Tuesday, March 29, 2005 

Eating Good

I try to eat Healthy. Try is the important word there. I buy healthy food, cook healthy meals, drinks lot of water, etc. I enjoy the healthy food, even. The healthier alternatives to many of the regular products are more expensive, but I think they're worth it.

Whole grain and sprouted breads, flours, cereals, rice, fresh vegetables (rarely organic though) and fruit, using high quality extra virgin olive oil instead of other oils, I've been drinking tea instead of coffee. Haven't had much beer at all, instead I might have a glass of wine. I make sure my eggs are from free range chickens and have omega 3, there's flaxseed in that whole grain cereal. Did I miss anything?

I enjoy all that food very much, and it makes me feel good. But I still feel the need to eat the "junk food" more than I should. Today, I had eaten very well, but then had the urge to go out and eat a Toll House Chocoloate Chip cookie Ice Cream sandwhich. Do you know how bad those things are for you? But so good. It seems 3-4 times a week I still break down and eat badly. But I would say for the most part I'm eating better than I ever have. We'll see how the longer term affects play out...

Thursday, March 24, 2005 

An Introduction to Wine

Note: Occasionally on this site we're going to present articles from other authors (with their permission) that are relevant to the theme of this site. As we're just starting out, here is a very simple, basic introduction to wine.

An Introduction to Wine

by: Jason Ditto

What is wine?

Wine has been made for centuries from just a two simple ingredients: yeast and grape juice. Actually, just about any fruit juice can be used, but by far the majority of all wine is made from the juice of the grape.

How is wine made?

Yeast is the magical ingredient that turns grape juice into wine. Interestingly enough, there is actually wild yeast spores in the air and all that is really needed to make wine is an open container of grape juice and time. The result however, would probably not be the most palatable of beverages.

There are numerous strains of yeasts and the types used to make wine have been cultured just for this purpose. Well anyway, yeast is a living organism that feeds off of sugars in the grape juice in a process called fermentation.

During fermentation, yeast spores will reproduce exponentially until all of the fermentable sugars have been consumed. During this fermentation process, the sugars are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

The yeast will also impart a taste to the finished wine depending on various factors such as the strain of yeast used, the temperature during fermentation and other factors.

Once all of the fermentable sugars have been consumed, the yeast will fall to the bottom of the container. The wine is removed from the container, leaving the yeast, and is transferred to another container to mature while waiting to be bottled.

Of course, this whole process has been extremely simplified for a general understanding.

How does wine get its color?

You probably know that there are green grapes and black grapes and different grapes are used to make different wines.

What you might not know is that almost all grape juice (even from the black grapes) is basically colorless to golden in color.

The way a wine gets its color is by letting the skins soak in the juice during fermentation. You can actually make white wine from black grapes by not letting the skins stay in contact with the juice. Champagne is one of the most famous examples.

If the skins are left in the wine for only a short amount of time, a rose (or blush) will be made. If they are left for an extended amount of time, a dark red wine will be the result.

What gives each wine its taste?

Even though there are very few ingredients, there are many things which influence the taste of wine. First of all, there are many varieties of grapes. Each grape variety will produce different flavors, aromas, and even textures.

In addition, the soil and climate where the grapes are grown drastically affect these variables.

Not only that, but the wine maker can control various things by the technique, temperature and yeast used during fermentation. Other variables such as fermenting or storing in oak barrels will also affect the taste.

Never fear, with all of these factors considered even the most avid wine drinker would ever be able to experience all of the different varieties of wine on the market today. Let the treasure hunting begin!

What is tannin?

Tannin is a substance in wine that causes a firm, mouth-drying feeling in your mouth. It is extracted from the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes so red wines will contain more tannin than whites.

White wines will get a degree of tannin when oak barrels are used for fermentation or aging. Eat just the skins of grapes or drink strongly brewed, unsweetened tea for a good idea of what tannin feels like in your mouth.

What are sulfites?

By law, almost all wine made in the United States will have Contains Sulfites on the label. This is because about very small percentage of asthma sufferers can be extremely sensitive to sulfites.

Sulfites or sulfur dioxide is a compound occurring naturally during the fermentation process. Sometimes, though a wine maker will add a little more because of its antibacterial and preservative qualities. White wines have more sulfites than red wines because they need more protection.

