.) Rice is not a high glutamate food, as soy is. Barley and red rice miso (confusing name) contain mostly soy beans, which go on to develop even more glutamates with longer fermentation. I’ve found white misos made from only rice to be mild in flavor. They seem to add more a sense of richness than flavor. I use them only in combination with barley or red rice miso in cold weather soups, or in vegetable dressings. The practice in Japan, I recall, is to use white miso alone in the summer in light, delicate soups, and in combination with soy-based misos in cold weather for heartier soups. So if I’m right about golden miso being rice-based, you may be unimpressed with it because it’s low in glutamates. This is probably more than you ever wanted to know about miso.

    For the fish, I use the trim from Alaskan cod fillets. Trim is what is cut off to make fillets square shaped. The trim is sold frozen at Trader Joes for half the price of the frozen cod portions. Perfect for soup.


    You and I are a bit alike. I always buy fish trim when it is available. Often it is very ‘meaty’ and much cheaper. Especially halibut when in season. I have never seen frozen trim. I have never seen Alaskan Cod trim either or would buy it in a heartbeat. There is a dock that fishermen sell fish at early in the AM but I don’t drive and bus service is terrible in the early AM. One of these days….
    Fish has risen astronomically in price in the last few years but there are bargains to be had frozen cryovaced cheaper fish is often $2 a lb.

    This is the miso I bought.
    There are instructions on the container for soup so I guess I will try that.

    Back on the tomato thing. I frequently buy ‘specialty’ canned tomatoes when they are on sale. Opened a can of Hunts chopped tomatoes with onions to make something and tried a spoonful. Was so good, almost a shame to cook it.


    Helen, I looked at the ingredients in your miso. It looks like this is really more of a soup base, because it has dashi ingredients added (kelp and bonito). It also has umami boosters (msg, guanylate, and inosinate) added. Traditional miso contains only soybeans, koji and salt. Usually, longer fermentation results in more flavor/glutamates, up to a point, in miso. I’m suspicious that your product gets little fermentation because the maker feels it necessary to add umami boosters. No problem if you like the flavor this product brings to your soup. Since you add the miso last in my recipe, try tasting the soup before and after the recipe. If you think the miso adds a nice dimension, it’s your miso. If not, find another one.

    Your description of you and the canned tomatoes sounds serious. Are you controlling your tomato eating, or are the tomatoes controlling you? ;-)


    Pretty sure the tomatoes are in charge at this point. But I looked at the nonsale price today and resisted stocking up so maybe not:)

    Miso has never been a thing with me. It generally comes with a meal out in a Japanese restaurant and I like it or I put it aside. Other soups I have mentioned previously I will go to a lot of trouble to make them right or failing that spend big bucks at a place that does them fabulously.

    Possibly you are right about the umami boosters and possibly not. The Japanese are/have been adding umami boosters a lot longer than Kenji:) Love him but a lot of stuff he posts recommends was around years before he posted on it.

    Besides being an appliance junkie it seems I have become an ingredient junkie. So I am trying to stop:) Used Kombu instead of wakakme in the soup recipe. Found it a bit fishy for miso soup so added more water and miso and was pleasantly surprised, delish and made a nice looking cloudy broth. No temptation to toss it now but wont be putting it on chicken skin again either.

    Laura Pazzaglia

    Helen, now that I’m not approving everything manually everything should go more smoothly – I may have accidentally deleted legitimate posts while click, click, clicking the SPAM away.





    Don’t worry about it. I blather on a lot anyway:)


    Laura, thanks hanging in there with the manual filtering. It would have driven me so crazy.

    Helen, yeah, putting miso on chicken skin sounds scary to me. I’ve seen recipes for it rubbed on salmon.

    I got interested in miso as a way to get out of making and storing stock. I was starting to try to expand my cooking repertoire, and so many recipes called for chicken or vegetable stock. Miso IS Japan’s original soup base — their Better Than Boullion, only the good stuff really IS better. I inevitably strayed into vegetarian cookbooks and noticed those folks really get into their miso soup, and thought there had to be something better going on there than what I was getting in restaurants. And, as you just found, there IS. Not sure which soup you made, the one on your miso package or the one I posted, but either way, I’m glad you’ve found a new, tasty, quick, healthy soup. I like having this up my sleeve when I’m tempted to run out for fast food. Takes about as much time to make as driving out for a burger.

    Trader Joe’s here used to carry frozen halibut trim. I wasn’t sure what to do with it in pieces instead of a fillet, so I didn’t buy it. Great price, though. I’m curious, what do you do with it?


    I posted yesterday but it got lost in space:) Waited because I thought it might show up.
    The miso on chicken skin was in a recipe I cannot find now which is no doubt a good thing. It sort of put me of miso.
    The soup was the one on the container with kombu instead of wakame. Now I know they aren’t the same:( but it was still fairly impressive). Plus it seems that the miso paste I have has dashi in it and it is a reasonable product from a long established Japanese company. I will try another one eventually but right now I am good with what I have.

    Halibut is typically a big fish. So bigger chunks of trim, bigger bones so easier to make filets/steaks/chunks for soup. I get it fresh and can see what is in the bag. Often big pieces or cheeks(boneless but fatty) and sometimes deboned. I cut steaks, filets etc. and freeze. Very inexpensive but only available in season.
    Unfortunately we don’t have Trader Joe’s or equivalent in Canada that I know of.

    Getting a bit bogged down by things I want to try/does it really work stuff so am glad to have actually tried miso in a simple mindless way.


    That’s the nice thing about miso soup: it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be that day. I recall the original Vitamix recipe called for rice noodles, not rice, which would be even more convenient.

    From other postings, it sounds like you have access to some really fresh fish. I can see why sous vide was so attractive to you.

