Spoon swoon.

A friend sent me a Supergeek apron for my birthday. I simply cannot imagine why. It’s like she doesn’t know me at all.

Supergeek apronToday’s thoroughly ungeeky post is about my measuring spoon problem collection. My first set of measuring spoons were made of weak, easily melted plastic held together by an equally weak plastic ring. (They now serve lowly but useful duty inside my flour and sugar canisters for quick measuring.) When I started baking more I eventually upgraded to heavy stainless steel spoons. Then I decided that a spare set of spoons never hurt. A spare spare set didn’t seem to hurt either. Additional specialty measuring spoon sets hurt even less.

Some spoons magically appeared as if by spontaneous generation or, more likely, illicit measuring spoon sex. A dip into cocoa powder might have provided the right aphrodisiac, but I suspect that the spoon nookie started between a couple of spoons I may have used for Cognac and Amaretto (but not Frangelico because that monk outfit kills the mood, unless it was with that kinky slut, Chambord). Drunken sex always produces interesting results. It’s the only explanation for how I could possibly have a 1/3rd teaspoon, which, the one time I needed it, I forgot I had it.

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SpiceStanding

I love clever spoons. The narrow spice spoons reach into the slenderest jars. The self-supporting spoons let me measure ahead of time without wasting another bowl for mise en place, which is impractical for clingy ingredients like oil and honey anyway. A spritz of cooking spray on the spoon usually lets the gloppy stuff slide right out. Free-standing spoons (similar set here) are especially handy for having oil ready while stir-frying or cream of tartar ready while beating egg whites.

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BabySalt

Here are deviations from the usual. The baby medicine dropper and tube, though not spoons, work well for extracts and other small liquid measurements. I cut the handle off a cheap plastic 1/2 teaspoon to store it inside my container of fine canning salt, the salt I prefer to use for baking because it disperses so well and is free of iodine and anti-caking additives. Bending the handle makes it a bit easier to grab and also makes it free-standing.

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2 Tablespoons2 teaspoons

Off-sizes and 2 tablespoon coffee scoops always sucker me into buying, especially when one spoon can do the job of two. A 3/4 teaspoon? Take my money! Please! But even spoons that do the job of only one spoon, like the 2 teaspoon pictured above, have irresistible appeal. You can use it only once instead of twice! Half the labor! All-Clad makes an off-size set that I purchased at Williams-Sonoma.

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1/31/2 Tablespoon

The 1/3rd teaspoon is a rarity; I’ve never seen another. I keep the 1/3 teaspoon and 1/4 and 1/8 teaspoons on a ring out of the way since they’re so seldom used. (The teaspoons and their variations take up one large mug and the tablespoons and their variations take up another.) The half tablespoon is not as rare but still hard to find. It’s useful when you need 1 1/2 teaspoons of something.

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MangledPointy

Tragedy! I mangled a tablespoon in my garbage disposal. The grinding, the splatters, the screams—they haunt me yet. It still measures fine. What a trooper. The pointy spoons recently joined my collection. They’re perfect for getting that last bit of peanut butter out of the jar. Also, it’s fun to use them. “Cool! Pointy!” I need to get out more. The pointy set included a 1 1/2 tablespoon, another rarity.

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AdjustableRetro

I never use these adjustable spoons except maybe for sugar for tea, but even then they aren’t especially useful because I don’t like to stir with them. They seem like a good idea but can’t do liquids, are a pain to clean, and grains of sugar and flour work their way into the sliding mechanism. I bought them out of guilt. If there’s anything keeping the direct-sales companies like Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, and Tupperware going, it’s guilt. You can’t not buy from your friends. It’s not cool. This is why I stopped making friends.

The flat retro spoons are similar to the colored set Alton Brown sometimes uses on Good Eats. They’re charming but not terribly accurate because of the wide, shallow bowls. However, that very shape inspired me to buy them. While they’re not good precision baking spoons, these spoons are so flat that you can bypass the messy extra knife and spread jam and cream cheese directly on your bread, squooshing the bread into the bowl of the spoon to scrape out every last bit. They’re also easier to lick clean, an important consideration when you’re eating Nutella and find your tongue strength dying on the deeper spoons. Of course if you don’t worry about your weight and never measure out your decadent toppings, you can glob the food onto your bread willy nilly with a butter knife, lucky you. I don’t want to hear about it.

