Wow – is this a gorgeous lifetime work of art or what? Amazing!
For the past fifteen years George has been working on a somewhat obsessive project to photograph all of the world’s hyper arid regions. The idea came to him when he started flying his motorized paraglider over the Sahara in the late 90s, and has taken him to 27 countries plus Antarctica. What he found on this oddyssey was a collection of co-evolved landscapes, like a disparate family, with each desert having unique variations on the common dry-land features of sand dunes, salt lakes, and wind erosion. He also discovered the highly developed strategies that allow man, vegetation, and wildlife to endure on the outer limits of survival.
You have seen these pictures before…I just love the thoughtfulness from my grandson when we visited the LA National Cemetery over a Memorial Weekend.
Have a happy, blessed and thankful Memorial Day!
Memorial Day Grill Master
Memorial Day marks the start of the serious grilling season, and there’s no better weekend to try your hand at outdoor cooking, or bolster your established grill-master game. Luckily, honing your outdoor culinary skills is a lot more simple than it seems, given the right tools, a little preparation, and a few tips on technique. Here’s a look at some pointers on getting the right gear, turning out great meals, and even preparing for uncooperative weather.
Photo by Another Pint Please.
Get the right tools
- Lump charcoal or briquettes?: This is one of those endless, both-sides-are-right-and-wrong debates (kind of like Mac vs. PC), but there is some fairly common ground. As The Virtual Weber Bullet puts it:
The general consensus is that lump tends to burn hotter than briquettes, but not as long or as consistently. Some lack of consistency is to be expected, given that the content and piece size varies within an individual bag and between bags.
Personally, I recommend briquettes for anyone just starting out with their grill, as lump can be finicky in lighting. Of course, you can save yourself a lot of effort and frustration by investing in a chimney starter, which you can also use for flash-cooking. Photo by Joshua Thompson via WikiMedia.
- Choosing a gas grill: Ignore the BTUs and heat for the most part—unless you really need to cook a whole bird or roast this weekend, most grills have got your steaks and burgers covered. Consumer Reports’ blog recommends bringing a magnet with you to gauge the quality of steel used to contain the heat. If the magnet sticks, it’s likely a cheaper grade that will rust more easily. Feel free to give a test model a few shoves and shakes, as an unstable grill is a recipe for serious problems.
- Multi-use utensils: The three-tool grilling sets you see at big-box stores have all you’ll need for basic grill work, with long-handled versions of a spatula, tongs, and a carving-type poker. A long-handle brush would be your next purchase, and then a grilling basket and skewers when you start branching out. Make sure your tools feel heavy and firm in your hands, as clumsy handling creates the kind of BBQ stories you don’t want repeated.Photo by rick.
For more grilling gear, our gadget-crazed brother site Gizmodo runs down 10 awesome grills you can buy for the ultimate Memorial Day barbecue.
- Clean that grill: If there’s black crust on the grill bars, you need to get it off to ensure no-stick cooking and easy food flipping. If you’re feeling strong, wad up some aluminum foil and go to town on that stuff. For seriously stuck grime, you could also try popping the grill in the oven to bake off the stubborn bits.
- Make your own sauce: Most of the pre-bottled sauces you see on grocery shelves are over-sweetened, and none match the taste of homemade. Making your own isn’t that difficult, either. Use one of BBQ Recipe Secret’s three sauce bases as a starting point, and build your own flavor ideas into them. It’ll give you something to talk about while you’re waiting for the ribs to finish. Photo by Jason McArthur.
Hone your technique
- Use a cheat sheet: Experience is the best indicator for knowing the precise moment to yank your food off the rack, but Real Simple offers a super-helpful cheat sheet you can print and bring to this culinary test (original post). Here’s a sample that covers the basics of red meat and sausages:SEXPAND
- BBQ chicken: As my fellow editor Adam can attest, eHow’s technique for grilling whole or partial chicken results in some juicy bird. The basics: Oil the grill, cook the chicken uncovered slightly off the heat center, and, for Pete’s sake, don’t put your sauce on until the last few minutes.