    Despite the fabulously warm temperatures we’ve had this fall/early winter in the upper Midwest — rain in December? No way! — I can feel myself going into hibernation mode and am feeling grumpy if my kitchen experiments fall short. I’m leaning toward experimenting less and sticking with recipes from my “tried-and-true” recipe binder for the next couple of months. With the snow that is supposed to fly next week, one needs a fabulous pot of soup or stew at the ready in the fridge to dive into after one peels off one’s boots.


    I scored a new cookbook for Christmas. Several actually, but one is relevant here.
    Asian Cookery School by Adam Liaw
    Adam is IIRC of Malay Chinese decent. Grew up in Sydney. Married a Japanese woman and lives in Sydney where he runs a restaurant. He got his start in professional cookery by winning MasterChef Australia a few years back. Before that he was a lawyer.

    Anyway, this is an excerpt from the first chapter (somewhat cut – I am typing this) :

    Umami is a broad savoury flavour that is also described as ‘meaty’ or ‘brothy’, and every cuisine in the world has managed to harness it in some form.

    The taste of umami is produced from a reaction between a flavour molecule and a receptor on our tongues. … THe most common molecules that produce the umami taste are glutamate, inosinate, and guanylate. They are hugely important.These three molecules are found in high proportions in many of our flavourful foods – aged cheeses, cured meats, dried mushrooms, fermented fish and vegetables, even wine.

    Umami has three properties that are particularly useful in cookery

    1. It can affect other tastes. The five basic tastes all affect each other… but with umami it is quite pronounced. In addition to its own savoury taste, umami enhances saltiness and sweetness of foods, while reducing their sourness and bitterness.

    2. Umami-rich ingredients can be combined to increase their effect. When different umami molecules are combined, the effect is greater than the sum of their parts….

    3. Umami can be enhanced by cooking. Many preserving processes increase the umami content of foods, such as drying and fermentation… By far the most common method of increasing umami, however, is browning… Maillard reactions explain why a well seared steak tastes meatier than raw beef and also explains the benefits of wok hei in wok cooking.

    And a couple of pages further on:
    When adding MSG, the tendency is for dishes to be too strongly umami, which is just as unbalanced as a dish which is too salty.


    far above my head mate, but i enjoyed reading it anyway. tks. /guy


    Best of the season to all.
    Looks like a good book Greg. Not available in Canada yet:( and more expensive in the US than Australia:)
    From the videos and recipes online it looks like it focuses on basic Asian recipes with commonly used ingredients. This style of food is something I enjoy so will try the recipes available online.

    Interesting about the MSG. IIRC most Chinese cookbooks 20-30 years ago had MSG as an ingredient in many recipes involving meat or poultry. Generally you marinated the thinly sliced meat in soy, cornstarch with a bit of MSG. Now most recipes use egg white instead. This gave the meat that soft velvety texture. 6 years ago you could not find MSG in stores outside Chinatown.

    One of my problems with the Umami ingredients is that I don’t want to measure a dab of this and a tsp. of that every time I cook hence the search for a reasonable combination. The other is I don’t want everything to taste the same. I don’t recall anything Asian (probably Chinese) from that era as having too much of a savoury taste.

    I have found that marinating stew meat, beef or pork or chicken when pressure cooking it in soy, egg white and cornstarch improves the texture.


    Have not been doing much cooking recently due to some health problems. Nothing serious but combined I just haven’t felt like eating. SO nothing new on the Umami front except that Butternut squash basted with Maple syrup is to die for:)

    Have also had a couple of posts in this thread disappear:(

    Wondering if you have tried anything exciting lately.


    Helen, it’s so annoying to say something exactly the way you wanted and have it disappear into the bit bucket. When I was having more trouble last month, I was writing my posts in a wp program and saving the files before copying the content into posts. It kept me talking.

    Sorry to hear you have been under the weather. I hope your refrigerator was well-stocked and friends delivered meds if they were needed. Sometimes when I’ve been sick I get out of the habit of eating and am spurred to start again only when the post-crud wobbliness isn’t resolving. Whatever it was, hope you are on the mend.

    If you aren’t eating much, squash is a nice, healthy choice, probably better than the fried baloney sandwich. :-) I like squash with maple syrup. Butternut squash is so sweet that I often don’t add anything to sweeten it. But maple syrup, with cinnamon and apple sauce and toasted walnuts, really lifts up acorn squash, which is not my squash choice, but is often the only squash in town here late winter.

    I made some chicken stock last weekend and froze some. You know, I think I’ll try doing it the four hours on the stove Kenji talks about, instead of in the PC. I remember Cook’s Illustrated did a taster test on traditional white chicken stock vs pressure cooker stock. People thought the traditional stock tasted more like chicken, while the PC stock was more intense. While my stock gelled very well — I was using the Modernist Cuisine recipe calling for 1.5 hours at Low pressure–the flavor was dull, not very chickeny. I used raw meaty carcasses and a leg with vegetables and herbs.

    I’ve been mostly hibernating and eating miso soup. It doesn’t grab me that first bite (or slurp) but it grows on me as I empty the bowl until I’m sorry to have the last of it. It’s just the thing for cold weather. Maybe it’s the taste of the sea that the kombu and cod bring — its nice to be reminded that far south of this cold, white place, there are turquoise seas and bare feet on warm sand. At a routine doctor’s appt this week, I found I’d lost too much weight. This just happens periodically if I get preoccupied with other things and lazy about cooking. I’ve a small frame and can’t get too skinny or else I feel tired. So, opposite of you, I’m making a project of eating plenty and frequently to put on some winter seal fat. Sumo wrestlers eat fish and rice to fatten up. So will I.

