It must be winter.
I'm going to make some soup myself today, borscht, because I ate the last of the borscht in the freezer this week.
It really must be winter.
Anyway, James Barber died this week, as previously noted (at age 84, thus proving that loving food is good for you.) And as I began chopping onions and crushing garlic, I started thinking about the fact that one of the ways you can tell that James Barber taught me to cook (at the remove of a television) is the way I do both.
He called himself The Urban Peasant, and his ethos was that if there was an easy way to do something, it wasn't cheating: it was practicality. He espoused cooking out of the corner store and the kitchen cabinet, making do with what you could get, and eating very, very well.
Anyway, there were two particularly brilliant simple little food prep tricks he used that I have adopted. One is for dealing with onions, which is this. When cooking with an onion, quarter it before you skin it. Then just whack the root end off with the knife from the inside, and the skin and root will peel off all as one piece and can be discarded. Effortless.
The other was his technique for dealing with large quantities of garlic. (The man loved garlic. And there's a lot of garlic in borscht.) He just crushed the head flat with his hand to loosen it up, and then took each individual clove, still wrapped in its skin, and mashed it with the side of his chef's knife. The garlic then pops free of the skin, the root end can be cut or broken off easily, and the clove is pre-flattened for convenient mincing. If you're trying to make perfect little garlic chips for garnish, not so useful, but if you're making lamb stew? Just the thing.
Anyway, I thought I would pass those along as useful.
Also, if you want to see a glimpse of WFC--including a cute photo of the Mole And Bear Show, My editor has blogged her adventures in Saratoga with truepenny's editor.