About The Author

Jason Ditto

Author of the www.2BASNOB.com website about the enjoyment of coffee, tea, wine and beer.

Saturday, March 19, 2005 


The weekend is when the Part Time Gourmet kicks in. There isn't the distraction of work, and there can be more focus on food. I usually love Saturdays. This weekend however, it's not as enjoyable as usual. In my opinion, Food Network during the week has gone downhill quite a bit. It's pretty much the same shows over and over. I look forward to Saturdays because I can usually get my fox of PBS cooking shows. I love America's Test Kitchen, Lidia's Italy, and a number of other shows. There's a variety available. I live in an area where there are actually two PBS stations, and they both show cooking programs on Saturdays. This weekend however, they both are in the middle of pledge drives. As a former PBS employee, I recognize the necessary evil that are pledge drives. But instead of any cooking, I'm getting Suze Orman and David Carradine.

Food Network does have more variety on the weekends, possibly because of competition from PBS. I like a number of the shows on the weekend. Michael Chiarello's Easy Entertaining show is a favorite of mine, and it's one that's no longer on my PBS stations, but has moved to Food Network. My girlfriend is from Napa, and I love it out there. Perhaps that's part of the draw to that show for me.

In any event, I also plan my food for the week on Saturdays, and generally do the grocery shopping. I try to go more towards the evening when it's generally less crowded.

Thursday, March 17, 2005 

Deals on Pans

A few great deals I came across on Amazon. The first two are actually both $9.99 right now, though the first one shows at $18.88. The third pan is $19.99, (though it shows here as $25.55) and a bargain at that. There is a third Calphalon pan for $9.99, but it is a lower quality covered skillet type pan made in China, which didn't get the same good reviews as these three:

I have a few Calphalon pans that I bought through Amazon, and I couldn't be happier with them. The original list price on the second pan is $119.00 and on third is $168.00! These are good deals, indeed.

I get geeked up finding deals like these. I think it's important to cook with quality equipment, and it's more than just how the food cooks in them, if you have good equipment, you likely feel more comfortable in the kitchen as your making the meal.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005 

What this is about...

I love Food.

That doesn't make me much different from many people. I wanted to create my own corner of the web where I could stow away thoughts, ideas, hints, recipes and so forth for my own future reference. If people find them interesting, then that is an added bonus.

I like to cook, but find that most of my good cooking takes place on the weekend. That also seems to be the time that I am most consumed by food. Thus the "Part Time Gourmet" label. On the weekends I get together with friends...we have food. PBS and Food Network have a greater variety of cooking shows on television. People are in the grocery stores. Weekends and food are linked closely together.

For my first post, I wanted to share this idea for cooking a steak when you don't have a grill available. I live in an apartment complex where a grill is not an option, yet I still love steak. Here's a technique that was passed onto me:

I use a cast iron pan and an oven in the winter for steaks

This technique will also generate a fair amount of smoke, so turn on your vent fan and crack a window to allow good airflow. Don't worry, though, the only smell that will linger will be that of delicious steak.

First, set your steak out and allow it to come to room temperature.

Now, put your seasoned skillet in the oven and set the temperature to "broil." Allow it to heat for 15 to 20 minutes. While the oven is heating, season the steak on both sides with liberal pinches of kosher and freshly ground black pepper. Add a light coating of canola oil. NOTE: I don't recommend regular vegetable or olive oil for this method, as their smoke points are too low.

Once your oven heating is done, turn your large stove burner to high. If it's an electric stove, allow the burner to come to full temp. Remove the skillet from the oven and set it on the burner for another three minutes. You will now have an insanely hot cooking surface.

Using tongs, place the steak in the skillet. After 30 seconds, turn it over to brown the other side. Wearing your welding gloves, transfer the pan to the center rack of your oven and cook for three minutes on each side. (NOTE: This cooking time is for an inch-thick steak. Adjust your time for thinner cuts.)

Remove the skillet from the oven, and move the steak to a platter to stand. This is perhaps the most neglected portion of any meat cooking process. If you cut into a steak, pork chop or even chicken before it's had time stand, you will end up with a platter dripping with juices that belong in the meat. Allow your steak to stand, with a tent of foil to retain the heat, for 10 minutes and you'll be rewarded with beef that is as juicy on the last bite as it was on the first, and leftovers that won't have the texture of cardboard.