    When not slurping soup, I’ve been working on my chaotic kitchen. It’s nice to be off the job and work steadily at disorder without interruptions. I’m wondering how I can simplify my food prep to create less disorder. If I wasn’t spending so much time cleaning the kitchen, I’d enjoy cooking more. Since last summer as I’ve been trying recipes in “The New Fast Food,” the kitchen’s been messier because I always halve the recipes trying them out, and have to cook again during the week. So it ends up being more mess. But I’m about done with this book, and think I’ll move to trying out more of the Diane Kochilas “Ikaria” recipes, which I’ve liked a lot. I’ll live dangerously and make whole batches so the kitchen stays clean all week. Then I’ll build up some ambition to tackle Kenji’s recipes later on. I hear what you’re saying about the danger of relying on umami bombs, making everything taste the same. I’ve thought the same thing. And why do you suppose Kenji said little or nothing about pressure cookers in his book?

    One way I’m going to simplify my cooking life is I’m going to stop making my morning oat groats (a big batch cooked up once a week) in the pressure cooker. (Gasp) Heresy! This sounds regressive, but I was too lazy to wash the PC several days ago and just used a regular pot. It was easier! Go figure. No lid valve to wash, no keeping an eye on the pot because it keeps sputtering with the foaming. Probably many would disagree with me, but I just found this easier (never could find the right size/materials in strainer like lumpynose uses). I think if I could farm out cooking my mushroomy wild rice to an Instant Pot, that would feel even simpler. It would be nice to stovetop pressure cook only two things on Sunday morning, then put away the Kuhn Rikon for the week. This is my goal.

    I’m not losing interest in pressure cooking. I think after several years of experimenting to see where it fits into what I do and what I want to do, I’m figuring it out.
    – For bean soups, it works better to cook the beans ahead of time with a few flavorings and then add them to the other soup ingredients, which allows all the other ingredients to be cooked the amount of time best for them. This way the other ingredients taste fresher and don’t get overcooked.
    – Cooking lentils and rice together just muddies the flavor of both. Put the rice on the side, instead.
    – Foamy things are a pain to pressure cook!
    – It’s tough to not overcook some of the veg in vegetable medley recipes in a pressure cooker, and maybe the control steaming in a regular pot gives you is the better approach.
    – And maybe non-PC chicken stock suits me best. We’ll see.

    All right, no more trumpeting opinions.

    Does your cooking life ever feel a bit overwhelming?

    Hope you feel better soon, Helen.


    Haven’t been laid up, just feeling iffy. Some days, like today pretty good, others not so good. Could be far worse.
    Agree totally about the overcooked veg with a few exceptions. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out how I manage to dirty so many dishes even when eating simply. Some days I remind myself of the cartoon character Pigpen? in the Peanuts comic strip.

    I think the first paragraph in this thread
    sums up Kenji’s attitude to pressure/slow cookers. They are great for speed or convenience but he does not seem to be about that. He doesn’t care if it takes him a week to make something or how many tries it takes him to get the results he wants. I am somewhat the same.

    I have(and still do) really enjoy my pressure cookers and never used a pressure cooker before getting the IPS. But more and more I find it is not suitable for all things. But the number of things it is suitable for or does better than most other ways means I often use it several times a week. And while I really like the set it and forget it part I wouldn’t dream of cooking rice in it (except for rissoto). My electric rice cooker or stovetop pot do a better rice and are less bother IMO. For most root vegetables I wouldn’t cook them any other way than pressure cooker. Same with beans or Apple sauce. I use the pressure cooker for stocks because it is fast and convenient, (more emphasis on the convenient) but am inclined to think that a slow simmered stock has a warmer taste.

    Last spring was an exciting time for pressure cookers with 5-10 recipes (with pictures/videos) published daily and pressure cooker ‘converts’ everywhere. The last 6 months you are lucky to find 3 a week.
    I do use my Instant Pot for most steaming as well, either pressure steaming or with a regular lid.

    Glad you are having a break from work and any tips/tricks are always appreciated.


    @Helen, Thanks for the Kenji link. I read it. I’m mostly with you guys. If the process of making something taste better takes more time, but the process is simple, I’m on board if I have the time.

    Another thing I noticed about Kenji’s stock approach is that he doesn’t fuss about giving raw bones a quick boil and then changing the water, as the Modernist Cuisine folks do. They say the bones have bitter compounds that need to be eliminated before extraction begins. I haven’t done it yet because I thought I’d be throwing out good flavor with that first boiled water. I don’t know if I would taste any difference. But I should try it, since I have new respect for the importance of chicken stock in soup.

    My tips/rules above were not intended to have Darwinian/Einsteinian resonance. They are just things I concluded are true for me. Glad if at least one of them speaks to you. Mostly I was illustrating that my months of PC recipe failures and successes are adding up a to a personal approach which will hopefully result in better cooking for my dinner guests and me. It takes me a few years to integrate a new kitchen appliance into routine cooking. The PC has been no different.

    When I acquired my PC, I started out adding already pressure cooked beans to my stews/soups and then just cooking them together traditionally, without pressure. Good result. Then I thought I should get more efficient and pressure cook the beans and other stew ingredients all together, as some recipes I was trying directed. Not as good a result. It’s no big deal to have that regular pot bubbling on the back of the stove for 30-45 minutes, instead of PCing it. It can chat with the simmering chicken stock pot while I prep the mushroomy wild rice or cut up the squash. Or wash my legion of Pigpenny dishes. (How DO we generate so many?)

    @Greg, thanks for typing in the umami stuff from your new book. Raw food diets get a lot of attention here in the U.S. I’m glad I wasn’t born before humans discovered fire and Mallard reactions. Will look forward to some education on Asian cooking. I had to look up wok hei.


    Like you, I am integrating my PC cookery into my established routines. Some things get done conventionally. Some in the PC and some sous vide. Some get a combination.