Shallow

You can see from this collection that I emphasize function over form. Pretty square, heart, and colored measuring spoons catch my eye but not my wallet. Some day someone will invent the perfect measuring spoon—one that is beautiful, free-standing, narrow enough for spice jars, pointed for scraping jars, strong-handled, available in many off-sizes, and flexible in the bowl so that I can rub its contents directly all over my toast. (I’ve seen spoons with flexible silicone bowls, but they aren’t nearly as flexible as I need.) When that day comes, I can give most of my old spoons to charity so that poor people can bake too, albeit less effectively than I can. That’s my dream. Call me the Mother Theresa of measuring spoons.

I also have a measuring cup collection, a baking pan collection, and a citrus juicer collection, but I won’t go into those now. That would just be…geeky.

My list fetish and Five Things.

Life is a list, not a box of chocolates. You never know which item you’ll cross off last. Despite that, I love lists. That might be why I love cooking so much. New dishes means reading over lists of ingredients, making shopping lists, and adding to the list of recipes to make next. I maintain a list of the volumes of every baking pan I own, a list of my herbs and spices, a list of my legumes, grains, and flours, and much more. That reminds me, I need to make a master list of my lists to keep track of all these lists.

Braised Tuna SteakWhen Vanessa at What Geeks Eat tagged me geek to geek for the Five Things meme, I couldn’t resist the list-making potential. For obvious reasons, I chose mostly food-related items, but there is one bonus personal item that will either make you feel close to me or gross you out. I also included here a picture of a tuna steak braised with chickpeas, rosemary, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil. Why? It’s there. That’s also why I make lists of things: they’re there.

Five Things Most People Don’t Know About Me

1. Goat milk: ew. It’s the one food that I always wanted to taste and the one food that let me down when I did. Johanna Spyri’s Heidi had led me to believe that goat milk tasted like a creamy sweet rich ambrosia laced with nutmeg and exotic spice. Johanna Spyri lied. Goat milk tastes like milk that has been squeezed from a goat. It tastes like a goat smells. Let’s call it an “acquired taste” most easily acquired by Swiss mountain girls drinking the milk straight from her goats and leave it at that. (I do love goat cheeses.)

2. Kimchi: um. I didn’t like it much until my teens. Put down the stones! It’s not that I hated it, I think it just struck me as excessive, an apt description for many Korean dishes. Eventually that changed. I’m glad, because my family might have been forced to place me in foster care if I didn’t come around. Now I’m just as snotty as other Koreans about the kimchi I eat. My aunt makes the best. (Obligation of hyperbolic loyalty to family cooking now fulfilled.)

3. Holy mackerel: yum. My favorite food—the food I would pick for my last meal or that meal I can order when I’m stranded on that generously stocked desert island—is grilled mackerel, especially with rice. Whenever butter prices go up or I drop an egg on the floor, I just remember that I have a stash of this vacuum-packed frozen oily stinky fish in the freezer and I practically twirl my skirt and burst into song, just like Maria on the mountains in The Sound of Music. (There seems to be an Alps theme on Bon Appegeek today. That wasn’t planned. I can go for years without once thinking about the Alps and then in one day I mention them thrice. See below.)

4. Chocolate-covered pretzels: no. Despite my weight struggles, I have not banned any food in my house except chocolate-covered pretzels. Even if they aren’t very good chocolate-covered pretzels, something about the salty sweetness, addictive crunch, and cute little shape force me to eat them all at once whether I’m hungry or not. If I were Superman, kryptonite might trigger drowsiness but chocolate-covered pretzel-shaped kryptonite would trigger spontaneous combustion. There you have it, Lex. Come and get me. You can find me at the Fortress of Solitude, recently moved to the Alps.