- Perfect burgers: Our commenters don’t necessarily agree on cooking great burgers, but they do have some common wisdom to share. Use meat that’s as close to room temperature as possible for even cooking. Don’t press them on the grill, unless you like your meat dry. And the best “secret” to great burgers is buying good meat, preferably ground by a butcher while you watch.
- Seriously salt your steak: Got filet mignon dreams for the weekend, but only a Quarter-Pounder budget? Buy a cheap cut of “choice” meat, then salt, salt, salt the heck out of that thing—for only one hour before grilling, and then pat it dry. By doing so, your salt is breaking in your meat and loosening some of its protein strands, making it hold flavor better and cut like the steakhouse commercials of your dreams (original post).
- Let it rest: You’ll be eager to slice open your tender steak or succulent chicken, but you’ll lose a lot of juicy flavor if you do so. As the food techies at Cook’s Illustrated point out, cutting into your food right off the grill releases a significant amount of juice, which would be re-absorbed for better succulence if you let it sit a few minutes.
Recover from a rain-out
All that planning, cleaning, and purchasing, and Mother Nature calls an audible on your perfect grill day? You’re not finished yet. As the New York Times’ food guru and cookbook author Mark Bittman points out, your oven broiler can sub in for your grill with a little prep-work, with results almost as satisfying. Brown your meat in the pan, roast or braise it slowly, then use the broiler to give it that grill-like finish. Check out his oven-based pork ribs orbrisket recipes if you need convincing.
Document your success
When you’ve put all this effort into creating a great fire-cooked feast, you’ll want more than just compliments to remember it by. Break out your digital camera (or pass it off to a trusted friend) and try the following tips to take some great grilling shots. (Photo by ctaloi):
- Tell a story: A BBQ-friendly shooter named Nika notes that a lot of grilled food might look good to the human eye, but smoky crusts and perfect charring can look like unappealing dark nothingness without good framing. Try to capture moments of “drama,” such as when the meat’s being pulled, or focus on the tools used to make the meal to get shots you’ll remember.
- Get in close: At the same time, Flickr user Another Pint Please…, also known as Mike and who shot the steak picture you saw at the top of this post, recommends being brave and getting up-close and personal with your heat source—while being safe with your lens, of course. You’ll have time to take wider-angle shots when the cooking’s done, but those sudden flare-ups and perfect glistening angles only happen once.
Got some great resources for first-timers or experienced grill gurus? Planning on trying a new technique this weekend? Let’s hear about great food, and solid tips, in the comments.
If you tweet, you need to do this now!
How to Enable 2-Factor for Twitter
- Should you choose to enroll (and you should, seriously… now), direct yourself on over to your account settings page.
- Next, select the option to “Require a verification code when I sign in,” which will require a confirmed email address and phone number.
- If your phone number isn’t already confirmed, Twitter will send your phone a text for verification. Enter the code it gives you to verify your phone, and you’re all ready to go.
- All of your many existing Twitter apps should continue to work even after you’ve enable two-factor. But if you want to login to your account on new apps or devices, you’ll need to go to your applications page to generate a temporary, single-serving password for that specific login.
The service is currently rolling out, so if you don’t have it yet, you should soon. This is an absurdly easy way to protect yourself from an attack. So even if you don’t think you might be a target, there’s absolutely no reason not to. Because at long last, we’re finally on our way to a safer Twitter Tomorrow. [Twitter]
Stuff happens – things break down. What would you do if you were
Stuck on an Escalator?
Two people are stuck on the escalator. Who is going to rescue them?
I really like tilt-shift photography. This is a great example of it in
A short tilt-shift time-lapse film featuring the city of Melbourne, Australia. This piece is 10 months in the making and features a range of different events and festivals held in the city throughout the year.
Music: “Reflections” by Tom Day. Big thanks to Tom for his sound effects and audio mix soundcloud.com/tomday
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17-40mm f/4L, 24-105mm f/4L and 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM
The tilt-shift effect and grading was applied in Photoshop, and the film was edited in LRTimelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro CS6.
Most of the shots were captured from the Eureka Skydeck, which is a lookout at the top of Melbourne’s tallest building. Other locations were the Shrine of Remembrance memorial, car parks and bridges around the city.