    What I have noticed is that my energy spend is much lower on PC days. It makes a significant dent in my quarterly bills. The SV also makes a dent, but nowhere near as big. The PC makes sense as you are cooking quicker. I haven’t quite worked out the SV as its cooks are often longer. I guess it really must come down to being a more efficient heat transfer. I am sure the beer cooler tub helps too. I am tracking my energy use twice daily as I am looking at going off grid and I need the data to work out what size system I need.

    As for stock, I only make chicken, and these days only in the PC. There was a comparison between several different pcs and conventional cooking posted up on the web a couple of years ago. The Kuhn Rikon came out on top. Then conventional cooking. The other pressure cookers lagged well behind. They concluded that it had to do with how well the KR sealed. Sadly the article seems to have been taken down. Or I would post a link.


    I think I read that article a while ago. Maybe my taste buds are outliers, but it seems to me that pressure cooked chicken stock lacks a perfume that traditionally made stock had. A fragrance seems cooked away. I’ve thought of PCing carcasses and about a third of the way through, stripping off the meat and compacting only the bones into minimal fresh water and finishing the prescribed cook. Then combine the two stocks. Maybe the first stock will be fragrant and the second collagen-rich. Together, better. We’ll see. I noticed a fragrance–a good one–once when I used chicken feet.

    Have you tried the Modernist Cuisine recommendation of blanching raw bones before cooking them? The chicken carcasses I use are raw to begin with. MC says blanching the carcasses and dumping the water before making stock removes bitter compounds from the bones. I haven’t tried it yet. Just curious if you thought this extra step worthwhile.

    Thanks for sharing your observations on PCs and energy consumption. That is something to keep in mind when deciding what preparation method to use. It’s an admirable ambition to get your home off the grid. Keep us informed of how it goes.


    I save my bones, joints, wing tips etc. for chicken stock which I will use for soup. I have never noticed a bitter taste either raw or cooked. For most other recipes I use a (sacrilege) bottled concentrated stock. I have tried both in various recipes and except for soup cannot tell the difference. My deranged tastebuds I guess.

    My frugal nature balks at paying $1-$3 a lb. more for carcasses then I pay for chicken legs, whole chickens. Even boneless skinless breasts are usually cheaper.
    Go figure.

    Usually I roast a turkey for Christmas etc. but this year I didn’t. I prefer chicken to turkey but prefer turkey stock to chicken stock for soup. Plus turkey is ridiculously cheap when on sale. Maybe next time they are on sale I will get the store butcher to saw it in quarters and use it for stock.


    I actually made sous vide chicken that I enjoyed last night.
    I did it at 160 degrees for 3.5 hours and finished it in an anodized pan. Not saying it was better than a roast chicken but equally as good.



    I use homemade chicken stock for pretty much everything these days. But when beef is called for, I use commercial concentrate. I tried making beef stock once or twice but the sheer quantity overwhelmed my freezer space. Maybe if I reduced it to a Demi-glacé…

    I also keep chicken concentrate for those times when I forget to take mine out of the freezer in time. Far too often I’m afraid.

    I never buy carcasses. But I keep any bones that come my way. Even KFC goes into the mix on occasion. Been more than a few years since that happened though. Speaking of which. I have enough bones left over from Christmas to make today a stock making day.


    Was the Yay!!! because I actually managed to sous vide chicken I liked? I am disproportionally pleased myself.

    Two chicken thighs produced almost 1/4 cup of gelatinous stock which I was going to make a pan sauce with but was too hungry. I admire demi-glace and pan sauce but so far am unimpressed with my efforts. But like the chicken I will no doubt keep on trying.

    I have a friend who buys KFC at what I consider an exorbitant price for her elderly doggies. I have succumbed to temptation and had a piece twice. Tastes good initially if fresh but I feel like I am burping up grease and chemicals for hours. Not against fast/junk food per se as there are a few I really enjoy occasionally.


    Yes it was. And you should be pleased.

    Demi-glace I have just read about. Never experienced. It sounds like altogether too much trouble for the return. There was an episode of Northern Exposure where they rendered an entire beast down over several days to get about quarter cup of sauce. No doubt an exaggeration but… I did enjoy Adam. Can’t help thinking Gordon Ramsay modelled himself on the caricature.

    I have started making pan sauces though. I have taken to tipping out the juices from my sous vide bags into a tiny saucepan (half cup) boiling them up and adding a knob of butter. The results have been a bit hit and miss, but more hit than miss.

    As for KFC, I mostly just get it ( or similar) when on a long drive. A few years ago I was studying in Canberra – a four hour drive from home. I would buy some KFC at about the halfway point on my weekend drives home and gnaw on it while driving. The finger food nature of it made it easy, convenient and quick.


    @Helen So the sous vide chicken will be fantastic to have in your repertoire when you have to step out for three hours but feed a friend (or yourself) dinner when you come back three hours and a half hours later. Can’t do that with baked chicken. Congrats!

    I remember being taken out for KFC on hot days as a child and sitting on the picnic tables outside getting greasy up to the wrists. Man, that was good.

    Backing up in the conversation, I don’t have chicken bones from chicken dinners because I usually eat fish. I pay around $1.30/lb for free range chicken backs, and $2.99/lb for free range legs, so it makes sense to use mostly backs with a leg or two tossed in. Helen, you have to pay more for carcasses than chicken parts? What planet is that?

    Me, too. I haven’t noticed a bitter flavor from not blanching the chicken parts before starting the stock, either. I’m just curious if stock from blanched chicken parts tastes different to people who are not professional chefs, as are most of the Modernist Cuisine folks. Maybe these are just fussy people.