5. Bloggers who sayyy…”knee”! I didn’t shave my knees until recently. This past summer, while driving, the sunlight hit my legs in such a way that my knee hair cast dark shadows on what I thought were smooth, hairless legs. If you think driving while talking on a cell phone is dangerous, imagine driving and discovering a crucial 20-year hygiene oversight in the middle of moving traffic. Don’t make my mistake, ladies and cross-dressers. Check the knees, please.

I won’t tag anyone in particular, so if you have a blog, consider yourself tagged. I’d love to hear what other bloggers love to eat, hate to eat, forgot to shave, or recently started shaving. Now is your chance to spill it (shaving disclosures not required).

How I made pistachio macarons and lived to blog about it.

I have a friend who loves to watch movies and exhorts me to watch them too, adding lots of helpful advice such as, “Make sure that when you see the handkerchief you realize it’s a symbol for the war ’cause I didn’t know that and was confused when the carnie ate the turducken, and at the end that’s a hyena, not a dog, it just doesn’t make sense with a dog, oh, and the restaurant menu contains a palindrome—wait, I shouldn’t have told you that, whoops, sorry, anyway, that’s how the paratroopers find out where the bomb is.”

Random food palindrome: Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog.

Pistachio Macarons with jade turtleMy friend means well, but most of the time she scares and confuses me so much that I decide against watching any movies at all and eat some toast instead. I like toast. You can put jam on it. It almost never contains a bomb.

When I read Nigella Lawson’s recipe for “waxy pale jade” pistachio macarons in How To Be A Domestic Goddess, I immediately dismissed the recipe and made some toast. I wasn’t going to make macarons. I wasn’t going to make macarons because macarons are scary and confusing, and I already knew how the macaron movie would end. First the egg whites would tremble menacingly like that cup of water in Jurassic Park, then the pastry bag would explode and splatter wasted pistachio money all over my kitchen walls. It would be the turducken of predictable movie explosions. I knew this with absolute certainty because while I’d never eaten a macaron, I’d read aaaaall about them at Kuidaore, Kuidaore again, David Lebovitz, Foodbeam, The Traveler’s Lunchbox, and La Tartine Gourmand, give or take another five dozen food blogs. See how fashionably late I am to follow trends? That makes me doubly fashionable.

Pistachio Macaron up close[The only near-perfect macaron I managed, with “feet” and a flat top.]

Yet the waxy pale jade macarons kept pleading with me, forcing me to think about them. The legendary difficulty of the perfect macaron didn’t really matter, did it? So what if they failed? I was planning to eat them, not display them at the Louvre. Friends and family tasting them would have no idea what a macaron even was. The worst thing that could happen—and I thought about this a lot—was that Pierre Hermé would see my macarons and shriek obscenities in horrified French. I could totally live with that. In fact, I’d feel kind of honored. Even my French teacher never shrieked obscenities at me in horrified French, and if you ever heard my French, you’d know that I deserved it.

Random food palindrome: He snubs Bob’s buns, eh?

Bitten Pistachio MacaronSo I went for it. My macarons baked up with ugly domed tops and crackled surfaces, but they were ugly relative only to the spectacular creations in those blogs I linked above. Besides, ugly is a relative term; I like to call these “rustic.” These rustic macarons retained a crisp exterior, a soft interior, and melted into pistachio-rich buttery chewy mouthful of ecstasy. They are among the most luscious things to ever pass between my lips. The recipe is available at nami-nami (thanks Pille!). Please note that if you own the U.S. Hyperion edition of Lawson’s book, most of the original U.K. recipes have been mangled with appallingly sloppy volume conversions, especially this one. I strongly recommend sticking to the U.K. original which I had to special order (grumble grumble).

Next time I’ll halve the buttercream and make it less sweet. Even after filling the macarons to bulging (as you can see in the pictures), I had about a third of the batch left over. I’d also like to play with different variations so that when my friend tries to ruin another movie for me, I’ll have whole pile of these ready to stuff into her mouth. Then everybody will live happily ever after. I’m glad too; I was getting a little sick of toast.

Random food palindrome: Lived on decaf…faced no devil!