From Food52, we get this is a very comprehensive list of
Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we’re sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, we’re talking about smart storage.
We’ve given you Our Weekly Grocery List; now, we’ll show you how to stock your larder. Part of treating ingredients correctly is knowing the best places to store them, and for how long. We’re tackling several storage myths and general confusions, starting with the counter and the pantry. We’ll be covering the rest of the kitchen next week.
Garlic, onions, and shallots: These alliums can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks; in the fridge, they will turn mealy and lose much of their flavor.
Tomatoes, potatoes, and winter squash: Although it may seem blasphemous to keep vegetables out of the refrigerator, trust us (and the USDA): these should be kept in a cool, dry place instead. (Plus, they make beautiful decorations.)
Bananas, citrus, and melons: Like the vegetables listed above, these fruits are best left on the counter. Once cut, they should be relegated to the refrigerator; otherwise, they will begin to dry out.
Bread: To slow down retrogradation — the process in which the starch molecules in bread crystallize – Cook’s Illustrated says to store bread at room temperature for up to 2 days, either tightly-wrapped in foil or in a Ziploc bag to minimize moisture loss. After 2 days, wrap the bread in foil, place in a freezer bag, and store it in the freezer. And to revive crusty bread that’s been stored for more than a day, just pop it into the oven for a few minutes.
Cakes and pies: According to pastry chef Stella Parks, both frosted and un-frosted whole cakes will last for about a week when tightly wrapped in plastic. Cut cakes have a shorter shelf life, around 3 to 4 days. Fruit pies can be kept on the countertop for up to 2 days; after this, move them to the refrigerator.
Dry goods: Generally, dry goods can be stored for up to 6 months (longer if you take good care of them), according to scientists at Colorado State University. Once a package is open, it’s best to move it to an air-tight container; this will ensure freshness and keep your pantry cleaner to boot.
Nuts: Store your nuts in air-tight containers if possible; these allow them to maintain the right level of moisture. For ultimate freshness, consider storing them with their shells on.
Spices: As the LA Times tells us, heat, light, air, and humidity are all spices’ enemies; your spices should live in your pantry. Whole spices last much longer than crushed or ground; these can be kept for up to 2 years, while ground spices should be refreshed every 6 months. Airtight tins or small spice jars are the best mode of storage.
We’ve shown you what to store on your counter and in your pantry – now, we’re taking you to the refrigerator and freezer. Because not all parts are created equal, we’ll show you where — and for how long — your goods will last. Got any helpful storage tips or questions? Leave them in the comments section!
Dairy products: According to Cooks Illustrated, milk, cream, yogurt, and other dairy products are best stored on the upper shelves of your refrigerator; the temperature there is the most constant, so they’ll keep longer.
Eggs: Some refrigerators urge you to put your eggs on the inside of their door. Don’t give in — the door is the warmest part of the refrigerator. Eggs are happiest in their cartons on a shelf. Don’t try to be European and store your eggs outside the refrigerator; eggs in the United States, unlike in Europe, are washed before sale so they lose their protective outer layer.
Mushrooms: According to our friends at the Kitchn, commercial mushrooms (the ones you buy at the grocery store) are best left in their original packaging. Once you open it, wrap the whole package in plastic wrap. Wild mushrooms are best kept in a paper bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
Vegetables: All vegetables, minus the ones relegated to the countertop, are best stored in perforated plastic bags in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. To make sure they don’t decompose prematurely, keep them away from ethylene-producing fruits: apples, stone fruits, mangoes, passion fruit, pears, and kiwis.
Fruit: Fruit, with the exception of melons, citrus, and bananas, should be stored in the refrigerator in a separate drawer from the vegetables. Do not wash your fruit until you are ready to eat it; the excess water quickens decomposition. Although whole lemons are best left out on the counter, lemons that have been zested — but not juiced — can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.