    I’ve noticed there are bloggers who swear by turkey stock for a lot of things. I like it in turkey carcass wild rice soup, but not as a substitute for chicken stock in other recipes. Chicken stock brings flavors together, whereas turkey stock just tastes like turkey hanging out in a dish that isn’t meant to taste like turkey. Sorry, not a groupie on this one. Blame my outlier taste buds.

    I made a quinoa veg soup several days ago and used my frozen PC chicken stock in it. Quinoa soups, even with veg stock, aren‘t savory without meat products. So I guessed that adding chicken stock with its nucleotides would combine with the glutamates in the potatoes, carrots, onions and tomatoes to give the broth some bravura. And it DID. It was a lovely soup. I feel like an umami star!


    @Greg, I enjoyed Adam on Northern Exposure, too. I don’t remember the rendering-the-beast episode, but I remember I heard the word “pancetta” first from him. I get that temperamental in the kitchen only once every couple of years if I’ve done something that’s hard to recover from, like dropping an open carton of milk on the floor or tossing the combined ingredients for a recipe into the pan bubbling next to it because I was thinking about something like chocolate instead of paying attention.


    Bizarrely I watched that very episode a week or two ago. It is the one where his wife fakes a very expensive bottle of wine and he unknowingly gives it his approval:)

    Definitely an exaggeration on the demi-glace but some day I will try to make it. I am happy enough with a red wine reduction for meat. It is the fish and poultry pan sauces I struggle with.


    For poultry I do similar to a red wine pan juice reduction, but with white wine instead. Fish I either serve bare or just do my famous mustard sauce:
    A simple bechamel with mustard added. I usually toss in some capers too.
    There is a Bois Boudrain sauce I have seen that I keep meaning to try but somehow never get round to.

    Still it’s canned baked beans tonight. With added leg ham and cheese. Finished off with a PC Pudding. Yum!


    Poultry I have always made traditional gravy when roasted. For pieces could be BBQ or béchamel etc. Fish I too serve bare and completely enjoy it this way.

    However I have had fish in a couple of Italian restaurants with wonderful pan sauce and stupidly did not note the name of the sauce at the time.

    The Bois Boudrain sauce looks very interesting. Watched the Michel Roux video and it looks pretty easy as well. Have put it on my must try list.


    Nice you see you on the forum again, Helen. Sorry to hear you’ve been unwell. Hopefully your back is coming round and your friends are liberal with their offers of rides to the physical therapist.

    I’ve been hibernating. Although “hibernating” is a deceiving word, because it’s a great season for cooking and feasting. Not much in the way of experiments, although I did try making Kenji’s white bean soup from the recipe list I wrote in a posting further up the thread. Not too impressed, although I knew beforehand that white beans tend to be bland. I did like the Sardinian Minestrone recipe I posted about in a recent thread and will make it again. And have been thinking of ordering a gram scale from Amazon.

    Last week I went to a Special Olympics for high school kids. They were such good sports, most getting really excited and involved in the game, but never losing it enough to steal the ball from less able kids on the opposing team. I screamed and cheered myself hoarse.


    Hi Suzannne
    Back pain is a b*tch. 2.5 months and counting. Besides the pain it is exhausting so I haven’t been cooking much. But every time I go out I see much younger people with worse problems.
    Today I bought a smaller saucepan type pressure cooker. http://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/t-fal-secure-5-neo-pressure-cooker-4-l-1428834p.html
    I would rather an even smaller one but the price was right and it seems pretty good quality.
    Even better It will (hopefully) replace my 4 litre saucepan which is by far the ugliest pan I own.

    I love my scale despite Greg sneering at it’s lack of precision:). It only measures to the gram or 10th of an ounce but so far it has been sufficient.


    I don’t sneer. I would never sneer.

    It depends on what you are weighing.
    I have several scales. The one I use most often is precise to the gram and weighs to 2kg. I use it for most things and only dip into the more precise (0.01g to 100g) when I am doing small quantities (< 20g)

    Almost any scale is better than using volume for anything except water. And even then I usually weigh. I nearly burst out laughing when I saw what Kitchen Aid had you do to measure flour.

    Get well soon I have missed you.


    are we back online? it seems like we picked off from a topic we left six months ago, the size of our scales. well, at least it mirrors the size debate among the republican candidates for president here. don’t get me started. really. but it is the cheapest (and most likely crudest) of entertainment. [g]

    a couple of months ago my outstanding escalia kitchen scale gave up the ghost after 6-8 years of service on only two, maybe three, sets of batteries. i should have just replaced it although the price has gone up from the $12 i paid to over $22, but i got seduced by a more modern looking stainless version instead. obviously (or it should be obvious to you guys) i don’t require my kitchen scale to be as accurate as the ones i use for weighing coins and metal detecting finds and bullets and powder.

    i’ve been back here several times and every time i had problems reading or posting and gave up. so has both @helen and @laura had health problems? i thought i had the market cornered on those.



    Maybe not sneered but some fun was poked? :) What does Kitchen Aid (your new mixer?) have you do to measure flour? IIRC making bread was the big reason I got a scale but I use it for a lot of things. I missed you and Guy and Suzanne and of course Laura but it was pretty hard for me to even view the site for a few weeks.

    @Guy I think it is just me, not Laura. She always looks the picture of health but what do I know. You seem to deal with your diabetes pretty darn good but I know it is a constant battle. One of my cousins has had her kidneys and pancreas replaced as well as horrendous sounding eye operations. My back problems are pretty trivial in comparison despite being bedridden for a month of which 8 days was in the hospital. Canadian hospitals are pretty unpleasant places these days.
    Like you I couldn’t sign on once I was actually able to sit in a chair plus pages would display weirdly with bizarre margins and text overwriting other stuff and even random reboots. Seems much better the last few days.


    I too missed your illness. Likewise problems with connections here. But as you say it seems to be better for now.

