November 17, 2010

With a slap and a squeeze | Videos to share

Until we came to Seattle a year ago, I never had a microwave oven. I never wanted one. I've always had questions about their safety, and the healthfulness of the food prepared in them. But that's not to say I didn't sometimes use a microwave. For years I used the one at work to heat up lunches, or heat water for tea. And once I attempted to bake an apple in it.

Since finding one in our rented house in Seattle, I experimented with a instant microwaved cupcake, and popcorn, but I prefer my cupcakes and popcorn made in a more conventional way.

One day recently, while slightly under the weather, the only the food that appealed to me was a baked potato. Not wanting to heat the oven for one potato, or wait an hour for it to bake, I turned to Mr. Microwave to see if he was up to the task. I scrubbed the potato, poked it in a few places with a sharp knife, wrapped it in a paper towel and popped it into the microwave for five minutes. Then I turned it over and zapped it three more minutes. (Your time may vary depending on the type and size of the potato.) When it was done, I removed it , set it on the counter and gave it a whack with the palm of my hand. (I read about whacking the potato on the Internet.) I sliced it open, gave it a squeeze and was ready to roll. I like my potatoes naked with a pinch of coarse salt (I use Redmond Real Salt) and a few grinds of pepper. The potato looked very sexy, and tasted pretty good, though I swear there's something different about it. The texture is a little off, and the flavor not as developed as in a baked potato.

Still, it was good enough that I've done it again — and again. The second potato was topped with gomasio — the Japanese blend of toasted sesame seeds and sea salt.

The last potato, in addition to salt and pepper, was topped with fresh, finely chopped young ginger, ground coriander seeds* and avocado. It was the best one, yet.

*I picked up a small, very small mortar and pestle at Goodwill mostly to see if I would really hand grind spices or if a mortar and pestle would just take up space in the already crowded kitchen. I knew its small size would probably lead to seeds flying out of the mortar as I worked, and I was right. So far I've used it once to grind coriander, and the result was a highly aromatic coarse powder, much superior to the pre-ground spice. Time will tell if I'll use it again. I'm not investing in anything bigger until I have proof that it will get used. I'm also considering a coffee or spice grinder. Do you grind your own spices? What do you recommend?


Raw butternut squash salad
I'm considering making the salad for Thanksgiving with dried cherries because one of our guests doesn't like raisins. (Roll your mouse over the image to get the play button.)


Turkey Talk video
Here's a wonderful and informative turkey video from Farm Sanctuary just in time to encourage potential turkey eaters to choose a gentler Thanksgiving centerpiece. Feel free to share.


  1. I love the smell of spices ground by a mortar and pestle, they are so much more fragrant. But it is a bit of work. I'd like to get a small coffee grinder to do my spice grinding, but I haven't found a cheap enough one yet.

  2. Hi Andrea,
    I bought a second coffee grinder for $15 at Target and use it only for spices. I wouldn't use anything else: as pretty as a mortar and pestle are, the speed, grind, and tidiness of the electric grinder are unbeatable.

  3. I love baked potatoes, I usually start them in the microwave (5 mins either side) and then pop them into a reeeeally hot oven for 5 or 10 mins - then they're the best of both worlds! I like them plain with margarine & sprinkled with nooch or covered in baked made me want a baked potato!

  4. I definitely like to toast and then grind my own spices. A coffee grinder is my method of choice..

    I know what you mean about the taste of microwaved food.. it is different.

    regarding your split pea comment:

    You could try adding a small pinch ( around 1/4 t ) of baking soda to your peas.. also, don't salt them or use any acid (Even though my recipes says different) until they are cooked... but the baking soda should help!

  5. Radioactive,
    Yeah, it was a lot of work, but satisfying. I've started looking at small coffee grinders but am still not convinced I'm not too lazy to use one.

    Next time I'm at Target I'll take a look at their grinders. Thanks for the tip.,
    I was using the microwave to avoid heating the oven, but your technique sounds like a good one. As soon as I get tired of avocado (if that's possible) I'm going to heap my potato with beans! It reminds me of beans on toast! Yum.

    I may try the baking soda. I never add anything to my dried beans until they are cooked, so that's not the problem. I think it's a pea curse.

  6. I love the potato pics, they are very appealing and appetizing; I'm craving baked potatoes now.

    I love the butternut squash salad idea; it's sort of a carrot salad, but with butternut; makes sense and I bet it would be really pretty with cherries in. If someone served that to me at a dinner, I would certainly be very impressed and excited to try it.