Cheese: According to Formaticum’s blog, cheese should be wrapped in porous material for storage; cheese paper is the best, but waxed paper or parchment paper will also do the trick. Before storing, do a “face clean” of each cheese: scrape the surface with a non-serrated knife to remove any excess oil that may have “sweat out” at room temperature. Each cheese should be wrapped separately and marked with the name and date of purchase. Avoid plastic wrap at all costs — as scientiest Harold McGee says in his book On Food and Cooking, the cheese can absorb the flavors and chemicals from the plastic. There’s nothing worse than an expensive piece of cheese that reeks of plastic or has gone bad, so storing it correctly is worth that extra effort. For a handy how-to, check out this article from Serious Eats.
Eggs in the door! Shame on us. Do as we say, not as we do.
Meat: Meat is best stored in the coldest section of the refrigerator: the bottom. Removing the retail packaging and rewrapping the meat in foil can extend its shelf life, but you should try to consume refrigerated meat within 4 days of purchase.
Fish: Before refrigerating a piece of fish, dry it completely and wrap it in waxed paper. It will usually keep in the coldest part of your fridge for up to 2 days, but make sure to check the smell before you cook it; if it smells too fishy or has an off color, throw it out. For bonus points: store wrapped fish on a bed of ice (heaped in a bowl or shallow dish) in the fridge, and change as needed, à la Cooks Illustrated
Pies: According to Betty Crocker, pies containing eggs (custard or cream-based pies) should be stored loosely covered in the refrigerator.
Yeast: While yeast can last in the pantry, it’s best stored in the refrigerator (or freezer, for long-term); once exposed to heat and light, it’s easily killed.
Herbs: According to FOOD52-er RobertaJ on this Hotline thread, basil, parsley, cilantro, and other leafy, water-based herbs should be treated like flowers: take off any twisty ties, trim a small amount off the stem ends, and plop the bunch into a tall glass of water. Cover the herbs loosely with a plastic bag, and they’ll stay fresh for at least a week. Hardier, oil-based herbs like thyme and rosemary can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and layered into plastic bags. Hotline MVP anitalectric has a special tip for basil: wash, dry, and stem the basil when you get home from the market, and keep the leaves in a rolled-down plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for 5 days.
Yeast likes to hang out in the fridge. Amanda also likes to keep “sensitive” oils in there.
Meat: Freezing uncooked meat in its original packaging is the best way to keep it for long periods of time. According to the USDA, the maximum recommended freezer storage time for beef and lamb is 6 months; for veal, pork, and poultry, 4 months; and for seasoned sausage, 2 months.
Fish: Fish can last in the freezer, according to the Perdue University Center for Animal Sciences, for up to 6 months; fattier fish, however, should not be frozen for over 3 months. For the best results, use the ice-glaze method provided by the National Center for Home Food Preservation: place the unwrapped fish in the freezer until completely frozen, dip the fish in near-freezing ice water, and place it back in the freezer to harden. Continue with this process until a uniform cover of ice is formed, then place the fish in a freezer bag for storage. As an alternative,according to the FDA you can simply wrap your fish tightly in plastic, foil, or moisture-proof paper before freezing.
Pies and pie crusts: You can freeze crusts and whole pies, baked or unbaked. According to Betty Crocker, an unbaked crust will keep for 2 months; an unbaked pie for 3 months; and a baked crust or pie for 4 months.
Cake: Un-cut, un-frosted cakes can be wrapped first in plastic wrap, then tin foil, and stored in the freezer for several months. To thaw, let the rounds spend a night in the refrigerator; cake needs to thaw slowly so that it can reabsorb its moisture.
Stock: Freeze stock in ice cube trays or muffin tins, then store the cubes/chunks in a freezer bag. That way, you can access a small amount of stock whenever a recipe calls for it. To save even more space, reduce the stock by 50 percent before you freeze it, then add water when you defrost it. According to Martha Stewart Living, frozen stock will last up to 2 months. You can also store leftover wine in the same manner and use as needed.
Coffee: Cook’s Illustrated says the freezer is the best place to store ground coffee beans; they keep longer, and will retain thier well-rounded, roasted flavor.
Citrus Zest: Here’s a tip from the smart folks at The Kitchn: any time you use a lemon, lime, grapefruit, or orange, take a few minutes to zest it. You can store the zest in the freezer in plastic bags for each fruit — or if you’re feeling fancy, in individual, plastic-wrapped portions.
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