    I don’t have the manual to hand, but it went something like this:
    “Take a large sheet of parchment. Lay it on the table.
    Place a cup in the middle of the parchment.
    Carefully sift the flour over the cup.
    When the cup is overflowing, level it off with a flat spatula.
    Repeat for each additional cup of flour needed for the recipe.
    Discard the parchment and any flour that fell on it.”

    They didn’t say what to do if you needed 1 1/2 cups as several of their recipes required.

    Me, I just measured 100g of flour for each 65g egg. I think. It was a while ago & I may have the measures wrong. I was making lasagna sheets, and couldn’t see that the other reason for sifting (incorporating air) applied.


    don’t discard the parchment! do you know how much the magick shops charge for that stuff? it’s like it’s gold leaf. [g] /guy


    That is too funny. Many of the bakers I have known use/used a measuring cup as a convenient approximation:) Most also sifted after measuring? And why even use the parchment paper if you will be tossing the flour? Easier to wipe the table or board then to get out the parchment paper. Sifting flour into a cup, I think not.
    I often use measuring cups and spoons because they are easy and even the palm of my hand sometimes but for many things a scale is best and less messy.

    @Guy I get my parchment sheets at the Dollar store. 5 cents a sheet. My biggest problem is remembering to use them. Thriftiness is also a factor, but I ask myself is it better to spend a nickel or spend 1/2 hour+ scrubbing crud off a pan.


    @Greg, once I got a kitchen scale and used it for making bread, I never looked back. So better. So what’s that shiny new Kitchen Aid been turning out?

    @Guy, yes, our primary season has been a carnival complete with scary clowns and the Haunted House of our imaginings of what it would be like to have these characters for president. Can’t you just hear the spooky sounds, see the faces of Rubio and Trump jumping out at you in the dark from either side of a giant yardstick?

    @Helen, back pain can really drag you down. It becomes so hard to get silly little things done, let alone the big things. Hope you feel better with time. Can’t cook with a bad back. Hope your friends are supplying some home cooked stuff.

    Kenji uses canned beans in the recipes I jotted down. It’s not my impression he allocates much brain band width to bean cuisine.

    Your link to the pan you bought doesn’t take me to the pan on the computers/phones I’ve used. But do tell us if the smaller size makes a significant difference. Glad you finally got the smaller PC you were craving. Since I decided in early winter that instant release/repressurize cycles were not a technique I would use much, the smaller PC need became moot. Now my attention is on the knife for small hands that Kenji recommends in his book. If I weren’t drooling over SOME kitchen gadget, I wouldn’t know myself. I’m thinking of taking some veg to Williams Sonoma and trying it out.

    @HeyYouKnifeGuys, does a granton edge compromise the sharpening of the knife over time? Does it make the curved edge wavy where the granton “scoop outs” are?


    Yes it was bread that got me started on the road to weighing everything. I even mostly weigh water these days. It is a LOT easier to hit a specific target with a scale than a cup. And in metric, for water, 1 gram = 1 millilitre. so it is really easy.

    The KitchenAid is packed away right now. As is the rest of the kitchen. My plumber triggered a complete remodel of the kitchen by cutting and capping the gas line to the stove. For the next month or so, cooking is almost entirely on a single electric plate, an electric PC and of course my trusty Sous Vide cooler. what we are missing most is the sink. A bucket just doesn’t cut it. Sorry Helen.

    I don’t know the term “Granton Edge”, but I am guessing you are talking about those scalloped sides that are so common on cooks knives these days. Most of my knives predate the practice and I don’t have any. But they shouldn’t cause any problems for sharpening. That should be done on a stone (preferably a water stone) which will straddle several of the scallops so the edge should remain straight. Honing with a steel may cause the edge to go wavy, but only if you are very heavy handed with the steel, and it should be fixed the next time you sharpen. From what I hear, all other things being equal, they are very good, particularly for arthritis sufferers. And they greatly reduce the problems with sticky foods like cheese.


    Eeek Greg. I still haven’t got started on my kitchen remodel. Dealing with my condo building on separate issues has slowed me down and finding a contractor I can trust. Oh well.
    I have been dealing with the bucket and heating water in a microwave or on a hotplate for 12 summers now. However I know people who live a
    lot rougher. And the sous vide circulator and a 16 litre food grade bucket was a luxury.
    Curious as to how you like your Breville PC. I am fascinated by all the pressure settings as I use low pressure quite a bit.

    @Suzanne I do like the Pressure cooker. In fact I would actually like one even smaller but it’s lower profile makes it easier to use. I did use it to steam some dumplings because it has the nicest steamer basket included. Very fast pressure release with quick release. Makes a very loud noise when it has reached pressure which I like. I have to turn the stove burner almost off for it to drop pressure.
    Also seems very sturdy and shiny and washes and dries as well as my fagor. The $59.99 Cad price tag (reduced from $169.99) was a major incentive:)

    Coincidentally I bought some cheap Starfrit knives the same day because they said non-stick (specifically for the above mentioned cheese). I didn’t expect much for the price but they really don’t stick even to soft mozzarella plus they are very sharp. I tried various problem items and was impressed. Not sure how the edge will hold or how they will sharpen and the non-stick surface looks like it’s painted on. But so far way better than my expensive mandolin.


    The Breville has almost converted me to electrics. Unlike Laura, I am using the specific settings if there is one for the job. Mostly they seem to work except risotto so far. Actually risotto works but I prefer the results from Laura’s method. Rice (basmati and jasmine) is excellent. Potatoes just work. Steaming and stock seem fine. And I have also tried manual for several thing if there didn’t seem to be a close preset. Pasta is one. It is really nice not having to watch it. I have taken to starting dinner then going out to put the chooks to bed.