  7. I microwave potatoes and sweet potatoes all the time, mostly as a time saver. Baked in the oven is definitely tastier and the texture is nicer but sometimes there's only so much time in a day. :-)

  8. Grinding your own spices really does rule. I don't do it all that often, however, because...well, just because. My M&P is a bit bigger than yours so you can grind about two teaspoons of spice without having stuff flying everywhere, which is just right for me; mostly I use it when I'm absolutely compelled--for instance when all I have is dried whole rosemary that will stick in your throat unless you crush it up a bit, or for whole cardamom. For red chilies and larger jobs or spice mixes, the electric coffee grinder is your man...*yes*, I use the same one in which I also grind coffee, and I clean it out afterwards and nothing seems to get contaminated.

    Re the squash salad, I'd give it a trial run before serving it to guests. Maybe it's just that I'm not too keen on the carrot salad it's based on, but it sounds a bit fibrous to me, though it is very pretty. And Mark Bittman has a surprisingly pleasant voice.

    Baked potatoes with avocado, on the other hand, well, what *doesn't* taste better topped with avocado, and potatoes are already so awesome in themselves...I like the idea of the gomasio one too.

  9. So...what's the reason for whacking the potato? :o) I've cooked them in the microwave before myself when pressed for time, but never heard of whacking it???

    I've been wanting a mortar and pestle. I saw one a while back at Marshall's that I wished I would have bought. It was so cool looking. It was a bigger one though, and of course they don't have it anymore. :o)

  10. Rose,
    Thanks. I had fun eating the potatoes after the photos were taken. I'm wondering what raw squash salad will taste like, but hoping for the best.

    Chow vegan,
    Agreed. And sometimes there is only so much patience to wait for something to cook.

    Since I don't drink coffee (body says "NO" to caffeine) I would use the grinder just for spices. I'm in the thinking stage, which could last a while.

    You have a point about the fiber, but I'll probably just make it anyway, and if it seems to weird, turn it into something different the next day.

    Avocado is my topping of choice, without question.

    I think it has something to do with breaking up the fibers. But I'm not the most experienced microwave cook around, so what do I know? Try it and see if it makes any difference.

    Marshall's is like that. Here today, gone tomorrow.

  11. Have you tried that butternut squash salad before? How is it? You are sweet to consider your guests taste buds :-)


  12. Courtney,
    I haven't tried it but it looks good, and Mark Bittman seems to know what he's talking about. I have to consider my guests' taste buds or they won't eat what I make! :D

  13. I was lucky to get an attatchment when I bought my cheap-o blender 6 years ago that grinds pretty well, and I'm so thankful for it.
    That butternut squash salad looks so good!

  14. Baked potatoes are one of my favorite quick comfort foods- Almost always made in the microwave. Though they are much better when actually baked, I usually start craving them right at dinner time, when I'm about to gnaw my hands off, so I don't care to take more time cooking.

    I've never tried them with mashed avocado, but that really looks good... I'll definitely try it next time a craving strikes!

  15. I use my high speed blender to grind spices. Works pretty well! It even blends I-pods.

    Love the turkey video, reminds me to post one too. My mom has been asking. She loves to adopt them, but she still eats one. Confusing I know.

  16. Shellyfish,
    I hope the salad is as good as it looks! I'll probably shred it on my mandoline.

    I know what you mean. I'm glad I finally tried the microwaved potato, because now I can have one when I want one instead of just wishing it didn't take so long and going without. Avocado adds a little bit of richness.

    If I ever have a recipe for ipods I'll know just where to go! :D A lot of people care about animals but eat them anyway.

  17. I don't usually grind my own spices since I really don't have much time to do it. You're so lucky you get to do that.

  18. Daphne,
    Well, so far I've only ground coriander. I'm not sure that makes me a spice grinder just yet. But, you never know.

  19. nice "ode to the potato."

    i didn't even really know what those little grinder dish things were used for, but i always thought they were so cute it made me wish i had one, anyway.

  20. Jenny,
    I can't lie, I LOVE potatoes. And I agree that the grinder thingies are definitely cute.

  21. Old post, I know, but happened upon it searching for "turning salad into soup". I'm trying to eat more "yang" by eating warm foods, and wanted to see if anyone has advice on turning a green salad with lots o' veggies into a hot soup. Heck, Im just going to experiment (unfortunately, with a microwave at work... I have a love/hate relationship with that thing). I like your writing and your blog :)

    1. Have you tried making your salads more yang by pressing them? For example, you can layer shredded cabbage with sprinkles of coarse salt and place in a Japanese pickle press for a few hours. Daikon radishes, carrots, cucumbers, etc., all work great in pressed salads. But you can't go wrong with soup!


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