    I have the advantage of having built several kitchens before. But we have decided to put in a new bamboo floating floor. That scares me. Today I intend to level the old floor with some stuff called “Ardit”. As I understand it is essentially very runny concrete that will auto level the surface. as I have never tried anything like it I am finding it a scary prospect. Hopefully by the end of the day I will know I was worried unnecessarily.


    I see it has arrived in Canada finally. BPR700BSS – CANADA
    Wide range of pricing $319- $574 CAD.
    I will definitely go and look but will hopefully hold off till the reno is going on or the price plunges:). Breville is very mainstream here but I am surprised at the bigger distributers having it already.

    Interesting about the rice. I seem to remember that you were, like me, still using a rice cooker. How about the ceramic insert, is it holding up well?

    I have been really really good about not buying kitchen ‘gear’ lately. Or computer ‘gear’ or other misc appliances. One B&D hand vac which is good as it gets in the hand vac line, one Tefal pressure cooker, one cheap set of knives which so far seem remarkable and a waffle maker. I have managed to not buy (postpone) two cooking appliances I really want. Yesterday I managed to dispose of (gave to a friend) A crockpot, a good cubic foot of cutlery and a very nice Panini maker I haven’t used in almost a year. Last fall I gave her my giant Ninja cooker.
    Sorry for ranting on but trying to put things into prospective and as usual getting carried away:(

    You are very intrepid. I would very much like to see before and after pictures if you can. Last time I built something non prefab it was a very ugly shack in the back yard. I was 6 years old and my partner in crime was 7. And there was some crime involved in procuring lumber and nails etc. Not sure how we got away with even building such an eyesore in the yard:)

    I am still determined to do the reno(s) though.


    Warning: Long post

    @Greg, I’m curious about whether you are remodeling your kitchen because you planned it or if the remodel is a reaction to something unforeseen or a plumber screw-up. Re-leveling your floor sounds like part of some big master plan, long in the making. Have you decided against cooking with gas?

    Yes, Granton edge refers to the knives with the scallops ground into the sides. Kenji uses the term. Thanks for your take on the ramifications for preserving the integrity of the edge curve.

    Working out how to keep my Wusthof knives sharp has been a long work in progress. For several years I took them to a local butcher, who wrecked the chef knife’s curve. Then I had a proper curve professionally reground, and bought an electric knife sharpener recommended by Cook’s Illustrated, which neglected to mention until years later that this type of sharpener should not be used with knives with bolsters. By then the sharpener had ground a dip into the blade next to the bolster, so I had to get the edge professionally reshaped and reground again. Now I’m using this manual gadget with a metal V-shape that you run your knife through, and it does reasonably well without punching dips into my Wusthofs and high carbon steel santoku knife, which is the one I use most and sharpen about once a week. Every time I go to cooks’ stores and discuss sharpening stones with them, they assure me that most cooks don’t become proficient enough with stones to get a good edge, so I walk out without a stone.

    In the last year I’ve had thoughts of regrinding my knives to a Japanese edge. As I recall the standard non-Asian edge has a 20 (degree angle??), but the Japanese one has 15 — sorry, I just remember the numbers, not specifically what they mean. I’ve read that Wusthof now manufactures all their knives with a Japanese edge, but it doesn’t make sense get one and be unable to sharpen to that edge at home. Any thoughts, Greg or Guy?

    @Helen, so glad you are enjoying your new PC. Sounds like the quality has exceeded your expectations. And congrats on clearing out some space. I tossed out my derelict 8-quart stockpot, kept the lid, which fits nicely on my PC, and now have space for the additional 7-cup Pyrex storage bowl I’ll pick up this afternoon. After complaining about the large container dilemma I run into when wanting to salt-soak a pound of beans, it popped into my head in bed Sunday morning that if I can salt-soak ¾ pound beans in two 7-cup pyrexes (barely), I can soak a full pound if I have a third 7-cup pyrex, which is also useful when feeding houseguests who are big eaters. They can be stacked with trivets while soaking beans, so, small footprint! What a nice feeling it is to solve nagging kitchen problems. :-)


    yeah, it used to be clear on the edge angles. if the knife was american or german it was usually 20º and if japanese, 15º. you can no longer count on this formula as wusthof makes japanese edge and the japanese knives have an option of the american edge.

    i got an xmas sale on an electric sharpener and it’s gathering dust because i realized i didn’t want to sacrifice the amount of metal those remove and wanted more control over the process. but i’m uncoordinated and don’t do well with manual sharpeners. and also, to @greg’s chagrin, i like serrated knives.

    there is a sharpener system called ‘lansky’ which is hugely popular for manual sharpening and includes a built in vice so you can set your knife at a given angle, then you pass the stone over the blade. i can’t deal with this system though.

    the best single manual sharpener (system) i’ve found is the spyderco sharpmaker. i like that it’s very portable and sets up in seconds. also, you can buy optional stones if you have special needs knives. but the biggest attraction to me is the triangular shape which allows me to sharpen my serrated knives.


    and if you want to buff and polish and oil your knife after sharpening, shun offers a neat little kit in a small bamboo box which has rust eraser, oil, buffing and polishing cloths, and other tools.


    if you shop around you can get both these for under $100, possibly around $75. and they take up very little space if you need portability.



    Don’t worry @guy. I make allowances for you as I know you are a Texan. :P
    You can also keep that Spyderco sharpener over there too. I finally threw mine out last year. I bought it back in the 1970s. And always hated it.

    The other thing to be aware of is that a lot of Japanese knives have an asymmetric blade. The angle is different one side to the other. Though I don’t recall the exact angles. I do recall Jamie Oliver slicing his fingers because he wasn’t expecting the difference during a special made in Japan. And I don’t know if Wustoff do this in their Japanese edged knives. I have always avoided them as I know I will never remember which edge is which when it comes to sharpening time.

    Basically the smaller the angle, the sharper the blade, but the less durable it is. I keep a Furi santoku ground much finer than my other knives. It is the one I reach for when I have an over-ripe tomato to deal with. But the take home message is: “Don’t sweat the numbers” as long as you are more or less consistent and like the way it cuts, it doesn’t matter if it is 5º or 30º Or flat on one side and bevelled on the other ( I keep one like that for marking out in woodwork)

    MY current sharpening kit consists of:
    A steel used every time I reach for a knife. This lives in the knife rack. I have recently gone back to an old fashioned steel steel. I had been using a ceramic steel for the last few years. But it is more of a grinding tool than a hone.

    Next level up is a set of DMT diamond stones that live (normally!) on the kitchen window ledge. They come out when I want to clean up the edge properly and can’t be bothered to get out the next level tool.

    Third level is a Tormek powered grinding stone. This does a fantastic job of resetting the edge properly but doesn’t get the edge itself as good as I would like. So after using it I pull out the Japanese water stones and take them to a mirror finish. But I only go to that much trouble once a year or so. But I got the Tormek for woodwork not kitchen work. But since I have it…

    And @Suzanne, you won’t get ever get proficient if those water stones stay in the shop. Get a couple and practice. Start with your old rubbish knives so you won’t care if you stuff them up. Norton make a very nice set that are colour coded for fineness. And a little harder than the Japanese ones so will last longer. But those V-guided sharpeners can do a remarkably good job if you get a good one. Certainly better than a Spyderco (:P)But you don’t get to choose your angle.

    And if you have Japanese angles but use a V sharpener you will end up with Western angles. They will still cut. Don’t worry about it.

    I had to make a decision about what to keep accessible. The dedicated rice cooker didn’t make the cut. After using the PC, I am not sure it will be coming back into the kitchen. Though I need to cook more rice now. 200g is the minimum in the PC. My small rice cooker was happy with 150g.

    I had been thinking about remodelling the kitchen for years. I had even bought all the carcasses on a sale. but wanted to finish the bathroom first. the bathroom shares a wall with the kitchen where the gas goes through and while that wall was off I thought it would be a good idea to move the gas line in readiness for the kitchen. unfortunately the plumber thought I was doing the kitchen straight away so he just capped the line and hadn’t brought the fittings necessary to reconnect. The bathroom can wait ( we have two) but the kitchen couldn’t so the walls remain off in the bathroom while the kitchen goes forward.

    Re Floor levelling. We have decided to put in a floating bamboo floor in the kitchen. The old floor has vinyl tiles over part of it and bare concrete over the rest. The levelling is mainly to bring the concrete up to the same level as the vinyl so the floating floor will sit properly. The bamboo is already turning into an adventure. We went to collect it yesterday and the trailer decided to blow out one of the tyres. And of course the nearby tyre shop didn’t have any second hand tyres the right size. And the other wheel wasn’t far behind so we ended up with two NEW tyres. Then the delay while all that was done meant that we were caught by the predicted late thunderstorm we had intended to get home before. Sigh. Sigh. Sob.


    @Helen, why are you liking your new nonstick knives better than your mandolin these days?

    @Guy, thanks for the links to the sharpeners. I think I’ve seen the Spyderco before in stores. Do you just hold your knife at a 90 degree angle to the floor and guide it down the sharpener shafts? Not sure if I’m understanding how this would work. Enough with the spit wads, Greg!!!

    Yeah, the electronic sharpener grinds off a lot of steel. And mine won’t feed in the blade about an inch from the bolster, so it eats off more steel in that spot where you pause the knife for just a split second longer, reacting to the knife stopping. Over time it will eat a gap there in the edge AND leave unsharpened the section of blade that sits directly under your hand, where you can exert the most force and get best use of your knife. So lame!

    I have fond memories of serrated knives. In the house where I grew up knives weren’t sharpened. The one knife you could count on to saw through stuff was the serrated one.

    @Greg, what is a floating floor? Did you emerge from your foray into self-leveling concrete unscathed?

    You’ve got some bad tire karma. Reminds me of when I drove through small debris some vehicle had left in the road and immediately had two flat tires with nails in them. So annoying.

    So about a year ago America’s Test Kitchen did a segment on knives and sharpening. What I took away was (1) asymetric Japanese knives are for cutting fish, especially thin sushi slices, (2) Wusthof had gone to a standard 15-degree edge on its new blades and (3) a 15-degree edge goes through food with less resistance than a 20-degree edge. That’s when I started lusting in my heart for a 15-degree edge. You see, I cut up minimum of four veg, usually more, each day, and triple that during my Sunday morning cooks. That’s not counting fruit, which would add several more cutting board encounters each day. That’s why the whiff of a possibility of working less when I cut gets my attention. Also, I had to replace my Wusthof paring knife last spring — it disappeared — and really liked working with the new blade. It was shortly after that I saw the ATK knife segment and I realized I’d been enjoying a 15-degree edge.

    I’ve gotten in the habit of every weekend running my santoku knife through the AcuSharp, my V-blade sharpener, and then honing it in preparation for the Sunday marathon cook. Last night, after reading your post, I sharpened again, and the cutting and chopping weren’t so bad. I just need to sharpen more often. The idea of a knife going through veg like it was butter grabs my imagination. But I didn’t realize until your post that a 15-degree blade requires more maintenance. How much more maintenance?

    I noticed a little Cuisinart Mini-prep on sale over the weekend. The picture on the front of the box showed the unit half full of chopped red onion, each bit neatly cut into a perfect square. If only it were true.

    Well — sputter — I’ve had good intentions when I’ve journeyed to the cook store to buy sharpening stones. I’ve fallen under the spell of honey-tongued deceivers who persuade me my powers are not up to the task. :-{

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